The meet was over a month ago now, and I hope I don't misrepresent anything that Steve said in my comments below. I have read so many Vai interviews before and since that what he said to me may get confused with other stuff I have read...But I think it's all accurate!
Steve was really happy to talk about FZ
He remarked on FZ's ability to 'see through' people and determine if they were full of shit or not. He said he was always totally honest and bullshit-free himself (FZ, that is), to the point of bluntness-no surprises there!
We talked briefly about the transcriptions phase, and the performing phase-Vai explained how it was a full-time job learning all the music, but he was keen to do it. he could have been given a score a rooms-width wide and he wouldn't have been phased. With persistence, he would get to where he needed to be , performance wise. This was one of the most illuminating bits for me, because I struggle with the technical struggles of playing difficult guitar music;Steve's advice was to keep at it. Gradually you will get quicker, so long as you focus on accuracy of performance. Eventually, the penny will drop, and performance gains will happen. (I have seen this advice quoted many times in interviews), but hearing it from 'Steve himself' it made a big impression.In the month since the meet I have been following this advice to some effect.
Vai was touring the Sex and Religion album in the months prior to FZ's passing (I was at Hammersmith on 24/11/93). Steve lamented the fact that there was a plan for them to do a live project together, but SV's schedule made it impossible to get together until it was too late-FZ's ultimate demise came around quicker then expected. On his way back from Europe Steve visitted his parents for a night-while there he got the phone call from GZ...
I showed Steve my Yellow Shark motif tattoo. He remembered the YS with affection-I think he was present at one or two shows.
He signed my FZ Guitar Book-looking at the picture on the inside his (lovely, helpful) assistant commented that she could see Fire in his eyes (duh! Briefly forgot one of his sons is called Fire!).
He also signed my DNA CoA ( and did a cool doodle-now framed!)and Vai Jewel Box secret cd.
We talked about his guitar work as a solo artist, and as a sideman.
I have always been intrigued by his work on the PiL 'album', particularly on the track 'Ease' which has the wildest solo I can remember. I asked him whether he mapped out the solo beforehand, or whether he just playeed with wild abandon, which is what it sounds like (Listen to it-it's fucking amazing!).
He said that Bill Laswell, the producer just stuck him in a room (with no prior knowledge of the track), with the tape rolling and said 'Play!' When the song finished Laswell turned off the tape, and wouldn't even let Steve listen to the result.
For out and out improv this is the best solo I have ever heard.
Vai said the whole album was recorded in two half-day sessions Or at least, his parts) Laswell had been approached to produce the album, and he brought in his choice of conspirators (including Ginger Baker etc). I think Steve said he knew Laswell from before, and he got the call.
I am still reeling from meeting Vai. I know all of this is a bit gushing and fanboyish-and I'm 44! but I have admired Steve Vai and his ability for a long time.
The overwhelming lasting impression I have from the meet is that he is blessed with a supreme form of humility and sincerity. His musical gift is awe-inspiring, but he is a great teacher and he is quick to point out that anyone can improve their own expressive gifts if they work on them, and are true to themhselves.