Hear Steve Vai channel his biker-rock side on newly-released track, Busted

Steve Vai performs onstage at the Guitar Legends Expo in 1991
(Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns)

Last month, Steve Vai announced the release of Vai/Gash, an album he recorded in 1991 with his friend, the late Johnny “Gash” Sombrotto.

Featuring Vai on electric guitar and Sombrotto on vocals, Vai/Gash is an homage to the brawny, riff-heavy '70s biker rock both musicians grew up listening to – and is a stark departure from Vai's more cosmic and technical solo work.

With the announcement of the album came the release of its first single, In the Wind. Today, we've been given another preview of the album in the form of its second track, Busted. You can take it for a spin below.

Busted's one fun ride, with Vai barreling his way through the song's central riff with a devil-may-care, Keith Richards-like attitude. Overall, with its unpredictable lead squeals and breakneck boogie tempo, there's more than a little Eddie Van Halen energy in Busted – not that that's a bad thing, of course.

"Busted," Vai said in a press release, "is basically about the incessant and nefarious activities of a corrupt and skanky mistress against her biker boyfriend. But she got 'busted.' The entire track was recorded in one day and Gash slammed the vocal out in 2 takes.”  

Vai/Gash first came about in 1990, when Vai says he was "overcome" by the desire to make a straight-ahead rock record, an idea that became a reality after he befriended Sombrotto, a Queens native who shared the guitar hero's love of Harleys and '70s classic rock.

Sombrotto was involved in a horrific motorcycle crash in 1977, which left him with a partial left ear and layers of skin grafts over his neck, arms, legs, and entire chest. Once he had recovered sufficiently to get back on his bike, though, Sombrotto relocated to Los Angeles, where he eventually met Vai through a mutual friend.

"Something in me wanted to get him in the studio and see how he would belt over these biker type songs I had demoed," Vai said in a press release last month, "but nothing could have prepared me for the voice that came out of his mouth. I had to think, of course he sounds like that because that’s him – confident, authentic, fearless but with a light-hearted intention. This was the voice I wanted to hear wailing over these slamming rock tracks. I was stunned."

At the same time though, Vai had also begun work on what would become his 1993 album, Sex & Religion, and soon became preoccupied with it. Though Vai wanted over the years to add on to the eight tracks he recorded with the vocalist in 1991, hopes of completing the project were dashed when Sombrotto was tragically killed in another motorcycle accident, in 1998. 

"Disheartened," Vai explained, "I put the entire project on the shelf, and would listen to it at least once a year for the past 30 years, especially around the anniversary of his passing. Then recently something compelled me to want to put it out now. 

"I wish you would have had a chance to get to know John. I believe you would have loved him just as we all did. For now, he is In the Wind."

Vai/Gash is set for release digitally and on CD on January 27, and on vinyl on February 24, via Favored Nations/Mascot Label Group.

To preorder the album, visit Vai's website.

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.