Steve Vai Explains the Generation Axe Approach and What It's Like to Be Pushed by His Peers

(Image credit: Larry DiMarzio)

“I’m well aware of people’s perception of me,” Steve Vai says. “They think I’m this super-serious guy all the time. I’m locked away composing all this crazy music, and I have no fun. And that’s just not true at all.” He catches himself for a second, then laughs. “Well, let me clarify that. I am that guy — I’m serious about what I do, and I spend lots of time writing music. But believe me, I love to have fun, except I do it a little differently than most people.”

Not surprisingly, Vai’s idea of a good time involves playing the guitar, and since 2016 he’s gathered a group of fellow axe wizards (Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, Yngwie Malmsteen and Tosin Abasi) to form what he calls a “supergroup” that performs under the banner Generation Axe. But unlike other mega-guitar touring revues, such as Robert Fripp’s League of Crafty Guitarists and Joe Satriani’s G3 (the latter of which has featured Vai), the idea behind Generation Axe was based around the concept of collaboration and free-form expression — a more “anything goes” ethos.

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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar World, Guitar Player, MusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.