Steve Vai Says He Became a Better Player Taking on Eddie Van Halen’s Parts for David Lee Roth
Guitar great Steve Vai has played in a variety of projects en route to becoming one of the most respected players in rock and metal, and one of the stops along the way was performing with David Lee Roth in his solo band. During a chat with CMS Music (seen below), Vai spoke with reverence about Roth's onetime bandmate Eddie Van Halen and knowing that he was coming into a group where he'd be asked to play some of Eddie's guitar parts.
Reflecting on that period, Vai waxed, "For me, it was a complete honor to be able to play those parts. If you're a guitar player and you're a fan of that band, you know that those are some of the coolest guitar parts written in rock 'n' roll, because they're like perfect little arrangements; they fall so well on your hands. They'll never sound like Edward, but they're great songs to play on the guitar 'cause they're complete."
He went on to add, "You become a better player. Especially the position that I was in where I was playing his parts to his fans, so I had to pay deep respect to those parts, and in so doing, I discovered a really great ride there because you have to focus; it has to improve your playing. So I was really lucky in all that."
While Vai had played prior with Frank Zappa and Alcatrazz, joining Roth's band after the singer was fresh off of Van Halen was a much larger spotlight, and he knew that the comparisons to Van Halen would come. That said, Vai offered, "You don't compete with Eddie Van Halen. He was a monolith and brought so much inspiration for me. He's a genius."
Speaking more in depth about his admiration for the late Van Halen guitarist, Vai offered, "I'm not unlike the average Edward fan in that he really had an effect. For Edward fans that really were touched by him, it's inexplicable, obviously; you can try to use words, but it doesn't really work. It's like that with many things ... it was a beautiful, beautiful, amazing ride that he had, and he just delivered so much. And he had a great run."
Vai was part of David Lee Roth's solo band between 1985-1989, appearing on Roth's Eat 'Em and Smile and Skyscraper albums.