During a recent appearance on Jonesy’s Jukebox, Steve Vai talked about his musical heroes, his upbringing, the Generation Axe tour, and more.
You can check out a part of the interview below (transcribed by UG).
You’re doing Generation Axe now?
“We started this thing and the vision was to get one backing band and have all these crazy guitar players come on the stage in different groups.”
Is there a headliner or is it all mixed up?
“It’s kind of all mixed up. We start out where we all five come out, and on this tour, we’re doing hocus-pocus, but it’s like, hocus-pocus by focus, but you got to hear the arrangements.
“All of us, in harmony, five-part guitars, it’s nuts. We do that at different times through the shows.
“So we have Tosin Abasi, an astounding player in his field and he does a couple of songs and then Nuno [Bettencourt] comes out and does a song with him, and then Nuno does this great set, and then Zakk Wylde comes out and does stuff with Nuno.
“It kinds of goes that way. Yngwie [Malmsteen], I do a track with him, and then we all do a track, and on the last tour we did [Edgar Winter’s] ‘Frankenstein.’ You got to hear it. All those sax harmonies, I got every note.”
Is it just instrumental or is there any singing?
“There’s vocal songs throughout the set.”
Do you guys sing or do you have a separate vocalist?
“Nuno’s incredible, we don’t have like a separate vocalist. Nuno and Zakk, and actually oddly enough, Yngwie. He’s actually a really good singer.
“On the last tour, we got a live record coming out and we did ‘Highway Star.’ You know the solo that Ritchie [Blackmore] does? Imagine that in five-part harmony. Yngwie sang that, now this one we replaced with ‘Burn,’ so we do the same thing.”
You a big fan of him, Ritchie Blackmoore? Wasn’t you in his documentary? It’s about him, but it’s obviously all the phases of Deep Purple.
“I was a teenager in the ’70s, you know. Like – Queen, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, that was my food.”
I think that Brian May don’t get credit.
“He doesn’t, man. In that whole genre, in that whole period – he’s one of the most unique contributors. He doesn’t get credit. Because what he does is so rich and so specific, and so deep, it fits so well in Queen music, you just feel it as part of that music.
“But when you break it down and when you look at it from a guitar player’s point of view, it’s unique, and nobody to this date could do what he does and make it sound like that.
“He is an iconic player. His tone, his choice of melody notes, he doesn’t just do solos. His solos are melodies, and they’re perfectly in place.”
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Have you seen the Queen movie [‘Bohemian Rhapsody’] yet?
When did you start playing guitar?
“I started in my mind when I was about six, but I didn’t actually start playing, put my hands on it until I was 12.”
Who was your big influence?
“Jimmy Page. That was the first one. When I heard Page for the first time, I was like, ‘That’s it, I’m playing the guitar.’
“I loved it – the guitar – before that, but for some stupid reason I was just too afraid to pick it up and just didn’t feel I was cool enough or something. And then finally when I heard Led Zeppelin, that was it.
“Then the floodgates opened up. Then I heard Queen and all that stuff from the ’70s. Because that was my age at the time, like KISS, Alice Cooper...”