Steve Vai Shares His Private Guitar Collection
When Steve Vai appeared on the cover of the September 2016 issue of Guitar World to discuss his latest projects—including the new 25th-anniversary version of his masterpiece, Passion and Warfare—he agreed to let us photograph several guitars from his staggering private collection.
Below, you'll find photos of 10 guitars (mostly Ibanez), each of which is accompanied by a revealing tidbit courtesy of Vai.
Photos: Kevin Scanlon
Ibanez JEM777 SP (Shocking Pink)
“This is a reissue of one of the first JEMs that was released back in the day. In the mid Eighties I made a design for a guitar that fit the quirky musical sensibilities I was reaching for. I sent it out to a bunch of people and said, ‘Whoever makes me the best guitar—I’ll play it.’ Ibanez was the winner, hands-down, and it led to the first JEM and RG models. They were so bizarre with their fluorescent colors and their monkey grips. Ibanez must’ve been scratching their heads, thinking, What’s with this guy? But the guitars have sold pretty consistently through different trends and recessions.”
Ibanez UV77 7-string with burnt finish
“This is Bruno—a dipped multicolored seven-string that I took a blowtorch and a wire brush to in the Nineties. I have no idea why I did that; I guess I just liked the burnt-wood look. I first tried it with the natural wood aspects in my home studio and wondered what the same technique would do to a multicolored finish. You can see the guitar in the ‘For the Love of God’ video, and by the way, attempts to recreate my treatment of the finish have not been successful.”
Ibanez UV77SVR Passion and Warfare 25th Anniversary Limited Edition
“Silver is part of the Passion and Warfare 25th Anniversary seven-string release. There’s three of them—Passion, blue and pink; Warfare, orange and yellow; and Silver, silver and blue. Ibanez made different ones to match the various color combos on the cover of Passion and Warfare.”
"Bones"—custom built by Performance Guitar
“Bones was one of the predecessors to the JEM that I had made at Performance Guitar [a custom shop in Los Angeles]. There were others: Little Annie Fanny, Playboy and Cowgirl. I just went into Performance Guitar and gave them my specifications, tweaked the body shape, and requested particular pickup configurations. I later gave these designs to Ibanez and they refined them to make me the beautiful instrument that became the original JEM.”
"Flo"—modified Ibanez JEM77 with true-temperament neck
“We’ve done a lot of different JEM variations, including a white phase. Flo started out with a floral finish, but was redone in white. It has a true-temperament neck—hence the crazy, wavy frets—and a Fernandes Sustainer pickup. It’s one of the guitars I usually tour with: a real workhorse, and a warm place to call home.”