Guitarist Steve Vai recently spoke with Long Island News 12. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On his Long Island roots:
Steve: "It's hard to say how much growing up in a particular part of the world has to do with what you end up doing. I'm sure it has a lot to do. Being an American and being born in New York, I felt probably a great advantage when it came time to connecting the dots professionally as a guitar player, but for me, I have what I call the Vai advantage — I was born on Long Island in a town called Carle Place, and in that town, I went to school and I had this incredible music teacher in high school named Bill Westcott. I can't even imagine how I could have gotten that education any other place, because of the classes I was taking since seventh grade. That was a real plus, but the biggest plus for me is that I grew up in the same town as Joe Satriani, and he was my guitar teacher when I was the age of 12 to 15. For me, growing up on Long Island had incomparable advantages."
On what it means to hold one of his Vai Academy guitar camps in his hometown:
Steve: "The camps have been fantastic. We've done them all over the country. I love coming back to Long Island. I'm kind of a nostalgic idiot, so I love being in this town, in this area. The opportunity to come here and do this on Long Island was perfect because of this venue, the mansion in Glen Cove. Joe had done one here, and I just thought, 'I want to come here. I want to do it.' The organizer set it up, and it's fantastic. I'm so happy to be here on Long Island doing the camp."
On being an instrumental guitar trailblazer:
Steve: "I love singing, and if I had a great voice, I could have been a pop star maybe — I don't know. I've always just been drawn to melody. I'm a composer, and the guitar is just the most expressive instrument. It bends with you; it screams with you; it cries with you. It's a very visceral instrument, extraordinarily dynamic, and it just spoke to me as a melody instrument more effectively than my voice. I just always was drawn to the guitar. Doing instrumental guitar records was not necessarily very popular 40 years ago. It took the advent of some great pioneers to do it, and then it became more accepted, so to speak. But nothing is accepted unless it has some quality of inspiration in it that resonates with people, so I've been fortunate enough that my guitar playing and my melodies and music have reached a particular audience that finds value in them."
On Frank Zappa:
Steve: "I was 18 when I first spoke to him on the phone. I sent him some tapes and stuff. He wanted to hire me, but when I told him I was 18, he felt that I was too young, so he actually hired me to transcribe music, because I had good ears... I was doing that for a few years, and then I moved to California the day after my 20th birthday and just started going up to Frank's house. The next thing you know, you're at rehearsals; then you're in a photo shoot; then you're getting on a plane. It kind of organically evolved. The way that I got into Frank's band was that I was able to fulfill a particular function that he found useful in his music. That's really it. I didn't ever expect to be in the band — that was an extraordinary thought. I didn't go out saying, 'I'm going hunt down Frank Zappa to get in his band.' I never did that. He came to me. When he said, 'I want to try you out for the band,' I was like, 'What?' I was shocked. I had to think about it."
On his upcoming plans:
Steve: "I'm in the studio constantly, trying to chip away at a new record. I have these beautiful distractions like this camp. In 2020, I'm going to be recording about four hours of my orchestra music in Europe. That's a pretty big project, so I'm chipping away at that. If it's not one thing, it's six others."
Vai released a Blu-ray edition of his 2015 live DVD, "Stillness In Motion", on September 13 via his personal record label Light Without Heat, distributed by The Orchard. The release features Vai's complete performance at Club Nokia in Los Angeles on October 12, 2012.