"Wild Things" DVD Interviews Archive

This is the forum for all Steve Vai-related discussion including Steve's albums, videos, performances and frequently asked questions.
Mikey
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Hi Folks,

I'm working on creating an archive of all press from the new DVD.

Eventually, these will be archived to a new Vai Wiki I'm going to create down the track.

Here's how I'd like to structure this:

Please list one interview per post.

It's okay to copy and past the entire interview text in your post, but please also post the entire URL to the interview if it's online. Please also list the author of the article wherever possible.

No press releases - jut interviews or links to audio/video interviews.

All languages are welcome too.

If you would like to discuss an interview - please create a thread for it.

Thanks!

Your contribution will really help out!

Mikey :)
vai.com
Mikey
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Here's the first:

http://www.modernguitars.com/archives/005080.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

10 August 2009

Steve Vai on Composition and "Where The Wild Things Are"
by Tom Watson.


September 29, 2009, brings the release of Where The Wild Things Are, live concert material recorded before a sold-out audience at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2007 during Steve Vai's Sound Theories World Tour. The performance footage will be released on DVD and Blu-ray with a music-only CD also available.

The 2007 Sound Theories World Tour featured a band Vai called String Theories, comprised of Steve Vai with Bryan Beller (bass), Alex DePue (violin, keyboards), Ann Marie Calhoun (violin, keyboards), Jeremy Colson (drums and percussion), Dave Weiner (guitar and sitar), and Zack Wiesinger (a brief appearance during the show on lap steel and the tour's solo opening act with Zack on electric guitar). Though the tour launched in conjunction with the release of the double-CD Sound Theories I & II, it was a standalone animal featuring a set list of both well known and not so often performed pieces from the Vai catalog, which might account for the upcoming DVD's name, Where The Wild Things Are, that drops the Sound Theories main title connection.

Despite its independence from Sound Theories I & II, Where The Wild Things Are makes an excellent trilogy companion to that release and the 2007 Visual Sound Theories DVD that provides performance footage of material from Sound Theories I & II. The three titles, Sound Theories I & II, Visual Sound Theories, and Where The Wild Things Are, both independently and, more strongly, collectively showcase both Steve Vai the guitarist and Steve Vai the composer, giving added weight to the compositional strength of his catalog and Vai's ability to compose and arrange for instrumentation well beyond the electric guitar.

I caught the Sound Theories World Tour show in Europe in July of 2007, shortly after the release of Sound Theories I & II but before hearing the two CDs. I had read about the release though and knew that it consisted of Steve Vai performing selections from his catalog with the Netherlands Metropole Orchestra (CD I) and the orchestra performing Vai compositions without the guitarist (CD II). Knowing that Sound Theories I & II was recorded with a full orchestra and that the Sound Theories World Tour featured two violinists, I arrived at the venue thinking perhaps the show would be a more sedate, classical-setting Vai a la chamber music. Yes, I should have known better. The Sound Theories World Tour performance was a fiery re-interpretation of an excellent sampling from the Vai catalog, which will be available to those who missed this tour with the release of Where The Wild Things Are.

On August 7, 2009, I spoke to Steve Vai, technically about the upcoming release of Where The Wild Things Are, but having been an avid listener to Sound Theories I & II and viewer of Visual Sound Theories for the last two years, my main interest was how these three works serve as an argument for the Vai-ability of his catalog as composition.

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Tom Watson: I caught the Sound Theories World Tour show in Europe shortly after the release of Sound Theories I & II.
Steve Vai: It's a very interesting band and I'm really glad I had the opportunity to capture it and make a DVD that turned out phenomenal - the sound is really good and I was able to get all the nuances of the show because it had really matured by the time I got to the States.

Tom: Where The Wild Things Are will make an excellent companion to Sound Theories I & II and Visual Sound Theories, something along the lines of a trilogy.

Steve: You're right because I had the orchestra project and I wanted to do some kind of a tour but I couldn't tour with an orchestra, that's totally cost prohibitive, so I thought let me get a couple of string players that can really rock out and I'll re-arrange some of the music so that it works with them. The name of the band on Where The Wild Things Are is String Theories.

Tom: Let's talk about Sound Theories I & II for a minute. How did the NPS [a Dutch public broadcasting organization] project come about?

Steve: There's a gentleman who's worked there for many years that I've known since I released Flex-Able. His name is Co de Kloet and he's always been a great supporter. He's a real music lover, a true aficionado, and he's always had a lot of faith in me and has always seen me as more of a composer than anything else. So, he went to the wall and put together this whole event, raised the money from the Dutch government, and gave me the opportunity to compose for the Metropole Orchestra. That's how it came about.

Tom: How much time did you have to prepare for that?

Steve: Oddly enough, there are a lot of things in my career that take a lot of time. Making a record takes a lot of time, editing something takes a lot of time, working on solos, things like this take time. But, when it comes to composing, it goes very quickly for me. There's a piece [on Sound Theories II] called "Frangelica, Part Two." "Frangelica, Part One" I wrote when I was 19 years old. It took me maybe two days to orchestrate it because it was all there, I knew exactly what I wanted it to be, I can write quickly and I'm very at home with the [music notation] staff, so I knew how to make that song sound the way it sounds. Then, I needed something that was more up-tempo to come after that, so I composed "Frangelica, Part Two," and that, surprisingly enough, probably took me five days of composing. Now mind you, those are uninterrupted days, but it goes very quickly for me.

Tom: The orchestration alone would seem to be complex. This was a 60-some piece orchestra.

Steve: From a distance it would. The project was broken into two parts. The first part involved me with the orchestra and was music from my catalog orchestrated for electric guitar and a 65-piece orchestra. This material I didn't orchestrate. It was sort of a no-brainer. I hired some really good orchestrators and said, "Over here do this, over there, do that," and that was relatively easy.

The second disc is more compositional and I don't even perform on it. So, I sat down and composed and orchestrated all of that because that had to be done a certain way.

Tom: But, that's what's impressive. You're orchestrating for horns, reed instruments, et cetera. Had you had a lot of prior experience with those chairs and sections?

Steve: Well, yes and no. I was composing music before I was playing the guitar. When I was 10, 11, 12 years old I was playing around with notes, then when I was 13 I started getting serious about composing and all through high school I studied composition and I was writing for various instruments. I wrote my first orchestra piece for the high school band when I was in 11th or 10th grade. Then, after that, I was working with Frank Zappa and a lot of his music was compositional and I was transcribing a lot of it. Throughout those early years I was doing a lot of composing, but I was never able to hear it because how do you get the material performed?

So, then I went into the rock 'n' roll world, put my head down, and did that for quite a bit of time, but the orchestrational skills were all there.

Through the years though I've worked with various orchestras. Years ago I worked with the Rochester Orchestra and I had to prepare for that so I composed a number of pieces. One of them was "Bledsoe Bluvd.," which turned out to be completed and recorded for Sound Theories. That score took a really long time. I scored that entire piece while I was on the Sex & Religion tour. Every spare moment that I had - hotels, airplanes - I composed. Then, at the end of the day, I had this incredibly complex, beautifully rich score that now needed to be typed into a computer because they don't hand-copy scores anymore, they have to be typed into a computer so they can be extracted for parts and whatnot. That took years, and there were four or five copyists working on it, because it had extremely complex moments; for example, parts where two time signatures were going on with polyrythms that extended over bar lines and the computer software wasn't capable of portraying this properly. So, we had to get computer notation software companies to actually design software to deal with this. It took years and was unbelievably expensive. Every bar of that music cost a fortune, but, there it is, it's done.
Tom: Are these scores available, let's say for study and performance at the university level?

Steve: Thank you for asking. Yes, and no. They're all basically done and I have them in PDF format and we're working on making them available through this website where you can buy TABS for everything that I've done. So yes, they will be available. They can be purchased in score form, they can be purchased with parts, et cetera. The question is, how many people are going to want it?

Tom: That's a lesson to be had from your career and catalog. Pop, rock, and metal are like meat grinders - a constant demand for something new. Compare that to classical or jazz where we expect to hear standards performed by other players adding their unique interpretation and expression. Your catalog has that potential.

Steve: Thanks. I try to carefully extract anything that sounds genre-specific. [Laughs] There's a reward in that because you get a unique body of undiluted, unclassifiable work, but there's also a price to pay in that people are like, "What is that?"

Tom: It seems that with the strong guitar departments in many universities this would be a logical next step for your catalog.

Steve: From your lips to their ears. [Laughs] I'm doing it because I can and hopefully they'll find some value in it.

Tom: Between Sound Theories I & II and Mike Keneally's Piano Reductions, the point of Steve Vai the composer should have been made by now.

Steve: You know, sometimes people surprise me. Once I got a video of a high school marching percussion band playing the entire "Fire Garden Suite." [Laughs] I couldn't believe it. But, it's just very rare that people are interested in performing contemporary compositional things.

Tom: What about other settings like chamber orchestra or guitar-violin duets, have you worked in these areas?

Steve: I have some things like that. Nothing's published in manuscript form where people can buy it and do it. I'd like to and I can. I was just commissioned to compose a ten-minute piece for a saxophone quartet. I'm really looking forward to that. I can write concertos, quartets, you name it. But, it's all about time management. For example, this week was devoted to doing 6-10 hours with press to promote the DVD and before that it was like a year working on the DVD, before that it was working with the band, and on and on.
To do these things takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. Now, I've got this project coming up for a symphony in Holland in 2010 and I need to compose 40-50 minutes of new symphonic music, which means I'll have to block out four undisturbed months and actually leave Los Angeles, go some place, and turn off the phone - and I'll make no money. It will actually cost me. But, being a composer, that's what it's like. Meanwhile, I still love playing the guitar and going on tour. I get offers all the time for me to write for a particular ensemble but I just can't take the time to do it.

Tom: Is the 2010 project again with NPS?

Steve: Not exactly the same situation. It's with the Holland Symphony Orchestra instead of the Metropole, but with Co de Kloet again the creative catalyst who's pulling the whole thing together.

Tom: Getting back to Where The Wild Things Are, or maybe getting to it, you having two violinists in the band is like a blues player on the road with a horn section. Are you going to have withdrawl?

Steve: [Laughs] Well, I'm hoping that my next studio album can involve the string players, but I've got this idea for the evolution of my bands. I was thinking that one day I could do a project with a rock band and two multi-instrument percussionists and then maybe one with a big horn section and then maybe one with the violins, horns and percussion.

Tom: Do you think Where The Wild Things Are gives the audience a hint as to what to expect with Sound Theories I & II and the expanded palette?

Steve: If you're really intuitive you'll be able to believe the same guy did both projects. [Laughs] They're very different, but there's a thread that runs through them, which is my own inner ear and music sensibilities
Mikey
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http://hangout.altsounds.com/features/1 ... e-vai.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Altsounds Interviews: With ... STEVE VAI


I want real emotional dynamics, on the brink of chaos, but swooned romantically in the tender arms of harmonic bliss.
August 11, 2009, 02:04 AM

Steve Vai is known universally as one of the greatest rock guitarists of all time. Starting out his career with Frank Zappa and making guest appearances on a veritable wish list of legendary recordings over the last 30 years, Steve Vai has solidified his place in the history books as both a creative genius and guitar virtuoso. But this 3-time Grammy winner is hardly resting on his laurels. Between managing his Favored Nations record label, running 2 recording studios and working with Little Kids Rock, The Independent Music Awards and Make a Noise Foundation, it's incredible that Steve Vai can find the time to put out multiple releases every year and tour the world. And yet, he does.

I had the honor of speaking with Vai as he prepares to release his 21st solo project, Where The Wild Things Are, available September 29th on DVD.

AS: Let's get right into talking about this new DVD because it looks awesome! The material is from your Sound Theories world tour, however The Sound Theories album and DVD have been released before, correct?

SV: Yeah.

What should fans expect to see on Where the Wild Things Are and how is it different from the previous release?

The Sound Theories album was a double live full orchestra record. It was a tremendous amount of work, but once it was over, I didn't really want to go back into the studio yet. I am always looking to challenge myself and do something unique. Unique compared to what other people are doing. I always wanted to have a band with two violin players, so I put the group together. It was hard to find the right players because they need to be able to balance being classically trained with the ability to rock out. The skies opened up and I was sent Alex DePue and Ann Marie Calhoun. They are phenomenal in so many respects. We put a show together and rehearsed it to perfection. I chose the State Theatre in Minneapolis for the DVD because it's gorgeous! I love the state and the sound is incredible.

You've been doing this for a long time, but your impressive stage show proves that you haven't forgotten what it's like to just be a music fan. When you're putting together tours, do you start with an overall concept of what you want the shows to be and then work out the details? Or do you know what songs you want to play and build a show around it?

I put certain challenges in front of myself. It starts with thinking of something I have never done before. Then there are parameters for the visual construction. It has to be entertaining and exciting for me, which is different than what is exciting for Van Halen or Britney Spears. So, I put myself into the audience and think of what I want to see- great musicianship, but I don't want to be beat up by someone's musical intellect. I want to feel uplifted and feel like I experienced something I had never seen before and will never see anywhere else ever again. I want real emotional dynamics, on the brink of chaos, but swooned romantically in the tender arms of harmonic bliss. And everything in between, really.

First and foremost, artists are entertainers. We like to think we do it for ourselves, but that's bullshit. We do it so people can enjoy it. Of course we hope to fascinate ourselves in the process, but artists want to be appreciated for their contribution. They want to be vital and appreciated and moving. That's what I feel my job is. I have talents and I have gifts and I work for the public. Or, at least, the public that is interested in what I do. They are my family, so to speak. It's almost like a service and I wear the badge proudly. I'm happy to have all of these opportunities.

The Favored Nations record label is incredibly exclusive, more so than other labels, as you only put out artists that have fully mastered their craft. Do you encounter many artists that you feel will be good candidates for your label someday, or do you feel the well drying up?

There will always be a well, you just have to go digging in different parts of the yard. The music will be a reflection of my divining. These days, having a label is a real challenge. The industry is changing and you have to think of ways to present artists in an arena where people are really going to 'get' the music.

What is it like to work with so many legendary musicians? Are the egos out of control, or do musical masters have an air of calm and humility about them.. like monks or something?

[laughs] It's everything from ghandi to gangbangers. There are guys who are incredibly talented and beautifully humble, but there are also people who can hardly play their instruments but think they are elite. I need to find potential in whoever I have in the band or whoever I'm working with and try to cultivate that. The rest is just fodder for my entertainment. [laughs]

You're a known guitar virtuoso with a long and impressive music career... it's easy to forget that YOU AREN'T OLD! Someone with your catalog should be well into their 70s, but you got started really early. Let me ask, how does a 14 year old kid get guitar lessons from Joe Satriani and then land a job with Frank Zappa transcribing his ridiculous guitar solos?

Good karma! I love playing. First and foremost, I am in love with the guitar, but I am also in love with a certain kind of composition. Growing up in the 70s, there were a lot of great rock bands, like Led Zeppelin and Queen that helped cultivate my interests. And then there was the music of Frank Zappa that sparked an explosion! He had all of these compositional skills that no one else really had. I gravitated to that and got into the fold. I became his 'little Italian virtuoso.'

Does it surprise you how many musicians today are music illiterate, or just ignorant when it comes to technique?

It doesn't surprise me, really. No one is cultivating that kind of awareness. People interested in music these days are getting it from the radio or tv or itunes or youtube or whatever. What is there that will really cultivate or even inspire them to understand the language of music? There are SOME, but for the most part, there aren't. It doesn't mean these people are bad musicians. It just means they're working with a different set of tools and will express things differently. The same level of brilliance will be born in individuals today as it has been through history. We're not getting dumber. We're evolving. I really believe that.

For more on Steve Vai, visit him here:
Vai.com - The Official Steve Vai Website
Steve Vai on MySpace Music - Free Streaming MP3s, Pictures & Music Downloads

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE available everywhere September 29th!
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ClarkyNZ
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Phew! When the current physical realisation of Steve finally points his toes to the sky and lays down to slumber blissfully with the Godhead, the vibrations that are emitted from the sheer body of work he will leave on this earthly layer of existence will surely sustain his soul for all eternity! :headbang
Edurocka
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Hey Mikey!

I'm new here (my English is very bad!)

I am writing this with google translator: D

I wanted to take this topic to ask if the DVD will bring Spanish subtitles.

Nothing more, a big greeting from Chile!


:)
Mikey
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Edurocka wrote:Hey Mikey!

I'm new here (my English is very bad!)

I am writing this with google translator: D

I wanted to take this topic to ask if the DVD will bring Spanish subtitles.

Nothing more, a big greeting from Chile!


:)
Hi there,

There are no subtitles on the DVD unfortunately. Only the bonus content has a lot of dialog on it though. the concert is mostly music.

Mikey
vai.com
Edurocka
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OK

thanks mikey,good luck in whatever comes.

:)
Edurocka
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I have an interview of a Chilean magazine made in 2007 on the 2007 tour.

Work?
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laplaine
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laplaine
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Johnny Jam
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Hey Mikey, here are links to an audio interview from "The Classic Metal Show" (8-15-09)

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv6BMZs4vTg
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hedW8R9EnGU

Johnny
Mikey
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Thank you, kind persons.

Keep em coming!

Cheers,

Mikey :)
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JorgeOliveira
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HI

Her is my contrib. for :

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http://www.411mania.com/music/columns/1 ... ve-Vai.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
411 Music Interview: Steve Vai
Posted by Aaron Mayagoitia on 08.13.2009

Want to know about Vai's recent and future projects? Check out the phone interview with the legendary guitarist and you'll find out!

Guitar virtuoso Steve Vai recently spoke with 411mania about his upcoming DVD Where the Wild Things Are and his tribute to Michael Jackson in Germany, among other things. Check out the chat below.

link for audio
http://www.411mania.com/mp3s/411" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Music Interview - Steve Vai.mp3

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http://www.gearwire.com/stevevai-wheret ... rview.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Steve Vai, Violins, and Where the Wild Things Are
August 13, 2009
Steve Vai DVD

Alex DePue and Ann Marie Calhoun are the violinists of choice for one Steve Vai, master of that other stringed instrument. In the upcoming DVD, Where the Wild Things Are, Calhoun and DePue manage just fine with the Stevester (or, um, His Vainess?)

Owen O'Malley talks with Vai about the process of choosing the proper violinists for a rock extravaganza, as well as how one creates the extravaganza itself.
Visit Steve Vai's official website for more information.
Presenter: Owen O'Malley and Gretchen Hasse, Gearwire.

Gretchen Hasse is a media producer for Gearwire.

Audio link
http://www.gearwire.com/media/stevevai- ... erview.mp3" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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http://www.thegauntlet.com/interviews/4 ... Steve.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Band Name: Vai, Steve
Interviewed: Steve Vai
Interviewer: Jason Fisher
Date: 2009-08-06





The Gauntlet: Where the Wild Things Are comes out next month.


Steve Vai: I enjoy doing these DVD's. They are a documentation of a time and group of people. I had just come off of a double live orchestra record and I didn't want to sit in the studio for another year and work. So I put this band together to fulfill this fantasy I had with these two violin players. It was hard to find the right players as most of the people that came down to audition were metal shredding violin players and they didn't understand the nuances of the kind of thing that I do. I needed someone that could read music but everyone that could was classically trained and sounded wimpy when it came time to let loose. I found these two players, Alex DePue and Ann Marie Calhoun. They are just monsters. It was a great opportunity to just take these songs from my catalog and add this dimension. The violin and the guitar work beautifully with these thick harmonies. It was something I heard in my head and it turned out better than I had expected.


The Gauntlet: Does it make it difficult doing what you do and the ability to read music in metal basically being a lost art?


Steve Vai: I don't know about metal, but with Steve Vai it is necessary. It isn't a lost art in metal as it was never found. No one really ever implemented it. No metal bands require anyone to read music. With me it is according to the piece of music. Sometimes I say play this and I can just show them the parts. But when we take a piece like "Now We Run" which is the opening piece of the new DVD; that is about 40 pages of intense chaos. Being able to read it is going to be a lot more convenient than me sitting there telling you how to do it.


The Gauntlet: What kind of preparation went into the live show?


Steve Vai: Because it was a different kind of band, I wanted to put on a show with music that hasn't been performed often or that has never been performed. More than 3/4 of it is music that I have never performed before. This took intense rehearsals. We rehearsed for 30 days and for 8-12 hours a day. It was a short tour, I didn't plan for a long tour. We just did a month in Europe and American and then South America. It was a blast on tour with these people. What I enjoy doing most is visualizing a project. That is where it all comes together with no barriers. I visualized before I did anything in my head the kind of show I would like to see at a concert. I like to be musically entertained and want to see incredible musicianship but not beat up by their musical intellect. A lot of people think that if they come to one of my shows I just stand up there shredding to impress myself. Parts are like that as I love impressing myself. But the majority of the show is a very musical experience with a lot of dynamics that are really intense and tender. I like to see a show and want people to feel like they are part of the experience. I want them to feel they got a show they can't get anywhere else and are uplifted by it.

The Gauntlet: Is there anyone that has inspired your stage antics?


Steve Vai: When I create a show or when anyone sets out to create the best thing they can at the time, it is a culmination of all of their influences and experiences. I was in a lot of bands in the past and with a lot of historical musicians. If you watch the performance, you are not going to be able to see where I got this or that from. There are elements of it. I strive to make my performances unique.


The Gauntlet: Do you prefer studio or live?


Steve Vai: I enjoy both. By the time I am done with a studio album, I am ready to do a live album. It is all good. I work with great people, travel the world, make music and record it. An artist is very fortunate when they find their niche. Although I am not a popstar, thank god, or a multi-platinum rock band, there is an audience out there that enjoys the thing I do. That core audience supports me. What you find out is the dedication on how dependent with how sincere and honest with the music you make. That is the case for any artist. If you think about the bands you really like, you know that it affects you with how honest they are. You know that you won't hear AC/DC play a Jethro Tull song. It is like beef yogurt and doesn't work. I found the kind of thing that inspires me and the thing I do best along with the audience that enjoys it.


The Gauntlet: Did you enjoy your pop-stardom in the 90's?


Steve Vai: It was part of the process. I got a kick out of it. I knew it was fleeting and temporal and I was going to make the best out of it. In this part of the movie, you play the pop star so I did my best.


The Gauntlet: Did you set out to make this live album different from Live at Astoria?


Steve Vai: Oh yeah. We have a totally different band. With Astoria, it is more like a metal sounding band. Where the Wild Things are is much more refined although more intense too. Every time I get on a stage, every time I play a show or make a record, I make a conscious effort to raise the bar. That bar consists of my musicality, my debt with the melody and the intensity of the message; whether it is subtle or brutal. What happens is as you grow in whatever field you focus on, if you keep that focus, you peel off layers and layers and get deeper and deeper into that focus. I have made a very conscious visualization of what that focus is. With the Astoria DVD, it was a snapshot of a particular band, time and focus that I had like with any artist. The Wild Things DVD / Blu-Ray has violins and a cleaner sound so to speak. The intensity is higher and the stakes have risen.


The Gauntlet: This will be your first venture into the hi-def realm by releasing Where the Wild Things Are on Blu-Ray.


Steve Vai: Most artists don't control their catalogs or careers. If you take a DVD and shoot your concert, most artists don't own it, it is owned by the label. When it becomes time for that label to release the product, they crunch numbers. To author a blu-ray is very pricey. It is extremely expensive and thus your profit margin is cut way down. Because I control and own all of my own product through my record company and control my distribution, I decide what I am going to do. I can take the hit simply because I love watching it in high definition. When I watch it on DVD compared to the blu-ray, it is like somebody shot Santa Claus. Even if only a small percentage of my fanbase can view this on blu-ray, I will know they are getting the best I have to offer with the best quality sound. I went through great pains to mix this. The audio on this is just superb and that is hard to do with a live concert.


The Gauntlet: Will you ever get your revenge on Ralph Macchio? (click here if you have no idea what this is regarding.)


Steve Vai: I'm gonna kick that little white boys ass! [laughs] As a matter of fact, it is funny you ask. I am working on something with that but it is still in the brewing stages. He still wins but in a more preposterous way. You will have to see it. We are actually talking to Ralph about it. It will be for a promotional DVD or something.
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http://hardrockhaven.net/online/2009/steve-vai/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Steve Vai

July 8, 2009 by Publisher


by Alissa Ordabai
Staff Writer

Steve VaiA spacious, airy room overlooking London’s river Thames gives a sprawling view of the Docklands skyscrapers and lends itself perfectly to an interview with the most futuristic guitarist of our time. Vai says that he loves London and describes it as “a truly great city”. He is here for two days (June 13 and 14) to conduct two of his “Alien Guitar Secrets” masterclasses as well as to perform on stage with Phil Hilbourne, Nicko McBrain, and Neil Murray. The two performances are a part of the London International Music Show (LIMS) and feature Vai playing three songs on each day: Hendrix’s “Little Wing”, Iron Maiden’s “The Trooper” and “Goin’ Down”.

The venue for Vai’s two days in London is the famous ExCel Centre - a thoroughly modern glass construction with a hint of space-age futurism recently built in the heart of the redeveloped old dock complexes. It’s probably this mixture of modernity and history that London boasts these days which finds a particular resonance with Vai. After all, his own career has always been a combination of tradition and innovation, beginning with studying at the elite Berklee College of Music and later taking Vai from the confines of the convention into the direction of groundbreaking advancement.
“Artists are here so that people can dream while they are awake.” Steve Vai.

Unlike other musical pioneers who have no inclination to teach, Vai has always had a taste for sharing his knowledge with others. What began in the late Eighties with a seven-part series of columns in Guitar Player magazine, has now developed into 3-hour sessions packed with practical information, some stunning confessions, self-found discoveries and downright revelations that Vai shares with audiences ranging from 30 to 150 people, the latter being the case in London on both days in June.

Steve Vai“I’ve discovered that I really enjoyed speaking about the things that I have found to be important to me in my career,” Vai says during our interview a day before his London masterclasses. “Because I know that there are kids out there that love the instrument the way I did and do. There were so many great things that I’ve discovered when I was young, and even recently through my whole career. When I look back I see pivotal moments, and I like to discuss those things.”

During the masterclass Vai speaks persuasively and with tactful poise on general subjects such as breaking down one’s musical aspirations into bite-size goals, visualising the level of proficiency one expects to achieve, and the importance of perseverance. But he also goes in-depth on things such as ear training and specific guitar techniques.

The audience is inevitably almost one hundred per cent male with ages ranging from early teens to late 50s. At 180 pounds a pop the tickets didn’t come in cheap, but both days of London seminars have completely sold out.

As the class goes on, the ways in which Steve Vai has always been different from any other guitar player suddenly become remarkably obvious. With him it’s not only the sheer strength of his conviction and a sense of purpose he’s put into his instrument over the years but also the special kind of the love he felt for the guitar from the very start. He says he used to practice 9 hours a day when he was in his early teens. And although he gives credit to the lack of modern-day distractions such as the internet for his diligence, it still makes him sound a different breed from anyone whose attitude to the guitar has ever resembled casual.

But before you start thinking of Vai as someone whose career has been all about one enormous sacrifice, it all becomes understandable when he says, “If you are in love with it, everything else is a distraction,” delineating the difference that lies between having a hobby and being driven beyond everyday concerns.

“If you don’t know if you want to be a professional musician, if it’s an option, don’t do it,” Vai continues. “It’s a calling, it’s a gift. Everyone should play and make music. Everyone can play. But being a professional musician is something entirely different. A professional musician has no option.”

Steve VaiJust like his music doesn’t resemble anyone else’s, Vai’s “Alien Guitar Secrets” are as far removed from your regular rock guitar masterclass as Wright Brothers’ first flight from a space mission to Mars. With Vai, his 3-hour class is a true glimpse into the world of someone who has given his instrument all he had and in return received not only phenomenal chops, a unique ability to write, an exquisite musical ear, and fame and fortune, but also a special kind of knowledge which resides beyond the line separating chopsmen from those who are truly inspired.

One such piece of knowledge Vai shares is about being able to lock with the rhythm and to groove. “Understand what it’s like to lock and to groove,” he says to his audience. “Let go, let the groove get hold of you. Listen and let it infiltrate your spirit. Meditate on it. It’s an emotional thing. Being able to lock and to groove will change your personality. It’s like everyday Christmas.”

And he then immediately shows what he means by switching on a backing track and playing two completely different guitar parts on his white Ibanez Flo II. The difference is astounding – one version sounds stilted and dry, the other – an individable union with the groove, at times merging with it in a pulsating clinch, at times trading raucous bumps with it, and at times completely dissolving in it only to separate from it again for both to continue to circle in and out of each other like two high-voltage magnets.

Throughout the class Vai takes questions which range from the bizarre to the enlightened, answering all with equal patience, making a notable exception only once for a portly biker type who shouts from his seat in a thick Cockney accent: “What makes you laugh?” “Your accent,” Vai immediately fires back, chuckling, while the rest of the room breaks out into a spontaneous applause.

But he still draws the biggest applauses when he plays his music, performing several full-length compositions from his catalogue. He even takes requests, but doesn’t fulfil them all – there are some songs dating decades back that he says he would not be prepared to play simply because such a long time has passed since he last did. But despite the intensely vivid, poignant moments of hearing Vai play in such an intimate setting, the focus of the class remains on the nature of the creative process and his main emphasis on uniqueness.

hrh12Steve VaiUniqueness is the concept that Vai elaborates on further during our interview when he says that challenges for guitar players vary depending on their goal. “It’s different for everybody,” he says. “One thing that I talk about the most, is being able to identify with the goal. It’s the importance of having a goal. Once you have a goal, then you have something that you are working towards. When you can visualise something, that’s the first step in achieving it. Your goal can be very simple – you just want to know how to play one song well, a Beatles song, or a Led Zeppelin song, or it could be that you want to be a completely unique elite world-class virtuoso. They all have different steps to get to them, but they are both goals. The important thing is keeping the vision of what that is and learning how to break it down into steps, and achieving each step before you go to the next one.”

Asked if there is a tension between the notion of establishing your own uniqueness and being able to go beyond the confines of the established self, being able to shape-shift between characters and personas as an artist, Vai says that there isn’t going to be a choice. “You can only be who you are,” he says. “And who we are are works in progress. We are constantly changing. Not all of us, but many of us have preconceived notions of what we should be. And the process of life is helping us to discover how to let go of those preconceived notions.”

It’s a process and I go though it constantly. Every year that goes by and I look back at what I’ve done and where I’m going and where I wanna go, I learn to let go more and more of preconceived notions, of stereotypes, of hang-ups and empty concerns. You just let go and this frees you up to find yourself more. And once you start finding yourself… Uniqueness exists in all of us because we are all different.”

“Now, if you hear somebody who plays an instrument the way that encourages you and you are inspired by it, you might learn to play just like that guy. That’s a statement of who you are. It’s not a bad thing. It just shows that you never took the desires to find out what you are interested in. And then there are people who don’t have a choice. They can’t play like anybody else, they can’t make music like anybody else.”

Steve Vai“Once you find out who you are, actually cultivating it and brining it out into the world is a personal statement, and a lot of people have a lot of hang-ups about that because we have these little voices in our head, and they tell us what we think we can’t do, what we shouldn’t do. We don’t want to be criticised. When you create something, it’s an expression of your inner self. If you are drawing a picture just like Picasso, it’s an expression of who you are. But if you are a Picasso, it’s different. So when we do these things, they are little snapshots of who we are. And really we are naked when we play an instrument. Because you don’t really have a choice. So when an artist takes their work and then puts it in the world and it’s open up for criticism, or for people’s enjoyment, or whatever, what happens is that they are not saying, “How do you like my song?”, or, “How do you like my art?” They are saying, “How do you like me?””

This accent on uniqueness doesn’t mean, however, that Vai denies his influences. During the class he names a few: Led Zeppelin, Queen, Ritchie Blackmore, Jethro Tull, and Jimi Hendrix. Talking of Hendrix, it was Vai’s rendition of “Little Wing” that became the focal point of his performances on both days at LIMS. The contrast between the poetic, transparent solos, and the poignantly outlined harmonic shape of the song, Vai’s impeccable handling of the dynamic nuances, his tone, and unpretentious grace of his performance all spoke of a seemingly innate understanding of both the original and what is required to become its successful interpreter.

Back at the masterclass, Vai demolishes the assumption anyone who’s ever heard him play live may have – that he was born great and musically perfectly formed. He admits of being insecure about his abilities when he was a teenager and says that it was hard labour that got him where he is now. “I never thought I was good enough when I was a kid,” Vai confesses to his masterclass. “I thought everybody else was better than me.” And then an even more stunning revelation follows: “Most people in this room, if they put in as much time on the guitar as I did, would probably kick my ass.”

And although over the years Vai got over his childhood insecurities and learnt to deal with fame better than most rock stars, he says that huge-scale fame wouldn’t have worn comfortable on him. “Thank god I’m not as famous as Michael Jackson”, he says during the masterclass, which, uttered just a week before Jackson’s death, sounds ominously perceptive.

Vai also says that in his early days he hasn’t been looking for fame and had low expectations not only for his very first solo album “Flex-Able”, but also for the one that followed it – the renowned “Passion and Warfare”, a breakthrough gem of an album that instantly propelled him onto the 20th century guitar hero pantheon when released in 1990. In fact, he confesses that in his youth he found the idea of fame incredibly daunting. “I was paranoid about getting famous back in the “Flex-Able” days,” he says. “The idea of fame gave me anxiety.”

Steve VaiFeeling uneasy about fame and, unlike 99 per cent of his peers, not being desperate for a record deal, paradoxically, allowed Vai to open up to his full potential. “If you are not expecting anything, you do better stuff than when you are attached by expectations,” Vai says during his masterclass. And as he touches upon the subject, another quote comes to mind, when back in 1989 he told Musician magazine how “…artists reach into themselves when they are young and pull out some really wonderfully originality because they don’t care. They don’t have a reputation or an image to uphold.”

Since the release of Vai’s debut “Flex-Able” back in 1984 which was recorded in his home studio, the album has sold an impressive quarter of a million copies. This year the music press is celebrating the 25th anniversary of “Flex-Able” and Vai is marking the occasion with an upcoming release of the remastered version of the album which is going to include previously unreleased bonus material recorded even earlier than “Flex-Able” itself.

This, however, isn’t the only Vai release to see the light of day in 2009. Throughout the class Vai, apart from illustrating a lot of points on his guitar, he also lets us see snippets of his upcoming DVD entitled “Where The Wild Things Are” filmed live at Minneapolis in 2007.

The DVD proves to be a startling account of the technical brilliance, versatility, and emotion of Vai’s shows. A mulligan stew of styles, techniques, and approaches, this footage makes you ponder if these days Vai is expressing highbrow culture in popular terms or the other way around. Whichever it is, it’s not just about the relationship between orchestra instruments and the electric guitar, or propulsive grooves and delicate rhythmic nuances, or constantly shifting time signatures and bona fide rock barn-burning vibe. Ultimately all this is about the relationship between heart and mind, and Vai seems to have found a perfect balance for both through his open, unconservative attitude to music.

The virtuosity with which he manipulates traditional and new practices, old technical fetishes and free-thinking innovation, can all be experienced first-had in this footage, and it startles how this diversity ultimately liberates him. This is achieved as much through balance and careful structuring as through pure emotion: on the one hand Vai doesn’t dogmatise, but on the other, his show is a firmly directed trip.

Steve VaiWhile so many bands these days cannot make their own names without referring to the established figures of the past, Vai to this day manages to remain autonomous, self-sufficient and unique. He doesn’t dose his eccentricity, and that is why artistic fascination is simply everywhere during his shows – from the music itself to the way Vai performs it on the stage, to the way the stage is designed, to what he wears. And when the time comes for the call-and-response interaction between the guitar and one of the violins, it’s all stage presence galore – a classic case where visual splendour turns great music into luxury.

Asked if he is happy with the way the DVD has turned out, Vai sounds unequivocally positive. “I am very happy,” he says. “It’s a great band because I have these two violin players who are just extraordinary, really great, they add this whole different dimension, you know. And I try to do things that a relatively unexpected and different than what might be considered the norm. It took finding the right people, and I really found them: Ann Marie Calhoun and Alex DePue, these tremendous players.”

“It really allowed me to take the music into a different dimension with them. It is still very intense Vai music, whatever it is. I didn’t record with them yet, but I’ve decided to do some smattering of touring, and we did a month in Europe and a month in America and it was really great. I recorded one of the shows, it took me forever to edit it and to get it done, and now it’s done and it’s coming out.”

Asked what things need to coincide for a great performance to happen, Vai says that the key is confidence. “The thing that generates an effective performance is the confidence you have when you are performing,” he says. “When I’m on stage, I feel like I own the world. I am fiercely confident in what I do and I know that when I am going to do it, I am demanding that people are being sucked in. It’s a process of making a connection. Because primarily what am I here for, what are we here for? I’m here to create things for the people that are interested in it to enjoy. I’m not going to change the world, my music isn’t of historical brilliance, and if it is, it’s not for me to determine, it’s for historians to determine.”

“My job is like anybody else’s. I have certain tools and I have certain gifts, and I want to do my best to create them in the most imaginative way and powerful way that I can so that other people can enjoy them. I work for other people. Artists are here so that people can dream while they are awake. That’s what you do when you watch and it takes you away, and that’s the goal for me. I want to create something that people can enjoy and be stimulated, and I want to take control of their emotional equilibrium and bring them to different places, and let them go of the world, let go of everything in their life and just enjoy this particular thing. The only way to do that effectively for me or anybody else, I think, is to find a thing that you are most comfortable with, that’s most natural to you, that seems simple to you. That is when you are going to be your most effective. I don’t work on things I’m not good at. I find things that I am good at and I exaggerate them.”

hrh4The dynamics of performing live and composing music being different, it feels important to ask Vai about the nature of his creative process. “Well, my creative process is very simple,” he says. “I don’t think it differs from anybody else’s. The impetus of an idea has to start some place. And it doesn’t start in the physical world, it starts in the mental. You get an idea for something and you see it. You do it, we all do it. The process of making idea real in the world varies. And according to the complexity of the idea or the tools that are at your disposal, that is going to determine how much work has to go into it.”

“There are various ways to expressing those ideas. When I’m just playing the guitar, a lot of things go through my head. Sometimes I’m thinking, “What’s coming up next? Am I prepared for this? Make sure you get to your pedal in time, make sure that you look good while you are doing this.” Whatever it is. Or, “Oh my god, am I in tune?” Sometimes those are all the things that are going on, but for the most part it’s just letting go and you know that you are in control.”

The same point Vai emphasises during the masterclass, when he describes how in his early years he visualised how he wanted to look and feel on stage: “I wanted it to look elegant, effortless, complete control, no barriers,” he says. “But most of all I wanted it to be entertaining.” All, this of course, has proven to be a self-fulfilling prophecy based on Vai’s firm belief that you become what you think of yourself.

While a face-to-face masterclass may not be accessible to all for various reasons, travel and fiscal considerations being just some of them, Vai is soon planning to launch a subscription site called Vai-Tunes where subscribers would have an opportunity to get guitar advice, hear some of his previously unreleased tunes and get access to plenty of other material. Asked when he is planning to see the site up and running, Vai says that the subscriptions will take a little while.

“My plan is to move into that direction,” he says. “I have so much music that I want to get out there, but it is not necessarily suited for a particular record. So the idea is to start creating a once-a-month release of a song digitally. And the subscription will include that and a whole bunch of stuff, we are still putting it together. I was thinking of presenting an entire Alien Guitar Secrets concept in bite-size chunks of ten minutes each. And it’d be endless volumes basically, but the subscription will contain one of those also. A lot of musicians are starting to think that way. Everything’s changing.”

hrh3Being in tune with the way fans are interacted with in the internet era is just another aspect of the more universal vision that Vai has for his profession. As a result, he proved to be one of those rare Eighties artists who some twenty years ago stood for all things innovative and ultra-modern and who to this day not only continue to evolve but carry on presenting new and innovative concepts.

Vai’s most recent work which integrates orchestra instruments into a rock band scenario prompts a more general question on the secret of successfully doing so, especially given that so many artists – from Metallica to Uli Jon Roth – have recently been experimenting in this area.

“I don’t think there’s any secret,” Vai says. “There are various ways of approaching it. For someone like Metallica you hand it over entirely to an orchestrator who understands orchestra music and you get this heavy metal music that has orchestra overtones. That’s one way of doing it that has a particular effect. And it’s cool, it sounds cool. I’ve seen rock bands do that and most of the times that’s what they do. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a rock band really doing something compositional with an orchestra. Usually they take their songs and they orchestrate it for strings.”

“But it takes a person that understands rock music, and orchestration, and the limitations of an orchestra, being a composer who works with orchestras, who hears things in their head. They know if they are going to mix a flute with an oboe, what it’s gonna sound like, a contrabass with a cello or a tuba. You just imagine it and they know. And when they are creating the colours of their composition, they have all these palettes to choose from.”

“Rock musicians do the same thing, but is it a clean guitar, is it a distorted guitar, is it an acoustic? So because I work with both things, I have the ability to take an overview and mix them both in a different way. I’m not saying it’s superior, its’ just different. It is more compositional.”

“The last time I heard somebody do it to where it sounded organic to me, it was Uli Jon Roth. He does it very well. He has a very singy type of tone on the guitar, so it all works. And he just knows how to kind of like… He understands, you know? But what I do is totally different because what he does is conventional classical music.”

But, after all, Vai has always been different from anyone else. He’s never been filled with nostalgia, he’s never been frightened by the unknown, and his vitality and conviction have been total.

hrh6Some twenty years ago Vai has contributed hugely to the changing aesthetics of the Western world, but he did so almost by chance because he’s never been consciously concerned with common artistic values of his contemporaries and wasn’t interested in either upholding them or demolishing them. Instead, he’s taught everyone who cared to pay attention a more important lesson, years before he began doing his seminars - that in this day and age originality is paramount to becoming a truly great artist.

Vai’s ability to harness his own uniqueness and to focus on his own inclinations without conceding to changing fashions is the main reason why his music to this day remains adequate to the contemporary reality. He can cover ground from classical music to classic rock, and be able to absorb not only what preceded him, but also go into unchartered territories, but this breadth of vision is by no means an end in itself. It is simply the result of staying true to who he is and what he wants to convey as an autonomous artist while remaining an entertainer. And it’s this combination of originality and a desire to entertain, as well as the old and the new, that Vai was able to successfully formulate. In the end his efforts brought about major rethinking not only of the place and the role of modern rock guitar, but of contemporary music as a whole.

“Trends come and go,” Vai says during our interview. “There was a time when the Beatles were really out of fashion, and people wouldn’t even say they owned a Beatles record. Or Elvis. It happened to Elvis, it happened to Led Zeppelin, it happened to Beethoven. It happens to everybody because once you so identify with the particular genre or trend, and that trend gets copied and watered down and insipid because of all the people who aren’t really inspired but they are pantomiming the genius of somebody else by creating things that their imagination is capable of more or less copying. But it doesn’t have that fine spark of brilliance that the originators had. The whole genre becomes insipid and it’s time for a chance.”

“But eventually history doesn’t remember those things. History doesn’t remember the critics who tear you apart because it’s not trendy. History remembers the genres and respects those people who were pioneers.”

“Where The Wild Things Are” DVD is out on October 5, 2009.

Photos courtesy of Alissa Ordabai

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EXCLUSIVE: Steve Vai on Where The Wild Things Are

"A shining highlight of my career"

Joe Bosso, Tue 11 Aug 2009, 5:02 pm BST
EXCLUSIVE: Steve Vai on Where The Wild Things Are

Vai shows off his 20th Anniversary Ibanez Jem

View in gallery

Steve Vai will release Where The Wild Things Are on 29 September (5 October in the UK). A grand, double-DVD set containing a two-hour-and-40-minute concert filmed last year at the State Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it is, in Vai's words, "a shining highlight of my career."

The DVD, captured in HD and containing both 5.1 and stereo mixes (it'll be available on Blu-ray), showcases classic Vai material and some new selections.

It finds the guitar virtuoso performing with a hand-picked group of world-class musicians including Bryan Beller (bass), Jeremy Colson (drums), GIT graduate Dave Weiner (guitar, sitar), Alex DePue (violin, keyboards), Ann Marie Calhoun (violin, keyboards) and Zack Wiesinger (lap steel).

Before leaving for a 10-day vacation in Tahiti, Steve Vai sat down with MusicRadar to discuss the making of Where The Wild Things Are and how he came to form his backing band.

First off, I have to ask about the title. As you know, it's the title of a well-known Maurice Sendak's children's book, and an upcoming film adaptation by director Spike Jonze.

"Yeah, the title's kind of a tricky thing. I knew about the book, of course, and actually, that's where I got it from - I love the title and thought it would be great for an album. To me, it was both very mature and childlike.

"It's so ironic that now a major film is going to be coming out with the same title. I don't want people to think that I'm trying to link my DVD to the film in any way."

"When I was actually filming the DVD, however, I was calling it Paint Me Your Face, but then I decided on Where The Wild Things Are. It's so ironic that now a major film is going to be coming out with the same title. I don't want people to think that I'm trying to link my DVD to the film in any way."

Did you think about changing it?

"Well, I did, but it ended up being too late. Sleeves were printed, it was out there on the internet - I had to leave it be. As it stands, it's a great title and my DVD has nothing to do with the movie."

There are some interesting tidbits of information in the DVD's trailer. It says you're considered "the greatest guitar virtuoso of our time." So are you saying you're better than everybody else?

[laughs] "No, no, no. Not in the least. That's just the film editor doing his job. A little exaggeration never hurts, right?"

For a second, I thought you were saying you were better than your former teacher, Joe Satriani.

[laughs] "I would never say I'm better than Joe. I don't say I'm better than anybody, really. Like I said, it's just…it's hype. It's showbiz. You gotta say something, you know what I mean?"
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JorgeOliveira
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http://www.roadrunnerrecords.com/blabbe ... mID=125373" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

videos:
part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dv6BMZs4vTg" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Part 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hedW8R9EnGU" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

STEVE VAI On 'The Classic Metal Show'; Audio Available - Aug. 16, 2009
Grammy Award-winning guitarist Steve Vai was one of the featured guests on this past Saturday's (August 15) edition of "The Classic Metal Show". The chat is now available for streaming in two parts below.

"The Classic Metal Show" can be heard every Saturday night between 9:00 p.m. EST and 3:00 a.m. EST at http://www.cmsradio.net" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;.

Vai has announced a premier screening of his concert film, "Live In Minneapolis - Where The Wild Things Are", at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, California on September 15. Attendees will have the rare opportunity to view the concert film in its entirety and also listen to Vai and his band members discuss the making of the film, as well as the behind-the-scenes details of the tour.

The screening will be open to the public and proceeds from the event will benefit Hollywood Arts, an arts academy that provides creative and commercial art instruction to homeless and at-risk youth. (Vai has been a member of the board of directors for Hollywood Arts since 2007.)

"I'm thrilled to be sponsoring this event in support of such a vital organizations as Hollywood Arts," says Vai. "I have personally seen how this institute has mended broken spirits and changed the quality of people's lives while cultivating them to become valuable contributors in building a healthier society."

Music celebrities from all walks are donating items for a silent auction that will be held at the Egyptian Theatre on the night of the screening. There will also be an eBay and live auction to help raise funds and awareness for Hollywood Arts. Visit Vai.com in the coming days for links to view photos and info on auction items.

2010 will mark Vai's 30-year touring anniversary. Vai first stepped into the spotlight in 1980 as a guitarist in Frank Zappa's band but his indelible contribution to music came during his solo career, which includes combined sales of nearly six million albums. "Live In Minneapolis - Where The Wild Things Are" was filmed during Vai's sold-out Sound Theories tour which spanned several continents.

The film is scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-ray September 29. A live audio CD that contains select performances from the DVD will also be released on September 29.

General-admission tickets are $40 and all ages are welcome. The silent auction is open to the all attendees. One hundred tickets are available to the EVO Experience — a private question-and-answer discussion with Steve. EVO Experience tickets are $199 each.

The schedule for the event is as follows:

Location: The Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

4:00 p.m. - EVO Experience
6:00 p.m. - Red-carpet arrivals
6:30 p.m. - Address by Steve Vai and Hollywood Arts
7:00 - 10:00 p.m. - Screening
10:30 p.m. - Silent auction closes

Tickets are only available in advance through the Vai.com ticket store. Tickets will NOT be available at the Egyptian Theatre box office.
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:: Classic Rock Revisited editor Jeb Wright interview with Steve - August 5th ::

http://www.classicrockrevisited.com/int ... eveVai.htm
Direct link to audio file: http://www.classicrockrevisited.com/media/vaj.mp3

(Despite the misspelling of Steve's last name on the file name, the interview is pretty interesting.)
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