Meet Steve Vai’s Ibanez JEM "Evo" Guitar

Feast your eyes on Steve Vai’s Ibanez JEM, which he named “Evo” after the guitar's DiMarzio Evolution pickups.

Photographed by Lisa S. Johnson in Los Angeles, August 28, 2010, for her book, 108 Rock Star Guitars, “Evo” was hand-selected by Vai.

Guitars are like snowflakes in that no two are exactly alike. Vai tested four identical production models of the Ibanez JEM before choosing this one to be his main squeeze. There was just something about its feel that moved him.

He replaced its standard-issue pickups with DiMarzio Evolutions, and to distinguish her from his three other JEMs, he christened it with a hand-lettered “Evo.”

Even after countless tours and recordings, his heart goes pitter-patter whenever he sees it, and regardless of what is going on in his life, he finds solace when she’s in his arms. Sure, Steve knows Evo is nothing but wire and wood, but when you connect with a guitar the way he has with Evo, when an instrument is, for so long, the voice of your heart and you have cried, screamed, prayed and raged through her, when she has been with you through your darkest depressions as well for your most joyous, love-filled moments—well, it’s no wonder Steve is afraid of how emotionally invested he is in Evo.

She’s only on loan to him for a limited time; one day she’ll be dust. But for now, there’s still quite a bit they have to say together.*

Adapted from Accessed February 9, 2011.

About the Photographer, Lisa S. Johnson: Armed with a macro lens, an incredible eye for detail and a truly ground breaking vision, Lisa Johnson’s guitar art, is taking the world of fine art photography on a rock and roll ride. Far from still life, Lisa’s work conjures the abstract, yet also possesses a very sensual and ethereal feel that intentionally illustrates the intimate wear and tear details of the instrument. Her unique presentation undoubtedly personifies the musician and captures their true spirit in these wooden extensions of their own iconic flesh.

Her debut book, 108 Rock Star Guitars, was released in hardcover October 2013 and softcover (by Hal Leonard) November 2014.

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