BMA Magazine, Canberra, Australia: Steve Vai interview questions, by Chris Downton
It’s only been just over a year since you last toured as part of the G3 line-up. Is Australia a place that you particularly enjoy touring / visiting?
S- I always get excited to tour in Australia. There is a very different atmosphere there than the rest of the world. I’ve said this in the press many times before but the Australians are the nicest people in the world. They are… charming really. There is a social gravity that permeates any culture and the Australian one is light and airy.
You’ve described your latest album ‘The Story Of Light’ as a multi-layered, non-linear concept album; is it daunting trying to work out how to present something like that live?
S- Not at all. At this point they are more or less colourful songs that can be performed by the band. On each tour it’s natural to play 5-6 songs from whatever new record is being promoted.
How does ‘The Story Of Light’ relate to its predecessor ‘Real Illusions – Reflections’; is it a continuation of the conceptual arc, or something more complex?
S- In many respects the approach to the song writing, the flow of the music’s intentions and the recording procedure are similar for both records. The songs are built around conceptual ideas from within the story so this can offer a different slant to the creative process. But yes, “The Story Of Light” is more or less an additional instalment of songs that will eventually be amalgamated into the final presentation of the full story of “Real Illusions”.
Is there a track on the new album that you can single out as a particular favourite? If so, why?
S- Eh, it changes. Sometimes I find myself craving “No More Amsterdam” because of Aimee Mann’s wonderful lyrics and voice, Sometimes I want the dirty perversion of “Gravity Storm” and at times I’m drawn to listen to “The Story of Lgiht” When I feel like being washed over by an ocean of blissful melody drenched in harmonic distortion. But if I want to cry I’ll listen to “Weeping China Doll” or “Mullach A’Tsi”.
Throughout your back catalogue of music, you’ve traversed a huge range of different musical styles. Is there a genre of music you haven’t had a chance to work in yet that you would like to?
S- Actually, I don’t really see myself as visiting many different styles. I’ve dabbled in some but nothing to close to the authenticity of a genre such as blues, Jazz, classical, etc. My blues is from Venus, my Jazz is from Hell, and my Classical is from my own view on true inspiration. The closest thing I authentically come to is rock and metal but theirs always a perverse twist to it. And there is no definite style I would like to explore in an authentic sense. Just steal a little here and there from whatever sounds inspiring.
Throughout your career, you’ve also worked with an intimidatingly huge list of well-known artists, but do you have your own wishlist of people you’d love to collaborate with, if you ever got the chance?
S- Yes, Seth McFarland, Eckhart Tolle, Tom Shadyac, Chris Cunningham, Woody Allen, Professor Aydogan Ozcan, Amit Goswami, Byron Katie.
What can Canberra audiences expect from your upcoming show here – will you be gearing the set around ‘The Story Of Light’? Also…who’s coming along with you on tour?
S- This is the first time I’ve done a full Vai show in Ausi in quite some time. When I put a show together I try to bring in elements that I would like to see in a show. First and foremost I want to be the best entertainer I can be because people are taking their time, spending their money to come and see the band. I like to offer in the shows a great deal of musicianship, almost exaggerated dynamics from fiercely dense complex music to exquisitely subtle and intimate moments, some comic relief etc. I want the audience to leave feeling great, uplifted somehow, perhaps feeling that they really engaged in something fulfilling.
I have Dave Weiner on Guitar, Phillip Bynoe on Bass. Jeremy Colson on Drums and Michael Arrom on keyboards.
On a completely different subject, I understand that you’re an avid beekeeper in your spare time; how did you first get interested in that? As a scientist who works in that area, a lot of pretty scary things have been happening with bees recently…
S- It started when my wife, our two children and myself moved into a 2 acre property in Los Angeles that was virtually vacant for 10 years. She wanted to plant gardens and I wanted to plant fruit trees and I did some research and discovered that honey bees are the best pollinators and keeping them is very easy. It’s a wonderful hobby and is becoming more and more popular in the USA. In California you can buy bee keeping supplies at one of our local grocery shops. It’s a great way to contribute to the environment as you can propigate the hives and help the bees to grow. And heck, they make honey!
Thanks for your time,