By Aman Khosla
Steve Vai – almost every guitar player knows that name. Vai has been a major icon and most certainly a household name in the guitar world for over three decades and counting in a league of his own. Nine studio albums, Eight live albums, several special releases, collaborations and compilations, philanthropic endeavors, countless accolades, three Grammy Awards, along with seven nominations need I go on? And you know what? I could sit here and tell you all about his incredible years with Frank Zappa, or I could write about his rock star haze that was David Lee Roth and Whitesnake and tell you that he’s played with the likes of Alice Cooper, Joe Jackson, and Les Paul, or perhaps I could get knee-deep into dissecting and understanding his illustrious solo career – but the truth is that all of this stuff has been written and talked about for years and years. It’s not what I want you to take away from this piece. See, I’ve been a huge fan of Steve’s for a while, and that extends well beyond just his music. Every once in a while, someone comes along that represents more than just the art they make, and Steve has inspired and influenced generations of musicians and guitar players – including myself. To me, there is something special about his work. He embodies what I think I owe that to the purity of his expression, charm, and genuine nature as a human being above and beyond his sheer virtuosity or image. And that is what I want to touch upon with this interview – the oozing lava that is the creative core at the center of this guitar-shaped cake we all know as Steve Vai. We had a wonderful chat about life and the like, traversing from touring and the economics of making music to inspiration and the meaning of our creativity as human beings, and for those of you that are interested, I hope this read will shed some light on the person behind the name, the human behind the alien – the Steve behind the Vai.
Steve’s been up to some cool stuff – he took his Alien Guitar Secrets masterclasses to Spain, Canada, and Brazil, snagged a couple of cool festival spots, and held his revolutionary Vai Academy guitar camp in Colorado. When we spoke earlier this year, he’d just played a kickass show with the Brazilian metal powerhouse Sepeltura at Rock in Rio 2015 and was planning said masterclasses. Still, I was most interested in his new live DVD that came out in April, ‘Stillness in Motion. In particular, there is a wonderful little bonus feature called ‘The Space Between the Notes.’ I was on tour at the time and hadn’t had the chance to check it out – so come along and get involved in our little conversation as Steve kicks off and tells us all about it.
SV: The ‘Story of Light Tour’ was a long tour we did that spanned two years, and we had 253 shows in something like 52 countries. It was glorious. So, the 49th show was in LA, and it was recorded and broadcast live by AXS. They’d given me all of the tapes, so I had this beautiful nine-camera shoot of the show. It was relatively easy to put together – it only took a couple of weeks of editing. I do all the editing because I enjoy it, but I always like to add something unique to anything I’ve done before. It’s a wonderful challenge too because I ask myself, ‘what’re you gonna do that’s different, interesting, entertaining, engaging’ – you start setting up this frame of mind, and suddenly an idea will come. And the idea was to create sort of a tour diary, because we went all over and around the world twice and even visited places that I was told no American artist had performed –
GC: Wow. One for the books.
SV: – Yeah, I mean, we spent a month in Russia! We started in Vladivostok where you can see Japan and just went all the way, through Siberia, on trains and planes and cars and vans and buses and everything – and we ended up in Ukraine during the war that was taking place –
GC: Oh wow! Now that must’ve been a little crazy!
SV: Yeah – we didn’t see any action, though, thankfully. But anyway, the idea was to create this chronological tour diary where every city we visited is represented in order by either a photo, a barrage of pictures, or some video footage. So it’s this very intimate look at what it’s like to tour with us in this situation and to visit all these places, and it was an intense project. It took months and months. I don’t know, maybe four months of 10-15 hour days. I had to gather all the footage because nothing was shot professionally. We had one guy in the crew who had a really nice camera. Still, these days iPhones can give you pretty good quality film and photos, so I just went to everybody in the band and the crew and my family. Then there was my stuff, and I reached out to some fans that I knew took shots and videos, and to fill in certain little spots, I visited the internet. It’s easy – all’s I gotta do is type in the show date and the venue and my name, and there’s hundreds of videos! So I collected all this data, which was a monumental task in itself, and then laid it all out in chronological order on a timeline, edited it, and cut it up into something I felt would be really fun, interesting, engaging – all the things that I’d set out to do. And when I was done, I have to tell you; I felt like it was part of my best work. It’s just so intimate, y’know? If anybody is interested in what I am like – what Steve is like in everyday life, this is where you can see it (laughs). You get to see a band in which everyone appreciates each other and is very grateful for the opportunity to be there. We have a great time, and you get a look at what it’s like walking down the streets of Croatia or playing to an audience in Spain and Iceland and, my gosh, China – there’s one little clip from a TV show in China where I was playing to 2 billion people! I would highly recommend it, even if you’re not a fan, because it’s kind of a fun thing to watch.
GC: Yeah, that kind of thing would resonate well with most people anyway. I feel like music and, well, all forms of art are moving into a phase where it’s all a little more interactive, and people are more interested in what artists are like and who they are as people. That mystique and that ‘barrier’ exist in a very different way.
SV: Yeah, totally. The whole process can be so fun because there are so many ways to communicate with people, and as a fan, you can see what goes on with artists and see what’s in their minds – it was never like that.
GC: Interesting that, isn’t it? And what you’ve put together must be something to see too. The fact that you guys were on tour for two years – that’s pretty intense!
SV: Well, we took five months off in the middle because I had to write a symphony and then have it performed. Throughout ‘The Space Between the Notes’ and during the tour, I played with 5 or 6 different orchestras, and there are little pieces of all that in there.
GC: Oh, is that the stuff you did in Europe?
SV: Yup – I performed with the North Netherlands Orchestra in Holland, orchestras in Russia and Poland, and did a ten-show tour throughout Eastern Europe and Russia with the Evolution Orchestra. Then I also played with the Chinese Beijing Orchestra, and actually, the only American orchestra I worked with on tour was in Denver, Colorado.
GC: Well, it’s way cool that you can go ‘let’s do an orchestra tour,’ that’s quite a thing –
SV: Yeah (laughs), it’s pretty ambitious.
GC: Given that you’re traveling and touring so much, how’re you keeping up with your fitness? Are you still running and doing all of that kind of stuff?
SV: Oh yeah, yeah. I go through phases, and usually, at the least, I’ll exercise a couple of times a week. When I’m preparing for a tour, I’ll probably go out 5 or 6 times a week, and I’ve got a little routine where one day it might be weights, and then one day it might be biking, and another day running. But you know, you’d be surprised – it’s all in your head, the touring experience. There are a lot of interviews I do where I say, ‘oh I’ve been out, and I did 253 shows, and people say ‘how do you stay on tour like that’ and ‘oh my god, it must be so hard – it’s not hard at all! It’s easy; it’s vacation. Touring is the easiest thing for me because there’s a routine. I can sleep as much as I want, really, and it’s sort of like a traveling family. I mean, I’ve been doing this for 35 years, and there are a couple of ropes you’ve gotta learn, y’know? You’ve got to learn when to sleep and when to eat – but that’s it.
GC: Yeah, well, I think that’s the challenge many people face. I’m on tour in the UK right now, and the band I’m playing with isn’t; well, let’s just say it hasn’t been touring for 35 years (laughs). So there are those few little things, and sometimes, depending on where you are, the challenge of the day is getting enough food and sleep – ‘where are we sleeping tonight’ and so on. But I feel what you said about it being a little family – that’s the best part about it all because if you’re with the right people, you’re just going to have a great time.
SV: Well, you said it – you’ve gotta be with the right people. Touring will exaggerate a person’s personality traits. There are no secrets at sea, y’know? If you’re with a prickish, unhappy person, when they get on tour, they become really big aholes that can poison the entire environment. But, if you’re with really fun-loving people, generous in spirit and just good people, they become really fun on tour. And that’s probably the number one thing that I look for in a band. What are these guys going to be like on tour? Touring is a piece of your life, and I’ve toured in very many different configurations. There’ve been tours that I’ve done where the advances were huge, and the money was great, and all these other things were wonderful, but they’re just dark experiences when I look back at them because of the atmosphere on tour. There were similar tours that were just as big that were really wonderful, little tours that I did in little clubs that were just the best, and tiny tours in tiny clubs where that wasn’t the case. It can vary so much, and with all of this, it wasn’t really because the backstage area was a wreck or because the stage was too small or it sounded like sh – it wasn’t any of those things. It was the atmosphere that was created amongst the collective of the people on tour. That’s the most important thing to having a good experience, and when you’re the leader, you can shape that more powerfully than anyone else.
GC: Yeah, I think there’s a strong responsibility with someone driving the tour –
SV: If they want it (laughs).
GC: (Laughs), yeah – well actually on that note, that’s assuming in some ways that there’s a role that’s being fulfilled, y’know? I mean, well, let me ask you this – did you do any tours back in the day without any sort of a tour manager where you kind of just did a DIY thing? Or was that not really a part of the process since you were just getting off the Frank years and you had enough access to all sorts of people?
SV: Well, after Frank, I put my own little bands together, but we never really toured. We would do a gig here and there, and I had sort of a manager that would set them up. But as far as going on tour, it sounds to me like you’re discovering some of the economic challenges with touring. The expense of bringing the right people – it would be lovely if you could have a dedicated tour manager, a dedicated stage manager, a dedicated monitor guy, lighting guy, guitar tech, bass tech, etc., but in reality, unless you’re making a lot, to get the numbers to work a lot of times, it starts with just the band. It’s not uncommon for a band to just go out and do it themselves, and it’s all according to the members of the band, what they feel their strengths are, how they work together as a unit to allocate responsibilities and how each person responds to those responsibilities. Are they looking out for themselves, or are they really rising to the occasion for the group as a whole? If that’s the case, then one guy can be the tour manager. To a greater or lesser degree, with some challenges, he can sort of do what a tour manager would do if the rest of the guys in the band respect that position he’s taken. You can even be carrying and setting up your own gear if necessary – that’s really ‘touring 101’ y’know? After the band, the next thing you need is a really good touring manager who usually doubles as either a lighting guy or a FOH or monitor guy. Then as the tour progresses and your economics change, you can start filling it out with more guys to help, and you’ve just got to find the sweet spot. The important thing for a band, before they go on tour, is to understand the economics of what it’s going to take and what it’s going to cost, and the most vital element in that is an agent for the gigs that you book. The hardest thing to find in the business when you’re a new act is an agent. It’s easier to find a record contract – agents are the ones who book the shows and have to call up all the venues and promoters and sell the show to them, and the promoter is taking a huge risk on a band that doesn’t have any pull in certain territories. So, I always advise a band to be a band. Be a unit – a cohesive kind of a mastermind where the four guys or five guys or however many members of the band just sit together every day, maybe before and after rehearsal, just sit with each other and discuss and build positive momentum in a particular direction. There is nothing that you can’t accomplish as a band if you have that because all of your creative elements come into alignment, and in that process, you learn how to accept everybody for who they are for their strengths and weaknesses. You learn not to criticize, you learn to allow. You learn to allow everybody to be who they are, and that’s how you build a really powerful unit that has lasting longevity. Because the energy that’s created by that collective mastermind is not like four guys, it’s like a hundred guys, y’know? It’s exponential. But it’s very rare that bands do that because most people are focused on themselves –
GC: – rather than the unit.
SV: Yeah, and that’s pretty common – so there I said it (laughs). If you get it, then you have a great tool in your arsenal.
GC: That’s really well put. And actually, just piggybacking off of that ‘economics’ train of thought, there’s something I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on. Creative freedom is an incredible thing, and as an artist myself, I’m wondering what you think about the monetary future in the arts, given the current industry climate. To me, it seems in some ways that we’re moving back to a ‘patronage’ model that supported the arts until the mid-20th century came along with the whole ‘record deal’ thing. I mean, that’s still going on, but what are your views on where the money comes from? I know creativity and inspiration will continue and persevere, but how does that manifest considering the economics of it all?
SV: The economics are going to evolve too. As a musician, if you want to take advantage of that, you just have to be aware of it. You have to know that the economics of it all, the way you’re going to make money, the way that you make music, the way that you record, the way you mix it, the way it’s reproduced, the way it’s distributed into the world, the way it’s listened to – it’s all going to change. It’s always changed, and it’s constantly going to change. The mistake that most people make is that wherever they are at any given point, they say, ‘well, we’ve arrived, and this is it”, but I guarantee you it will continue to evolve. So knowing that you keep your eye on it and it works to your advantage. For me – it would be when the digital age came in. Right now is the very best time for an independent musician to be able to create a career that can be sustainable and lucrative even. It’s just understanding your economics, and there’s one simple rule of thumb that I always mention to any musician – don’t live above your means. As a musician, you can eat well for a while, and then there’s nothing. You can have a hit and have a lot of money, and it’s just got to last a long time. But you know, all of these things – the economics, how you make your music, where you get the funds to do it, how you’re collecting your funds, the people you turn to, how you protect your intellectual property – this is all-important stuff, but it’s of relative importance. It’s not the most important thing. There is something that’s more vitally important that comes before all of that stuff, and that is the quality of your inspiration. The quality of your inspiration is like your product, or rather that’s what’s going to create your product. Everybody has the potential to be uniquely creative, and that’s the first thing you have to focus on – your own unique creative potential. That’s number one all the time. It’s of absolute importance. And, to take it to an even deeper level than that, it’s the condition of your consciousness. How are you letting your inspiration flow into the world? What’s stopping you from being and becoming your truly unique potential? Usually, what stops people or cuts at the root of their ability to be truly fresh, unique and productive, is their own mind. Their own limitations that they put on it, and their own freaked out concerns about the things that are important but are of relative importance. So once you start cultivating the thing that is of primordial importance – your creative process – you’ve got something of real value. And then, and I know this sounds extraordinary, everything will fall into place (laughs). It will all fall into place much easier.
GC: I honestly think that’s the only way of describing what happens ‘next.’ I think this is pretty important stuff, so it’s nice to hear how your gears turn when you think about these sorts of things. Well, alright (laughs), let me just flip things up and get a little less heady on you –
SV: I don’t know if that’s possible (laughs) –
GC: It’s hard for me too!
SV: Well, why bother? This is the important stuff! You know it – talking about scales, and sh** like that is useless (laughs).
GC: Oh, I’m so with you – I went to Berklee, and we had this little inside joke whenever we’d go to clinics. Anytime someone came in and did one, we’d go in and ask stuff like ‘what kind of strings do you use’, and there was always THAT moment –
SV: (Laughs) Yeah, well, you know there’s a place for that, though. I don’t have any problem answering any academic questions at all because that’s really important to some people. They think that if they have your strings or your amp or your kind of vibrato, they’re going to sound like you, but that’s not what I teach. What I teach is that the only way to sound like me is to sound like you. I only have tried to sound like me, and it’s the same thing with any of the great players. I just listened to this new Jeff Beck cut that’s on his new record that’s being promoted and it’s SO Jeff Beck, y’know? I mean it’s so incredible, he’s like the chosen one and it’s just so obvious to me that he’s doing what everyone wants to do – not the way he plays, but the discovery of themselves as their unique potential. He’s 71, and he’s still doing new stuff!
GC: Yeah, it’s crazy! And he doesn’t exactly let off that he’s inspired or anything, he’s kind of inward about that, but it’s just so full of inspiration.
SV: Well, that’s the way it is with most geniuses. They’re just conduits. Whenever you ask any of these guys ‘where did you get the inspiration for that, the best answer they can give you is ‘I don’t know, it just came’! I saw this great interview with Bob Dylan – I wasn’t a Bob Dylan fan when I was growing up, and actually, I only really discovered his music a couple of years ago. I said, ‘ok, let me see what this is about.’ I’d heard his music but never really dug in, and I gotta tell you – I was SO blown away. It’s like I found a treasure chest in my backyard. It’s so obvious that he’s completely connected with that source of pure inspiration, and you watch an interview with him, and they say, ‘how did you write this song’? And he says, ‘I don’t know, it just…came out’. So they say, ‘well, where did it come from? And he says, ‘I don’t know, it came from that source where all inspiration comes from. It just comes out – I don’t know, and that’s the best answer you can give, y’know? (laughs).
GC: Absolutely. And he is one of those people – because, well, I wasn’t into him till recently either –
SV: Yeah, it’s funny, huh?
GC: Yeah, I think you just start listening on different levels at different times, or y’know, you just sort of hear it in a different context –
SV: Yeah! Yeah, it’s based on what you’re interested in before that. I was never really there, I was just interested in heady, kind of intense music, and then years ago, I discovered Tom Waits, which changed my life.
GC: Yeah, I remember reading about that! In fact, it’s because you got into Tom Waits that I got into Tom Waits – you had some list that I read where someone had asked you what you were listening to, and I went ‘Tom who’? So I checked it out, and oh my god! The atmosphere that he creates – it’s just beyond.
SV: He captures a fragrance. And sometimes it’s a really stinky one (laughs).
GC: Yep, it stinks real good.
SV: Yeah (laughs), and after that is when I decided that I’d better check out Bob Dylan because there had to be something there – and boy oh boy, was it amazing. It’s not Tom Waits but it’s good (laughs). But you know that that’s just my personal taste.
GC: Yeah, yeah. Everyone’s going to gravitate towards whatever their preference is, but there’s no denying inspiration.
SV: You just nailed it. If you’re open to it, you can’t not be moved by people who are connected. And that’s all that genius is – the simplicity of being connected to your infinite potential. That’s something everybody has access to, but for some people their opening to it is wider.
GC: It’s funny because the time I was at Berklee, there was this whole focus on opening up and listening to a bunch of new things and trying a bunch of new things on your instrument, and just experimenting on an unrefined level. It helped a lot and allowed my mind to be open to various possibilities, but I found that once I’d ended up in that place – getting into all sorts of really heady stuff just like you were talking about – I started to drift back towards what my ear was naturally interested in. Or rather, it was a shift in what my ear was interested in, I was enjoying music that I liked rather than having my interest be defined by a type of music or musical element.
SV: Well, the thing is, you gravitated towards something that was interesting to you at the time you were into the more heady stuff. It was a valuable phase, because there were things you got out of it, and maybe one of the most important things was the next direction you took – which was back to the earthier or more organic stuff. That’s a nice process, and it will continue to happen. And, if you can embrace it without prejudice, you’ll really get a lot of out it. All too often people criticize the interests of others, which is a form of insanity! (laughs).
GC: Funny you put it that way, because that does sound a little insane (laughs). Your interests are your interests, and how could they be otherwise? Actually, speaking of growing and changing with varying interests – what’s come to mind when I think about your music and it’s evolution is the collaboration process. When you did ‘No More Amsterdam’ with Aimee Mann a few years ago, I remember you said you were surprised by how much you loved the collaboration thing. Is that desire still there or have you somewhat faded back to the multiple-hat-wearing-solo-artist Steve Vai?
SV: Well, it’s funny – I always threaten myself with the thought that I’m going to collaborate more, but I never do (laughs). I love collaborating usually when it’s outside of my solo work, because my solo work is kind of like my own little secret. When I’m writing and when I’m building a song, looking for inspiration, it’s almost like I don’t want it to be diluted by anyone else’s contribution – and that’s ok! Everybody’s allowed that if they want it. A composer would never – or I’ve never heard of such a case, although it might be interesting – compose half of the piece of music or only fill in the woodwinds and give it to somebody else and say ‘you do what you think works now’ . it’s a little weird for the creative process, y’know? So I’ve always gravitated towards just being independent. But, the collaborations I have done always felt good. The one with Aimee was very special. I felt like I needed it. I was working on that song and I wanted a female vocal. I had this concept for the song to be this call and response and I had the fist line – “the more that I see, the less I know”, and I thought that was kind of profound (laughs). And so, Amy was a friend – she was my wife’s friend when we were going to college in the 70’s, so we just kept in touch through the years a little bit. I always liked her and thought she was a brilliant songwriter, and Pia actually recommended her and said “why don’t you call Amy”? She was interested in it, and it was wonderful. And then I’ve also collaborated with Devin Townsend on some things that I thought turned out really well, but other than that it’s usually just me and me.
GC: I like how you said it. Collaboration is great but when it comes to your own thing, I couldn’t agree with you more. And the times you’ve collaborated, it seems to have been with some pretty great people so at least those energies can play off of each other.
SV: Yeah that’s the important thing. I get asked in almost every interview, “if you could play with anybody, dead or alive, who would that be”? My band – that’s who (laughs).
GC: Yeah that’s the crux of inspiration, isn’t it? I’m curious – are you feeling creative in more ways than musically lately? I remember reading somewhere that Jimmy Page was eventually interested in pottery. Don’t know if that’s true, but I was curious to hear your take on creativity in general, beyond music. It just tends to happen sometimes with creative people where interests grow and evolve.
SV: Well, to get a little more esoteric about it, it’s my feeling that the main reason we’re here is to be creative. We’re expanding the universe with anything that we do that’s creative. It’s actually the universe that’s doing it – it always was, y’know? We think it’s US and then the universe out there, we think we’re separate from it. But we’re not. We’re from it. So it’s our birthright to be creative. Now the thing that stops us is our own mind and our insecurities and fears – fear of failure, fear of not being good enough – all these things. But frankly, you can be uniquely creative in something extraordinarily simple that’s off the radar of what the world considers ‘earth-shattering’. And that’s important – it’s vital for a human being to be expressive and creative in some way. Some people gravitate consciously towards things that they’re attracted to like music or art or business – there are a lot of creative people in business, there are a lot of creative people in cooking – in any field. And in every field there are people for whom that field feels very natural to, and then they flow within it and what comes out of them is inspired work. I never thought of any of that when I was growing up, I just liked music so I made music. But to answer your question – oddly enough, about a year ago I started doing art. It just started out as little doodles because I always liked art but never felt like I was good enough to do anything, until I realized that art is art. There’s no good or bad really, it’s just whatever moves you. That’s the best part about doing art, and it’s just proliferated into – I don’t know, I think I probably have something like 80 or 90 pieces right now.
SV: Nobody really knows and I haven’t shown anything – maybe someday. It’s just another one of my own little secrets that I find to be a very cathartic process. When I do it I only have two rules. These two rules can be applied in a creative setting in virtually any field, and I would encourage anybody that’s being creative to try it and see if it works for you. And you know there’s nothing, as far as I’m concerned, that’s extraordinary about the art that I do (laughs), but it’s fun! And the thing that feels really good – these two things – they are ‘I don’t think when I’m doing it’. You just let it happen. You just go, you just move – you just allow whatever to happen, happen. Then the second rule is ‘you don’t criticize it’. You’re not allowed to criticize – you’re not allowed to say this is right, this is wrong, this is good, this is bad – and anything that you do, there are no mistakes. You can do something beautiful and put a big cross through it. There are no rules and no mistakes and it might seem like a stupid, simple kind of a thing but it’s an incredibly cathartic process because it translates into life in general. There’s this feeling of allowing and then seeing the creative value in it – and frankly, that’s when I come up with my best music, because I’m not thinking. Improvising is kind of like that. When I’m on stage the whole point is to not think and to just be. Just to be incredibly present and aware, without having thoughts interrupt what you do. Everything happens perfectly then – magically even, y’know? Even things that might look like mistakes are just part of the process of happening. And when you fight against it it’s usually because your mind is creating thoughts like ‘this isn’t good enough’ or ‘I wonder what everybody’s thinking’ or ‘I’m the best’ or ‘everybody else’s work is inferior to mine’. ‘I am the great one’ or ‘I am the worst one’ – whatever it is, these are just thoughts that get in the way of the real creative process. So next time you pick up your guitar, take half an hour or so and just play without thinking. It can take time because you find out that the mind is always criticizing or thinking of something –
GC: It’s like meditating.
SV: – well it is. It’s a form of meditation. It’s bringing meditation into the world as opposed to ‘in a closet’ y’know? And you create an opening and just watch what happens, It’s magical, especially if you’re not criticizing it.
GC: Yeah I think those two rules – they sound simple enough but they’re hard to implement and I think they are the backbone of creativity, actually.
SV: Yeah, frankly that’s where your real work is.
GC: Yes! In fact, talking about picking up the guitar, a year ago I started just throwing my guitar into strange tunings just so that I was using my ear instead of shapes or pentatonic licks or whatever –
SV: Yeah! Isn’t that beautiful? And when you were sitting there and just listening as you were turning the pegs, you were being very present. You weren’t thinking about ‘how is this going to make me money’ (laughs).
GC: (Laughs) right. There’s a little time and a small place for that, but I think that’s the nail on the head – that moment.
SV: Yeah. There’s a place for thinking about all of that stuff, but this is not it. Because all of that is of relative importance, and there’ll come a point where you’ll address it. But of vital importance is that you find that space when you’re turning those pegs and you’re listening until something goes – ‘that’s it’. Now what is it that’s in you that is saying and knowing ‘that’s it’? That’s your creative genius – that’s your creative core. That, is of vital importance – and we’ve just dug to the deepest level here.
GC: And there you have it. To add to that would be to pour water all over that oozing lava, so I’ll leave it at that and trust you’ve enjoyed this read as much as I enjoyed the conversation with the one and only, Steve Vai.