David Lee Roth really liked & elected to use Steve Vai’s demoed guitar solos for the album ‘Skyscraper’
Former Whitesnake, Alcatrazz and David Lee Roth guitarist Steve Vai was recently interviewed by Eamon O’Neill for UK’s eonmusic. Vai was promoting an album that he has recently released under the moniker Vai/Gash but for which the songs date back to 1991.
With respect to the new Vai/Gash album, O’Neill noted to Vai that you would have to go back to David Lee Roth‘s debut full-length solo album Eat ‘Em And Smile  to hear the guitarist rocking out in such a stripped back manor with riffs, rhythm, and short solos. Vai replied: “Absolutely, and that’s what I was focused on. This record, it’s not about ‘Steve Vai the composer’; the widdly widdly guitar player, the creative that over-produces. I love all that stuff, but this was about; “you’re going to make a record that’s absolutely straight ahead; great melodies, high energy, feel good”. There’s no need. I’ve got oceans of records that have tonnes of overplay, tonnes of guitar playing and I feel okay saying that, but this record was not about any of that.
And I know that people didn’t think I had it in me to be that simple, but it’s great energy and the difference in this record, and something like Alcatrazz or Roth or Whitesnake, or, I mean, you mentioned ‘Knucklebones’; there’s a huge committee involved. Like, even with a song like ‘Knucklebones’; I didn’t write it, Greg [Bissonnette] came in with that. So, even songs I wrote, there’s a committee that has an involvement in it; “what is the band feel? The singer, where is he going to fit; it’s his band?!”,you know?! And what does the producer say; the producer is always saying; “now, here, listen; let’s try this”, and then you’ve got the record company that just says; “no, not that song”, and so many suggestions.”
Vai added: “I had a fight at times; not ‘fight’, but I had to argue hard for doubling a guitar part. So when I made the Gash record, it was a committee of one. Okay, I go into the studio, I locked the door, and I want to build a record. I say to myself, I say to the ‘committee’; “you’re going to make a record that has that rhythm guitar playing that you love”. A lot of these records you hear me doing the rhythm parts, and I’m going in and out of the vocals, and I throw in all these riffs and long solos and this kind of thing, and I said; “no”. I love that freedom of playing like that. When you listen to those rhythm tracks, that’s as Steve Vai as I can get. I’m not competing with anybody; I’m not trying to sound like something else. My rhythm playing, it’s loose, but it’s tight, but it’s free and it’s liquid, but it’s appropriate. It’s also musical. I have a musical ear, and I love those melodies in these songs, and I just loved the way the guitar just floats through the whole thing. That wouldn’t have happened with any other situation.”
O’Neill noted that Ted Templeman didn’t want any doubling on ‘Eat ‘Em And Smile’, but wondered whether that was the case even on ‘Skyscraper‘ (1988) where Vai was a producer. Vai indicated: “Not as much, obviously, but with ‘Skyscraper‘, Dave and I were just really forensic, because it was his first production outing, and he’s got great ears and all but we probably lacked being producers that made rock and roll records as a career. It’s different; Ted Templeman was just like; “alright, let’s go”, and he knew how to capture ‘something’, but Dave had been doing that for so long he wanted to navigate to something differently. And my guitar solos? Well, okay, for instance, I demoed all that ‘Skyscraper‘ stuff, and Dave liked the guitar solos so much that I had to use the demoed solos. I didn’t really want to, but the committee was involved. And it’s his band, you know, and I didn’t have a problem with that; it’s not like they sucked!”
You can read the rest of the interview with Steve Vai at eonmusic‘s website.
David Lee Roth‘s “Just Like Paradise” video: