"I Dreamed about using DiMarzio products as a kid. Everygreen sound. The perfect audio synapses between my heart and hand." -Steve Vai
Steve Vai is no stranger to modern guitar lovers. From his early years with Frank Zappa to the the G3 tours with Joe Satriani. Following his promotional photoshoot for DiMarzio, Steve has a chat with DiMarzio founder and good friend, Larry DiMarzio.
LARRY DIMARZIO: To start with, thankyou so much for doing such a great job.
STEVE VAI: Thank you once again as always Larry. not just for the photo shoot today, its the photo shoots that Larry has been doing for a long time. You know. Everybody knows Larry DiMarzio and his extraordinary pickups.
When I was just a young kid, guitar player, dweeb, from Long Island, Some things never change (laughs) The cool thing was to have humbuckers on your guitar, and I remember the word DiMarzio, and I remember seeing it for the first time in a magazine, and my friends were always talking about it. I never thought DiMarzio was a person, I just thought it was a cool word associated with Humbucker pickups. (Steve turns 16 years old again) Did you get your Dimarzios? Do you have DiMarzio? And I remember when I first went out and bought my first DiMarzio pickups and then I realised there was actually a guy behind it. And its was Larry DiMarzio, and you know, one thing leads to another, you move out to California from Long Island or from wherever you are and if you are lucky enough to get a good gig and you start meeting people in the business and I remember, when I had met, the 'Larry Dimarzio'. And it was quite a thrill really. I dont know if I ever told you that.
LD: No, No, Thank you so much. I appreciate that. Well you know DiMarzio and its relationship with performers has always been what I've been about. I was a performaer myself as a kid , and I loved working with people, Especially people like yourself that are just Olympic Class talent.
SV: Thank you
LD: You know , the photoshoots started out as ......
SV: It was like a hobby for you right?
LD: You know , it was a way of doing advertising and commercial work for the company .
SV: Thats the thing about Larry, everything he does is always shrouded in complete class and professionalism. And you know, he could afford the best cameras. I remember our first photoshoot and it was like at a mansion, with a vineyard (both try to think of the name)......
LD: Oh yeah the chateau Marmont on Sunset Strip.
SV: Yeah thats right, thats right. I was thinking, oh oh. He makes good pickups but how can he know anything about photography. And till this day those are some of the best shots.
LD: Thanks alot. Its just a pleasure to work with you.
SV: Thankyou Larry...(both laugh as the 'love in' continues). You know this guy gets to live the dream. Not only does he get every guitar player worshipping him, but he gets to take pictures of not only guitar players but he gets to take some phenomenal photos of the playboy bunnies and stuff like that
LD: Yeah. I've done several projects for Guitar World magazine but we also got to do photoshoots with the playmates and I got to go to the playboy mansion which was pretty out of control last year
SV: It is nice to have the opportunity to shoot with you. Cause your photos really do have a different look and feel, than alot of the others. I think photographers are kind of like musicians in a sense, that they all have a particular touch and they all have a particular sense of lighting .
LD: Yeah the short of it is , point of view. Its like when you play, 3 notes in and I can tell that its you playing. There is an unmistakeability and energy, but enough about me lets talk about your playing. You just finished with a new CD and DVD, and its completely different. lets tell them a little bit about that
SV: Well I just recently had a record out on Sony and the DVD is coming out in about a month or so and it was recorded with the Metropol orchestra in Holland. It was a project that started years ago. You know before I even played guitar I was reading and writing music. I was always fascinated with the little black dots. And, over the years I have composed alot of music, but its very hard to get your stuff performed when your'e a rock 'n' roll guitar player. Especially with an orchestra, Its prohibitively expensive. I was fortunate to have a friend that worked at NBS (radio staton in Holland) . You know, europe has a completely different culture than America. He started this program that would solicit funds from the Dutch Government to put on these cultural events. He would gather musicians whom he thought could help the orchestra which is a very adventurous, young orchestra in Haarlem. He approached me, to compose this music for the Metropol , and the concert was broken down into two segments basically. The first segment was music that I had composed for the orchestra without me playing guitar. I didnt really perform with the orchestra, they are just compositions. Which is a really different kind of expressive realm. It was about an hour or so long. Some of the material was very old and was written when I was like in my 20's , and then I brushed it up and re-orchestrated a bit. In the second half of the concert I would come out and play with the orchestra, and its basically collections of my work that people would know or that the fans are familiar with. And the concerts were great. We did five shows. All recorded. The last show was filmed and then we went away and cut it up. I tried to get the best take from here and the best take from there, to create a double record worth of material with the orchestra and it turned out nice.
LD: I was blown away. I got advanced copies to get an idea of what to do with the visuals.
SV: well im blown away by the photos. ( Dimarzio laughs)
LD: Not many people will know this but you have your own studio.
SV: I have actually never not had a studio. When I realised what sound on sound recording was, I had an epiphony. And when I moved to California, my first apartment was on Fairfax avenue, and it was called 'Sci-Vai Studios'. Then I moved to Selmar, and found this house with a shed that I converted into a studio. It was where I recorded alot of Warfare , passion and all of Inflexible. The was 'Stucco Blue Studio '. Then I moved to Hollywood and found a house that had a whole floor that I gutted and redesigned into a studio, and thats the 'Mothership'. Thats where ive recorded most of my records. Now I live in another town in LA and I have a studio. I dont like to go out into the real world and record. There are alot of reasons . I just like to record in the privacy of my own home.
LD: The sound and material were amazing. Maybe people dont know how good you are behind the board. Steve is also incredible at mixing and recording.
SV: well im ok
LD: How has that kind of access affected the way you write music.
SV: well sometimes its a deterrent because when you own the studio you almost take much more time than you should. But also, im a forever tinkerer. Im guilty of over producing beacuse I ... well I over produce. Sometimes it gets in the way. But then again, my goal is to create a catalogue of music thats relatively undiluted you know. For me the vision doesnt just stop with how I invision the song or the guitar solo. It goes into how I want to stack the audio spectrum and how I want it qued and how I want it too sound like, how I want the artwork to look. Kind of like that. A whole picture.
LD: The other thing you've been involved with are the guitar projects, designing the guitars, and youve been involved with us on the pickup end . I know you've got several pedals youve worked on, and the cable! (Steve interjects 'DIMARZIO cable ! ) Is there anything you feel or want to say to people about creating their own stuff and putting kits together to record their own music ?
SV: well , you know these days the technology has evolved to the point where virtually anybody can purchase the equipment that will get you recording in no time. I remember when I was a kid, and all kids were fascinated looking at guitars. And you know what it feels like when you get a catalogue. And you just see a set of pickups or a drum kit and its very exciting. And I used to get excited like that. Now these days kids dont know what it was like without computers. You can go online know and thats just the way technology is evolving.
LD: Yeah that fascinates me.
SV: You've worked with virtually most guitarists to some degree. Im sure people would love to hear you discuss the demands of some of the people youve worked with. Simply because artists are naturally insane. Anybody who has to work with an artist, in a position where they have to take creative insight, it must be quite a challenge.
LD: The good thing is that I started doing guitar repairs back in the early 70's. So it was right from the get go. Being a player myself to some degree, I liked working with creative people. Typically most of the people I work with, im fortunate , like yourself, beacuse they know what they want and you give us the opportunity to do that. You know, you can run into situations where it is a little more difficult (no names mentioned)
SV: Any similarity with me and Howard Stern is purely coincidental
LD: Im thrilled to be working with the kind of people I can work with. Its a great opportunity . I mean, look at the dream, I grew up in Queens which is not that far from where you grew up. And you know the dream to me was being at the Fillmore and watching bands play, and thinking boy do I want to be on stage wow. I wish I was good enough to be on stage.
SV: And I was wishing, boy I want to make pickups.
LD: (both laugh) haha , that was the thrill, that was the fun.
SV: So were you able to make pickups when you were younger? before you were selling them you must have been making them?
LD: Back in the early 70's was when I started hot rodding the guitars. I was broke, and I was good with my hands. I could take take things apart and put it back together. I was the kid that would walk down the street and someone had thrown away an old tv and Id go and gut the TV and take out all the resistors and tubes and capacitors, just to have all of that stuff. And then id try and build something. Lots of it didnt work ofcourse.
SV: But it must have been pretty cool when you put a pick up together for the first time and it worked.
LD: It was it was, but only after the 35 hundred failures
SV: Do you still have those pickups?
LD: (thinks) ahhh no , I just took them apart all the time and put them in something else.
SV: The forever tinkerer
LD: Yeah, they suffered . The first few ones were not very good at all. You know one of the funny things years ago as a kid I played with Gene Simmons .Gene wanted me to join the original Wicked Lester band.
SV: So you might have been in Kiss?
LD: Couldn't you just see me with face make up?
SV: Ace Ferely would have been out of a gig! (both laugh)
LD: It was really a great timne. There was so much going on creatively. Even when I stopped being involved in the playing end of things, I still wanted to be involved with that energy. So hence , working with you, working on projects, doing photo shoots and to promote things.
SV: It really is nice to work with you on more than just the pick up side. In all sincerity, apart from the pickups, you really do wonderful photographic work for all your artists. Its nice to see a hobby like that being done so well. To see you enjoying it aswell. Ive seen you do this for years and I really dig it. It really shows, so congratulations..
LD: Well thank you for being such a willing subject.
courtesy of DiMarzio
"There is nothing more precious to a musician than his hearing. Even the most outrageous, loudest-playing guitar players I know always protect their ears. Besides being a loud guitar player, I am also a connoisseur of fine earplugs and the only ones that work for me are the HEAROS. Even if you don't like my music, take this precious advice and protect your ears when you're wailing away."