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Steve Vai and Mace Bailey: How the Ibanez JEM Came to Be

On January 19, the first day of the 2017 Winter NAMM Show, we shared a news item about Ibanez Guitars' brand-new 30th Anniversary JEM model, the JEM777.

Well, now we have a new video to go with it. It features the guitarist who has been unequivocally connected to the JEM for three decades: Steve Vai.

In the clip, which you can watch below, Vai—who is surrounded by a myriad of choice amps and guitars—discusses how the JEM came to be (it has a lot to do with truly being able to shred on the upper frets), his desired pickup configuration, the ol' "monkey grip" and more.

The clip also features appearances by Mike Shimada, the former president of Hoshino USA (the U.S. distributor of Ibanez and Tama), and luthier Mace Bailey, also formerly of Hoshino USA. Both were major players in the creation of the JEM. You'll even see Nick Sugimoto and plenty of new and old pics.

Whether or not you've ever owned a JEM, the video is a fascinating look back at the creation and evolution of a modern classic.

"It’s stunning to me that the JEM is celebrating 30 successful years of its life," Vai said. "It’s quite an honor for both myself and Ibanez. Who would have thunk that a dayglo skinned guitar with a hand holding monkey grip would have such legs! Still, to this day when I pick up my JEM, I feel that school boy excitement as my hands caress it and it speaks to me the resonating vocabulary of my inner secrets."

Be sure to check out the clip below. For more information on the new limited-edition JEM777, which is available in three eye-catching colors (see them all below), head in this general direction.

Bottom photo: Damian Fanelli

Damian Fanelli

Damian is editor-in-chief of Guitar World magazine. From 1998 to 2014, he was one third of Mister Neutron, an instrumental rock act that toured the universe and elsewhere and released three albums via Austin-based Deep Eddy Records. These days he performs with several New York City-area bands and can often be spotted with one of his many, many, many B-bender-equipped guitars. In past lives he was GW’s managing editor and online managing editor – and he still can’t believe he got to write the liner notes for the latest SRV box set.