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Watch Frank Zappa and Steve Vai Play "Stevie's Spanking" in 1982

Watch Frank Zappa and Steve Vai Play

"I feel comfortable playing with Steve Vai," Frank Zappa told Guitar World in 1982. "I mean, I like the way he plays. I think he's really a great guitar player. He does everything on the guitar that I don't do.

"He does all of the stock Stratocaster noises and he makes everything that Van Halen ever dreamed of and then some. He reads music. He plays sixteenth notes, which I don't play. And he does all of this stuff that I don't do; and I think that our styles are kind of complementary.

"He's a good musician and I enjoy playing with him because he's not just a Mongolian string-bender. And he's a thoroughly trained musical person. And I like working with him."

Here's an excerpt of GW's interview with Zappa from the March 1982 issue. For the full interview, head here.

I might be wrong about this, but it seems in the past that the relationship of your guitar to the band was that the band would play and then you would do a solo often with accompaniment. But this time I noticed you did a lot of work with the other guitars, while the other guitarist was playing, at the time, dual solos.
That's an illusion. There is only one point in the show where we play at the same time in linear fashion, and that's in "Stevie's Spanking" [See the video below], and the reason that I drop out for the first part of that is I stay out completely while [Steve] is actually playing his solo because it would distract from him. And then when he's done playing his 32 bars or whatever, then we play together for a little while.

I tend to minimize what I'm playing so he can do all of his Stratocaster extravaganza, bend notes together and stuff like that. That's basically his song. But, the only other place where we do it in the show is in a song called "Teen Age Prostitute" where we have some triple guitar lines. And in "Your Moquna" where there are some triple guitar lines. But, all ofthe rest of the stuff, if I am playing the solo it's with the minimum accompaniment to make it work.

Do you then change your band according to the musicians in it or do you look for the musicians to change the group?
Well, I have ideals I always shoot for but you can't always get what you want. You know, the musicians are chosen by audition. And they come in and tryout against each other to see who gets the job.

Yeah, but do you know what you're looking for in advance pretty much?
Sure.

And then once you find... well, take Steve for instance. Did you realize you would do those kinds of things with him?
Oh, I think I knew that from the first time I heard his cassette. Because his cassette was intelligent and it sounded like he was a person who was interested in music rather than being just a rock and roll star. I like that.

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