Steve Vai has shared In the Wind, a never-before-heard track recorded in the ‘90s alongside singer Johnny “Gash” Sombrotto.
Quintessentially classic rock in style, the track was written by a 30-something-year-old Vai to encapsulate the freedom of biker culture, with a selection of powerchord-driven riffs aimed at soundtracking a jaunt on the open road with the roar of a Harley between one’s legs.
There’s an electric guitar solo from the 2:28 mark – it is Steve Vai, after all – though it’s markedly more subdued than much of the shred-heavy material than makes up Vai’s catalog, leaning mostly on staccato pre-bent notes, with a rapid pull-off-laden descend to round things off. Check it out below.
In the Wind is just the first of an entire album’s worth of previously unheard material recorded by Vai and Gash in the ‘90s as a soundtrack to biker culture. The LP is set to arrive in digital and CD formats in January 2023, with a vinyl edition to follow the following month.
“This record was written and recorded in somewhat of a stream of consciousness in 1991 within perhaps a two-week period as an answer to my desire to have a particular kind of music to listen to when I was riding my Harley-Davidson motorcycle with my friends,” the virtuoso explains.
“It’s reminiscent of a certain type of rock music I enjoyed as a teenager in the 1970s. These recordings sat on the shelf for over 30 years and are being released now in 2023.”
Vai continues: “I was overcome with a desire to rip out what I thought would be a straight-ahead type of rock record that contained the kind of music I wish I had to listen to when I was that teenager ensconced in the biker culture. And then I met Johnny ‘Gash’ Sombrotto.”
As the story goes, Vai met Sombrotto through a mutual friend, and the pair subsequently bonded over motorcycles and biker culture.
As the guitarist explains in the liner notes for the new album, Sombrotto suffered a serious accident at the age of 21 which left him with third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body. But after an arduous and excruciating recovery period, and with many permanent scars, Sombrotto got straight back on his motorcycle.
“I’ve observed many people interacting with him on our numerous motorcycle road trips and other adventures,” Vai says. “At first sight, many people could be taken by his bald head, scarred neck and burnt-off ear. Looking as he did and riding a Harley it was easy to assume he was perhaps a tough, menacing biker with a nefarious attitude, but after engaging with him for even a minute, his charm and magnetic charisma had them laughing in their shoes and completely enjoying his uplifting presence.”
Vai continues: “Something in me wanted to get him in the studio and see how he would belt over these biker-type songs I had demoed, but nothing could have prepared me for the voice that came out of his mouth… I was stunned.”
The guitarist adds that he and Sombrotto laid down eight songs together, but because he had started work on Sex & Religion (1993) around the same time, recording any more was impossible.
Tragically, several years after the Vai/Gash project was shelved, Vai received a call from Sombrotto’s girlfriend, informing him that Sombrotto had been killed in a bike accident.
“He would have absolutely been the greatest rock lead singer you would ever want to know,” Vai says. “All the elements were in place, but he was gone. Disheartened, 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 available to preorder now, and arrives in digital and CD formats on January 27, and on vinyl on February 24.