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Steve Vai calls Kurt Cobain's guitar playing "virtuosic"

(Image credit: Getty/Frank Micelotta Archive/Lisa Lake)

For many, Steve Vai is the world's greatest living guitarist, but that doesn't mean he can't pay his respects to other players, and not necessarily for pure chops. 

In an interview with Ultimate Guitar, Vai covered a number of topics, kicking off with what makes a player stand out - regardless of their technical level.

Every string has its own zip code, you know what I mean?

"It's intention. When the intention is strong, nothing will stop them," says Vai "Kurt Cobain is a good example of that. He just did the music he wanted to do - that's what my take is on it.

"When I hear him and I hear that band, I don't know how much music theory or anything like that he knew, but he was able to develop enough technique to get his point across. He didn't have a virtuoso technique, but he didn't need it.

"I see that with guys like Billie Joe Armstrong too. When you see that guy strumming chords, it's virtuosic in a sense because it sounds like an orchestra when he slams that guitar - every string has its own zip code, you know what I mean? 

"Kurt was like that too."

Vai is, of course, a more traditional kind of virtuoso, steeped in music theory and able to deploy next-level technical skills. He puts this down to enjoying a challenge during his development.

"A lot of people would look at polyrhythms and just go, 'Oh my god, I don't want to know anything about that. That's too complicated."

"But for me, I had a real deep interest because I saw a potential for what polyrhythms could do to the sound of a melody. So it wasn't something that was hard to do, it was challenging but it was delicious, you know what I mean?"

Steve Vai was talking to Ultimate Guitar ahead of a planned Facebook event to mark his 60th birthday on 6 June. Stay tuned to Vai's facebook page for more info.