-Interviewed by Ashiqur Rohman
The 2017 edition of Bacardi NH 7 Weekender will witness performances by some of the most acclaimed international headliners and stellar names from the Indian music scene and guitar legend Steve Vai will be one among them. He was featured as the 10th “Greatest Guitarist” by Guitar World magazine, and has sold over 15 million records worldwide. Vai is a three-time Grammy Award winner and fifteen-time nominee.
Steve Vai needs no introduction to the Guitar community. The man has been a force unparalleled with the guitar in his hands and when I approached him for an interview regarding his new album “MODERN PRIMITIVE” he very humbly accepted it !!! The interview is also the first exclusive interview on any Indian music portal regarding Vai’s new album !!!
Ashiqur: Tell us about your new album ‘Modern Primitive’. This album i presume has a long history as i have read that the songs were before even your first solo album
STEVE: Well I started making records in the early eighties and my first record as Flex-Able which was really an experiment you know and I was working with Frank Zappa at that time and I was really influenced by his music and I made that record and I released it and I realized I really liked making records (laughs) and so I started as band called ‘The Classifieds’ and started recording a little bit and then I joined a band called Alcatraz and I never finished recording with The Classifieds. So while I was with Alcatraz I was offered a solo record deal with Capitol Records and I put everything on the shelf and started working on a new album and that became ‘Passion and Warfare’. So all through the years I had this music from the Classifieds on the shelf and I thought one day I had to finish it and release it because it was definitely a specific time in my life and in the creative process and so when the 25th anniversary of Passion and Warfare came up I thought it would be nice to complete the album and release it with Passion and Warfare. Probably six to seven of the tracks were recorded 30 years ago but they were never finished and so i finished them and re-recorded that from scratch.
Ashiqur: With this album and it being quite close to the time of Flex-Able and Passion and Warfare will the fans get some of the roots music back ?
STEVE: The interesting thing about this record for people who have followed my career , if you listen to Flex-Able and then you listen to Passion and Warfare you would think that two different people made the records but if you listen to Modern Primitive it is kind of the missing link. It has kind of the quirkiness of Flex-Able but also has the maturity of Passion and Warfare.
Ashiqur: Having played with different artists like Frank Zappa , David Lee Roth , Whitesnake and the likes and having adapted to their music , how has that influenced your own music ?
STEVE: When I would work with those people what i will do would be based on what they needed so with Frank Zappa he needed somebody who could play those wild melodies , with David Lee Roth he needed somebody who had that rock n’ roll integrity and a big guitar voice .So all those things are very helpful in doing my solo work but its hard to say how it has influenced my solo work . The thing that has helped me most in those situations is the fans of those musicians became interested in my solo work as well .
Ashiqur: Are you planning on any tours for “Modern Primitive” ?
STEVE: Well I have just finished touring for the 25th anniversary of Passion and Warfare and oddly enough we didn’t play any material from Modern Primitive as it was a Passion and Warfare tour. I don’t have any tour planned for modern primitive as i have toured non stop for 2 years ( laughs ). But i am hoping to be in India in October of this year. I have been to India many times but never performed there.
Ashiqur: How did one of the greatest guitar anthems “For the Love of God” happen ?
STEVE: Well I was in my bedroom playing ( laughs ) and I was walking out of my bedroom and I saw a guitar and I kind of had an impulse to go and play that guitar ,turn on my little cassette recorder and record whatever comes out. I do that often and i don’t know why , its just sort of like when you are driving home in your car and you might be a little lost but you know that this is the right turn and all of a sudden you turn and you are in your house. As soon as I started playing,i played the chords and i sang the melody and I only had the first part and that melody had an energy to it and it was sitting on the shelf for many years and i knew i had to record it some day and when I started working on Passion and Warfare I brought it out.
Ashiqur: You have been an Ibanez endorsee for a long time now , but in the studios do you go for other guitars just to get a different feel ?
STEVE: Oh yeah sure. Usually for texture . It is very rare that i use a different guitar than the JEM on a melody because I am so comfortable on th
e JEM but I will use a Les Paul on certain tracks, Stratocasters , I have a Firebird. There is a song on The Story of Light called Racing the World where I used PRS .
Ashiqur: You have stated that you have always practised a lot from your early days as much as 15 hours a day and you do follow a healthy regime too. Do you apply the same rules and methods for your students ? ( Contributed by Armaan Hasib )
STEVE: My answer would go to any guitar player that is learning- First you need to know what your goals are , because some guitar players don’t require 15 hours a day. If you want to be a virtuoso and are interested in having a strong command of the instrument , there are two things you need i.e the desire and passion and then the time . It doesn’t feel like work when you are doing something you’re passionate about . If it feels like work the you’re doing the wrong thing. If its something you don’t like doing chances are you will never be happy even if you reach your goal. Some people just want to be good songwriters , to be able to play enough to play a melody and for those people they don’t require 10 or 15 hours a day of practise , maybe for songwriting .
–The above interview has been republished by TNT-The Northeast Today with permission from the interviewer, Ashiqur Rohman . The interview was first published by ANYLOUDER on August 26, 2017