Why Steve Vai’s new rhythm guitarist says he almost got fired on his first night

Dante Frisiello and Steve Vai onstage in Milan, Italy in 2023
(Image credit: Sergione Infuso - Corbis / Getty)

Steve Vai’s new rhythm guitarist Dante Frisiello reckons he almost got fired following his first appearance in the role, after he suffered a major signal outage at the worst possible moment.

If you’re not familiar with Frisiello, he has had the sort of playing journey many of us dream about. In the past few years, he’s gone from being a guitar-obsessed lawyer, trapped in a career he didn’t want, to teching for Steve Vai rhythm man Dave Wiener

Now, following Weiner’s decision to step down from the group last year, he’s been handed one of the most challenging roles in the business: as Vai’s go-to guitarist.

Frisiello posts regular updates on YouTube, and in his latest clip – the amusingly titled My first show with Steve Vai (I almost got fired) – he reflects on an eventful first gig.

The show at the Cultural Centre de Belem in Lisbon, Portugal on March 24 was the first night of the band’s European tour and things started off nicely, with a surprise appearance from Australian virtuoso Plini and his second guitarist Jake Howsam Lowe (who taught Frisiello for several years). However, a few less pleasant surprises were also in store.

“I started playing and everything was great,” recalls Frisiello “Then, when we got to my solo – right after Steve introduces me – I clicked the unmute button to start playing and there's just a huge noise and my rig went down!

“It was like the second I was supposed to start my solo, so I didn't know what to do. I just started laughing because I was like, ‘Oh my God I can't believe this is happening right now!’”

It’s every player’s nightmare at any gig, but not least in the first show in the band of your personal guitar hero – and a man who is notoriously fastidious about tone and preparation.

And to be fair to Frisiello, he had prepared – extensively. The band had a four-hour soundcheck beforehand and, of course, Frisiello now has his own tech, too. However, even with their combined talents, the guitarist notes the outage lasted a full two minutes.

“[Eventually] Steve’s like, ‘Oh well, we're gonna move on,’’ says Frisiello. “And then right when he says that, it comes back on!’’

Once up and running, Frisiello was able to quickly recover and launch into the solo, but he notes it wasn’t the night’s only mishap.

It was one of those gigs where, man, everything was going wrong

Dante Frisiello

“Two songs before that there's a song called Lights Are On, where Steve and I do a guitar duel – and I broke my high E string in the duel!” adds the guitarist. “So I had to finish the duel on my seven-string.”

This sort of thing would knock many players off their perch, but Frisiello is a relentlessly positive individual and his response is something of a masterclass in how to handle onstage mishaps. All of which explains why Vai kept faith in him.

“It was one of those gigs where, man, everything was going wrong,” laughs the guitarist. “The levels in my ears were a mess. Things were changing all night and it was a weird gig, but we had fun. It was a great crowd [in a] sold-out, huge venue, so it was great.

“Next up for me, I’m going to the gym and then I'm gonna sit down with my notebook and go over the set last night. [I’ll] write down all the mistakes I made and all the little things I want to improve, so I can attack tomorrow and warm up for the show tomorrow by going over those things.”

Personally, we’d have scheduled in two hours of eating Cheetohs and crying open-mouthed, but to each their own.

Frisiello’s boss certainly has no shortage of options when it comes to rhythm players, though. Just days ago, Steve Vai played a show with 7,968 guitarists, covering Hey Joe, in Wrocław, Poland.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.