Erotic Nightmares

This is the forum for all Steve Vai-related discussion including Steve's albums, videos, performances and frequently asked questions.
Post Reply
mental speedin
Member
Member
Posts: 216
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:40 pm

hi, i am writing an essay on this song for mu advanced music class. can anyone give me any background notes on it. anythin will help 8)
Dave
musicslave
Member
Member
Posts: 31
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 5:06 am

Hey Dave, I read somewhere that it is about a dream Mr Vai had in which
I believe it was an alien being of some type, was having sex but could NEVER reach orgasm. :(
Franks
Member
Member
Posts: 106
Joined: Tue May 18, 2004 11:42 pm

Okay, dug up some old magazines for ya. First a long quote from the May 1990 edition of Guitar Player:

"Erotic Nightmares"
"GP: The parts cycle around like a pop song, but there's also an unpredictable, freely structured quality. It has feet in two different worlds.
VAI: Nail right on the head. It has all those qualities, and that's the kind of stuff I like to hear on a song - we're very colorful beings, after all. When you first hear it, you're taken aback it's not the norm, but it becomes more acceptable once you listen to it.
GP: Like many of the tunes on the album, it doesn't have an obvious, overstated melody.
VAI: That was a conscious effort on my part. I didn't want to take a standard-melody approach on this record. I wanted to make the melody sort of like a ghosting image. On "The Animal" for instance, I can hear the first and second verses as a melody, but it's not a repeating-type melody. The original idea for "Erotic Nightmares" was an AABA song with a melody that repeated at the end. But I opted for the noises and the wailing through it, although I had to return to the rhythm lick at the end of the song, or else it would have become a meandering poof piece of music.
GP: How did you create the sound effects during the spacey section?
VAI: It's all things I saw myself doing in that dream. Some of them are just rumbles, knocks on the guitar. I used a razor blade against the strings, I screamed into the pickups, and then there's the "flute" sound, which I got by cutting off all the top end, playing through a volume pedal and a wah-wah pedal in the deflexed position, and using the vibrato bar. The dog sound is a real dog. Orginally it was doubled with a guitar, but that sounded too much like the elephant, which is a volume-knob swell on a harmonic with distortion through an Eventide Harmonizer. I'd also loosen the strings so they'd rub against the pickup. Then there's the "sitar" sound, where I pick right up next to where I fret the notes. The backwards swells are an E7#9 chord, recorded backwards, with the tape slipped over.
GP: You build intricate harmonies in the bridge section by superimposing simple but harmonically remote chords, like Ab major over Fmaj7.
VAI: I like the sound of polychords, where you take two chords and place them on top of each other. They're called hybrid structures. You can keep a constant bass line, but move all these chords on top of it and set up textures that you just won't hear from regular diatonic chord changes. That's my main compositional approach.
GP: So you would improvise, say, two bars of G major over Fmaj7?
VAI: No, I'd hear a tune in my head [sings descending triadic melody] and then take the guitar and play a chord like this [strums a major 7th chord built from a different root]. Now I don't know what I just did, but I'd do it slowly and write it down. If I didn't hear something right away, I'd write the scale down, or if I wanted a fast lick that I couldn't really sing, but heard in my head, I might say: "Here's an A chord with Db2 triad [the notes Db, Eb and Ab] on top of it, so I'll do a sextuplet where the first half is an A chord, the second half is a Db2, and coming back down I'll go to some other chord." I can go off into composition like that.
GP: Did you consciously adopt a softer, more lyrical character for the passages in F, as opposed to the more aggresive, blues-based sections in A?
VAI: Well, F Lydian is, for me, a more comfortable key to solo in. There are a lot more notes that open up to you than in A blues, so it's a lot more lyrical. But by the same token, there was a prevailing line of thought concerning what the song was about - namely an erotic nightmare. A lot of people have dreams with sex in them, but in my dream situation - here I go off into Venus again - the lust was overwhelming. In order to reach a climax we needed to human bodies, but we didn't have them because we were on this other plane. So the frustration to release grew and grew, and that's why it was an erotic nightmare. I tried to emulate that in the piece.
GP: So is the return of the main tune the climax?
VAI: No, you never do climax. At the end you think you do, but you really just come to a different realization about how to handle the frustration. And that's when the animal appears."

And this is from the July 1990 edition of Guitar School:
"The main lick in 'Erotic Nightmares' was written a long time ago, but the structure of the song and some of the sounds were based on another one of my dreams. In the dream I was touching the guitar in a way it had never been touched before, and all these weird tones were coming out of it. At one point, I turned the guitar around and discovered it had holes in it like a woodwind. I started to blow into it while manipulating the whammy bar, and to my surprise, the sound that came out was flute-like. After a long period of experimentation, I found that I could recreate the dream's guitar/flute hybrid by simply rolling off all my guitar's high-end and softening the attack by using a volume pedal".

And further on:
"This is real personal stuff, and some people might get a kick out of my weirdness, but this is what I do. Try abstaining from sex for a long time and see how riled up you get. Then record with those feelings in mind and you'll come out with something like 'Erotic Nightmares'."

Phew. Don't know why I started on all this...
mental speedin
Member
Member
Posts: 216
Joined: Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:40 pm

thats amazing guys that really helped lol. if anyone else has more on the piece plz let me know. im also doing the essay on Satch's Ice 9 if anyone knows anythin.
Dave
Alexander Kinnaird
Member
Member
Posts: 69
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2004 11:00 am

The term "Ice 9" originates from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle novel and refers to a substance that crystallises water on contact. One of many sci-fi references in Satch's catalogue. If you check the official transcriptions of Surfing With The Alien there are some detailed performance notes by Jesse Gress to help you out with the background theory of the music. Not sure if I'd be allowed to type them up in full for you here. If it's permissible, I'll post them for you later.

Edit - Nevermind, just noticed that all that had been posted in the General Music Discussion forum
Post Reply