Steve Vai goes in-depth on his stunning new signature model, the Ibanez PIA: "It’s a guitar built for freakdom"

Steve Vai with his new Ibanez signature, the PIA
(Image credit: Olly Curtis/Future)

Steve Vai’s first collaboration with Ibanez, the JEM, debuted in 1987. In the more than three decades since, the revolutionary electric guitar (and let’s be frank - with its monkey grip handle, lion’s claw tremolo cavity, five-way HSH pickup options, deep cutaway and eye-popping fluorescent finishes, among other features, it was indeed groundbreaking) has become firmly established as one of the most popular, celebrated and instantly recognizable designs in modern guitardom.

The JEM has undergone updates and modifications since that first iteration, from changes in pickups and fretboard inlays, to wild new finishes (floral patterns, a limited-edition swirl with Vai’s blood mixed in) and even a 20th anniversary acrylic-body-with-LED-lights model. All the while, Vai acknowledges, “Ibanez has been extraordinarily supportive of all of my ‘imaginative meanderings’ over the years.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.