Singapore's strict laws rock for Steve Vai

Singapore's strict laws rock for Steve Vai
American rock guitarist Steve Vai.

Many rock stars decry restrictions. But not American electric guitar virtuoso Steve Vai, who has fond memories of Singapore because its strict laws have made it the only place where he can do his pre-dawn jogs without worry.

"Yeah, I remember very vividly," he says of his visits here for gigs in 1997 at Hard Rock Cafe and in 2004 at Suntec City Convention Hall.

"One of the things I remember best is how strict a lot of the laws were. I have to tell you I really found great value in that. For people who live in Singapore and don't really know what goes on in the rest of the world, there's a certain, great freedom in Singapore because it's so strict.

"For instance, I like to go out jogging, so I said, 'I'm going to go out for a jog', and it was 4 o'clock in the morning. I said, 'Where should I not go where it might be dangerous?' And I was told, 'You can go anywhere you want, there's no crime.' The streets are very clean, the shops are very tidy and in order and everybody is nice and there's just a comfort there that I get."

The 53-year-old three-time Grammy winner will be back to perform at The Star Theatre on Friday, in support of his most recent album, The Story Of Light, released in 2012.

One of the most celebrated names in the rock guitar scene in the last three decades, Vai has made his name through both his solo works as well as being a lead guitarist to a who's who list of rock idols.

Trained from the age of 12 by fellow electric guitar luminary Joe Satriani, he found fame in his late teens as a guitarist for jazz/rock/classical icon Frank Zappa and later became guitarist of choice for rock veterans David Lee Roth and Whitesnake.

His 15-million-selling solo discography comprises 16 releases that include studio as well as live albums, including his second studio album, Passion And Warfare, heralded by music website Allmusic as "arguably the richest and best hard rock guitarvirtuoso album of the 1980s".

Despite all his musical achievements on the guitar, he says that there is still a lot more for him to discover on the instrument.

"I think if you put limitations on the guitar, it's almost like looking out at the sky and putting limitations on the depth of the universe. It's an infinite instrument and I believe it's going to develop and continue to develop," says Vai, who is married to bassist Pia Maiocco, with whom he has two sons, aged 25 and 22.

Work on his next album will start after he finishes his current world tour in the later part of this year. At the same time, he is juggling several projects that include his own smartphone app which allow fans to do virtual tours of his gigs and studio, a new compilation album and a live DVD/CD of the current tour.

While he is aware that a lot of budding guitarists look up to him as an inspiration, Vai cautions against apeing his unique style of playing because copying constrains creativity.

"We become very short-sighted because we are stuck on things that already happened, like Jimi Hendrix or whoever it is that's a great player. We look at them, they inspire us and we try to play like them. But every so often, not often at all, somebody comes along who either feels like he doesn't want to play like that or completely has his own unique vision and he reinvents the instrument."

He himself tries to push the boundaries further.

"Through the years, my primary focus as a musician and an artist is to deepen my consciousness on the instrument."


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