BY ALISE CHAFFINS
How do you continue to find joy and inspiration in a job you have been doing for more than four decades? If you’re the legendary Steve Vai, you create an entirely new instrument. In preparation for the Inviolate tour coming at 8 p.m. Friday to the Metropolitan Theatre on High Street, The Dominion Post sat down with Vai to chat with him about the creation of “The Hydra,” his new triple-neck guitar that will feature prominently in his show.
“Sometimes we get ideas and we have to put them on the back burner and wait for the cooperative components to show themselves,” Vai said when asked about the Hydra.
“About seven years ago, I started with an email that took about 10 minutes to write. I knew all of the parameters that I wanted it to have, but I didn’t know what I wanted it to look like, so I didn’t send it. I just waited for the cooperative components.”
The email sat in Vai’s drafts folder until a movie night down the road.
“About two years later, I was watching ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ and there’s this scene where there’s this guy in front of a truck and he’s playing this guitar that’s shooting flames. I saw it and I went, ‘There it is!’ and I pressed send on the email to Hoshino Ibanez.”
The build took another four years to complete. It started with sketches of what the instrument might look like, progressing onto a cardboard cutout sent to Vai’s house so he could test the functionality of the instrument. From there, they sent him a prototype that he affectionately calls “The Hyena.” Finally, the Hydra showed up at his house.
“It was fascinating and terrifying,” Vai said. “I knew I had to write a piece of music. I put it on a stand in my studio and I’d have to walk past it 10 times a day and every time it would sort of growl at me, ‘You know you’ve got to write something for me.’”
Vai admitted it was intimidating to try to write something for this instrument, but that the visual of it led him to “Teeth of the Hydra,” a song entirely played on the guitar that he designed.
“I knew that it had to be a good song, and a good song has a good melody and not a gimmick for a quirky instrument.”
Vai is excited about his tour and about coming to the Mountain State. “I love the whole area of the country. I love touring in the fall because I live in California and I miss the foliage.”
Vai hopes that when people attend his show, they will see his soul onstage.
“If you’re fortunate enough to find something that you are really interested in when you’re young, and you stick with it, it evolves. At 62, I never lost my interest in evolving the artistic craft of playing music. I notice when my ability to be present with the instrument deepens, that flows into the audience. I love playing melodies and I love ripping it up, so you’ll get both of those.”
Tickets for Steve Vai’s Inviolate tour can be purchased at morgantownmet.com.