I guess the thought that I was putting one over on people who usually treated me like I’d just barged in on a make-out session was somehow cathartic
Even back in 1986, when Vai was first getting attention for his new gig with David Lee Roth and his appearance in the blues fable Crossroads, his unfettered creativity and uncanny fluidity was in clear evidence.
When I was 17, I worked at the Wirthlin Group in Orem, Utah, as a telephone surveyor. A bunch of bored-out-of-our-mind teens and I sat at computers that automatically called numbers all over the country, and when someone picked up the line we recited a script that typically sent people into a profanity-riddled rage and/or made them slam the receiver down.
Hi, this is ___________ with the Wirthlin Group. Today we’re conducting a short survey on ___________________, and we were wondering if you could answer a few questions … .
One of the few ways I found to combat boredom at “the Worthless Group”—other than chatting about Zeppelin and Stevie Ray Vaughan with my pals Loa and Lupe between calls—was to use pseudonyms during that opening script. Don’t ask me why that made a difference to my summer-job doldrums, but it did. I guess the thought that I was putting one over on people who usually treated me like I’d just barged in on a make-out session was somehow cathartic— a subtle “Oh yeah, you think I annoy you? Well I just lied to your face!”
Yes, 17 is a mature age.
I was pretty deep in my shred phase at the time, so my main go-to persona was “Steve Vai.” I think I settled on being Vai as much for my guitar-nerdness as for the fact that I thought it sounded believable— Steve is an all-American and totally mundane-sounding name. It didn’t dawn on me at the time that people probably thought the teen voice on the other end was a prankster calling himself “Steve Eye.” That would explain a lot of the swearing and hang-ups.
The only time someone caught on to my ruse, though, it actually almost worked out in my favor and netted me a respondent.
Hi, this is Steve Vai with the Wirthlin Group … we were wondering if you could answer a few questions …
Steve Vai, huh? Can I have some guitar lessons?
[Nervous laughter on my end.]
Uh, sure—if you take the survey.
Alas, the bastard was too young to answer whatever lame-ass questions I was going on about anyway.
The man gracing our cover this month got a kick out of this story years later when I shared it with him during an interview. I was out of my shred-centric phase by then, but one thing has always stuck with me about the dude who wowed me back in 1986 as Satan’s axe slinger in Crossroads: As proven by his live performances and the unflappable singularity of his recorded music, few players in any genre have a relationship with their instrument that’s as seamlessly symbiotic as Vai’s.
Back in 1996, a few years after I’d moved on from idolizing Vai to a multi-year phase during which I worshipped at the altar of Eric Johnson, I purchased the G3 Live in Concert [cringe] VHS tape of the first G3 tour, which featured tour founder Joe Satriani, Vai, and Johnson. Though I still had tons of respect for Satriani and Vai, I bought the tape for EJ. But I’ll never forget how, after watching the whole thing through, what struck me more than anything was how Vai was one with his guitar—they were like a single organism. I was reminded of that again when I watched 2009’s Where the Wild Things Are DVD in preparation for our interview. The guy and his Ibanez Jems are the freaking Penn & Teller of guitardom!
Regardless of how you feel about Vai’s genre, tones, former bosses, etc., I think that oneness with your art and medium is something we should all aspire to. It’s not about chops or gear or trends. It’s about knowing who you are and what you want as a musician, and then sticking to your vision and your artistic aesthetic no matter what anyone outside your creative circle thinks.
Our interview with Mr. Vai this month provides plenty of evidence of his musical steadfastness, but we’ve got a lot more where that came from. When you’re done here, click to premierguitar.com to watch two exclusive PG videos that give you an unprecedented look at what makes him tick. One is an in-depth Rig Rundown detailing the setup he’s taking on tour in support of The Story of Light this year, and the other is an engrossing, behind-the-scenes peek at his Harmony Hut studio—which is stocked to the rafters with something like 263 incredible guitars, a $120k set of monitors, and tons of high-end vintage recording gear.
See you online!Shawn Hammond
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.