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From the Archive: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen Discuss the 2003 G3 Tour

From the Archive: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen Discuss the 2003 G3 Tour

Here's an interview with the stars of the G3 Tour -- Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen -- from the November 2003 issue of Guitar World.

Three wineglasses are lifted high in the candlelit ambience of a tony Hollywood restaurant. Like some latter-day version of the three musketeers, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen are toasting the beginning of this year's G3 Tour, which kicks off in Phoenix on October 9.

Although the tour has been in existence since 1996, this year's show promises to be the mother of them all. It brings together, for the first time ever, the three men who were the indisputable holy trinity of the Eighties shred boom, and who continue to be an inspiration to aspiring electric guitar virtuosi everywhere.

To spend time in the company of these guys, particularly when they have instruments in hand, is to understand the complete inadequacy of the term "shredder" as a description of what they do. Watching them up close, one realizes how utterly dissimilar they are in touch, tone, phrasing and even the way they set up their guitars. The easy precision with which Malmsteen negotiates his trademark scalloped fretboard was the phenomenon that ignited Eighties neoclassical mania and remains the nuclear furnace at the heart of recent work such as Attack!!, Yngwie's 2002 album with his band Rising Force.

Once as famous for his temper tantrums as for his dazzling technique, Yngwie has mellowed with age... well, a little bit. These days he's seldom far from the watchful gaze of his spouse and manager, April, who combines trophy-wife looks with a practical head for business. Yngwie has retained a lusty appreciation for good beer and fine-tuned Ferraris. A jovial yet imposingly large figure draped in gold jewelry and swathed in black leather and silk, he seldom manages to utter a sentence that doesn't include the phrase "fuck, mon."

And while Steve Vai's career is now entering its third decade, the man has retained the lanky frame and high-cheekboned cool of an archetypal rock guitar god. By this point, Vai's pretty much done it all. He has performed with everyone from Frank Zappa to David Lee Roth, played the devil's guitar slinger on film and released a stunning series of solo discs like 1999's The Ultra Zone -- albums that seem to confirm the lingering suspicion that Vai's unique brand of wang-bar voodoo originates from some realm of existence other than our own. Vai recently duetted with Indian sarangi master Surinder Sandhu. He and Malmsteen have both experienced the challenges and rewards of playing with world-class symphony orchestras in recent years.

In fact, the two guitarists seem to spark off one another. Malmsteen's exuberance awakens a wry, Zappa-esque sense of humor in Vai. In contrast, Joe Satriani remains serenely detached. In his own quiet way he can trump the pair of them. The guy toured with Mick Jagger, after all, and was Vai's guitar teacher.

A head shorter than the other two, his clean-shaven pate shrouded in a crazy quilted hat, Satch is like the wise, patriarchal monk in kung fu movies -- the tranquil master who could kick the crap out of everybody if he felt like it. Fortunately, Satriani has a more benevolent means of subduing all comers. His formidable mastery of guitar technique has always been grounded in a pure rock and roll heart, as albums like his most recent, last year's Strange Beautiful Music, readily attest.

While virtuoso guitar music is no longer "buzzworthy" in a mainstream context, it continues to thrive as a vigorous musical subculture. The success of G3 and the impressive roster of artists Vai has amassed on his Favored Nations record label are proof of this. And when these three unlikely compadres get together for a chat, it's clear that this is a subculture with a strong sense of identity and tradition, not to mention humor.

GUITAR WORLD: Where do all of you see yourselves fitting into the spectrum of music in the year 2003? Does instrumental guitar music matter today? Is it on the wane? Is it due for a revival?

JOE SATRIANI: If this kind of music were dead, we wouldn't be here.

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