From the Archive: Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen Discuss the 2003 G3 Tour
STEVE VAI: That's right. Just the fact that we're here is a testament that there are still people who enjoy this kind of music. I know this because my record label, Favored Nations, gets tapes all the time: there is still a very strong subculture of people who want to do great things on an instrument, and who are stimulated by hearing people who can. That's reassuring. But it's gonna take a person -- and I don't know who this is -- to come along and reinvent the guitar as a virtuosic instrument in a completely different realm than any of us have done, or anybody else in the past. That's the clincher. Maybe that will happen, and maybe it won't.
YNGWIE MALMSTEEN: This music just isn't in the forefront of the media. Today, particularly in America, the media and internet are overwhelming your senses. And it's deceiving, what you see on TV, hear on the radio and read in magazines. It doesn't necessarily reflect everything that's going on in the world. There are 280 million people in this country. And there are plenty of guys who work with jackhammers on the street who want to be guitar heroes.
Are any of you turned on by this nu-metal, downtuned, seven-string guitar stuff?
SATRIANI: The songwriting's good and the melodies are there, if that's what you want. Part of the message is the sound and the personality of the people making the music. The media is more personality driven and less instrumental driven. Before, maybe it was a little more together. You look at someone like Hendrix: he had incredible personality and virtuosity. You don't really see that today. You see more personalities. And they're entertaining. You can't knock them. If you're in the mood for that, you reach out and there they are.
VAI: I think people are talented and compelled in different areas of the music industry -- some people musically, and some people image-wise. You take someone like Marilyn Manson: I don't necessarily think there's a lot of intense musical talent there, but that guy really has a vision. The level of detail and thought behind the photos and videos is amazing. As macabre as it is, it's still extraordinary.
MALMSTEEN: I agree with that.
VAI: Or you take something like the last Korn record, Untouchables: There was a period where I couldn't stop listening to that. To me, that record is their greatest work. It's absolutely brilliant. Are they flailing about with tremendous virtuosity? No. But what they're doing is still very valid. The same with Radiohead, the way the whole band is able to work together as one mind. Then again, there's also complete shit out there, too.
A blues guitarist might cite Robert Johnson or Muddy Waters as the source of what he does. A punk guitar player might cite Johnny Ramone or Johnny Thunders. Is there anyone any of you can point to in a similar way, as the root of what you do? Is it that cut-and-dried for you, influence-wise?
SATRIANI: Although everybody you mentioned is great, Hendrix was the thing that really inspired me when I was a kid. And yeah, I have a couple of pictures and posters of guitarists on the wall of my studio that I look at all the time. I'm always asking them, "Is this crap or what?"
MALMSTEEN: On my console I have a bust of Johann Sebastian Bach. He was probably the most influential guy ever on me. Guitar players always listen to other guitar players. I wanted to break away from that a little bit. So while Ritchie Blackmore was a huge early influence on me, after that I had to find my own way. I just put my Deep Purple records away and got a big stack of Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven and, eventually, Paganini. And that changed the wiring of my brain. 'Cause all of a sudden I was thinking in all these other areas, instead of [sings a blues riff]. All these linear notes and pedal notes and arpeggios just started corning out of me.