Behold the Hydra: Steve Vai's new triple-necked beast of a guitar

Steve Vai
(Image credit: Steve Vai)

Steve Vai is not a man to do things by halves. Yesterday's announcement of new album Inviolate revealed the cover art showing the virtuoso with a steam punk-themed beast of a guitar. Appropriately named The Hydra. And calling it an electric guitar is only scratching the surface of its many scales. 

The new album’s opener, Teeth of the Hydra, will unleash the guitar early on. Described asa sinuous, Latin-fusion-tinged composition that Vai wrote and recorded on the unique custom guitar.

(Image credit: Steve Vai)

The Hydra was built in conjunction with Ibanez's designers at Hoshino with the steampunk motifs coming from an idea of Vai’s. The one-bodied, two-headstock-ed, three-neck-ed Hydra is a key to a creative wonderland fo Vai with seven- and 12-string guitars; a four-string bass; sympathetic harp strings; half-fretless necks; single-coil, humbucking, piezo and sustainer pickups; floating and hardtail tremolo bridges; plus phase splitters. 

The interesting thing about the song and the guitar is that it all came at the same time

Steve Vai

“It's an incredibly-built machine,” Vai says. Teeth Of The Hydra is said to use the instrument's full range of tones. “The interesting thing about the song and the guitar is that it all came at the same time,” Vai says. “It was one of those ‘inviolate’ inspirations – boom!”

Boom indeed! But the track won't be some kind of gear demo throwaway piece. "I knew that I needed to create something with the Hydra that sounded like a real piece of music," says Vai. "It couldn’t be just a novelty. Because if you knew what my hands were doing, and how I'm using my left hand to create phrasings that work when I can't pick a note because my right hand is off somewhere else…my god. But the finished piece had to stand on its own. It couldn't sound like I was just trying to juggle stuff.”

We can't wait to hear and see more of the Hydra in action. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.