“Did I ever envision this kind of journey? It’s a good question.
“I knew that I was going to have a life as a musician, because I always felt the pull. I don’t remember ever having to make a choice. There was never a point where I said, ‘OK, I can either be a musician or I’ll do… this.’ Because, really, if I was in a position to make a choice, that would’ve meant there was an option – and there wasn’t.
“I loved the guitar, and I had all of this music in my head. My passion for the guitar and the ideas for what I could create musically were equal. So that’s where I was.
“I didn’t have any aspirations of becoming famous or successful; in fact I was scared to death of all that. I remember somebody once said that if a rock musician goes on tour, he goes insane. I was very impressionable and I carried this useless weight of fear around with me about going on tour, all because of this thing somebody said.
“It was strange: I knew I wanted to do this, but I didn’t know what it entailed. It took me a long time to get hold of that. There was a pinnacle moment when I was on tour with Frank [Zappa], and I was confronted with this fear. At the same time, I loved making music so much, and I was making it for myself, really.
“If I had to point to a particular frame of mind that perpetuated itself, I remember when I was young I would listen to music in my sister’s room when she wasn’t around. I’d put the headphones on and listen to Led Zeppelin and Hendrix and that kind of stuff, and I’d imagine myself performing. It was like meditation. I could see it. I created this picture of this character who would play the guitar effortlessly, who had no limitations, performing beautiful music, and he moved around with great acrobatic skills, just capturing the audience and being a great entertainer. He wielded the guitar like it was a magic sword, being completely confident.
“It’s totally OK to dream that kind of stuff. In your own mind, no matter how insecure you are, whatever your circumstances are, you always have the ability to go into your imagination. I know that sounds cliché, but if you talk to scientists and spiritual leaders, they’ll tell you that you create who you are by how you think.
“I came to understand that as one of the most fundamental truths of reality. I saw myself becoming the person I was imagining in my own head. So to answer the question, ‘Did I ever envision this kind of journey?’ Yes… and no.”
On the eve of his new release, The Story Of Light (due out 14 August), Steve Vai discusses his solo studio recordings on the following pages.