STEVE VAI On 'Generation Axe' Tour: 'We Didn't Want It To Be Just A Gang-Bang Of Guitar Freaks'

STEVE VAI On 'Generation Axe' Tour: 'We Didn't Want It To Be Just A Gang-Bang Of Guitar Freaks'

Guitarist Steve Vai recently spoke with PureGrainAudio. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the "Generation Axe" tour with fellow guitar heroes Zakk Wylde (OZZY OSBOURNE, BLACK LABEL SOCIETY), Nuno Bettencourt (EXTREME), Yngwie Malmsteen and Tosin Abasi (ANIMALS AS LEADERS):

Steve: "It's fantastic. These tours with these guys, it's like a vacation. You work your whole life, and you tour and make records and tour and make records and deal with this and do that, but at some point, it's just so nice to go out and do a gig like this, because it's a cakewalk. Everybody's contributing. It's not like it's your tour, so there's the alleviation of the responsibility of it being your tour and you having to make all the decisions and put on the entire show. The show is sort of like a revolving stage of guitar players coming and going, but it's seamless — the show doesn't stop at any point — and you just get to witness the best of these guys in their craft. Because it's such an easy gig, everybody's just completely relaxed, so it's really great."

On what he learned about his tour mates during the initial "Generation Axe" shows:

Steve: "There was a lot I already knew, but you don't really get to know somebody until you're out at sea with them. There's no secrets at sea. One of the things I got to really understand about these guys is that side of them that is just really cool — just friendly, funny, passionate about their craft and completely confident in what they do. These guys are bulletproof confident in their craft, the kind of music they make. They don't make excuses for themselves — they just do it, and they're content in what they do. There's no competition, because there's nobody to compete with. Everybody's unique in what they do, so we support each other. There's such a big difference in the vibration of the competition and mutual support. What I noticed is how much nicer it is to be able to support each other, and how these guys are absolutely capable of that. That's nice, because I've been in bands where it wasn't like that, and that's no fun."

On the new "Generation Axe" live album, "The Guitars That Destroyed The World: Live In Asia":

Steve: "I recorded seven [shows]. When I got back [home], I started listening. It was quite the feat to edit the record together, because I wanted to get the best performances from each night, and sometimes that required editing together various performances for one song. We put a lot of work into it, but the sound of this record and the way it comes off is, I think, both unique and extraordinary for guitar players who just love the sound of the electric guitar. Also, it's not an instrumental guitar album — there's beautiful vocal tracks. Nuno and Zakk sing beautifully, and even Yngwie, he sings 'Highway Star', and you're going to be so surprised. The most remarkable thing about this record when I listen to it is how we blend together, because when we put this tour on, we didn't want it to be just a gang-bang of guitar freaks just making noise, so it's organized. I actually did arrangements — I orchestrated these arrangements of some of these classic songs for five guitars... We're actually recording all the shows on this [latest] tour for a second record at some point."

On whether "Generation Axe" will feature other lineups in the future:

Steve: "The concept in the beginning was to create a brand of 'Generation Axe' that would eventually morph into various genre fields. In the background, we're working on a 'Generation Axe' blues tour. I may or may not be on it... This incarnation of 'Generation Axe' will continue to evolve hopefully, but there will also be various incarnations. There's an acoustic tour that we're looking at putting together. It wouldn't involve any of us that are on this tour, but I'm kind of like pulling the strings for that in the background, so it's kind of a brand, but we'll have to see how it evolves."

On his future plans:

Steve: "In 2020, I'm planning on recording all of my orchestra pieces. I've probably got about four hours of orchestra music that I don't have properly recorded, and that's going to cost a tremendous amount of money, because recording orchestras is really expensive."

On the state of the modern music industry:

Steve: "It's an exceptionally good time for young musicians who want to be independent. They have more control to their career, more access directly to their fans and they have more of a forum to express their creativity. These days, you can make a record in your kitchen and it can sound incredible, and if you've got the creative goods, you can create content on YouTube and all the myriad outlets to express yourself, and that's how you build a story. There's so much more access to doing that for creative independent artists. I say creative because that's the barometer these days that's going to determine if you can cut through. Before, you had to rely on a record company, but now, you're left to your own devices and there's no excuses — either you're reaching into your own unique, creative potential and manifesting it, or you're complaining why the world sucks and the industry sucks and technology sucks because nobody knows how great you are."

On the hardest album he's ever made:

Steve: "The ease of making a record is joined at the hips with your creative vision for the record... Hard records are records that I make or things I contribute to that don't really feel quite right to me, but I do them for some other reason, and I usually don't do that anymore... When you're into something, everything flows beautifully — even the things that are challenging. Having said that, 'Skyscraper' [David Lee Roth's 1988 studio album] was hard. [Laughs]"

The latest "Generation Axe" tour wrapped up in Los Angeles on December 18.

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