For the DVD, I was going through a TC
Electronic G-System, then stereo out of that
and returning to the two Legacy heads...
I’m rebuilding my system right now. The
G-System was very faithful to me for years.
Now I’m going into a looping system again.
The looping system is really the only way to
create pure hard bypasses with the sound
and keep it real discrete.
And clear. Once you put the signal through a
multi-effects unit, there’s such a price to pay.
And that’s a price Steve Vai isn’t willing pay.
Especially when you’re dealing with digital
stuff. I’m very fortunate, because I’m in a
position where all the stuff that I play comes
from my design. I get to work with companies who are interested in what my inner ear
desires for particular gear.
It goes without saying that you’re designing amps, guitars and effects for yourself,
but from a marketing standpoint, are you
at all concerned with how working guitarists or hobbyists can apply them?
Whenever I’ve tried to second-guess, I’ve
always missed the mark. Whenever I’ve tried
to make music that I thought people would
like, I was usually doing something that I really
didn’t think was the best thing I could do.
When I designed the Jem guitar, at the time
it was a unique instrument—the scale length,
the neck… twenty-four frets with a whammy
bar? There wasn’t anything like that... the
cutaway, the pickup configuration was unique,
and it was very practical. I like Strats, and I like
humbuckers. I wanted humbuckers in both
neck and treble positions, but I wanted that
really cool, clean double single-coil sound, like
a Strat gets on the in-between positions. I had
them make the five-position switch so that
when it’s between the middle pickup and the
neck position pickup, it splits the coils. You get
two single-coil pickups. That completely satiated my aural appetite. It was unique at the
time, but now it’s pretty common.
Essentially, it was a stage guitar just for you.
It was a stage guitar for me and by the time
they made it, I already had that guitar. I had a
little guitar shop in Hollywood (Performance
Guitars) custom-make me three guitars to suit
my style. The floating trem was the first one. It
was as simple as, “How can I make the notes
go up?” There’s a piece of wood in the way,
and I just took a hammer and a screwdriver
and banged it out. Then it was floating.
And you desecrated a very beautiful
early ‘70s Strat?
I’ve got it in the other room. I can show you.
What’s the story behind the monkey grip?
Just me doing something stupid.
You were just goofing around?
Goofing around… but I thought it would be
cool to be able to hold the grip in photo shoots
and swing it around. And it was something that
I thought no one would have the balls to steal.
It would look really ridiculous if somebody else
put a monkey grip on their guitar.
I heard you have a new JEM.
The basic aesthetic structure of the JEM
always stays the same. There have been some
hardware changes through the years, because
there are improvements, but for the first time
we’re going to be a releasing a JEM that’s
going to be a hardtail.
It’s coming out very shortly. I’m also working
on an unprecedented concept and design for
the guitar. It’s pretty much revolutionary for
whammy bar design.
Would you like to talk about this?
I can’t… it’s a real secret right now. It’s going
to have a big impact, I believe.
Why would you put a hardtail on a JEM?
For other people, and myself. Occasionally,
I’m not using the bar, and I just don’t want to
deal with the problems that come along with
a bar. Give me that guitar; I’ll record this with
it. I don’t use the bar all the time!
Your amp tones are very specific to
your tastes, as well.
When I do things after my own tastes, that’s
the thing I do best. That’s what anybody does
best. If I say that most people want an aggressive, brittle kind of amplifier, and I made an
amplifier like that, it wouldn’t be really suited
to me. I wouldn’t be really good at designing
it, because I don’t play that kind of amp. The
kind of sound I like is a warm, fat, non-fatigu-ing, user-friendly, creamy distortion sound.
That’s the thing that excites me, so that’s
what I went about trying to achieve. I figured
it’s there, it’s a particular sound, maybe other
people will like it, and they do.
How is your stage fan hooked up? Word on
the street is that your fan is connected to your
whammy pedal so that when you move your