Ibanez Universe “Mirrorball” Custom
Jem7VWH - “EVO”
Fender Sticker Strat
Emerald Custom 7-string Acoustic
“Under It All”
Harp (the big kind with strings): Pia Vai
How The Song Came About:
Before the European G3 tour of 2004, this record was complete and mastered. This piece was not on it though. Instead there was a song called The Boogie Man, which was more of a raging shred-fest of sorts. It started to bore me quickly.
The record was first scheduled for release in September of ‘04 but because of the G3 tour I did not have enough time to do all the press and the label did not have enough time to set the record up properly so it was bumped to February 2005. As a result I had some time to work on it. I was not happy with The Boogie Man. I felt the record was pretty diverse and eclectic and that I should probably put some down to earth stuff on there that people can relate to, so I set out and wrote a mid-tempo melody type ballad and an up tempo rockin’ instrumental guitar song. These songs didn’t cut it for me either and I started to feel as though I was compromising my musical integrity. They were just, eh… you know, nothing-special kind of songs that didn’t have the depth that I was striving for. It was the age-old dilemma of art vs. commerce. I realized I was not being true to my potential.
I decided to pull both of those songs from the record along with The Boogie Man, (I had pulled about 12 other songs in the making of the record prior to this) and let the record live with 10 songs on it. This depressed me because I felt I did not make the statement I set out to with the record as a whole.
I went into the chatroom on Vai.com during the broadcast of the Metropole performances of The Aching Hunger on NPS radio, and asked the people in the chatroom what they would like to hear in a new song. What I got back was a potpourri of colorful requests, so I decided to use those requests as inspiration to reach into myself and let it flow.
I had a particular story element that needed to be outlined but I did not have the song for it. I decided to use the 7-string, but I needed to present it in a unique way. I enjoy what contemporary metal players have done with it but I figured if the guy who designed the thing (me) was going to do something with it, I better not just plug it in and go “Chugga Chugga Chugga” on the low string. Why should I do that when there are so many other guys out there doing it, and doing it well?
So I sat to visualized something different. I wanted to use it to create a frenetic progression of thick, rich tension filled chords that use the capabilities of that guitar in ways I have not heard yet. Not to say someone wasn’t doing it but I just had not heard it. I just let my inner ear find its center and what came out was distorted, lush divineness. It was difficult to get the notes in the chords to speak with all that distortion and energy going on but it was worth the work.
The entire concept for the piece, including the speaking parts, the solo the lead vocals and all came in a flash. It was a bit overwhelming and I immediately felt myself falling into a dizzying void. How was I going to complete it and would it be worth the grey hair?
Recording this song aged me. It was death-defying the amount of focus and work. Everything in my life suffered during the frantic pace and construction of this song. First was my health, my personal life, my business obligations and the loss of the bond of my family for the time. There were three occasions when I stopped and decided I could not go on and finish it in time, and that it was not worth it because it was too odd and no body was going to get it even though it was making sense to me. I was being too selfish if I continued because it would truly be just for my gratification.
I pushed on nonetheless.
When it was finished I thought I had really done it this time. This was the crown jewel. It summed up the 1st layer of the project so perfectly. It seemed as though it was always there but I had to have the courage to make it real. I had similar feelings about Dying For Your Love. I felt as if I was making these songs strictly for my own entertainment. This was apparent to me because when they were complete I could not stop listening to them and loosing myself in them. It was and still is a gloriously selfish stimulation.
Mike Mesker, Ruta and Pia were the first ones who heard it and said that all that work was worth it.
What Was I Thinking:
The album liner notes:
Additional Story Info: The people in this town are not unlike many others in any other town. But upon entering Under It All there are various things that happen that compel them to see themselves as what they are. This is a cathartic process that starts out by them expressing who they think they are. Through various processes certain truths about themselves are revealed. This is represented in the talking sections of the song. It’s an insight into various overtones of human nature. Eventually all the paint is stripped away and they are made aware that under it all there’s so much more.
I sent Jeremy in the studio and told him to just play his ass off. I cut it up to create the track and then put some scratch things down to outline it. Then I had Billy come in and put the bass on it. I then slowly built the track until it was complete. I create sketches with visual ideas written down, accompanied with some technical and musical explanations in the margins. I called in some friends to put the speaking parts on and there it was.
Main Rhythms: Ibanez Universe 7-string mirror ball