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Steve Vai

Six-string wizard Steve Vai, along with his one-time teacher Joe Satriani, set the standard for rock guitar virtuosity in the '80s. Born on June 6, 1960, and raised in Carle Place, New York, Vai became interested in the guitar via such legendary artists as Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Alice Cooper as a teenager and, upon starting high school, took lessons with an older player from the school, Joe Satriani. Playing in several local bands, Vai quickly picked up on the instrument, and by the age of 18 was attending the renowned Berklee School of Music in Boston. As a student there, Vai transcribed several of Frank Zappa's most technically demanding compositions for guitar, and even sent a copy of one such transcription, "Black Page," to Zappa himself. Zappa was so impressed with the young guitarist that upon meeting him, he invited Vai to join his band.

Subsequently, Vai toured the world with Zappa (giving Vai the nicknames "Stunt Guitarist" and "Little Italian Virtuoso") and played on such albums as 1981's Tinsel Town Rebellion and You Are What You Is, 1982's Ship Arriving Too Late, 1983's Man from Utopia, plus 1984's Them or Us and Thing-Fish, before leaving to set out on his own. First off was a pair of self-financed, recorded, and released solo albums in 1984, Flex-Able and Flex-Able Leftovers, both of which showcased Vai's guitar playing and songwriting talents, yet were still heavily influenced by Zappa.

With Van Halen all the rage by the mid-'80s due to their massive hard rock/pop crossover success, Vai replaced Yngwie Malmsteen in a similarly styled outfit called Alcatrazz (which featured former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnett), playing on their overlooked 1985 release Disturbing the Peace. The same year, Vai made a cameo appearance in the movie Crossroads (playing the Devil's guitarist and shredding away in a guitar duel with Ralph Macchio) and got an invitation from his friend/bass master Billy Sheehan to try out for the guitar spot in singer David Lee Roth's solo band (Roth had just split from Van Halen), and eventually landed the gig. The debut release from Roth and his stellar solo band, Eat 'Em and Smile, arrived in 1986 and went on to become one of the year's top hard rock releases. Both Vai and Sheehan were catapulted to superstardom due to their instrumental talents, as they took top honors in numerous guitar magazines for years afterward.

But although the quartet showed great promise, Sheehan jumped ship just after their sophomore album, Skyscraper, was issued in 1988. Although the album was more pop-based than its predecessor, it became another sizable hit -- with Vai earning a co-producing credit on the album along with Roth. The same year, Vai issued his own line of snazzy guitars, the Jem 777 series, via the Ibanez company. After the ensuing tour with Roth wrapped up in late 1988, it was Vai's turn to jump ship. In addition to working on another solo album, he was invited to join up with chart-topping pop-metallists Whitesnake, an offer he accepted. His one and only album with Whitesnake, Slip of the Tongue, was issued in 1989, as was his third solo album overall, Passion and Warfare, a year later. The largely instrumental album was based on dreams that Vai experienced as a teenager, and it became a sizable hit, earning gold certification and solidifying Vai's standing as one of the top guitarists of the day. It was also around this time that Vai created a seven-string guitar through Ibanez. Although the instrument didn't catch on initially, it would by the mid- to late '90s, when the guitarists in such metal acts as Korn and Limp Bizkit would utilize the instrument to achieve super-low tunings.

After an extended hiatus, Vai formed his first conventional rock band (called...VAI) along with newcomer Devin Townsend on vocals, T.M. Stevens on bass, and Terry Bozzio on drums -- offering their one and only album in 1993, Sex & Religion. When the album proved to be a disappointment both critically and commercially, Vai returned to all-instrumental work with the 1995 EP Alien Love Secrets. For the remainder of the decade, Vai continued to issue solo releases, including 1996's Fire Garden, 1998's Flex-Able Leftovers (a re-release of his long out of print second solo album, with added tracks), and 1999's The Ultra Zone. It was also during the late '90s that Vai and Satriani reunited for an annual co-headlining tour (with a different third artist added each year), called G3, unleashing a live album, G3: Live in Concert, in 1997.

The early 21st century saw a flurry of releases from Vai, including a compilation of instrumentals, The 7th Song: Enchanting Guitar Melodies Archive, in 2000, and his first full-length live release, Alive in an Ultra World, in 2001, as well as his mammoth career-encompassing ten-disc box set The Secret Jewel Box. In 2002 he collected several pieces that he had contributed to films through the years, including the guitar duel from Crossroads and the theme to Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey and put them together in a 40-track collection called The Elusive Light and Sound, Vol. 1. A series of compilations came next, and after a five-year hiatus from the studio, Vai returned in 2005 with Real Illusions: Reflections. A tour with the Metropole Orchestra followed and he released a ambitious double live set documenting his performances, titled Sound Theories, Vols. 1-2, in 2007. In 2010, he performed with the North Netherlands Orchestra, debuting several new compositions that fused rock music with orchestral arrangements, dubbed the "Evo Era." Vai also made several television appearances in 2010, performing on The Tonight Show and on American Idol with Mary J. Blige, Orianthi, Travis Barker, Ron Fair, Orianthi, and Randy Jackson. In 2012, eighth studio album The Story of Light arrived, continuing the new age themes first put forth on Real Illusions: Reflections, and including unexpected twists such as a rootsy blues cover backed by a full gospel choir as well as a duet with Aimee Mann.

Over the years, Vai has guested on countless albums by other artists, including Gregg Bissonette's self-titled debut and Submarine, Alice Cooper's Hey Stoopid, Randy Coven's Funk Me Tender, Al di Meola's Infinite Desire, Public Image Ltd.'s Album, Joe Jackson's Symphony 1, and Billy Sheehan's Compression, and also releases from Mike Stern, Ozzy, and Meat Loaf. He can also be found on such additional Zappa releases as Jazz from Hell, Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar, Guitar, and on several volumes of the ongoing You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore series and the live tribute disc Zappa's Universe. As if his busy schedule weren't full enough, Vai pursued a lifelong interest when he began harvesting honey among five bee colonies in the backyard of his home. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography


Creative.... . . . . . . . k i n d a cool.
He did an awesome version of the Halo theme on the Halo 2 soundtrack
irishrazorba c k
Steve Vai is my hero
When I went to the Whitesnake concert few years ago, I was hoping I would get to see Steve Vai. I love Steve!! He is a Genious!! I can watch him play for hours!!
Steve is in a league all his own.
Great album! I was 13 when it came out.
Stevie song aliens has resemblance of Hendrixs Stroken a lady's hips Hemdrix plated after Star-Spangle d Banner at Woodstock losen to it
I caught the first guitar pick Steve used 3 days after Frank passed away, Vai was performing at the Button South in Ft. Launder dale.
Die To Live has to be his best. So great on every level. goose bumps. Love it.
Brother got class ...I dig to express and play gtr...a 1/4 of his playing, ..lil jimi 2 FEATHERZ ..
He has so much passion and color to his playing not to mention the fact that his song writing is great. Although weird at times, his stuff is always interesting. Passion and warfare a great album and it has so much color and flavor to it. Beyond his solo stuff loved him with DLR too. He's just a all round talented guy period.

Vai you are the man
My first introduction to Steve Vai was that movie Crossroads opposite Ralph Machio. I didn't even catch his name, but I never forgot that moment... I agree with some of you, even if you are not a Steve Vai fan or disciple, he definitely has a GIFT FOR GUITAR that is uniquely his own! I listen to his music, not because I enjoy it more than other performers, but because, as Jimi Hendrix did, he challenges me to be a better guitarist... so many awesome guitarists out there! I appreciate what Eri
Where's the album with Devin Townsend on it? Pandora fail.
Very clean
he has control of nano seconds in time while playing...un b e l i e v a b l e live..Satch, E r i c Johnson write more memorable songs, but live you don't think about it...
This is more boring than st. Elmos fire
Okay not scared .talk to me my email is bmgzoe56@gma i l . c o m . Why george is better. And so is criss oliva.,r.i.p . And thats not kid stuff .vai boring.
What is this nonsense fancy pants noise? I started this station just to tell you george lynch is better. And does more with Less showing off. This guy is just boring. And please comment. Back. Butt you wont
Passion and Warfare is a phenomenal album. Blue Powder is just off the hook.
Steve never wrote a song he couldn't play, which is to give him significantl y more credit for his abilities as a player than a songwriter.
Vai never gets old! I feel like I am listening to him for the first time when I hear a new song.
I live your work Steve I saw you consert in Santa Fe N.M. it was great. :D
Vai is a true savant,he is one with his instrunment! I truly love his entire works as an artist!
I'll never forget seeing in the movie " Crossroads" opposite Ralph Machio. He went by the name Jack Butler and that was my introduction to Steve Vai. Greatest guitar showdown ever....even if Old Ralph wasn't really paying. Steve's one of my FAVORITES!
I can't believe I can see him live because of a Cross Country meet! I'm missing out on an awesome show tomorrow...
Nice stuff Steve...than k s .
Steve, Satriani, Pertucci and Yngwie are gods.
yeah....I think Jimi would have been delighted by Vai's playing.... I mean absolutely no disrespect but often I feel its as if Steve realizes that promise that may have been..... but what is really cool!!! Vai is certainly my greatest inspiration to play....(or whatever is is that I do...)
Excellent born to play.
Six string wizzard
aw e guy can play.....coo l . . . . . .
How amazing are you when you can put together a band that has both Billy Sheehan on Bass and Tony MacAlpine on 7 string guitar and keyboard? I saw him on the Skyscraper Tour and he was just incredible!
A couple of handfuls of guys have the chops. Not sure that any of them express themselves as well as Steve Vai, or maybe they just have less to express or something. Steve's combination of creativity and ability, while not unrivaled, is at or near the best that I know of. By the way, if you don't have the 'Where the Wild Things Are' DVD, get it, you'll be glad you did!
I love the clean hard edge sound. It is wild to think that him and Billy Sheehan (Hometown same as me and worked with Talas) worked together, Wild man just wild.
Vai in my opinion is way better than satch has way more ideas
Saw Vai in 88 with David Lee Roth. The guy was phenomenal!
Steve Vai playes 7 string - noob!
Saw him at the Carolina Theatre last year. His phrasing and touch are incredible. It was an amazing show.
sex and religeion was a hellm of an album the dude totally knows what he is doing
m tellin yall he is a god of the seven string
Played with passion and heart " six string wizard"
on kim poo dee weep or what have you is he using a lot of compression? just curious....
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