Steve Vai says David Lee Roth’s retirement is well earned and will be forever grateful for making him “famous almost overnight”.
Q: With [David Lee Roth’s] final dates originally scheduled for January, was there a chance you’d have shown up, even just to see the show?
A: Well, I was scheduled to be in rehearsals, but, yeah, I know that those were announced to be his last shows, and you know what, god bless him. David Lee Roth came, and he delivered, in a big way for all of us, and might I add, he changed the whole scene, in the world of ’80s rock, and rock in general. I mean, he played the part; and was a bona fide rock star, and we loved it. I know for me, it was amazing because I got to be a part of that whole craziness, and it was so much fun. It made me famous almost overnight, so it was great. So, I’m very happy for him. I’m happy because your voice is not like your fingers; it changes, and it’s hard for singers. I think unless you’re Tony Bennet who’s just a miracle, or Tom Jones; I went to see that guy who’s 80 years old, even older, and he kicked everybody’s ass! It was amazing, really, the way this guy sang.
Q: When was the last time you played ‘Goin’ Crazy!’ on guitar? If someone said to you that you had to play it tonight, could you?
A: I don’t know, let me see [picks up guitar]. I haven’t played it in decades! I forget what key it’s in [Starts playing riff]. Yeah, I can do it. How did it go now? [feels his way through the verse section] Oh, that’s right… something like that. But that was the first time I’ve played it in, I don’t know, thirty-five years?!
Vai also offered up an interesting piece of history regarding Roth’s 1988 song “Damn Good” from his second full-length solo album Skyscraper. He revealed the backstory while commenting on the song “Sisters” from his 1990 solo album Passion and Warfare.
Q: You mentioned your acoustic playing earlier, and I wanted to touch on ‘Sisters’, which is one of the most beautiful tracks you’ve ever written.
A: ‘Sisters’, I wrote that when I was in high school, and I played it through college, and I played it before I made [debut solo album] ‘Flex-Able’ , but I always felt one day I’d love to record it. I felt that way, and I have a friend that – this was back when we were 20 years old – I had performed it at a little show I was doing, and she was weeping. Some people resonate with music a particular way — I’m not going to make everybody weep — but she says; “every time I hear that song, it just does something to me”, and I thought; “hmmm, well it does something to me too. There’s a beautiful little energy in it”.
Q: Do you remember recording it?
A: When it came time to record ‘Passion and Warfare’ — this is maybe an interesting story — so I’m 25 or 26, and ‘Passion and Warfare’ is back here [in the back of my head] and it’s just going “let me out! Let me out!”, and I started recording it even when I was with all these other bands. It [the album] was a little secret. I didn’t expect that record to sell, I didn’t expect anything; I just wanted to make it. And when it came time to fill the slot on the record where I wanted a piece like ‘Sisters’, I almost thought — and this was a big education for me – I used to think that it had to be technically dazzling in order to be interesting, or in order for it to be engaging. Now, that is true, there is a certain engagement that we have with fascinating looking things performed, and I love that, I love to be able to play fascinatingly, but have it be accessible, musically. There’s nothing fascinating about the performance of ‘Sisters’; it’s very simple, right? So, I was going back and forth in my mind; “well this is very simple; are people going to like it?!” That’s kind of where I was at back then, but I loved it so much that I just said; “I’m just going to record this piece. I really want to do it. People might not get it; it might be a song they skip over”, and boy, was I wrong!?
Q: It’s reminiscent of ‘Damn Good’ form David Lee Roth’s ‘Skyscraper’  album, with those sliding nuances and harmonics.
A: You can kind of hear it, yeah. To be honest, ‘Damn Good’ was originally called ‘Scandinavian Air Solo’. That’s what I called It when I wrote it, and that was scheduled for ‘Passion and Warfare’, but since we did ‘Damn Good’, I didn’t do it for ‘Passion and Warfare’.
Listen To David Lee Roth’s “Damn Good”
Watch Steve Vai’s “Little Pretty” From His Latest Album Inviolate
Read Steve Vai’s entire interview with eonmusic HERE.
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