From the Archive: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen Discuss the 2003 G3 Tour
From 2003: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen discuss their G3 Tour.
VAI: It would be easy for me to look back and say Jimmy Page was the turning point in my life. Whenever any of us talk about our influences, it's easy to point a finger at particular guitarists. But I think the things that really influence us to take a certain direction or pursue a certain style are more diverse -- our parents, where we grew up, the people we hung out with. I was very fortunate in coming to like theater music. That's what my folks listened to. Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim -- that was it for me. Show tunes -- there's a certain melodic content that was campy yet inspired. Andrew Lloyd Weber -- I have everything of his.
MALMSTEEN: Jesus Christ Superstar was a huge influence on me. My sister is seven years older than me. She was a teenager when I was still a kid, so she'd bring home records. And I'll never forget when she first brought home Jesus Chris Superstar. That first guitar riff -- I still get goose pimples now when I hear it. And talk about lyrics: Tim Rice is a genius! I spend a lot of time on my lyrics nowadays, so I really appreciate that. I've never heard or seen any other rock opera that I liked -- only that one.
VAI: I think my first influence from the musical theater was West Side Story. Bernstein was incredible. That's all I listened to when I was a kid. I thought that was the only record ever made.
I never would have guessed that Steve has this thing for show tunes.
SATRIANI: [with mock amazement] Couldn't you tell?
VAI: I'm a complete ham! I'm a complete poseur!
I see you in a totally different light now.
SATRIANI: This is really interesting, because I can't stand show music -- the pomp and circumstance, the theatrical part. To me it was the opposite. The first time I heard John Lee Hooker on a record, I couldn’t believe it. I was more interested in a performance by just one person that was really unique.
VAI: I didn't like the blues. Robert Johnson would have bored me to tears. I liked the energy and freneticism of Deep Purple, Queen and Led Zeppelin. And yeah, there was a campiness to show music that I completely rejected once I was 13. But then Frank Zappa came along. To me, he married all that stuff together: amazing guitar playing, musical credibility, comedy.
And of course there were other influences. I was very fortunate that in high school I had a great music theory teacher and I was in love with the little black dots. And I was fortunate to have a great guitar teacher in Joe, who turned me on to things like Wes Montgomery. But like I say, I think our influences are different than the few names we might cite. What gave us the courage to pursue music? What gave us the drive to sit for an entire childhood and practice like we did? Why were we so compelled to achieve things on that instrument? I don’t necessarily think it's this band or that band that made us do it. They were inspirations. But I think at the core of a very driven musician the influences are probably far more different than we think. An event that happened in their life. Something somebody said. Who knows what triggers those things that lie dormant in some of us?
You mean it isn't the sex drive?
VAI: Well, it could be a reflection of it. The sex drive is one of the most powerful instincts that we have. If it came to a choice between making a record and having sex, I think we'd all be fucking our brains out.
People often hope that the one will lead to the other.
SATRIANI: Yeah, you hear that all the time. The saying "you got in a band to get girls." That kind of thing.
MALMSTEEN: That was the most bizarre thing that happened to me when I first came to the States. It was the first time I heard the word "dude" as well. But also one guy said to me, "Hey, I bet you picked up the guitar to get laid, right?" And I was like, "What?!" I just couldn't fathom that. Obviously, I know some people do, but it wasn't me.
VAI: I played along with that game for a while. [dumb voice] "Yeah, I picked up the guitar to get laid." And then one day I said, "I did not!" That was the furthest thing from my mind. Yeah, I wanted to be cool, I wanted to be accepted. But for me it was an opportunity to gain self-esteem and dignity because I was capable of doing something. But then, yeah, if you play with someone like David Lee Roth, blow jobs grow on trees.
That being the case, it's a marvel that any of you guys decided to go instrumental.
MALMSTEEN: It wasn't my decision to go instrumental. That's the ironic part. I was in a band called Alcatrazz. The band's label decided that it wanted to give me a solo deal. The idea was for me to do a solo record but stay in the band Alcatrazz as well. The band was on tour, but once in a while I would take a day off, go into a studio and work on my solo album. Ultimately, I wanted to bring in a singer and make it a vocal record. But the label said, "No, you can't do that. You have to make an instrumental album." I was like, "Instrumental album? Are you crazy?" They said, "No, it has to be instrumental." And so it was. And it became a springboard for a lot of other guys to put out instrumental albums. But it wasn't meant that way.
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