In a new interview with Robert Cavuoto for MyGlobalMind.com, Steve Vai discusses the importance of balancing technique and melody in his playing, how and why he created the one-handed song “Knappsack”, how it evolved as a guitarist, his future tour, and more. Read an excerpt below:
Robert Cavuoto: After 40 years of songwriting, tell me how you never run out of inspiration for exciting and impactful songs?
Steve Vai: “I don’t know. It just pops up when it’s needed. I’m not always inspired, but I can sit down and write something. When inspiration comes, I try to capture one wire and document it I started doing this when I was 13 with tapes, and now I have what I call the “Infinity Shelf.” It’s thousands of little snippets of ideas. I’m never going to exploit them. If I stop writing new ideas today, there’s enough music for five song lives. For this new album, Inviolate, which comes out in January, many songs have been selected from these little inspirational moments I captured on my iPhone. It may be a single riff, but it contains the DNA of an entire piece of music.
Robert Cavuoto: Some artists were very creative during the 2020 pandemic, while others felt uninspired and took a break. I have to believe that you used your time wisely to write and record this album?
Steve Vai: “That was part of it. Lockdown was pretty long at this point. When it first came around, I was planning on doing a big production of a record, which was the third installment in the record trilogy , called Real Illusions. I couldn’t with the lockdown, so I put the kibosh on it, which was good. The music community has been hit really hard, but we’re a very resilient bunch, and we just found different ways to do what we needed to do. I used the lockdown to start uploading live streams of performances and inspiring Q&A discussions. While I was doing this, I had time to experiment finally some techniques that I didn’t have time for. I did a track called ‘Candlepower’, which has a weird technique. I had shoulder surgery in the middle of the pandemic, which went pretty well worked. I was able to fix it and have enough time to cure before saving. I wanted to go on tour again, so I started working from home and building the album, Inviolate.”
Learn more at MyGlobalMind.com.
Steve Vai and Favored Nations/Mascot Label Group have released an official visualizer for “Zeus In Chains”. The composition is featured on Vai’s upcoming studio album, Inviolate, which will be released digitally and on CD on January 28. The LP will follow on March 18.
Steve Vai shares: “The title of this track ‘Zeus In Chains’ was told to me by the track when I was listening to it and I asked him… ‘What’s your name’? This happened during the heavy guitar breakdown with the dissonant high note that occurs just before the solo. It looked like Zeus in chains. Hey, it’s art. You can invent anything you want and it’s legitimate.
Over the course of a career spanning more than 40 years, Steve Vai has consistently turned what would seem outrageously impossible into something very, very possible…and still quite outrageous. From his days as Frank Zappa’s “stunt guitar” player to his more recent expansive and exploratory solo work, Vai has continually challenged notions of traditional guitar playing and composition – and in more than one occasion even reinvented the instrument itself.
Vai’s most recent and 13th solo album, Inviolate, is a nine-song opus that pushes the boundaries of instrumental guitar music. The entire work features his most focused, streamlined, and perhaps most invigorating music in years. “It’s very ‘Vai’, whatever that means,” he says, then laughs. “Someone else might be better than me at explaining what it is. But it’s just very honest music. Because a lot of my records are long and there’s a lot of concept and games with stories. This one has none of that. It’s nine pretty dense all-instrumental compositions that I wanted to capture and record so I could go out and play them live for people.
Essentially, it all comes down to finding your own voice, then having the courage and conviction to follow your musical and creative instincts wherever they take you – something Vai has never shied away from in his playing. one of the advantages of the guitar is that you don’t have to be a virtuoso to express your creative vision,” he says. “I mean, Bob Dylan plays the guitar perfectly well for his expression. So does John McLaughlin. You just have to decide how much technique you want or need to get there. For my part, I’m Came off the slide wanting and needing it all. When it comes to my music, I don’t feel like I have to prove anything or conform to anything. I love imagining creative ideas and then using whatever skills I have to manifest them.
“An inviolate inspiration is an inspiration that comes to you completely pure,” Vai explains. “It appears almost in its entirety, and there’s an acknowledgment that it’s good for you – perfectly good for you. There is no excuse there. There is no fantasy there. There is just a recognition of “yes”. And then you capture that in a way that matches your unique creativity. I hope that’s what I did with this record.
Inviolate, out January 28, is now available for pre-order in various formats, here.
“Teeth of the Hydra”
“Apollo in color”
“Sandman Cloud Fog”
Video “Little Pretty”:
Vai’s Inviolate tour kicks off at House Of Blues in Las Vegas on January 27 and concludes in Los Angeles on April 2 at The Theater at Ace Hotel. For tickets, visit Vai.com.
A variety of EVO Experience VIP packs are available here. EVO Experience bundles, depending on tier purchased, include signed JEM Jr. guitars; an invitation to a Q&A before the show, a meeting and a photo with Steve; access to sound check; a guided tour of Steve’s instruments and equipment; exclusive merchandise; commemorative VIP laminates and access to premium tickets.
This run is the first excursion in a long planned series that together constitute a multi-faceted world tour that will take the guitarist and songwriter to most continents around the world, landing in dozens of countries. Vai is working on a new studio album and those details will be shared shortly. These appearances will feature a brand new show featuring lots of new music, with plans for performances to be staged over the next few years.
Vai will be joined by longtime members Dave Weiner (guitar/keyboards), Philip Bynoe (bass) and Jeremy Colson (drums).
Vai shares, “An artist thrives on acting. It’s been my life for 49 years, excluding the last two years, so we’ve been chomping at the bit to get out there and play for people. A music concert has the ability to dissolve the many challenges we face and celebrate one of the good things in life, live music.
27 – Las Vegas, NV – Home of the Blues
28 – El Cajon, CA – The Magnolia
29 – Riverside, CA – Fox Performing Arts Center
30 – Phoenix, AZ – Celebrity Theater
1 – Salt Lake City, UT – The Rockwell at Resort
2 – Boulder, CO – Boulder Theater
4 – Oklahoma City, OK – Tower Theater
5 – Austin, TX – Paramount Theater
6 – Dallas, TX – Home of the Blues
8 – Houston, TX – Home of the Blues
9 – San Antonio, TX – The Aztec Theater
11 – Birmingham, AL – Lyric Theater
12 – Macon, GA – Hargray Capitol Theater
14 – Atlanta, Georgia – East
15 – Clearwater, FL – Bilheimer Capitol Theater
16 – Orlando, Florida – The Plaza Live
17 – Ft. Lauderdale, Florida – The Parker
18 – Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida – Ponte Vedra Concert Hall
19 – Charlotte, North Carolina – The Fillmore Charlotte
21 – Charleston, SC – Charleston Music Hall
22 – Alexandria, Virginia – The Birchmere
23 – Glenside, PA – Keswick Theater
24 – Red Bank, NJ – Count Basie Theater
25 – Huntington, NY – The Paramount
26 – Port Chester, NY – The Capitol Theater
27 – Providence, RI – The Strand
1 – New Haven, Connecticut – College Street Music Hall
2 – Boston, MA – The Wilbur
3 – Albany, NY – The Egg
4 – Rochester, NY – Kodak Center
5 – Harrisburg, PA – Sunoco Theater
6 – Greensburg, PA – Palace Theater
8 – Warren, Ohio – Packard Music Hall
9 – Detroit, MI – Masonic Cathedral Theater
10 – Morgantown, WV – Metropolitan Theater
11 – Louisville, KY – Former Forester’s Paris City Hall
12 – Nashville, TN – CMA Theater
13 – St. Louis, MO – The Beauty Pageant
15 – Chicago, IL – Copernicus Center
16 – Milwaukee, WI – Pabst Theater
17 – St. Paul, MN – The Fitzgerald Theater
18 – Kansas City, MO – The Uptown Theater
19 – Lincoln, NE – Bourbon Theater
20 – Des Moines, IA – Hoyt Sherman Square
22 – Sioux Falls, SD – The Neighborhood
23 – Fargo, ND – Fargo Theater
25 – Billings, Montana – Alberta Bair Theater
26 – Bozeman, Montana – L’ORME
27 – Missoula, Montana – The Wilma
28 – Seattle, Washington – Moore Theater
29 – Portland, OR – Roseland Theater
31 – Turlock, CA – Turlock Community Theater
1 – Napa, CA – Uptown Napa Theater
2 – Los Angeles, CA – The Ace Hotel Theater
(Photo – Larry DiMarzio)