Joe Satriani speaks about Coldplay lawsuit
A MusicRadar exclusive interview
Joe Bosso, Sun 7 Dec 2008, 9:58 pm UTC
As previously reported on MusicRadar, Joe Satriani is suing Coldplay, claiming the UK band's Grammy-nominated song Viva La Vida uses one of his melodies. In court papers filed on 4 December 2008, Satriani's legal team alleges Viva La Vida, the title track of Coldplay's current album, copies "substantial original portions" of his song If I Could Fly. Satriani's song was included on his 2004 album Is There Love In Space? Speaking exclusively to MusicRadar on 6 December, Joe Satriani recalls the exact emotion he felt when he first heard Coldplay's Viva La Vida. "The second I heard, I knew..."
"I felt like a dagger went right through my heart. It hurt so much," Satriani says. "The second I heard it, I knew it was [my own] If I Could Fly." As it turned out, Satriani wasn't the only one who noticed the similarity between If I Could Fly and Viva La Vida. "Almost immediately, from the minute their song came out, my e-mail box flooded with people going, 'Have you heard this song by Coldplay? They ripped you off man.' I mean, I couldn't tell you how many e-mails I received. "Everybody noticed the similarities between the songs. It's pretty obvious. It's as simple as that - when you listen to a song and you say, 'Wow, that's a real rip-off.'" What makes the situation especially painful for Satriani is that If I Could Fly isn't just any song. It's a composition he'd been laboring over for well over 10 years before he recorded it. "I started writing it on the Flying In A Blue Dream tour back in 1988. But because of the way I write, sometimes songs take a while, as this one did. In 2003 I started demoing it in earnest. I played it on the acoustic guitar on a demo so I could sing the melody, then I demoed it on electric to get the sound. And the performance turned out to be so spontaneous, so right and so emotional, that it wound up being a keeper."
Joe Satriani is suing Coldplay, alleging Viva La Vida uses his melody from If I Could Fly Satriani feels "really hurt"
Since If I Could Fly came out in 2004, Satriani has been gratified by the reaction it's received from his fans, many of whom have called it one of his most captivating songs. "That was the intent all along," he says. "It was a love letter to my wife, Rubina – a simple, direct expression of feeling. "That's what really hurts about this whole thing. That I spent so long writing the song, thinking about it, loving it, nursing it, and then finally recording it and standing on stages the world over playing it - and then somebody comes along and plays the exact same song and calls it their own." Since it was announced on 4 December 2008 that Satriani is suing Coldplay for alleged plagiarism, seeking a jury trial and "any and all profits" connected to Viva La Vida, his life has been turned upside down. "This has been the weirdest thing I've ever been involved in," he says. "The media attention has been bizarre and surreal. I really can't explain how I've felt over the past day or two." "I did everything I could to avoid a court case"
Satriani stresses that his motives are ruled by artistic purity and an overriding sense of right and wrong. "Everybody's assumes I'm trying to go after these guys in Coldplay, as if I'm doing this with malice," he says "That's the furthest thing from my mind. I'm just doing what I need to do as an artist, to protect what's mine, to protect those feelings I put down in song. "I did everything I could to avoid a court case with this situation. But Coldplay didn't want to talk about it. They just wanted this whole thing to go away. Maybe they figured this little guitar player guy will leave them alone after a while, I don't know. "But we're talking about a piece of art that I created, and that's something I feel is important. I think everybody should feel that way." And now, Satriani's team will ask a jury to decide.