GVO Interview: Steve Vai Talks About Bollywood Music, Mohini Dey, & His Evolution Over Time

Posted at November 8th, 2017 | by Akshay Kapoor | in Entertainment, Featured, India Tour, Interviews

Rock guitar virtuoso Steve Vai came down to India to headline Nh7 Weekender, Meghalaya this October, and because we can’t get enough of him, he’s performing at Weekender, Pune this December as well. We caught up with the maestro to pick his brain about all things music, and you can read on below!


GVO: Tell us about your collaboration with Mohini Dey. How did it come about and how has the experience?

Steve Vai: I started to see video clips of Mohini on YouTube, and she was blowing me away. I saw in her an extraordinary connection with her instrument and a true musician. I had a track I was working on called “Bop” for my last record Modern Primitive and thought she would be perfect for it. It is a VERY difficult song to play, and I sent her a track that just had the vocal, a drum and bass guide, and in one night, after one of her shows, she recorded two bass tracks on the song. One track with slapping and the other finger style. I edited the two tracks to make one phenomenal bass performance track. It was a wonderful collaboration. She delivered like a boss!


GVO: How has age impacted your music, in terms of physical technicality and maturity in thought process?

Steve Vai: As we grow older it’s not uncommon to be a little more relaxed in life. I have found great release from spiritual study. Whatever state of mind we are in when we create, flows into what we create. In terms of physicality, I’m surprised that my fingers can still do most of the things I ask them to do. If there was anything I noticed it’s that it takes a little more time for them to heal after intense playing so at the beginning of tours I usually give myself a day off after 2-3 shows. Once my hands get in touring shape we will play many shows in a row.

My thought process is similar through the years but my courage to manifest music that is more in line with my creative ideas becomes more powerful as the years go by. I have more of a desire to explore unique ideas.


GVO: Do you think advancement in guitar technology is leading to better musicianship or lazy musicianship?

Steve Vai: It leads to a different kind of musicianship that I do not believe is better or worse, just an evolution. Technology will continue to evolve and that in itself is not laziness, but the evolution of technology can offer more convenience and higher quality as it marches on. But there will always be people who use technology to make things easier and I think that’s a good thing. It’s all up to the perspective of the person who is looking at it.

Is it important to find the perfect instrument for the sound that you are going for or does emotion supersedes that?
SV: They are both important. But I do not seek to play “emotionally” (happy, sad, angry, etc.), I seek to play “connected.” Connected to what? Connected to the infinite well of creativity that resides in all of us.


GVO: Have you heard Bollywood music? If yes, what do you think of it?

Steve Vai: Ah yes, Bollywood music. I get a big kick out of it for sure. I even love the movies! The Bollywood stuff is more the reflection of India pop culture. But I
have experimented with classic cultural Indian music often in my music. Traditional Indian music is some of my favorite. I have been inspired by many of the traditional inflections in the melodies, vocals, and especially Indian style instrumentation. Indian music can immediately put you in a “state of India mind.” It’s such an enchanting frame of mind. There is really so much charm and depth in the music and the culture. It’s really quite a treasure.


GVO: How many times do you think you’ve played -For The Love Of God- live? Will you be playing it for your Indian fans too?

Steve Vai: I have played it thousands of times, and I never get tired of playing it. Every time I play it it feels like a gift. And yes, I will be playing it at the shows in India.


GVO: If you could bring one of these legends to life, who would it be: Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, B.B. King?

Steve Vai: They never died.


GVO: Have you heard any Indian bands/artists? Do you like any of them?

Steve Vai: I like traditional cultural Indian music and have enjoyed artists such as L. Shankar, Ravi Shankar, U. Srinivas, Zakir Hussain, and many others.


GVO: What has been your favourite memory whilst performing on stage?

Steve Vai: There are many, but one sticks out. Years ago I was performing in Barcelona, Spain, and I had two shows in one night. I was very ill with a terrible flu and could hardly stay standing. During the second show I surrendered to worrying about anything and as a result there was a sort of clarity that took over my mind. I became very present and felt as if I was performing a meter above the stage floor. Everything I did I felt completely connected to the instrument, the notes and the audience. I entered the Ultra Zone.


GVO: What’s on your playlists currently?

Steve Vai: My wife.

Akshay Kapoor


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