Headlining a select number of UK shows this month, the former David Lee Roth and Whitesnake star has a new solo record under his belt – and the time to play it!
RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with a genuine guitar hero boasting more than 15 million album sales under his belt and one of the best work ethics in the business.
rushonrock: The Story Of Light is your first solo ‘rock’ album in seven years – why is now the right time right to release the follow-up to Real Illusions?
Steve Vai: One of the biggest challenges I face is that I’m involved with a lot of different things all at the same time. I chase after a lot of projects that excite me. The simple answer is there’s been a lot of stuff going on. I’ve been touring on and off, I put a band together and I wrote two hours of orchestral music for a series of concerts in Holland. Then I actually performed in those concerts – five shows were recorded and filmed and editing orchestral music is extremely time consuming but we wanted to release the DVD. I looked after all of that. I’ve done a couple of tours – a couple of Zappa plays Zappa stints – and then I was commissioned by an orchestra to compose a symphony! So it’s not about the right time to release The Story Of Light – there hasn’t been any time!
rushonrock: The Story Of Light is an incredibly diverse album – how easy was it to stay focused on the concept?
SV: Real Illusions introduced the storyline but the songs on that album aren’t presented in any particular order. It’s more of the same on TSOL. For people who are interested in the story there’s a lot to take in but you can still listen to it in isolation as another Vai record. It’s actually easy to stay focused. There are a lot of benefits associated with having a constant theme or storyline underpinning a record. But the songs aren’t in order – they’re just linked by the overall concept. My idea is to produce another installment and then release a four-CD box set. I like the idea of putting the songs in the correct order so the story is told from start to finish and I’m looking at adding a narrative. A lot of the songs were written as guitar melodies but it would be nice for people to enjoy the whole concept as one big piece in chronological order.
rushonrock: You use the electric harp of Deborah Henson-Conant on the new album – what does that instrument bring to the table?
SV: I’ve always enjoyed the harp. It’s a very different instrument to compose for. I’ve always wanted to master the composition of harp music. With a lot of the arpeggiated guitar parts the harp is perfect. In the live shows Deborah plays the acoustic guitar parts on the harp and it works really well. I always knew it would.
rushonrock: Do you ever wake up and wonder what else there is to do with a guitar?
SV: Every day. The first thing I do every day is the most important thing – to understand that there is so much more to the guitar and it’s just there waiting for you. But if your attitude is wrong that won’t work. If you pick up any instrument and your attitude is ‘I’ve done everything with that and I’m bored of trying to do more with it because there isn’t anything’ then you won’t progress. But in my opinion the guitar is an infinite instrument – it’s like the universe itself. It’s still possible for me to come to the table with something I’ve never ever done before.
rushonrock: Has there ever been a time when you’ve wanted to put down the guitar for any period of time?
SV: I do go through periods of developing certain ideas and then I start to repeat them and I need to step back. If you fast from the guitar and then you pick it up again after some time you can have a fresh outlook. But I don’t like to be without a guitar for any length of time.