NEW YORK Steve Vai has created a six-string empire with his own label, Favored Nations; an Ibanez guitar line; and a global solo career that garnered him three Grammy Awards. His new concept album, "The Story of Light," which is part two in a series, finds him at the top of his game.
Q: What was the best lesson you learned from your old boss, Frank Zappa?
A:. When I asked him if he had any advice for a young musician, he said, "Keep your publishing." Frank gave me the phone number to an attorney who has represented me for the past 30 years, setting me up with my own publishing company and international sub-publishers. It was some of the best business advice I ever got.
Q: You were known to be a shy kid. How did you become such a flamboyant performer?
A: I created, cultivated and envisioned in my mind's eye this performer onstage playing the guitar effortlessly, having great command over the stage and being this uplifting presence. You are allowed to do that in your imagination. I focused on it real hard, and I've learned that we become what we think about. But like anybody, I'm a work in progress.
Q: "Passion and Warfare" is your signature album. What is it about that record that people identify so closely with?
A: I felt that my career as a rock star was done, and I was OK with it. I made a record that was important to me without any thoughts of appeasing anybody. As a result, it's a very honest record. I was lucky that it caught a nerve, because an album like that was left of center at the time.
Q: Joe Satriani was once your teacher, and now he's your peer. What does he mean to you?
A: I will always feel like I'm the student in an odd sense, and I still look up to him. I can't imagine what my life would have been like if he wasn't in it.
Steve Vai will perform at 8 p.m. Sept. 2 at the Chameleon Club, Lancaster; and 7 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Palace Theatre, Greensburg. Visit www.chameleonclub.net or www.thepalacetheatre.org for more information.