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Steve Vai: The Complete Current Q & A

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Steve Vai, still in fine form after nearly 40 years of guitar wizardry



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Legendary guitarist Steve Vai will perform at Backstage Live on Wednesday, November 20. He spoke with the Current on the phone from his home in Los Angeles.

First of all, thanks for stopping by instead of ignoring us, like most do, in favor of Austin or Houston.

It’s been a long time since I’ve played there and I can’t figure out why, ’cause I have a great audience there. I’m really looking forward to go back.

You couldn’t just make a simple album, could you? You had to start a trilogy and make us wait years for each chapter to come out… Tell me about The Story of Light.

Yes, I’m always looking for less conventional stories and I’m always challenging myself to do something that’s different. The way I laid it out was… different. I didn’t want it to be so obvious, like a conventional concept record, so I thought of doing the music in three installments. The first was [Real Illusions: Reflection, 2005], the second The Story of Light [2012], and the third will come out sometime in the future, and at one point I’d like to get all the songs and put them in the right order and add a fourth record with new narratives, and change the melodies and the vocals. In the meantime, it’s just music that can be enjoyed by those who like that kind of stuff.

So we will we have to wait several years before chapter 3?

Yeah.

One thing is to be able to transcribe music, but quite another to be able to transcribe music for Frank Zappa at age 18. What was that like and why can’t some people “get” Zappa?

Frank’s music was more challenging than anybody else’s. I could’ve tried to do atonal music, which I did, but I liked Frank’s music for the same reasons you like it. It just resonates with you. Some people like blue and some people like red. I don’t care to really understand why some people like certain things and some don’t. In the future people will discover Frank’s music and it will change the quality of their whole life. Frank’s music changed a lot of people’s lives. I’ve always been close to his music and that’s why I chose to transcribe it. I was one of those fortunate people that kind of followed the thread all the way to L.A., and Frank found something in me that was valuable.

When I listen to The Story of Light, at times I feel I hear Zappa, and then I think: “Who influenced who?” Do you feel you influenced him in any way?

You’d have to ask him that… [Zappa died in 1993] (laughs) Every time you work with somebody you find things that inspire you, but I can’t say I influenced Frank at all. Maybe there were some things going on at the time in the way of guitar technology that I introduced him to that I don’t think he knew well, but it was just stupid little things like that, you know…

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