First of all thank you very much for agreeing this interview…
S- Piacere e mio.
You’re on a very strict schedule this summer, divided by the Steve Vai & Evolution Tempo Orchestra tour, Master Classes and The Story of Light Tour 2013… where is your effort towards from here?
S- After the Evolution orchestra tour I kick off a rock band tour of Australia and New Zealand, from there I go to Jakarta, Shanghei China, Beigjing China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Bangkok. Then I’m home for two weeks editing and mixing the filming of the final Evolution Orchestra show from Bucharest, Then on 8/31 I kick off a rock band tour of Europe that is the continuation of “The Story of Light” tour.
We start in Belfast on Aug 31st and end in Reykjavik Iceland on Nov 11th. Then directly to the USA for shows from 10/6 to 11/23, then directly to South America and Mexico. Then home on Dec 21st for X-mas. Then out again in January 2014- March with the rock band performing in Africa, India, Dubai, Tel-Aviv, and Russia.
Then I’m going to sleep for a while.
Is there any chance we’ll get to see you in Rome again any time soon?
S- The shows I have scheduled for Italy are
1 – Firenze, Italy
2 – Modena, Italy
3 – Brescia, Italy
How does it feel to have the edge over almost each other musician? Do you ever feel the responsibility of being an icon?
S- I don’t usually think in terms of superiority. Most artists are very passionate about the work they do and it’s personal to them and a personal expression. There’s no superiority in that. I am tremendously grateful to be able to have the opportunity to create the music I make and that there is an audience for it.
The only responsibility I feel is to do my best to use the gifts that were given to me to me.
Everyone contributes to humanity in some kind of way and I don’t believe the Universe measures each persons worth by the same standards that humans measure each other.
Artists have various kinds of gifts of inspiration and insight and they work to bring those things into the world for the enjoyment of those who resonate with that artist.
One of the most beautiful and magnificent things that the Universe offers is diversity.
Once Andy Timmons wrote on FB “I love being the eternal student. Learning = Happy!!!”
Do you feel you’re an eternal student too? If so, what are you learning at the moment?
S- Yes, I believe we are all the eternal student and also the eternal teachers because whatever we do has some kind of effect in the world, even if it seems very insignificant.
From one moment to the next we are different people, never quite the same, and the only thing we ever really have is this very moment as that’s all there is. But there’s a lot going on at this moment.
How is your composing process? Are you chaotic, accurate or something in between when writing music?
S- It varies. I try not to put up any parameters. Inspiration can come in many ways and you just have to be ready to see it and capture it and turn it into something.
For me the best way I like to compose is to first sit and clear my head by meditating a bit on being still and silent and stopping my mind from thinking.
When you can slow down and even eliminate the thinking process there is a pure awareness that can arise and that awareness is the only place where true inspiration comes from.
So I may start to put forth feelings of my desire for a unique idea, and then give the space that is needed for the inspiration of the idea to come.
I believe this is the way everyone does it to some extent. When the inspiration comes we are in a state of pure focus. There is no time, space, or thoughts of the future or past. It’s just present moment inspiration. That’s when something new, fresh and unique can come. Otherwise we are using our intellects and mind to create things that are for the most part, calculations and intellectualizations of already existing ideas.
How have you decided you would be a guitarist in the first place? Would you describe the path you’ve walked through to be as good as you are?
S- The first time I remember seeing someone play the guitar I was 4 years old and a little boy, who was perhaps 7. Was playing an electric guitar at my school. I had an epiphany and immediately fell madly in love with the guitar. But I didn’t decide to actually start playing the guitar until I was 12 and I heard Led Zeppelin.
I believe the path we all walk through is the one and only perfect path that we can walk through. My feeling is that everything is perfect and all the events that come into our life, even the tiny seemingly insignificant ones, are all orchestrated by the Universe to bring us what we need at any given present moment to learn and grow and eventually bring us to a point where we turn our attention into ourselves to discover that who and what we really are is pure consciousness. So even though from our extremely limited point of view right now, everything is actually perfect. I also believe that there is about 10% of the people in the world that understand this but perhaps only .5% that actually know it as experiential.
This makes sense to me on an intellectual level and I get glimpses of the experiential part of it but I do not claim to be in that .5% of people.
Cats, birds, lions, horses… and also aliens, human voices, child’s screams… it seems like your music is much driven by onomatopoeia… does it come from a solid education in classical music or is it a kind of a natural inclination?
S- All the sounds, notes etc. are just what I hear in my head at the moment I’m putting it together. It’s fun and creative.
Is there any room for improvisation while you’re on stage?
S- Yes, I would say that probably 20-30% or so of the show is improv moments.
What was your first impression while listening to Mike Keneally covering your songs on a piano? May we attend a ‘Piano Reductions vol.2’?
S- I knew he would do a great job but when I heard his interpretations I was amazed and touched. When an artist creates their work there is usually little moments that are true little expressions of their unique voice and sometimes those little moments may remain a secret with the artist.
For instance, there are little moments in my songs that seem exquisite to me but I always feel that perhaps they are not perceived as being so special by anyone else, but when I heard Mike doing my songs on the piano, it seemed as though he was able to hone directly in on those little moments that are so special to me and exaggerate them and give them a special space with his fingers and imagination.
He is truly an inspired and brilliant artist and I feel very lucky that he did that record.
Internet is giving exposure to a huge amount of high skilled guitar players… do you think musicians are more or less creative comparing to the past? Eventually, do you find a disproportion between the technical skills and creativity?
S- I really don’t know but as far as my perception, it seems that artists, guitar players, etc. are equally inspired these days and maybe even more than the past but the tools they are using are different. On a pure technical level I see guitar players who can play in ways that were completely off the radar of what we thought was possible when I was a young man. It’s very exciting to see this evolution.
There is always a disproportion of technical skills and pure creativity. Technical skills are easier to identify with and acquire than pure inspiration. Attaining technical skills is an intellectual process but attaining inspirational skills has more to do with coming into contact with our spiritual nature. But you need them both in order to create in the world. Any kind of imbalance can make the final product not have it’s full potential of being effective.
I’ve always worked at finding that balance and sometimes I go more in one direction than the other but my best stuff, for me at least, is usually when I can strike that perfect balance of intense inspiration coupled with effortless and pure technique. It’s all good.
But it’s important to point out that one side of the fence is not better than the other. Whatever you create will attract a particular type of audience. If you are purely a technical player then you will attract an audience that is stimulated by technical mastery and if you are purely an emotional player then you will attract an audience that is usually very sensitive to the emotional expression in art. But there is no wrong way to do it. Whatever you do is right because you did it and it’s part of the expression of who you are at that particular moment.
Most people feel music needs to be purely emotional and then it’s good. Well, that may not be the case for everyone and since music is art it’s subjective to the person who is creating or experiencing it and you will never get everyone on the planet to agree that there is one form of music that is superior. I know people who don’t like the Beatles.
Is there any change, according to you, that the global economic crisis we’re dealing with may cause, interestingly, a creative side effect on making music?
S- The global economics of the planet comes in expansion and contractions just like everything else in the universe. The way we breath, the beating of our hearts, the birth and death of the physical appearance of consciousness, the night and day, a thought or idea, an action etc. This process is how the Universe expands itself and becomes aware of itself and then returns to itself in order to continue to grow.
If you look through the pages of history you will see that the evolution of economics is based on the same principal. From World War 1 came a particular type of evolution of freedom. Same thing with WW2. Wherever there is ego and repression there will eventually be conflict and out of that conflict will eventually come some kind of growth of consciousness and freedom. It doesn’t come over night but is happening at all times in the Now.
I’m not a political expert but it seems to me that when the USA entered into the Vietnamese war there was a pride that was instilled in the American people to go to war. Wars are raged by selfish people who are trapped in their ego, and when the reality of the loss and senselessness of that war started to sink into the American people, there was a rebellion in the USA from the people who wanted peace and quality of life. This resulted in a new kind of evolution of consciousness. You could see it in the “Hippie Movement”.
This shift in the consciousness of people eventually shows itself in the economy, art, technical advancements and myriad forms.
A similar thing happened after the Bush Administration. When Clinton left office the USA was in a financial surplus of trillions of dollars. It seems to me and perhaps a lot of other people, and remember I’m not an expert, the actions of the Bush administration, going to war for no real good reason, plunged the United States into a tremendous deficit of trillions of dollars. This had a ripple effect around the world and caused a world wide economic depression.
Many historians predicted that the 3rd world war world be fought with atomic weapons but in reality it’s more of an economic world war.
But from this, in the USA, there is now arising a new kind of awareness of the importance of the quality of life. And this is also taking place around the world. It was reflected when the USA elected Obama for president and also his easily won re-election.
I see this new awareness in my children. They think differently than we did. They see a different kind of connectedness to the world. They have the internet at their fingertips and that has changes everything.
So Economics, along with art, science, politics etc. needs to expand and contract. It’s the way of the Universe but we are constantly in a growth cycle even though it may not look like it at times. And all of this shows itself in the way we express ourselves in the arts.
Each musician find it very hard to deal with the music business nowadays… do you think talented artists can still find their place in it (or those days when music was the focus are gone for good)?
S- I think that now, more than any other time in history, is the best time for an independent artist to find their way in the industry. But it’s all based on the attitude and perspective of the artist. No great artist or scientist or sports figure etc. has ever made great contributions by expecting someone else to do it for them or by having a bad attitude.
For me the music business has always been a great industry filled with creative people and amazing opportunity. For most of my career the people who have surrounding me have shown their best side.
Different things in the music business will always be the focus. Every now and then an artist comes along and has an original unique and beautiful idea that can create a whole genre or trend. And now there are more tools at an artist’s hand to create, cultivate and mature their careers.
The way to communicate with other musicians around the world, the way to find and be inspired by some of the new things people are doing, the way they can collaborate, the way they can record and market their music etc. it’s all easier now then what it used to be. But it will always be impossible for those artists who have a bad attitude about it.
Have you ever thought about writing a book about music, handling it as an art form, like many famous painters did? (Kandinsky, Dalì, Klee, Mondrian and Rothko… just to name a few)
S- Yes, but it’s not the right time now.
Is there any artist you really appreciate, aside from music, and why?
S- There are many. I have been studying Eckhart Tolle a lot. He’s not necessarily an artist but his words are of the most inspiring to me.
They say there’s always a great woman behind a great man… how much is your wife involved in your music and career?
S- I am very fortunate to have had a woman like Pia in my life since I was 18 years old. She is much smarter, wiser, cultured and clever than me. She is a clear and wonderful critic of my work and has always been supportive.
Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans that I didn’t ask?
S- Italians make for one of the best audiences!
I’d really like to thank you so much for taking the time out to answer our questions…