Filmmaker Alan Berry has released a nearly 80-minute documentary covering the life of world-class guitarist Steve Vai from 1960 to 1990. The film is available to watch now.
Steve Vai The Documentary: His First 30 Years (1960-1990) contains stories and anecdotes that even the most fervent Vai devotees will find illuminating. The film covers Vai’s life growing up, attending the famed Berklee College, playing with artists like Frank Zappa, Alcatrazz, the David Lee Roth Band, and Whitesnake, his solo albums, and more.
Vai previously commented on the film, stating: “Alan Berry (The Tapes Archive) is a filmmaker and has created an informative, quasi-animated, and at times hilarious short film on the first 30 years of my career!”
On Steve Vai’s official website, he has reprinted a story he tells regarding his work with Frank Zappa that was never printed by the music magazine he submitted it to. He writes, “It was the summer of 1978. I had just turned 18 years old and had sent some transcriptions to Frank Zappa. He responded by putting me on salary to transcribe tons of music, everything from lead sheets to orchestral scores. The bulk of the work was guitar solos, some with their accompanying drum parts. Frank played all the guitars and Vinnie Colaiuta was the drummer. These guys used to take it out to lunch, experimenting a lot with rhythms and odd phrases. My task was to transcribe the stuff the best way I thought possible.
“The tracks were recorded in several different manners. On some occasions, the band played together live. Sometimes FZ overdubbed his solos in the studio. One interesting thing that Frank did at times was to take a drum track from a certain time and place and then take a guitar solo from yet another time and place and lay them on top of each other. Frank released a book of some of these guitar solos and drum parts. It’s called The Frank Zappa Guitar Song Book”
“While transcribing the material, I was often confronted with situations that led me to reach into the intuitional areas of my imagination to come up with various notational devices and constructions that I had never seen before. I soon discovered that many contemporary composers were then (and are still) using these notations.”