Vai reveals last guitar dream
Steve Vai has played two of the three dream guitars on his bucket list – and still hopes to play the third.
And the virtuoso, who started his musical career with Frank Zappa, credits the great man with not only giving him a valuable education, but also securing his financial future.
Vai, who recently told how he dreamed his entire career as a boy, tells Noisecreep: “Frank was very independent and I was very young. I was with him for six years – you can imagine how impressionable you are at that age. I was just a sponge. Every day I exercise skills I learned from Frank.
“One of the first things I asked was what advice he’d give a young musician. I was expecting some lofty, philosophical answer – but Frank was always right to the point.
“He said: ‘Keep your publishing.’ I was like, ‘What’s publishing?’
“He gave me the phone number of an attorney and said, ‘Go see this guy.’ I bought an hour of this guy’s time, and it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. He set up a publishing company for me and I have made a lot of income that many artists see go down the drain.
“All thanks to Frank: he knew the impact of his words and the impact it could have if you had the ears to really hear it.”
Vai’s workhorse guitar is an Ibanez, which he helped design – another move he credits to Zappa, who inspired him not to stick with Gibson or Fender instruments if he wasn’t happy with them.
But asked if there are any historic axes he’d like to play, he says: “There are three, and I’ve gotten to play to of them.
“Once was Hendrix’s Woodstock guitar. When I was on the Hendrix Experience Tour we called to see if they’d send it out for a show. They did, and I got to play it. One layer of me was, ‘Okay, it’s a Strat.’ The other layer was, ‘Holy shit – this is the Strat Hendrix played at Woodstock!’
“The one I was absolutely fascinated by was Brian May’s. He had a guitar he built when he was a kid. When I first moved to Los Angeles working for Frank, I met Brian at the Rainbow and he invited me to a Queen rehearsal. He was just so kind – and he let me play that guitar. A real iconic moment for me. But it sounded like me playing, not Brian.”
The last guitar on his list, Vai says, is: “Jimmy Page’s double-neck. That hasn’t happened yet – but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”
Vai recently released concept album The Story of Light, a mainly instrumental work featuring the voices of guest vocalist including Aimee Mann and The Voice finalist Beverly McClellan.