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Steve Vai Biography

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Steve Vai In-depth Biography

Along with his one-time teacher Joe Satriani}, six-string wizard Steve Vai} set the standard for rock} guitar virtuosity in the '80s. Born on June 6, 1960, and raised in Carle Place, NY, 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 his high 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 byZappa}.

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 invite 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. 1986 saw the debut release from Roth} and his stellar solo band, Eat 'Em & Smile}, which went on to become one of the year's top hard rock} releases. Both Vai} and Sheehan} were catapulted to super-stardom due to their instrumental talents, as they took top honors in numerous guitar magazines for years afterwards.

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 sizeable 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 '88, 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 which 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 & Warfare}, a year later. The album was based on dreams that Vai} experienced as a teenager, as the largely instrumental album became a sizeable 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 back 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 saw a flurry of releases from Vai}, including a compilation of instrumentals, The 7th Song: Enchanting Guitar Melodies Archive}, in 2000, and a year later, his first full-length live release, Alive in an Ultra World}, 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}.

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 DiMeola}'s Infinite Desire}, Public Image Ltd.}'s Album}, Joe Jackson}'s Symphony 1}, Billy Sheehan}'s Compression}. 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 on-going You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore} series and the live tribute} disc, Zappa}'s Universe}. As if his busy schedule wasn't full enough, Vai} pursued a life-long interest in the late '90s, when he began harvesting honey among five bee colonies in the backyard of his home. ~ Greg Prato, All Music Guide
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