Anthony Morgan of Metal Forces recently conducted an interview with virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
On his latest album, “The Story Of Light”:
Steve: “I was looking to do a concept record, but maybe something a little unorthodox and contrary to typical concept records. I had this story which is very kind of esoteric and in-depth. I thought, ‘Why don’t I express the story over a series of records, like three records?’ In doing so, I decided to make the songs indicative of personalities, characters, and elements in the story. I didn’t want to give the story away though, so the songs are not in a particular order through the unfolding of the story.
“In order to figure out elements of the story, you need to read the liner notes and listen to some of the lyrics. It’s the kind of thing though where I’m not clobbering people over the head with the esoteric story when really all they wanna do is hear the music. After I release three records that are more or less installments of these songs for this story, I thought maybe perhaps at some point I would do a package of four records. I would take the three records that I would’ve previously released, and put the songs in the proper order. I’d maybe put some lyrics on the melodic songs, and release it with another record’s worth of narrative and maybe some additional songs. This way you can kind of listen to the story from the beginning to the end in a very linear fashion, and it would be completely different than the kind of instrumental records I usually make.”
On the track “No More Amsterdam”, featuring guest vocalist Aimee Mann:
Steve: “I was going to Berklee College Of Music, and so was Aimee — we actually went to school at the same time. We even lived in the same apartment building, just a couple of doors away from each other. My girlfriend (Pia Maiocco) at the time — who’s now my wife — was Aimee‘s best friend, so through the years I always had Aimee‘s music in the house. Whenever she released something, I really liked it. I had this song called ‘Innerness’, and it was this beautiful kind of acoustic track. I wanted it to depict in the story as being sung by two people, a man and a woman. What it is is one guy looking at the reflecting pond, and he sees this guardian angel so to speak, the voice of better judgement. He has a conversation with them. I wrote the first line, and I just got this writer’s block. That told me I needed to do something else. I told my wife Pia about it, and she said ‘Why don’t you call Aimee?’ At first I thought ‘Steve Vai and Aimee Mann? That’s pretty contrasting music.’ I love what she does though. She’s like a poet, and her voice is always so powerfully confident. The song was sweet enough that I thought maybe she would take an interest, so I reached out to her and she really liked it. It was such a beautiful experience to work with her; I very, very rarely collaborate, but that was a beautiful collaboration. She came over, and we talked about it. She wrote all of the lyrics, and she named it ‘No More Amsterdam’. It all resonates very well with the story, because I explained to her what the story was about. She decided she would sing it, and it was really sweet. It turned out really nice.”
On the third installment of the concept album series:
Steve: “I have music written and I have certain storylines structured, but I don’t think it’s gonna be my next studio record. There are some other projects I wanna do, and I wanna evolve my own awareness of things that I’m interested in in life before I really tackle it. If it’s in my cards to live long enough, I hope to get to it. [laughs] The final project is actually a quadrilogy.”
On performing live:
Steve: “When I put a show together, I really see myself as trying to be the best entertainer I can be. People spend their money and time to come to see a show, and I want to give them something as fulfilling as I can muster. As a result, the show has a flow to it that I think has a lot of different dynamics. There are really intense, dense, complex pieces, and very simple, stripped down pieces. At times it’s very heavy, and at times it’s very, very intimate and delicate. We do an acoustic set that has a nice feel to it. I don’t like to take myself too seriously, so there’s some comic relief here and there. Ultimately, though, I also want people to feel that they sense great musicianship, so everybody in the band is very competent. My goal is to put on the best show that I can so that when people leave, they feel really good.”
Read the entire interview from Metal Forces.