Steve Vai Joins Jimi Hendrix Tribute Tour
GW One of the things about performing on the Hendrix tour is that you will be without your normal band and you may be playing with different people from night to night.
VAI I know, and I’m really looking forward to that. I know that all the musicians are going to be very good. I believe this will be very rejuvenating for me, because I haven’t done something like this in quite a while.
GW Do you already know whom you’ll be playing with, whether it’s a trio, and whether you’ll also be performing within other ensembles of players?
VAI That hasn’t been nailed down, but along with my segment, there’s a big jam at the end that I’ll be a part of. I plan to sing the songs I’m playing, but I’m sure there are some other singers that could cover it too. I know a lot of the guys on the tour, so it’ll be nice to be with them again, and I’m really dying to get back out on tour and play.
GW Have you spoken much with your good friend Joe Satriani, last year’s tour headliner, about his experiences?
VAI Oh yeah. He told me all about it, and he loved it. He said the musicians were fantastic, and, you know, Joe is obviously a really big Hendrix fan.
GW Are you going to use any new or specific gear for this tour?
VAI I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I’m going to have a couple of new guitars made just for the tour that will somehow pay tribute to Jimi. Ibanez sent me a few bodies that are more Strat-like than my usual guitars. I examined very closely the photos of Jimi’s hand-painted guitar that he played at Monterey [on June 18, 1967], and I decided to hand-paint these new bodies in Jimi’s style. If you look closely at Jimi’s guitar, you can see that it’s two-tone, red and white [Jimi’s guitar was originally red and he painted part of it white before further adorning it with flowery designs], and I believe he painted the guitar shortly before he went on. So I hand-painted them, and I’m not any kind of a painter, but I tried to create a Sixties-style look from the perspective of 2010. I made two of them. They both have single-coil pickups and maple necks, but there are certain things about them that suit my playing style, like 24 frets, the type of whammy bar and the Sustainer pickup. Everything that I’m doing with this tour is being done with the utmost respect for Jimi’s legacy, along with capturing a contemporary feeling for what that’s all about.
GW I can tell you from my own experiences that all of the musicians reveled in the uniqueness of the tour, and the prevailing feeling is that we were all part of this big “Hendrix” team.
VAI That’s one of the things that I’m really looking forward to: being out there with people that all have the same desire and the same love and respect for Jimi. A tour is like a family—sometimes even closer than a family—because you live with these people every day, and there are no secrets at sea! I love that environment. I’m a really big fan of the whole tour experience, especially in what I believe will be an atmosphere of mutual love for the project.
GW Do you have plans for your next record?
VAI I have a few different options, but I’m thinking about something a little simpler. Some of my projects are very complex and involved in terms of production, but I’m thinking about doing something along the lines of Alien Love Secrets, which was simpler to do in this regard. I’m feeling it’s time to step back and do a record with no overdubs, you know, before my fingers stop working! [laughs] So this tour might be a good precursor to that.