For the past five years I have been hosting the pre-telecast of the Grammy’s. This is the event that takes place before the main televised show. In the pre-tel, we give out 97 Grammy awards in some of the more obscure categories. I basically introduce various celebrities who then come up and present ten or so Grammy’s each. We usually have a co-host and last night it was the lovely Zuleyka, Ms. Universe… in an exploding dress!
It was a wonderful event but the thing that made it so special this year was that the pre-tel has evolved and now we have (deleted) some performances. Well, Joe Satch and I got to play together for the 2-3,000 folks that usually attend. We played “Super Colossal,” a song that Joe was nominated for this year in the category of “Best Rock Instrumental Performance.” It WAS a Super Colossal event for us.
I told the audience that Joe and I grew up together, went to the same school, and played together as young teenagers and that he was my teacher and that we had been through a lot over the years but to be up there playing together for them, a song Joe was nominated for, was truly a privilege. And it surely was. After, Joe and I reflected on our past achievements and good fortune. We could only look at each other and smile in gratitude to the Gods of good karma, and count our blessings.
It’s all kind of remarkable to us.
During NAMM week Ibanez threw a little private party at the Key Club in Hollywood to Celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Jem. 20 YEARS!!!! Soon to be a classic.
“Between the Buried and Me” performed a set and then Paul Gilbert performed a set and then I played a set with the Breed. There were quite a few cool guitar players on the stage through the night and the show was topped off with a well-performed jam with the likes of The Breed, Matt Roberts from Three Doors Down, Herman Li from Dragonforce, Joe Satch, Andy Timmons, and Paul Gilbert. It actually came off surprisingly well. The kicker for me was Paul. His new record “Get Out Of My Yard” is a spellbinding masterpiece of extreme guitar work, really.
G3 is going out next month in the USA with Joe, John Petrucci and Paul. You won’t want to miss this.
What have I been doing for the past three years, among other things?
It’s called “Sound Current”.
This is the project that was recorded with the Metropole Orchestra in Holland.
Ever since I was a young boy I wanted to be a composer more than anything. The guitar fell into my lap along with the progressive rock music of the 70′s and even though my fingers were glued to the instrument, I started studying composition and musical notation long before I even started playing the guitar. I had a wonderful music theory teacher in high school, Bill Westcot, who gave me an assignment to write a song in manuscript form every day, then turn it into him to play on the piano. This was the only homework I ever did in high school and it made every day exciting. To be able to hear your music performed is the greatest gift a composer could hope for. I wrote my first orchestra piece in 9th grade for the Carle Place High School Orchestra. It was called “Sweet Wind From Orange County” and I actually still have a scar on my finger from the pencil I used while feverishly writing it.
Through high school, college and beyond I kept up my compositional studies but the prospect of getting your music performed by an orchestra when you’re only considered to be an over the top electric Rock guitar shredder was virtually impossible. Enter Co de Kloet.
Co lives in Holland and back in the early 80′s he had a small record import company. He was the first one to import “Flex-Able” in Europe for distribution. He later went on to be a major player at NPS Radio and would play my music on his program. I think he was the only one. As you can imagine this was a tremendous stroke of good fortune for someone like me. Through the years we got to know each other and bonded as good friends.
Although he got a bit of a kick out of my guitar wailings, Co felt I had potential as a composer and in the late 90′s he approached me to compose for the Metropole Orkest in Holland. Holland is different than most other countries in their support of the arts. The government has programs that support the arts for their citizens. Co was able to put together a budget and submit it to the government with the idea that a concert of Steve Vai compositions would make for a special radio program that would enrich the Dutch listening audience. Imagine that. He worked hard for this and the result was the Aching Hunger concerts that took place.
If not for Co’s confidence and support this project would have never happened.
I was commissioned to compose an hour of music for the Metropole but I put together two hours of music. The concept was to create a show with two- one hour or so segments. The first hour would consist of compositions without me playing guitar and the second hour would be compositions with me.
When the reality of the opportunity hit me I feverishly went to work. As always, time was tight and although I would have loved to have used this opportunity to compose all new music, the reality of the time deadlines did not allow this so I dug into the stacks and stacks of manuscripts I had sketched through the years to find some to dust off. I found some interesting old things that I ended up orchestrating for the first part of the show and then went into my conventional catalog to orchestrate some of the more well known songs with me playing guitar. I would have loved to have composed a whole new one hour piece with guitar and orchestra but there just simply was not enough time.
The original concept for the show was to be a musical of sorts with a few singers but once again, the time involved to make that a reality was too tight.
I had some wonderful orchestrators at my disposal and copyists that worked with me on many of the scores. More on them later.
I thought it would be nice to offer updates of sorts on where I am with this project.
The “Aching Hunger Phase I” took place in the summer of 2004 in Amsterdam and Groningen in Holland. The second phase took place early July 2005 in Groningen, Holland and included a few tweaks to the scores and a new orchestration of “Bledsoe Bluvd.”
In all there were 5 different public performances, a studio recording session of a few tracks, and a sound check rehearsal recording.
Eventually I started to lay out the concept for the packaging of the “Sound Current” project.
“Sound Current” would be the category of releases that consist of orchestral music and other rich compositional pieces that I pen.
The Aching Hunger concerts were the first to kick off this series and as things stand right now the idea is to release a double CD and single DVD of the pieces performed by the Metropole.
Everything that I write in the updates section here is subject to change. But these updates may give you a bit of insight into how the whole process works and those who are interested can follow the evolution of the project.
The first step was to create the scores. As I dismantle each piece you can see how the concept was formulated and the work that was involved.
The second step was the rehearsals and finally the recording of the performances.
With all of the meetings, rehearsals, recording, budgets etc. (in comparison to what needed to follow from that point regarding the editing and mixing of the package, the first phase was a snap.)
I had five performances to choose from and because the music was very challenging I had to take pieces of all the performances and cut them together to make an accurate representation of each piece. This required finding the best takes of each section of each piece, cutting them together and trying to get them to audibly match and then find any wrong notes in the parts or bad performances from a particular section of the orchestra and cut in the right stuff. It’s like trying to build a ten thousand square foot house out of toothpicks at $1,000.00 a square foot.
At this time the idea for the packaging and track list are as follows. Remember, it’s subject to change but…
“Sound Current Vol 1.”
The Aching Hunger
(This CD contains performances of songs from the catalog with me playing guitar)
1. Kill The Guy with the Ball/ The God Eaters
2. The Murder
4. Gentle Ways
5. Salamanders in the Sun
6. Attitude Song
7. I’m Becoming
9. For the Love of God
“Sound Current Vol 2.”
Shadows and Sparks
(This CD contains compositions without me playing guitar with the Orchestra)
1. Shadows and Sparks
3. Hellios and Vesta
4. Bledsoe Bluvd
(At this time the name of the DVD is not yet confirmed)
Kill the Guy With the Ball/The God Eaters
Salamanders in the Sun
For The Love of God
It has taken me two years to edit together and mix the “Shadows and Sparks” CD but at this time, those songs are complete.
I have also completed “Kill The Guy With the Ball/ The God Eaters”, and “The Murder”.
In order to add some diversity to the published performances of the tracks on the DVD vs. the same tracks on the CD, I decided to use different takes for various elements in the songs.
At this time I am working on “Answers”
OK, that’s it for now. I’ll try to give you updates whenever I work on the stuff.
Today I am editing and tweaking the horn section of “Answers.”
Thanks for sticking with this.