Starting off at the age of 18 with Frank Zapp, Steve Vai continues to amaze and astound his audience over 20 years later. During this 2 decade period he has been the ultimate sideman, memeber in a supergroup and has had a solo carreer of a guitar god. His playing reminds us that there is more to music than the stuff that Mtv and their like put out and say "Here, this is what is popular, this is cool". When you listen to a maestro like Vai and the a few other blessed souls (some of whom I have featured in other pages of this site - M/s Satriani, Morse, etc) you realise that there some individuals on this earth who can actually create an aural universe with their musical instrument of choice and take the listener to that other world.

Steve Vai was born in the year 1961, and grew up in Long Island, New York. When he was 13, he went to a Led Zepplin concert and needless to say it had the same effect on him as it has had for millions of other young teens through the years. Meaning, he was hooked by Jimmy Page's guitar. Steve got himself a guitar and spent his free hours trying to master it. Later he ran into a friends who told him of a guy who gave lessons nearby. This friend himself was a student of the guitar teacher and raved about him. The guy giving lessons was none other that Joe Satriani, who is 4 years older than Vai. Steve took lessons from Satriani and they also formed a bond of friendship that lasts to this day. Then in 1980 Vai became a member of Frank Zappa's band, where he learned the values of hard work and discipline. Despite Zappa's public image as something of a joke, he was a brilliant man and musician and had a high level of expectation from his music. Steve first appeared on Zappa's live album 'Tinseltown Rebellion' in 1981 and the same year on 'You Are What You Is'. Steve also plays throughout 'Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch' (1982), 'Man From Utopia' (1983), 'Them Or Us' & 'Thing-Fish' (both in 1984). In 1983 he also appears on Lisa Pompei's self-titled album. 1984 also saw the release of Vai's debut solo album - 'Flex-able'.
Steve had enough material leftover to put out another album, so he released those songs on the 'Flex-able Leftovers' album. The initial reaction to these records was not that good as the songs seemed to have a 'Zappa hangover' and not really in the class of the later work that Steve would put out. The by now 23 year old former Zappa sideman, was looking for alternative ventures to showcase his skills, and when he recieved a call asking him to join Alcatrazz he did not hestitate. Graham Bonnett and the boys in Alcatrazz were looking for a suitable replacement for departed Swedish guitar maestro, Yngwie Malmsteen and they found one in Steve. Together they released the album 'Disturbing The Peace' in 1985. Steve's talent shone throughout the record with tracks like "Painted Lover", two-handed tapping fury on "God Bless Video" & the three minutes of guitar brilliance called "Lighter Shade of Green". However, Steve relalised that Alcatrazz was not where he wanted to spend his entire musical carreer and hence departed soon. He then recorded all the guitars for Public Image Limited's (Johnny Rotten's band) 'Album', a record that has Steve playing in a New Wave light. But 'Album' also contains a Vai guitar masterpeice, called "Ease". Steve also experimented with fusion, recording 'Epidemics' - an album by Indian violinist L.Shankar, and showed that he could also hold back play with restaint and within the context of the song.

By now, Steve had built quite an impressive reputation for himself as a guitarist who was among the best the music world had ever seen. However he was at that point in his career, where he felt dissatisfied. He was getting plenty of guest spots, but he wanted something more. While worring about what he was going to do next, a certain David Lee Roth was concentrating on forming a formidable band and creating music to rival that of his former mates in Van Halen. Roth and the other three guys in Van Halen had split up amid not so friendly circumstances and he was hell bent on making it as a solo artist. Having made records with the likes of Eddie Van Halen on guitars, bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen, Roth knew that he had to get musicians who were as good (if not better than them) to back him up. And so, Roth called bassist Billy Sheehan, drummer Greg Bissonette and Vai for guitars and released 'Eat 'em and Smile' - a collection of hard rock gems. With "Yankee Rose", "Ladies' Nite In Buffalo" & "Elephant Gun", Steve was given a route to express himself as freely as he wished to, and he gave a versatile performance.

But the best was yet to come as far as his stint as the guitar god in Roth's band was concerned. After guesting for other artists in between (including an album with Frank Zappa called 'Guitar') and recording his version of "Amazing Grace" (on the guitars ofcourse) for the soundtrack fo the film 'Dudes', Vai was involved in creating on of the best albums of the decade. 'Skyscraper', David Lee Roth's second solo album with the same backup band was a huge commercial success with punchy, melodic tracks like the riff heavy opener "Knucklebones", the feel good arena rock anthemn "Skyscraper" featuring some incredible soloing and the mellow but still utterly cool slide guitar on "Damn Good". Tha songs became staples of radio and Mtv and it can said that it was this record that cemented Steve's position as a guitar wizard and it was also said that he stole the show on that album. After a huge tour that rakes in the millions, Roth went on mountain treks and rock climbings, and his band memebers went on to pursue their own things. Vai also acted as the satanic 'Jack Butler' in the movie 'Crossroads' a movie was about a blues guitar enthusiast and also created the soundtrack to the film. David Coverdale came calling, asking Steve to join his band Whitesnake and so the album 'Slip Of The Tongue' was created. Although featuring hits like "Deeper The Love" & "Fool For Your Loving", the album failed to ignited the masses.

After a tour supporting the album, the supergroup Whitesnake went on a hiatus, leaving Steve to create music on his own. By now he knew he had it in him to strike it out on his own and set about to create one of the most important guitar albums ever. 'Passions & Warefare' came out in 1990 and blew the minds out of every guitar lover and player in the world. With songs like "Answers", "For The Love Of God", "Sisters" & "The Riddle", the album became a top 20 hit and a firm favorite among the rock community. He found time in between tours as a headliner on his own, to contribute "The Reaper" & "Reaper Rap" to the soundtrack album of the movie 'Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey' (starring Keanue Reeves) and also play on "Feed My Frankenstein" off Alice Cooper's hit 1991 album 'Hey Stoopid'. Another song "Get The Hell Outta Here" appears on the soundtrack to the hit movie 'Encino Man' (starring Brendan Fraser). With immense pressure to create a follow-up that can match the previous album's success, Vai got legendry bassist T.M.Stevens, drumming king Terry Bozzio and singer Devin Townsend to record 'Sex & Religion'. But the album had a very different vibe with it's dark lyrics and Devin Townsend's toutured soul singing didn't go well with Steve's fans and hence 'Sex.." did not do well. Also the band setting did not gel as well as Vai had hoped for. Steve would go on to create the soundtrack to the film 'PCU' before writting the songs for the EP 'Alien Love Secrets' in 6 weeks. Featuring the ballad "Tender Surrender", Steve says it was his easiest and one of the most rewarding record to make.

1996 saw a differenr side to Steve - his vocals! Half the songs that appear on 'Fire Garden' has his vocals on them and he pulls it off with great ease despite his own fears. With great songs like "Crying Machine", "Bangkok", "All About Eve" and a little gem of a track, which shows Steve's sense of humour, called "When I Was A Little Boy" (trust me! listen to this one. You will have a laughing fit). And then something wonderful happened to show us that there is still hope left in this world. Vai, Joe Satriani & Eric Johnson started a tour called G3 which featured them as well as various opening guitar acts and went on a 24 city rampage. In a time when shred guitar is dead and to be a virtouso means poor album sales these three guys shone on stage and the tour & live album was a smash success. They followed it up with more tours, ading other guitar masters like Uli Jon Roth, Yngwie Malmsteen, Gary Hoey etc. Vai also came up with the 'Merry Axemas' album - featuring different guitar players. Each one plays his version of a Chritmas carole on guitar. 'Merrt Axemas 2' came out the next year. Also around this time, Vai setup his own record label - Favoured Nations focussing on musicians and giving them the freedom to record anything they damn well pleased. Some good records have been releasd under the label (including Frank Gambale, Greg Bissonette & Rob DiMaggio).
All this and Steve found time to create an amazing album as well. 'The Ultra Zone' came out in 1999. The opening track "Blood & Tears"blew my mind - it features samples of an Indian female singer, singing a chant in Sankrit, and some other samples in Arabic in well, around which Steve belts out a magnificent masterpiece of grandeur guitar work. One of my favorite tracks ever! Other great tracks are "Frank", "Windows To The Soul", "I'll Be Around", "Asian Sky" and in "Lucky Charms" it seems that Steve has gotten the help of some alien singers to help him out. It's a great tune nevertheless. Steve has toured extensively throughout, either with G3 or headlining on his own, but stil finds time for his family. His 10 CD box release is his most ambitious one - it has all of his movie stuff on one CD, an Alcatrazz live album plus the 'Disturbing the Peace' LP, rare tracks, plus some of his Zappa work. A compilation album of his ballads was released from tht CD box in 2000 - called 'The Seventh Song' - named such because the seventh song on all his albums are always soaring melodius ballads. Can't wait for his next effort.

All pics taken from Steve Vai's official website - VAI.COM. Biography compiled from various magazine & internet articles, interviews and biographies and from VAI.COM.