STEVE VAI says his solos on DAVID LEE ROTH' 'Skyscraper' were taken from original demos
Steve Vai has spoken about the recording of David Lee Roth‘s “Skyscraper” album in a new interview with Eonmusic. Recalling how both he and Roth, who both co-produced the album were “really forensic” but lacked the experience of being rock music producers, the guitarist also revealed that the guitar solos on the 1988 set came mostly from the demos, as Roth “liked them so much”. Vai made his comments while promoting the VAI / GASH album, which has just been released through Mascot Label.
“Skyscraper”, Roth‘s second full-length album since leaving VAN HALEN in 1985, saw the flamboyant frontman experimenting with at-the-time more contemporary sounds than his straight-ahead rock debut, 1985’s “Eat ‘Em and Smile”. It marked Roth‘s first time in the producer’s chair, along with Vai.
Talk of the album arose when Vai discussed the VAI / GASH album recorded in 1991, and how it differed to his experiences in the studio on the two Roth albums. Steve said: “I had a fight at times — not ‘fight’, but I had to argue hard for doubling a guitar part. Like, even with a song like ‘Knucklebones’; I didn’t write it, Greg (Bissonnette, drums) came in with that. So, even songs I wrote, there’s a committee that has an involvement in it: ‘What is the band feel? The singer, where is he going to fit. It’s his band,’ you know. And what does the producer say; the producer is always saying, ‘Now, here, listen, let’s try this’, and then you’ve got the record company that just says, ‘No, not that song,’ and so many suggestions.”
He went on: “When I made the GASH record, it was a committee of one. Okay, I go into the studio, I locked the door, and I want to build a record. I say to myself, I say to the ‘committee’, ‘You’re going to make a record that has that rhythm guitar playing that you love.’ When you listen to those rhythm tracks, that’s as Steve Vai as I can get. I’m not competing with anybody; it’s loose, but it’s tight, but it’s free and it’s liquid, but it’s appropriate. I just loved the way the guitar just floats through the whole thing. That wouldn’t have happened with any other situation.”
Going on to discuss the production of the “Skyscraper” record, Steve said: “Dave and I were just really forensic, because it was his first production outing, and he’s got great ears and all but we probably lacked being producers that made rock and roll records as a career. It’s different; (VAN HALEN / ‘Eat ‘Em And Smile’ producer) Ted Templeman was just, like, ‘All right, let’s go’, and he knew how to capture ‘something’, but Dave had been doing that for so long he wanted to navigate to something differently.”
It was then that Steve revealed that his soloing on the album had some from the rough demos that they had done prior to recording. “My guitar solos? Well, okay, for instance, I demoed all that ‘Skyscraper’ stuff, and Dave liked the guitar solos so much that I had to use the demoed solos,” he said, concluding, “I didn’t really want to, but the committee was involved. And it’s his band, you know, and I didn’t have a problem with that; it’s not like they sucked.”
Read part one of the extensive interview at Eonmusic.