Steve Vai interview questions for SF Media, Australia
I want to start by talking about your latest album, ‘The Story Of Light’. This is your first release since your 2005 album, ‘Real Illusions: Reflections’. Did it take the seven years to write and record this album or was it a concentrated effort over a specific period of time?
S- Thanks for the interview.
After I released “Real Illusions Reflections” I did a year long solo tour, after that I also did several tours with Dweezil Zappa (ZPZ), Did many “Alien Guitar Secrets Master Class tours” (Russia, Italy, Europe, Isreal and America), many side projects where I contributed parts etc. I then composed 2 hours of orchestra music for the Holland Metropole Orkest. We recorded 5 shows and I released a live double CD “Sound Theories” and a live DVD of the event, “Visual Sound Theories”. This took 2 years. Then I put a band together with two violin players, (The String Theories band) and did a tour and released a live DVD “Where the Wild Things Are” that went gold and platinum and also two live records to go with it. Then I did two Experience Hendrix tours. Then I composed a symphony for guitar, rock band and orchestra for the North Netherlands Symphony. The piece is called “Expanding the Universe”. Composing a symphony of 40 minutes or more can take 8 months of 12 hour undisturbed days. This project took a whole year to compose, orchestrate, create the parts and score, rehearse the orchestra and do the performances. I recorded this project but have yet to release it. It went very well and I was once again commissioned to write another symphony for the NNO that I called “The Middle of Everywhere”. This took 6 solid months plus rehearsal performance and recording. There were some wonderful G3 tours in there too. Then in January of 2011 I started working on “The Story of Light” and it was released in August 2012. So I’ve been pretty busy.
When you reflect back on this album, is there anything you would change in hindsight?
S- hmmm, I don’t believe so.
You’ve been writing and recording for many years now. Can you tell me how you keep the creativity in your music after all these years?
S- First I remind myself that us humans have an infinite well of creativity within all of us and that true creativity comes from the same place for all of us but expresses itself in a myriad ways through each individual. Then I try to shut my mind up and let the inspiration comes. Sometimes it comes in little snippets or in huge chunks of completed ideas in what seems like a millisecond. Then I feel it’s my responsibility to do my best to bring into the physical world these inspirations.
Do you think your music has changed at all over the years, or the way you approach songwriting? If so, how?
S- It seems to me that whenever we create anything it’s sort of like a little snap shot of who we were at that time. The process of going through various life experiences can change your perspective on life. Every second that passes we are different people than who we were and that can be expressed in what we do so yes, I think my music has changed over the years because I have changed. I’ve also seen myself open up much more to some of the influential things around me that I just never saw before.
Your music has also been featured in many movies and video games. Is that something you’re consciously aware of when you’re writing or are they bonuses to your songwriting?
S- If I get a request for a song for a particular game or etc. and I think I have something that will work and if the use of the song resonates with me then I’ll license it. So it’s just a bonus.
As well as your solo career, you’ve performed with many high profile bands. Can you share some of the highlights?
S- They all had highlights. Learning the music and performing with the great Frank Zappa, Being a rock star in the 80’s playing In Dave Roth’s band, touring with Whitesnake, The Pil Record I did with John Lydon was a highlight. It’s all your perspective. What most people think are highlights are really just un-satiated fantasies. For me the highlight of being a musician always was, still is and probably always will be in being struck with a creative idea that becomes so compelling that it consumes you, then the process of bringing that inspiration into the world, then sitting back and listening to it, or performing it on the stage.
Anything in your musical career that you look back on and wish you could change?
S- There are things that I look back at that I think I would do very differently but one of the ways life works is that those things usually come up again and you get an opportunity to do them differently. But then you discover other things you would have done differently and so they usually come up again, etc. etc.
The bottom line is there is only one decision we can ever make at any given time because it’s predicated on our past decisions. Anything we do is the only thing we were capable of doing at the time and the later perspective of the action is the opportunity to change into a more conscious person. I believe that’s the way it works for all of us and the planet in general.
You’re heading out to Australia to tour. Can you tell me what audiences can expect to hear?
S- We will be performing 6 or so tracks from the new record, a smattering of the favorites and a handful of older stuff that has either never been performed or has not been performed in a long time. We also have a very engaging section of the sow where I I invite audience members to come up on stage to help write a new song on the spot and then the band does a jam around this.
This has proven to be a real hoot!!!
Are there some songs in your catalogue that audiences expect to hear every time you tour? If so, which ones?
S- I think most of them (the guitar players) like to hear songs such as Whispering a Prayer, For the Love of God, The Crying Machine, Building the Church.
What do you look forward to when you’re touring?
S- Virtually everything, but perhaps most is the same thing most artists will tell you, being on stage, being inspired and in the moment, and sharing that with and audience that just wants to escape for a while and feel good.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2013?
S- I spent the first 5 months composing new music for an orchestra and performed it in Holland in May. The piece is called “The Still Small Voice”. I hold one note on the guitar for 17 mintues whiel the orchestra weaves in and out of it. Right now I am on tour with the Evolution Orchestra and we are playing the music from my Sound Theories record plus the complete Fire Garden Suite, Velorum, Whispering a Prayer and Racing the World.
My Australia tour kicks off 8 months of additional touring with the Rock band. I get home at Christmas and start to mix the orchestra music for my next release. Then I will sit down to make my most quintessential guitar record. And it’s called…. Well, I guess that’s a secret for now.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
S-Thanks for the support and obey your parents and use a condom.
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.