Interview: Steve Vai

Randy Allar: In regards to "Merry Axemas II," it's good to see you are doing so much work with underprivileged guitarists.

Steve Vai: Well, I know, they're pathetic players. No chance at all.

Randy Allar: What do you with the Christmas discs? Do you tell them to take a well known Christmas melody and twist it completely?

Steve Vai: Well, you know, when you go to somebody with a project like this, you kind of know that they are going to deliver. So you don't want to tell them what to do. If you're going to Al DiMeola or Steve Lukather or Ted Nugent, they kind of know what they're going to do. One of the things about both of the records and every one I approached was really excited to do it. The only thing I said was to give us melody on a silver platter and no vocals.

Randy Allar: Both discs are fantastic.

Steve Vai: Yeah, these guys really rose to the occasion. It's a fabulous record.

Randy Allar: Both discs are equally as good.

Steve Vai: Yeah, yeah, I'm painting myself into a corner. Maybe I'll do a Happy Hanukkah record.

Randy Allar: You have a new CD out called "Flexible Leftovers."

Steve Vai: Oooh yeah! I wouldn't say it's new, it just came out. It's a reissue. Back when I got my hands on my first multi-track recorder, I was fascinated with overdubbing, piling things on top of things, and recording anyone that came in my grip. I recorded hundreds of hours of stuff. Then I released the record "Flexible," my first solo record. I had some stuff left over from that record, it was called "{Flexible Leftovers." I only released about 2000 copies, and it's really odd music, some really weird things on there. That was about 15 years ago. Now I decided to re-release it with some additional material that was written around that period. It's a quirky little record with some funky things on it.

Randy Allar: There is a lot of Frank Zappa influence on it.

Steve Vai: Oh, yeah. Back then I was having a Zappa identity crisis. (laughs)

Randy Allar: You've come a long way since then.

Steve Vai: Well, I hope so.

Randy Allar: What about G3?

Steve Vai: As a matter of fact, don't tell anybody, but we're tossing around the idea of going to Japan in May or June. It's an ongoing thing. It may happen one year, or it may not. It's Joe's thing in the sense that he pulls it together, but G3 is an entity on to itself, maybe even without the players that started it.

Randy Allar: Who's going to be the third player?

Steve Vai: I can't say right now because it's too early to say. I don't want to say something and then get into trouble for it. (laughs) And that happens!

Randy Allar: I like "Flexible Leftovers." You have in the notes that you once had a cat named Famine.

Steve Vai: Famine, yeah! Oh! My cat. She was a Russian Blue, and the poor thing would go into heat. We wouldn't know what to do. She would walk around with her little, you know, her little butt in the air, meowing and clawing the furniture. We'd have company or friends over, and there's this cat with her tush sticking up in the air. We didn't know what to do with her, so we talked to a Vet and the Vet said what you have to do is...well you don't have to, but what helps the cat is if you can believe this or not, is to take a thermometer and give it a little pooching. (breaks up!) I decided that it wasn't for me. I draw the line when it comes to fetishes and animals and fecal material. I got my friend to do it. It relieved the cat because she shot across the room and kept quiet for about a week.

Randy Allar: Your ex-friend.

Steve Vai: But I got it on tape. I loved that cat.

Randy Allar: Is she still around?

Steve Vai: You know, I went out on tour, and she was such neurotic cat that one of my friends gave her away. We lived in a little apartment. This was years ago with like ten people. It's all right, she's probably in a better home anyway. Now she's getting pooched with I don't know...a Chevrolet! (laughs)

Randy Allar: Craig Chaquico (ex-guitarist from the Jefferson Starship) did a show recently for therapy through music. When are you going to do something like that, with screaming guitars, driving the people out of their minds?

Steve Vai: I'm just not that screaming guitar type of guy.

Randy Allar: You are recording now for a new CD.

Steve Vai: There's actually a lot going on. The "Merry Axemas" record just came out, I have this "Flexible Leftovers" that just came out. And I'm recording right now for a new CD that will hopefully come out in May. Pretty bombastic! I'm really going to the wall as far as playing guitar. I'm really focusing on the instrument. It's got some compositional things that are just, I don't know. It's funny, every time I record something, when I get an idea for something I feel really great about, you end up recording it, and once I hear it back, I'm so thrilled, it like doesn't matter what happens to my life after this piece of music is recorded. And then I feel that way until I get inspired to do another piece of music. I have three of these pieces of music on this record that are just wonderful.

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Randy Allar: I can't wait to hear it.

Steve Vai: And then I have, believe it or not, a ten CD box set coming out next September.

Randy Allar: A ten CD box set? What does this entail?

Steve Vai: There are two discs that are called "The Elusive Light And Sound, Vol. I and II," and that is all the music that I have written for films. It has all that "Crossroads" stuff. There is also a full disc of unheard music. I was in this heavy metal band called Alcatraz, and we released a record on Capitol what was discontinued shortly after. I get a lot of requests for it, so I'm licensing that. I also have a double live Alcatraz record from Japan that was never released. There's a CD of piano reductions of twelve of my pieces performed by Mike Keneally. Then there are these Vai archives, Vol. I, II, and III. Volume one and two will be various tracks that I have contributed guitar parts to through the years. Volume three is hand
selected tracks of original recording of Frank Zappa that I performed on. The last disc is something called "Hot Chunks," which is this weird conglomeration of these odds snippetts mixed with source music. That will make a very odd record for the hardcore fans.

Randy Allar: That's going to be an amazing undertaking.

Steve Vai: Yeah, well I undertook it! That's why it took me two and a half years to get a record out since "Fire Garden."

Randy Allar: You've also started a record label.

Steve Vai: Yes, it's already started. It's starting out with mainly guitarists, or anybody that can do something amazing and unique with an instrument. We'll see how it goes.

Randy Allar: When do you sleep, eat, things like that?

Steve Vai: Actually, I have a very good sleep schedule. I used to try to burn the candle at both ends, but it's not worth it. I make sure I get good sleep, and I get enough sex, and all the good stuff that makes you function properly. I exercise regularly. I slam, I'm joking.

Randy Allar: Remember next Christmas to pick up the "Merry Axemas" CDs. For guitar fans, they are incredible. As usual, Vai never ceases to amaze, and will remain one of my favorite personalities to interview. He always makes time for the media, and is truly a professional. I look forward to speaking with Steve Vai in the future.

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Steve Vai is one of the most flamboyant guitarists alive today. He has had an amazing career so far, and with the projects scheduled from this past November to September of next year, Vai fans are going to be like a sissy in boystown.

Steve rearranged his schedule to accommodate my radio schedule on WCSB, and the resulting interview was truly wild. As you will read, he had the audience in stitches in what turned out to be perhaps one of the best interviews that I've ever done. He discusses his projects and his cat Famine.