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Thread: Vai On Roth

  1. #1
    Unchained Hamnerhead's Avatar
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    Default Vai On Roth

    Part one of a new interview with DLR guitarist Steve Vai, in which he touches on EEAS and ADKOT:

    Let’s talk about the David Lee Roth years when you joined the band. Bassist Billy Sheehan said that Steve Stevens of Billy Idol was originally considered for the guitar player of that group, and it didn’t work out. Do you know if anyone else was in the running before you came aboard?

    There were some other guys, but I don’t remember who they were. When I came in, I think I was the only one at the time that was being considered. I think they had spoken to a couple of guys. I don’t know if they had ever gotten together with them, but when I was there I was just like, “Okay, if you like it, here it is.” (Laughs)

    What was your songwriting process with Dave like? Were there any similarities that he might have mentioned to you that compared with how he worked with Van Halen?

    In a band situation, usually everyone’s contribution is accepted. When I was with Dave—I’m not exactly sure how they did it with Van Halen—I would come in with riffs or a song, or maybe somebody in the band would come in with a song, and Dave would either like it or not, and then we’d present him another song, and we’d work on it a bit and maybe shape it, and then at some point once the track was done, or at least written, Dave would take it and write lyrics.

    What did Frank Zappa think of your work with Dave? Did you ever discuss that with him?

    No. I never heard Frank comment on my work with Dave Roth, but he did say that I should invite Dave over his studio sometime.

    That would have been interesting.

    Yeah. Oddly enough, the first time I ever met Edward [Van Halen] was back in the ’80s when I was in Frank’s band, and Edward was a big Frank fan. I had met Edward at a club and he found out I was with Frank. I gave him my phone number and said, “If you ever want to meet Frank, I’m sure he would be interested in seeing you.” He called me the next day—it was so bizarre, and he went up to the house and we all jammed. It was really cool.

    I wonder what became of that.

    I don’t think it was recorded.

    Regarding the song “Yankee Rose,” were there actually any words ever considered or written for that guitar conversation you had with Dave for that?

    Yeah, there were some words I was thinking in my mind, but I can’t remember what they were. Something silly, you know. “David?” (Laughs)

    It’s a great way to start a cut.

    Yeah. When I joined the band—I have a very quirky, esoteric guitar nature, but I’m also a big fan of rock and metal. So when I joined that band, or any band that I join, I assess the situation and I come to grips with what I think the appropriate contribution would be, but I also have to be myself at some point. So in opening up the record and doing “Yankee Rose,” I thought, What can I do here that’s completely preposterous that’s very me but still has rock and roll integrity and people will get a kick out of it? And I always have the talking guitar thing in my arsenal, so it was the perfect opportunity to pull it.

    The song “Ladies’ Nite in Buffalo?” has been called a real artistic achievement for Dave, and the lyrics are really interesting. Do you have any memories of how that song came together?

    I had written that song and I had demoed it, and when I demoed it it had all of these guitars, all of these textures and keyboards, and Dave really liked it. When we took it into the studio, [producer] Ted Templeman said, “Okay, let’s lay down a basic track. Just go out there and play live as a guide guitar.” I thought, “There’s a lot of parts—how am I going to make them all work on one guitar?” [The guide guitar’s] intention was that it was going to be built up with all these other layers and stuff later, and Ted goes, “Well, there it is!” So that’s the part and that’s the song. There was a real kind of beautiful rawness and an in-your-face kind of intimacy that was much different from the very produced version that I had done. That’s how it turned out.

    Do you have any idea what the title is supposed to refer to, with the question mark?

    Exactly what it is…ladies’ nite in Buffalo, New York. That’s what it’s about, I guess (laughs). You’d probably be better off asking Dave.

    The lyrics for the song “Big Trouble” are also open-ended. You could take it as a story of character sketches.

    That’s the nice thing about lyrics. There’s lyricists who will create images, and the listener is left to their own imagination to put them together. I can’t speak for Dave, but I think that that was relatively influenced by his like of Tom Waits.

    Talking about other debates in rock circles, people are always analyzing whether the original Eat ’Em and Smile band was better musically than the original lineup of Van Halen. What are your thoughts about this?

    “Better” is such a subjective term, you know? I just don’t respond to these competitive comparisons. They’re useless and meaningless, because if it’s better for one person and not for another, then they’re both right. Your opinion is the important thing. You can never deny the immense talent, rock credibility and iconic historical contribution that Van Halen made. And Edward Van Halen is a guitar god of the highest order. I have immense respect and love for Edward, you know? I would probably be playing the guitar very differently if he never came along. He’s a totally inspired person.

    When we started Eat ’Em and Smile, Dave got the best musicians he could, who he thought was the best. And I thought it was a hell of a band. It was one of my favorite times in my whole musical career, because we were rock stars, you know? And touring with somebody like Dave, you can’t even imagine what it was like. It was just glorious, man. And I knew it was fleeting, and I knew it was something that I wasn’t going to be doing my whole life, because my brand of music in my own head is very different. So, if you like Van Halen better than the Eat ’Em and Smile band, then you’re right. And if I like Eat ’Em and Smile better than Van Halen, then I’m right. But I don’t like one better than the other. The Eat ’Em and Smile band was fierce. And that’s it.

    A lot of people like to adopt a sports mentality when it comes to this. They want to have winners.

    Yeah, I know. And you know what, it’s a big fucking bore after a while.

    Sports is sports, but there’s all kinds of music out there.

    It’s part of the process. We all have egos, and if a person responds to something that’s really interesting to them, their ego tells them this is better than everything else, and I’m right and you’re wrong. That’s something that if a person can get over, they’ll lift a big burden off their back. Because then you can appreciate everything…it doesn’t mean that vanilla is better than pistachio (laughs). If you’re playing basketball, if you get the most hoops, you with the game and you’re the best. It’s very different from music.

    For Van Halen now, what are your thoughts about their reunion with Dave and the last studio record they put out, A Different Kind of Truth?

    I was really happy to hear how great Edward was playing. I mean, I was afraid he was losing it; we were all concerned. But I think that he’s in really great form. As a matter of fact, he sounds as good as he ever has to me, and frankly, I’m hearing Dave hit notes that he couldn’t hit when I was recording him. And I think the record is really powerful—it’s kinetic. I can’t listen to the whole thing at one time because it’s almost too powerful, in a way. But I’m happy with it. I’m really happy for them and I’m glad to see them doing it.

    In part two tomorrow, Steve tells all about Skyscraper, Whitesnake, and why he’ll NEVER pen a tell-all book.
    "There will always be a Holyfield or a Tyson, but there's only one Mohammad Ali. There will always be a new body building champion, but there's only one Arnold. And there's only one David Lee. I'm the fun in Van Halen, always will be." - David Lee Roth

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  2. #2
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    That was great. Love hearing a new perspective like that.

    Thanks for posting it!
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    Atomic Punk BREW CREW's Avatar
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    I saw this earlier while at work and couldn't post it here (or in the Vai thread). Vai is one cool duder that always gives a respectable point of view. It's a very long interview for those that are interested in Vai. I can't wait to see him in concert in about a month!
    Just go for it!

  4. #4
    Romeo Delight
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    Great interview. Please post the 2nd half.

    I was such a Van Halen fan back in the day that I could never really listen objectively to Eat em and Smile and Skyskrapper. I saw them live in Toronto on the Eat em & Smile tour and spent most of the concert wishing I could see Van Halen backing Dave up especially when they played the VH classics...

    I listen to those records now and I am blown away by how good they are.

    I am seeing Vai in Toronto in September and cant wait. Seems like a super cool dude. I just hope he leaves the "hair blowing fan" at the front of the stage off

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    Forum Frontman Double Down's Avatar
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    Impossible not to like Vai. Such a cool guy.


    I got real lucky on the Skyscraper tour. Had a friend who worked at the venue and got me and my gf down to the floor in front of the stage. It was a cluster fuck standing room only situation for about the front 15 rows. Before they came out we managed to weasel our way right up to the stage to the railing directly in front of Vai. Vai was standing right in front of me for the whole show. Freaking incredible.
    .
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    VH with Sam ('86-'96) - Incredible era....."We have renamed this town 'New Halen!'.
    VH with Gary ('98) - Fucking disaster. WTF was that??
    VH with Wolf/Dave ('12-'15) - Amazing comeback. Smokin' album and tours.

  6. #6
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    I met Vai at a meet-n-greet in '05 and he was very open in talking about the Roth years. Of course, I wore a DLR shirt then too. Total class guy; honored to have met him. He did an hour-long hangout discussion...
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  7. #7
    Emperor of VHLinks.com Brett's Avatar
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    Cool interview. Vai is a brilliant player.
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  8. #8
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    Very cool interview, thx for posting it!
    Big fan of VH and Vai so that was cool to read.
    Was able to see both DLR tours with Vai and they were both
    fantastic.
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  9. #9
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    Eat em band was one of the most amazing bands ever!!! I wish they would have made at least as many records as van Hagar did.dave should have given them a band name and not treat it as a solo project.i feel we missed out on some amazing music.I'm just glad I got to see that lineup a few times

  10. #10
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    I hated to admit at the time that EEAS was a good record...Ladies night in Buffalo was a really cool song.

    I seem to remember reading that Vai would play Eruption left handed on tour??
    Dealing with it.

  11. #11
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    Cool interview! One of Dave's best solo bands.
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    Never meet Vai but all you hear are good things about him. I met Billy and he was cool too very open about how VH courted him and he said no cause he was a friend of Mikes.
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    "For Van Halen now, what are your thoughts about their reunion with Dave and the last studio record they put out, A Different Kind of Truth?

    I was really happy to hear how great Edward was playing. I mean, I was afraid he was losing it; we were all concerned. But I think that he’s in really great form. As a matter of fact, he sounds as good as he ever has to me, and frankly, I’m hearing Dave hit notes that he couldn’t hit when I was recording him. And I think the record is really powerful—it’s kinetic. I can’t listen to the whole thing at one time because it’s almost too powerful, in a way. But I’m happy with it. I’m really happy for them and I’m glad to see them doing it."

    That's a great summation of "ADKoT," IMO.

    I like-or-love every song on "ADKoT" -- but personally, for the same reason that Steve Vai mentions, I can't listen to more than 4 or 5 songs at a time... It's just overpowering.

    The 'come-up-for-air' moments on "ADKoT" -- "You and Your Blues;" parts of "Blood and Fire;" the acoustic breakdown on "Stay Frosty;" even "Tattoo" -- they're all really powerful for 'come-up-for-air' songs (compared with, say, other VH songs that serve comparable functions, e.g. "Secrets;" "Could This Be Magic?" "Finish What Ya Started.")

    IMO, every song on "ADKoT" is good/great -- but listening to the whole album is like taking 13 shots of 151. (I know that some ppl can do it, lol.)

    I can see how a 30-40 min. album format benefits VH... Or else, making a "Physical Graffiti"-like double-album.
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  14. #14
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    I would be very interested to read him discuss " Damn Good ", as I heard a radio interview with DLR somewhere, and he said they used an unusual over abundance of overdubs while tracking that tune.

    Yes, VAI is awesome. Some of Daves best live performances were during that time period. I wonder if Dave is the reason behind not having any official live releases, since he never put out anything live during his solo years. Either tour with VAI would have made a spectacular live video or album.

    There was a British single for " She's My Machine " in 1994, that has 3 live VH songs, but I read somewhere that Dave wasn't pleased about about it and tried to stop it from being released.
    Last edited by Heisenberg; 08.21.12 at 09:40 AM. Reason: add something
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    There is a great live Japanese release from the Skyscraper Tour.

    I beleive it is called Paradise Lost and Paradise Found (Two Discs).

    I have it, and it is a great disc, good blend of solo and VH material, has the acoustic set of Wake Up Little Susie and Just Seen a Face.

    DLR sounds great on it. I have never been a big fan of Vai's tone, and combine that with the late 80's, I am not a huge fan of the mix, but the songs themselves and DLR and Vai's performances make it great.

    I don't even really like live albums that much, and I really like this one.
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