Steve Vai interview: "The limits are only in the mind of the guitar player"

02/11/2012 @ 14:49
It is difficult and risky to discuss the talent and the abilities of Steve Vai. His work is important and his contribution of all those years of presence to the music industry is recognized by all music lovers. In a few days, he will be in Greece for two live shows and has taken the opportunity for a conversation with him.

The "Story Of Light" is out in the stores the last two months. Are you satisfied with the final outcome? Is there something you would like to change?
I am very happy with it. Usually, when I finish a record, I feel like that I have accomplished all I wanted to accomplish. That is the best an artist could do, to feel good about what he did and I usually feel like that way with all the records that I have done. If I look back and see that I missed something, I usually put that in my mind for the next project. As far as the "Story Of Light" goes and the way that has been received by the fans and the press I couldn’t be happier. I mean that the reviews from my fans are spectacular and the press stands very critically acclaimed. I feel very blessed with all that.

Steve VaiIs there any concept behind "Story Of Light"?
Yes, as a matter of fact the concept started on my last studio record "Real Illusions: Reflections". I had a story that I wanted to express over a series of records and "Real Illusions: Reflections" and the "Story Of Light" are more or less installments of songs that are depictive of characters and events in a story. My goal is to release a third series of songs that contribute to the story. After that in some point in the future I would like to take those songs to put them in a proper order, add some vocals, add another whole record of narrative and create a very linear story that you can follow and experience as one whole thing. That is my goal.

How did you come up with the idea to cover a blues song (John The Revelator)? I think that in the past you had said that you did not like blues.
It is not that I don’t like blues. I like authentic music. I like all music. When someone does something that feels authentic to me, then I am very moved by it. When I listen to old blues and old jazz, it doesn’t matter that it is old as long as I feel it is honest. I have been misunderstood, when it comes to my feelings about the blues. I don’t consider myself a conventional kind of blues player, because blues has a particular nature to it and in any genre there are purists that are very snobby. I don’t follow the parameters of conventional genres. There is a little blues in my playing, a little classical, a little jazz but if I start sounding like anything that sounds conventional I immediately change because my goal is to create a unique style of music that literally is unclassifiable. About “John The Revelator”, I am very interested and I am very stimulated by some of the original, old blues players. Blind Willie Johnson always had a hold on me and when I heard that song I was moved and I decided to do my own version on it in an unconventional way, with guitars, with very powerful vocals, the choirs. I took a conventional style and I changed it to the way it sounds good to me.

Steve VaiWhat are your major musical influences?
When I was a very young boy my parents were listening to things like polka music and soul music. They had this record which was the soundtrack to the West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim and this record had a huge impact on me because it had all this Greek drama, it had composition, it had that story to it. Then I was young teenager, my sister was listening to Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper. Once I heard that my whole perspective changed. I was a teenager in the 70’s, so I heavily embraced rock bands of the 70’s like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen, Aerosmith, Kiss, Alice Cooper. Then I started listening to great guitar players. You also have to keep in my mind that when I was twelve and started playing my guitar Joe Satriani lived in my hometown, 4 years older than me, he was my guitar teacher for three years. So I had amazing training on the guitar.

Do you have any influences from classical music?
Yes I do. But it is not the old classical music. I am not a fan of Mozart, Bethoveen, Bach.  I like their music, its huge beauty, but it is too predictable for me. My biggest influence from classical music comes from temporary composers like Stravinski, Luciano Berio, Magnus Lindberg,  Edgard Varese. And some romantic stuff like Moller, Ravel. Those are the kind of things I like.

Steve VaiYou are some decades in the music industry. Which do you think is the best and most creative period for you?
Every period. I am always excited about making music. Whenever I create music throughout all those years, I always feel that it is an opportunity to be creative and I always enjoy what I am doing. So every period seems to be the best. But when I was younger my aspirations were wild to record constantly, constantly. I had lots of ideas that never really came to be implemented. I was probably more prolific, when I was younger, but I was never really able to complete staff because I was always finding something else to move on. In my later years I became more discipline in completing projects.

Do you think there are limits in the guitar playing?
There are only limits in the mind of the guitar player. That varies. Some people within the style they are playing they feel that have no limits and they always expand their playing. I don’t have limits. There are a lot of things that I want to achieve with the guitar. My feeling, even when I was a little boy, that the guitar is an infinite instrument of expression, which means you can never complete it. We always feel with things like technology and art that everything that needs to be set and done. That is a very limited way of thinking. But there is always an artist, or technician or brilliant inventor, or someone that comes along and thinks outside of the box and they think about things that are off everybody else’s mind. That is what changes a course.

Steve VaiHave you ever thought of making an all star band?

You mentioned before your major influences. What kind of music do you like to listen to?
I listen to different kinds of music. My kids, 20 and 23 years old, they were out in the world and they were listening to various kinds of music and they were bringing it into the house. In that way they kept me up to date to new kind of music because they were very passionate with it. As a result I discovered a lot of new music I really like. Recently I heard Scrillex. I am big fan of Tom Waits, I have everything he has done and I never get tired of his music. I always keep all Zappa with me, all Stravinsky and certain classical music. The most exciting thing about music is that there is so much diverse music out there and when you discover something, it changes the quality of your life. I remember when White Stripes came out, I said they were so great and I really enjoyed their music and I still do.

Steve VaiWhat can we expect from your live shows in Greece?
Try to be objective. You can expect to be blown away. You can expect something that you cannot see in any place itself. I say that trying not to be pretentious but what I am trying to do is to present a show that is a lot different. I am trying to create a show that makes people feel really good. I feel myself as a servant of the people who are interested in what I am doing. I want to give them an enjoyable experience and when they leave they will feel good.

We are looking forward to seeing you on stage. Thank you very much for your time Steve.
Thank you very much. I am looking forward to coming to Greece, I really enjoy that country and its culture.