Posted 09/16/2011 at 10:19am | by Bill Milkowski
Steve Vai discusses his influences, Joe Satriani, Frank Zappa and Ry Cooder and more in this 1987 Guitar World interview.
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Here's our interview with Steve Vai from the March 1987 issue of Guitar World, which featured Vai and Billy Sheehan on the cover. The original story by Bill Milkowski started on page 36 and ran with the headline, "Steve Vai: The Sorcerer's Apprentice."
Steve Vai's career, thus far, has been a series of one hard act to follow after another.
First, he replaced Adrian Belew as the resident wang-bar king in Frank Zappa's band. Next, he replaced the incredible Yngwie Malmsteen in Alcatrazz. And now, as the lone guitarist in David Lee Roth's band, he has the dubious distinction of being compared to Eddie Van Halen, at least in the mind of the public.
It's a precarious position to be in, considering that there's no love lost between Roth and Van Halen. On the one hand, Vai has undying allegiance to his current employer, yet he greatly admires Edward's undeniable virtuosity. But this is war. The battle lines have been drawn and Vai is caught in the middle, trying to remain neutral during all the gunfire.
As the 26-year-old guitarist puts it, "I don't want to participate in any type of weird media war. I'm not that kind of guy. I mean, I love Edward and I love Dave. I'm happy for their success and I'm happy for our success and I don't really care what goes on between them. Mel I'm just gonna have a good time." End of discussion.
What is it about Italians and guitar? All through the years they have been innovators on the instrument: Eddie Lang (Salvatore Massaro), Joe Pass (Anthony Jacohi Passalaqua), Pat Martino (Pat Azzarra), Frank Zappa, Al Di Meola ... and now Steve Vai continues that legacy.
Of course, if Eddie Lang were alive today he might not recognize what Vai does as guitar playing at all. The guy has evolved a vocabulary on the six-string that is Plutonian by traditional standards. The hammer-ons, the wang-bar tactics, the fleet-fingered facility, the sheer sonic inventiveness of it all is radical and revolutionary, albeit not without precedent.
Through countless hours of tedious woodshedding, Vai was able to attain a certain adeptness with the guitar, hut he didn't stop there. He continued to push himself, practicing, probing possibilities and searching for new sounds until he took it to a higher level.