Steve Vai is known mostly as a rock guitar virtuoso — a “stunt guitarist,” in his view — who’s logged highprofile time with Frank Zappa, Van Halen singer David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. But more recently, he’s focusing on composing as much as playing.
Vai’s latest release is “Sound Theories Vol. 1 &2,” a collaboration with the Holland Metropole Orkest on some of his own songs as well as new works written especially for the project. He says he’s received more offers for commissions from other orchestras, and Vai, who attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., is reveling in this latest turn his career is taking.
“The written language of music has always been fascinating for me, and I always wanted to understand it,” explains Vai, 47. “All my solo music is much more compositional and esoteric in nature than the rock/pop stuff I did in the ’80s, so I’m always looking for opportunities where I could play with the little black dots some more.
“It’s funny; I can compose a piece of music for the most accomplished piano player or harp player, even though I can’t play a Beatles song on the piano. The fundamentals of composing are relatively second nature, and they’re not hard to learn. It’s a very liberating way to create.”
Despite those ambitions, however, Vai promises that he hasn’t given up on the rock world.
“People who follow what I do know to expect, relatively, the unexpected,” he says. “My last two records, ‘Sound Theories’ and ‘Real Illusions,’ have been pretty dense and challenging. So I’m thinking that my next record will probably lighten it a bit and focus on something more accessible and simple.
“My idea of simple, that is.”
Steve Vai performs at 8 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 22) at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak. Tickets are $29.50 in advance, $32 day of show. Call (248) 399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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