By Andrew Catania
There is not one person in the guitar-playing community that I can think of that hasn’t been influenced by Steve Vai. I caught up with Steve to discuss his new album, Inviolate.
I wanted to touch on that Generation Axe for a minute. Has that been put on ice for now or are you not doing anything with it anymore?
SV: Well, the thing about Generation Axe is that we love doing it. We want to do it as much as we can. We had to push tours twice because of Covid. The lockdown has made it so that many artists have not been able to tour. So once the touring started opening a lot of the guys in Generation Axe had obligations with other bands and their solo career, so we must navigate through all that.
So, we are planning on touring again and we have a record, a live record, in the can, and a video but the timing must be right. I have not toured in a long time, and I need to get out there and do a solo tour. Yngwie is doing his solo tour. Zacks got his thing plus Ozzy and Nuno’s balancing his career which is all the crazy stuff that he does his business, singing and things like that, and then he is got Extreme. So, when we can we get together and do it.
I listened to it over the weekend, and you always bring new creativity. When you started working on this album did you have something set in mind where you wanted to go creative-wise with this that you haven’t with your previous efforts?
SV: Let me think about that. Whenever I go to make a record I’m probably not unlike a lot of artists where you get a vision and you just want to do the best you can so I’ve done that with every record and having fun because there are certain go-to demands that I place on myself when I go to make a record and they are the same demands and those demands are it’s got to be melodic and it’s got to have melody. That is number one for me, you know. Number two you got to play your ass off and you must do new things that you have never done before, and I do that with every song. Sometimes it is very subtle trivial things, but that’s part of my satisfaction level is knowing that I did something that was new for me and so that is a prerequisite.
And another prerequisite is that I want good songs, the songs that I like, the songs that stimulate me and my imagination and if they can do that then the listeners that like and it will probably work with them similarly. And then there are other demands like it must sound good you know am I using the most up to date equipment what has technology developed that is helpful for me right now that I do not know about so these are all kinds of likes of things.
But the overall creative direction can exist in a cocoon of all those things so for instance all those things were applied when I was doing the orchestra record. I did an orchestra record. All those things were applied when I was doing Flex-Able the weird little quirky first record I did the same thing when I did Passion and Warfare so with Inviolate, I assume because I am sixty-one now and certain things happen as you get older you refine your vision, but all those same things still apply. With Inviolate I simplified one of the things I looked at in this record I did many records with all kinds of quirky in-between bits and records that were 80 minutes long and records that have dense and wild crazy things and funny things and I just got rid of all of that and just made songs.
You went in with no preconceived notion and just you got to play your ass off and just what sounded good to you that is what you go in with?
SV: That is, it
How do you feel you have evolved as a musician over the 40 years that you have been in the business?
SV: I have been able to recognize my freedom increasingly. And what I mean by that is it is not uncommon, and it wasn’t uncommon for me as a young musician once I started to gain some cache and some recognition to feel as though I needed to conform to the genre or what people are expecting of me so that has influenced whenever we are being creative. We take in what is being expected of us. So, through the years I have realized what success really is.
There are two kinds of success. There’s the worldly success that we all know there is famous all these kinds of things and to some degree have acquired that. And I have recognized that it is genuinely nice that it has its challenges, but it is not a real success because you take who you are and there you go and most of the time if you’re unhappy now and you become rich and famous, you’re really unhappy because you take that with you. So real success is when you are expressing your unique creativity in a fulfilling way. That is because that gives you a feeling of fulfillment. So that’s how things have changed for me. I have always strived for that and have received it a lot of times but many times no I have not and when I examine it is because I was doing things that were going against my artistic kind of freedom. So, I do not do that anymore
AC: Now going with this album what was your favorite part? Did you have a favorite part about putting this album together? Did you have a favorite song on here?
SV: Yes, and it changes
How did you get the name of the songs? Do they just come to you as you’re writing the material?
SV: Oh, you nailed it. It happens in numerous ways. Sometimes I produce the title first and then I build the song based on what title means and sometimes I just construct that piece of music and I listen to it, and I let the song tell me what it should be called.
And the title to this album did anything just come across like the name Inviolate or did you already have the term the title in your mind before you started recording?
SV: I had the word in my mind before I started recording and it is a word that I really like, and it is inviolate and what it means is unable to harm-free from harm-free from any kind of attack. My use of it here is an analysis of the human spirit and its creative impulses. The human spirit is inviolate its completely free from all harm and cannot be touched. It cannot be dismembered.
If you look at the chronological order you have Teeth of the Hydra, Zeus in Chains are you portraying a story with each nine of these titles, or are they simply different?
SV: Oddly enough, I am not pushing any kind of a story with this record at all. It is interesting to me how the song titles started to reflect Greek mythology. The Teeth of the Hydra the hydra is a mythological dragon-like creature. Apollo in the color you have the Greek mythology. Zeus in Chains.
I just figured you were going towards either Greek mythology or it was a coincidence
SV: Well it started out as a coincidence with a couple of the titles and so I’m listening to the song Zeus in Chains before it had a title and this was the first track that had a Greek mythology title in it so to speak and I’m just thinking what does this song sound like kind of heavy there’s something beautiful in it so there’s that middle section where the guitars go (audible) and there’s the most distorted note you could pick going across the top and I said Zeus in Chains so that was how I named that one. Apollo in color was the name of a horse that my wife owned. Teeth of the Hydra that happened because the guitar itself looks like a mythical three-headed dragon and I named the guitar the Hydra and then the song that I played on it was Teeth of the Hydra, so I am like what is up with all this Greek mythology so that’s kind of how it happened
You have had a remarkably successful 40th-year career. Is there anything that you have not accomplished yet that you want to?
SV: I can show you a list. It started when I was a kid and I am sixty-one and when I turned fifty, I looked at this list and it was hundreds of projects, and each project can accept for a year or more. So, when I finally hit my fifties, I thought I better start consolidating and prioritizing. I started to prioritize my projects and still realize I will never have enough time to do everything I want but I am very satisfied with everything that I have achieved. If I could not make music anymore for some crazy reason, I would be very appreciative of what I already achieved.
Having said that yes, I have a solo acoustic vocal record that I almost finished recording that might come out next year sometime. I have this record that I made in one week with some friends back in the nineties and it is the missing Steve Vai rock record, and it was a record of songs that I wanted to record when I ride my Harley because that was the music that I wanted to hear. I am going to Holland in May to record four hours of my orchestra music so there will be some orchestra records coming. Another project that I would like to do is the third and fourth installments of the Real Illusions Quadrilogy. I have just been offered a commission to compose a choir piece and that is extremely exciting to me. I was also offered an opportunity to play with one of the greatest big bands in Europe and to compose a record with them and that is something I have always wanted to do.
The important thing is that I realize of vital importance more so than any of the things I want to do is that I am enjoying myself right now because that is what life is “right now”
Is the PIA going to come in a seven-string at any point?
SV: Anything’s possible 🙂
Pre-Order Inviolate Here: https://smarturl.it/steve_vai
View “Little Pretty” Video Here: https://youtu.be/bkrmzVMWlLo
Auction Will Live Here: https://opensea.io/collection/steve-vais-guitars