Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-747cfc64b6-zmlw7 Total loading time: 0.25 Render date: 2021-06-13T06:09:15.635Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true }

‘Freak Show Excess’: Steve Vai and his self-presentation in the media

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 May 2021

Andrei Sora
Affiliation:
Independent researcher
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

This article attempts to uncover the complex relationship between musical expression, artist discourse and personae, by focusing on the way virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai presents himself and his music in the media. I analyse video and print interviews that span the three decades of Vai's career to trace patterns and contradictions in his views on his music and artistry. This is not to assume intentionality, but rather to ask what sort of gap there is between how Vai sees himself and presents himself as a musician, and whether he sees music as self-expressive, or as involving a constructed persona.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

Ahlers, M. 2019. ‘“Kollegah the Boss”: a case study of persona, types of capital, and virtuosity in German gangsta rap’, Popular Music, 38/3, pp. 457–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Atkinson, P. 2006. Everyday Arias: An Operatic Ethnography (Lanham, MD, AltaMira Press)Google Scholar
Auslander, P. 2009. ‘Musical persona: the physical performance of popular music’, in The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Musicology, ed. Scott, D.B. (Farnham, Ashgate)Google Scholar
Barthes, R., and Heath, S. 1977. Image, Music, Text (New York, Hill and Wang)Google Scholar
Clarke, E.F. 2005. Ways of Listening: An Ecological Approach to the Perception of Musical Meaning (Oxford, Oxford University Press)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cochrane, T. 2010. ‘Using the persona to express complex emotions in music’, Music Analysis, 29, pp. 264–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cone, E.T. 1974. The Composer's Voice (Berkeley, CA, University of California Press)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dyer, R. and McDonald, P. 1998. Stars (London, BFI)Google Scholar
Formilan, G. and Stark, D. 2020. ‘Underground testing: Name-altering practices as probes in electronic music’, The British Journal of Sociology, 71/3, pp. 572–89CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Frith, S. 1981. Sound Effects: Youth, Leisure, and the Politics of Rock'n'roll (New York, Pantheon Books)Google Scholar
Frith, S. 1998. Performing Rites: Evaluating Popular Music (Oxford, Oxford University Press)Google Scholar
Frith, S. and Zagorski-Thomas, S. 2012. The Art of Record Production: An Introductory Reader for a New Academic Field (Farnham, Ashgate)Google Scholar
Harries, D.M. 2009. ‘Camping with Lady Divine: Star Persona and Parody’, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 12, pp. 13–22Google Scholar
Laing, D. 1975. One Chord Wonders: Power and Meaning in Punk Rock (Milton Keynes, Open University Press)Google Scholar
Löbert, A. 2008. ‘Cliff Richard's self-presentation as a redeemer’, Popular Music, 27/1, pp. 7797CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marshall, P.D. 2014. ‘Persona studies: mapping the proliferation of the public self’, Journalism, 15/2, pp. 153–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moore, A.F. 2012. Song Means: Analysing and Interpreting Recorded Popular Song (Farnham, Ashgate)Google Scholar
Neal, J. 2018. ‘The twang factor in country music’, in The Relentless Pursuit of Tone: Timbre in Popular Music, ed. Fink, R., Latour, M. and Wallmark, Z. (Oxford, Oxford University Press), pp. 4364Google Scholar
Robinson, J. 2005. Deeper Than Reason: Emotion and Its Role in Literature, Music, and Art (Oxford, Clarendon Press)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Samples, M. 2018. ‘Timbre and legal likeness: the case of Tom Waits’, in The Relentless Pursuit of Tone: Timbre in Popular Music, ed. Fink, R., Latour, M., and Wallmark, Z. (Oxford, Oxford University Press), pp. 119–40Google Scholar
Sora, A. 2019. ‘Carpenter Brut and the instrumental synthwave persona’, in On Popular Music and Its Unruly Entanglements. Pop Music, Culture and Identity, ed. Braae, N. and Hansen, K. (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan), pp. 143–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tagg, P. 1999. ‘Introductory notes to the semiotics of music’. www.tagg.org. http://www.tagg.org/xpdfs/semiotug.pdf (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 1989. ‘Martian love secrets’. Vai.com. https://www.vai.com/martian-love-secrets/ (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2005a. ‘K'm-Pee-Du-Wee’. Vai.com. https://www.vai.com/minisites/realillusions/04kmpeeduwee.html (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2005b. ‘Freak show excess’. Vai.com. https://www.vai.com/minisites/realillusions/06freakshow.html (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2005c. ‘Midway creatures’. Vai.com. https://www.vai.com/minisites/realillusions/09midwaycreatures.html (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2008. ‘Steve Vai – passion and warfare interview 1990’. YouTube.com. SteveVaiHimself channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjARr7UlvMs (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2009a. ‘Private Gear Tour: Steve Vai’. YouTube.com. Guitar World channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b58Xil8RfRY (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2009b. ‘Alien Guitar Secrets Tour – Steve Vai interview’. YouTube.com. accordoTV channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjGMDXBh854 (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2009c. ‘Steve Vai interview at LIMS 2009’. YouTube.com MusicRadar channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QU604f4vVl0 (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2009d. ‘Steve Vai – Australian interview (1990)’. YouTube.com. steevi72 channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FahSOvlPTp8 (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2010a. ‘Newest Steve Vai interview’. YouTube.com. Eugene Bakman channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AM6M6LVtYBs (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2010b. ‘Steve Vai interviewed by Justin Sandercoe (Guitar Lesson MA-005) How to play’. YouTube.com. JustinGuitar channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5Pn4LMJ9ZM (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2010c. ‘Steve Vai, a man and his guitars: at Guitar Center’. YouTube.com. Guitar Center channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Igs_TFC5LHA (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2010d. ‘Steve speaks’. Vai.com. https://www.vai.com/steve-speaks/ (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2011a. ‘Steve Vai – Ultra Zone Tour – interview (2/3)’. YouTube.com. Pavle Paunovic channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJTrFeoVgOM (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2011b. ‘Steve Vai interview on Guitar Gods and Masterpieces (TV Show)’. YouTube.com. guitargodstv channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAFOvma1GxM (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012a. ‘Interview with Steve Vai – the story of light’. Guitar-muse.com. https://www.guitar-muse.com/interview-with-steve-vai-the-story-of-light-5072 (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012b. ‘Steve Vai discusses new album ‘The Story of Light’ + working with David Lee Roth’. Ultimateclassicrock.com. https://ultimateclassicrock.com/steve-vai-the-story-of-light-david-lee-roth/ (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012c. ‘Steve Vai – interview @Linea Rock’. YouTube.com. Linearock channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZGsSwLJt-Y (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012d. ‘Steve Vai demo's Ibanez Jem 7 BSB/interview Guitarist Mag UK 1996’ YouTube.com. Loz J Lambert channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXrijKqxrQ4 (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012e. ‘Steve Vai interview – The Story of Light’. YouTube.com. MaytheROCK bewithyou channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=−F1I2AcwC9w (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012f. ‘Steve Vai interview (part 1)’. YouTube.com. FaceCulture channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHLh02ZVLkg (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012g. ‘Steve Vai interview 1990’. YouTube.com. MateoAcosta1993 channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjARr7UlvMs (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012h. ‘Steve Vai LIVE interview from The Grove’. YouTube.com. AXS TV channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31f36KC3Gb8 (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012i. ‘Steve Vai on how Frank Zappa changed his life, playing Jimi Hendrix's Woodstock guitar (EXCLUSIVE)’. Noisecreep.com. https://noisecreep.com/steve-vai-frank-zappa/ (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2012j. ‘Rig rundown: Steve Vai’. YouTube.com. Premier Guitar channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raxhgWqS2eU (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2013a. ‘Interview with Steve Vai on InfoMusic.ro’. Infomusic.ro. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ne9ojnKeM68 (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2013b. ‘Steve Vai interview 1993 – emerging as a solo artist’. YouTube.com. futsal1958 Channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBo0_vbimLk (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2013c. ‘Steve Vai interview (2013 History of Light tour)’. YouTube.com. kamelmat channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmzpnnWCwhw (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2013d. ‘The Zloz Hour – Steve Vai’. YouTube.com. ZlozHour channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRvMntYkAOg (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2014a. ‘Perfect pedal order with Steve Vai’. YouTube.com. Musician's Friend channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djA3ZG3dHj0 (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2014b. ‘Steve Vai addresses Brotherhood of the Guitar members’. YouTube.com. nikonrocker channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hsv03rsB0k (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2015a. ‘Steve Vai interview Part 1 | MI Conversation Series’. YouTube.com. Musicians Institute channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzwtv1Y7yCs (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2015b. ‘Interview: Steve Vai – make weird music’. YouTube.com. Make Weird Music channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwTBhKy2A98 (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2015c. ‘Live chat with Steve Vai – new DVD – Stillness in Motion: Vai Live in L.A.’ YouTube.com. SteveVaiHimself channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m16VOVwclqU (accessed 9 October 2020.Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2015d. ‘R7 entrevista Steve Vai, um dos maiores guitarristas da história’. YouTube.com. R7 channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_WwjNoPKiM (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. 2016. ‘Ernie Ball: Steve Vai Q&A | Live from NAMM 2016’. YouTube.com. Ernie Ball channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Od-Z4xUH2Ig (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Vai, S. n.d. ‘Steve Vai talks to Michael Mesker about the guitar, recording, inspiration and the biz’. Jemsite.com. http://www.jemsite.com/etc/interviews/sm_9807.htm (accessed 9 October 2020)Google Scholar
Walser, R. 1993. Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Hanover, NH, University Press of New England)Google Scholar
Waugh, M. 2017. ‘“My laptop is an extension of my memory and self”: post-Internet identity, virtual intimacy and digital queering in online popular music’, Popular Music, 36/2, pp. 233–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wimsatt, W.K. and Beardsley, M. 1954. ‘The intentional fallacy’, in The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry, ed. Wimsatt, B. (Lexington, KY, The University Press of Kentucky), pp. 320Google Scholar
Zak, A. 2001. The Poetics of Rock: Cutting Tracks, Making Records (Berkeley, CA, University of California Press)Google Scholar
Genesis, ‘Dodo/Lurker’, Abacab. Atlantic, B000091DXY. 1981Google Scholar
Satriani, Joe, Johnson, Eric and Vai, Steve. G3: Live in Concert. B000002BT9. 1997Google Scholar
Vai, Steve, Modern Primitive. Sony Legacy, B01FFUNLSC. 2016Google Scholar
Vai, Steve, ‘So Happy’, Flex-Able. Favored Nations, B00007KK8C. 1984Google Scholar
Vai, Steve, ‘For the Love of God’, Passion and Warfare. Sony, B000025I5U. 1990Google Scholar
Vai, Steve, ‘The Audience is Listening’, Passion and Warfare. Sony, B000025I5U. 1990Google Scholar
Vai, Steve, ‘Building the Church’, Real Illusions: Reflections. Epic, B0007IK55A. 2005Google Scholar
Vai, Steve, ‘Freak Show Excess’, Real Illusions: Reflections. Epic, B0007IK55A. 2005Google Scholar
Vai, Steve, ‘Yai-Yai’, Real Illusions: Reflections. Epic, B0007IK55A. 2005Google Scholar
Vai, Steve and the Metropole Orchestra, ‘I'm Becoming’, Sound Theories: Vol. I and II. Sony, B000QFCCV4. 2007Google Scholar

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

‘Freak Show Excess’: Steve Vai and his self-presentation in the media
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

‘Freak Show Excess’: Steve Vai and his self-presentation in the media
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

‘Freak Show Excess’: Steve Vai and his self-presentation in the media
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *