Steve Vai needs no introduction. His music speaks for himself and he is always keen to share not only his guitar secrets but also stories from his succesfull multi-decade carreer.
The “Inviolate” world tour brings Steve Vai back to Europe after 10 +1 years! Two shows are confirmed for Greece on April 21 – Thessaloniki, Greece – Principal Club and April 22 – Athens, Greece – Fuzz Live Music Club.
Don't miss the chance to experience this opportunity to witness the unique guitar master and charmer Steve Vai, who wont leave anyone unmoved.
More Steve Vai: https://linktr.ee/stevevai
RockOverdose: Hi Steve! Thank you for being here! First of all congratulations on your new releases!
STEVE VAI: Thank you very much! My pleasure!
RockOverdose: I’m sure that you’ve been tired of answering the same questions again and again but I’m also sure there’s always much more to say about. I have to admit that “ Inviolate” was one of my top albums of 2022 and VAI/GASH was the one that surprised me and I enjoyed more this year. Let’s talk about “Inviolate” album. What does its title want to express? Where does it refer at?
STEVE VAI: My use of the word "Inviolate" is more focused on its spiritual meaning. It's a word that I came across many years ago in my spiritual studies. It means untouchable, unable to harm. If something is inviolate, there's nothing in the world that can touch it and its in reference to the human awareness, the being, the life that we are is inviolate, it doesn't die and it can't be harmed in anyway. So that's a beautiful way to describe who we really are. And if people knew this about themselves, they would leave without stress in their lives.
RockOverdose: That's so true! I'm actually a very stressfull person and I try to find things to calm down, music is one of them of course! One thing that’s pretty obvious on "Inviolate" are the “ancient greek” influences. How that came up? You’ve visited Greece so many times and the greek audience really loves you. We would love it if you had the time to visit for a couple of days to get inspiration or meditate and why not film something in the various landscapes of our country.
STEVE VAI: Well, that would be lovely! The only thing is that it's a challenge to get a film crew to have the time to do that while I'm on tour. It's very difficult but that is a good idea!
My fascination on greek mythology, is not so much more than the most people, it's something very interesting and cool because it deals with Gods, images and things like that. However, this use at "Inviolate" was actually accidental, it wasn't so intentional.
e.g."Teeth Of The Hydra" - the Hydra is a mythological creature - monster, so when I first saw the guitar that's the name that came to me! "Hydra"!
The song "Apollo In Color" is also the name of my wife's horse! So I thought that's an incredible name for a song, so I kinda stole it from that. And then is "Zeus In Chains", the title came up when I was listening to the song and I was asking the song "What's your name ..?". It will tell you, if you ask it! You can hear the thunders! I saw it and named it like that! Everything goes if you're an artist!
RockOverdose: You've created lot's of unusual guitars but this one "The Hydra" is something more! We all can understand that you like to push the limits of everything you do but what's the most extreme thing you’ve ever done so far and what’s more to come? Does it get any further?
STEVE VAI: Well, time will tell. I made the Hydra because I wanted to be able to write a song that could be carried on one instrument. So the whole thing is one instrument, bass, guitar, rythm, background, the harp … So, there was a purpose for it. The purpose was that means! But if I wanted to, I could conceive it right now and design a completely bizzare instrument, but there's no purpose except to be bizzare, and that usually doesn't work very well. Anyone can get weird instuments, but for me every instrument I get has a purpose. When I design an instument there's an inspiration for a purpose, although I could think like "Ok, I build the Hydra now, how I could beat that?" and design something insane but it would be stupid cause I don't have a purpose for it.
RockOverdose: After your accident with your arm where you afraid if this will have any impact on you playing or creating? Have you ever been afraid of anything?
STEVE VAI: Well, I'm not afraid, I'm just concerned. Before I had the surgery I had consider all that. I know that e.g. with athletes and musicians, time is not necessarily their friend, when it comes to physicallity. I know that things start to change, I can feel them. So, I don't mind cause it's going to happen and I've recorded so much stuff. But, being inspired by something totally different, of course you have to be inspired within a reason, I'm not going to do something that I'm not able to physically do. But, inspiration doesn't require a lot of facility. If you watch the Hydra, it's not what I'm actually playing when my fingers hit the necks, it's not complicated. Most guitarist can do it if they want to ...
So, yes! There's always a concern to a musician when it comes to the physicallity and you got to be responsible. But inspiration is endless.
RockOverdose: Do you believe that the value or the impact of one artist is more recognizable after his death? And why?
STEVE VAI: In some cases yes! If an artist created a body of work that was compelling and have real art in it, that may not have been so recognised during the artist life, it can be studied later. But this is rare.
Most of the time it just drifts into obscurity. There are many rock musicians that are really deeply studied. So, what can happen and I see that happening in the classical community is that you find these composers that are ahead of their time. So, there's a difference between being ahead of everybody else at a given time, and being ahead of your time.
Because, if you're ahead of your time you're not recognised during your life so you never know. But, one example eg the classical community is a composer named Edgard Varèse! When he composed back in the '50s - '60's, he was doing music that was totally not understood at that time and he was getting a lot of flat for it and it wasn't until many years after he was dead that he became one of the most studied composers in history simply because they started to unravel what he was doing.
And someone like Frank Zappa. I think the vast majority of Frank's work it's not ahead of its time, it's right on time but it's kind of ahead of everybody else's in one sense but his synclavier work was ahead of his time, in my opinion. Is yet to really be discovered, what he was doing on an artistic level. And I believe, it is quite possibel that at some point in the future, I wont be around to know, that Frank's synclavier work is going to be studied because it's trully unique!
RockOverdose: Let's move to the VAI/GASH album now. As I told you before, it was a surprise for everybody I think! What need make you decide to finally release this hidden material after so many years? Is it a kind of paying tribute to your friend or your past in general? Was it a nostalgic moment of yours grew during the pandemic lockdown?
STEVE VAI: Well, it was something that's been building up for a long time, because I had it sitting on the shelf for 32 years. I started listening to it 20 years ago and it brought me right back to those great times of I had with Gash and also the things we used to do, that lifestyle and that music. It's a kind of music that's been in my heart ever since I was a teenager. When I was listening to '70s classic rock music and when I was a relatively prominent figure within the guitar community in the '8os. So I had all that in me but I never wanted to release it back then because we 've been going through quite a change - it was 1992 so grunge was coming in ... And this record it would have been destroyed, it would be lost, buried ... This record is very personal to me, a personal thing that I did with a friend for us. When you make a record and you have to put it out to the world there's a lot of work to be done. You have to convince people of what it is, talk about it and then you have to try to sell it ... then you gotta watch the charts, and I just didn't want to do that, with that record cause it seemed too personal to throw it to the world, so to speak. So I waited and through the years I knew I would release it at some point, but I thought I might got up there and fix this guitar or the vocals, or may try to build another song but finally I just said "Forget it! I'm not touching it!". I got the tape, then bake it so that it would play and send it to Mike Fraser to mix it! So it's really exactly the way it was when I left it, nothing has been changed.
RockOverdose: Maybe that's why it is so good!
STEVE VAI: Maybe! I have to say that I didn't expect that kind of reception for this record but I really liked it! It makes me feel good and empowered! It made me feel like I was hearing something that I was missing.
RockOverdose: Indeed! That's something different from you, back from the years you were younger and hanging out with your motocycle friends. It's kind of nostalgic in a good way...
STEVE VAI: Yes! And I wanted to share that!
RockOverdose: Every generation of artists and audiences has once lost its heroes. For example: We recently lost the GREAT Jeff Beck. I know you've commented on this before ... but the thing I want to ask is whether you believe young talents out there would one day create something that hasn't been heard before... As you said before, "Inspiration is endless" but how you see the future of music?
STEVE VAI: I have a very possitive overview because I see things coming along now in the guitar community that people are doing which are incredible! The guitar keeps evolving to what's possible. Just in the last year I worked with Polyphia, guys like them are really raising the bar. There's a whole slew of people that play the instrument in ways that people like me or Jeff Beck... you know, couldn't have imagined. That only represents one part of the effect. It's the content, it's how it's played, what the emotional investment is, what inspiration is, how it is make you feel. That's really the question.
That's why Jeff Beck at 1978 was still revered and also he was still evolving. He's of the only musician that I know, the only guitar player that I know, that actually got better through time, got better and better even past his prime. He was a miracle! I don't see anybody else doing that.
RockOverdose: They say that behind a great and successful man there is a great teacher/professor who loved his job! With you being so lucky to have great mentors around you do you - What are the most important lessons you’ve learned by your mentors?
STEVE VAI: I've had so many great mentors and I've been a mentor as well. So, it's kind of like a give and take. We're all standing on the shoulders of everybody else. And you get something profound from each situation you're in - if you're watching.
So, for me someone like Frank he was a quiet mentor, he didn't sit there and teach me stuff, he just did it and I watched. The think I got most from Frank was that he was a free-thinker! He did what he wanted and he didn't make excuses and he didn't let anything get his way, he just did it! I was very young and impressionable, so when I got to the world and make music I thought "why don't you do what you want?" That's all! And that worked for me.
RockOverdose: You mentioned before about lot's of hidden material and it was a surprise to hear that you have material made together with Ozzy. Hope someday we'll hear that stuff...
STEVE VAI: Well, I need to clarify that because it's something I was very careless with that, and it became clickbait - viral! I don't have an Ozzy record. I have enough music, we came up with enough music for a record. I have demo tapes that I build to play for Ozzy, you know? I got those but there was a bunch of things that we've wrote together and all thats stuff was handed into the record company, I don't have any rights over any of that stuff. And Ozzy is not on any of the demos, he's on in 1 or 2 other songs... So, the music is there, the actual songs - that's where I was refering to and the tapes that I have are tracks that are build to present at Ozzy.
And the ones that he liked and we started to work on, I don't have those. So, that was something I got out of hand and now I've got to answer to it for the rest of my life! "Where's the Ozzy record?" (laughs)
RockOverdose: Yeah! You can't escape! But, the thing I want to ask is how you comment on his decision to retire from touring (at least) and in general when you believe its time for artist to stay back?
STEVE VAI: I believe the time for an artist to retire is when they feel that time is right and that's different for everybody. What I could say about Ozzy's retirement is "Thank you so much for all of the years of incredible music and performances."
I can't be more greatfull for having the opportunity to even work with him a little bit and get to know him. Because he's just so Ozzy! To know him is to really love him! To not know him, you might think he's kind of cookie but he's got it together and he delivered for us all for many many years! I mean, what that guy has been through .. God bless him!
RockOverdose: Well, thank you so much Steve for your time to chat with us! We're looking forward to see you soon in Greece! I think that with the Hydra guitar you'd definatelly win that Karate Kid guy....
STEVE VAI: You think so? I'd kick his ass! (laughs) Well, I'm looking forward to being there! See you soon! Bye!
Interview/ Transcript/Edit: Vivi Zapantiotou