Steve Vai will finally released his shelved '90s rock album Gash album on 27 January. The vinyl release will then follow on 24 February.
"This record was written and recorded in somewhat of a stream of consciousness in 1991 within perhaps a two-week period as an answer to my desire to have a particular kind of music to listen to when I was riding my Harley Davison Motorcycle with my friends," reveals Vai.
"It’s reminiscent of a certain type of rock music I enjoyed as a teenager in the 1970s. These recordings sat on the shelf for over 30 years and are being released now in 2023.”
The name of the Vai / Gash record comes from his collaboration with vocalist and fellow biker Johnny 'Gash' Sombrotto, who sadly died in a motorcycle accident in 1998, nearly two decades after suffering life-changing injuries from an earlier accident.
“Around 1990, I was overcome with a desire to rip out what I thought would be a straight-ahead type of rock record that contained the kind of music I wish I had to listen to when I was that teenager ensconced in the biker culture," explains Vai. "And then I met Johnny 'Gash' Sombrotto.
"John was born in Queens, New York and as a youth was an avid motorcycle enthusiast. In 1977 at the age of 21, he endured a serious accident that caused his body to catch fire while plunging 30 feet onto a barbed wire fence.
"The doctors told his family that he had third degree burns over 60% of his body, and that if he even survived, there was a strong possibility that he would lose his right arm and left leg. While in the Burn Unit, he endured excruciating pain, especially when given the intense daily cycle of hot baths for his burns. He soldiered on, and after a month he was finally discharged from the hospital. Luckily, no limbs were amputated.
"He was, however, left with a partial left ear and layers of skin grafts over his neck, arms, legs, and entire chest. The stories he told about his recovery and the excruciating pain involved were crushingly gut wrenching. But he survived, and eventually thrived again. He made his way out to Los Angeles in 1982 and got right back up on his motorcycle.”
The two ended up bonding through their mutual love of motorcycle culture, and Vai was endeared by Sombrotto's personality.
"I’ve observed many people interacting with him on our numerous motorcycle road trips and other adventures," says Vai. "At first sight, many people could be taken by his bald head, scarred neck and burnt-off ear. Looking as he did and riding a Harley it was easy to assume he was perhaps a tough, menacing biker with a nefarious attitude, but after engaging with him for even a minute, his charm and magnetic charisma had them laughing in their shoes and completely enjoying his uplifting presence.
"He endeared people with his wit, warmth, and sparkle. John hit it off instantly with the most unlikely of people of every age, color, size, political or sexual persuasions. He was non superficial and never judged people. This allowed his engaging personality and intoxicating charm to draw you in. Under all those scars was a bold and fearlessly warm heart that can be seen in his disarming and big soft blue eyes.”
The guitarist then had the idea for a musical collaboration, and he was wowed by Sombrotto's voice.
"Something in me wanted to get him in the studio and see how he would belt over these biker type songs I had demoed, but nothing could have prepared me for the voice that came out of his mouth," recalls Vai. "I had to think, off course he sounds like that because that’s him, confident, authentic, fearless but with a light-hearted intention. This was the voice I wanted to hear wailing over these slamming rock tracks. I was stunned.
"Around that timeframe I was also starting to launch work on Sex And Religion and was hoping to eventually record more than the eight songs I had laid down with John for an alternative project, but that was proven impossible. On September 7th, 1998, two days after my father had passed away, the phone rang, and it was John’s beloved girlfriend Nancy. Her voice was quaking, and I somehow knew what she was going to tell me. ‘John was in a bike accident and was killed’.”
Those eight songs will now be released as Vai / Gash, with In The Wind as the first taster. But as Vai looks back with the project, he'll also be moving forward without longtime guitarist Dave Weiner has part of his live band.
After 23 years he's decided to step down. The amicable parting is explained by Weiner and Vai in the video posted above with Weiner looking forward to 'new adventures' with music. He even found his own replacement – the band's guitar and bass tech Dante Frisello – who is introduced in the video too.