Tech Tip:Anatomy of a Song with Steve Vai: Story of "Incantation"





"Anatomy of a Song" is's signature super-feature series, in which popular recording artists go before our video cameras and share their creative processes in an in-depth interview and hands-on demo session with editors.


In this edition of "Anatomy of a Song" virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai shows how he plays and explains how he wrote and recorded the song "Incantation," from his July, 2001, Epic Records release, Alive in an Ultra World. The following is a text transcript of the exclusive video "Steve Vai: Anatomy of a Song."


The Story of "Incantation"

Hi, I'm Steve Vai and I'm a publishing mogul, but some people know me as a guitar player and a musician. I've recorded in the past with Frank Zappa and David Lee Roth and in bands like Whitesnake, but since the early '90s I've been a solo artist.


I wanted to make a record and I wanted to record the songs live, in various parts of the world. And I thought, well, it might be interesting to actually research some of the cultural music of some of the places that I'm going and write music for a five-piece rock band that is sort of reminiscent of the overtones of the cultural music of some of these territories.


So when I released my album The Ultra Zone, we planned a pretty extensive world tour and I was very excited because it gave me the opportunity to do this record, but it was a lot of work. So I looked at the itinerary and the tour was taking me to places like Romania, and Bulgaria, and Turkey, and all these fabulous places that have very rich, cultural music. So I did some research, and I bought a whole boatload of CDs, and I started listening to music from these various cultures.


And I built this little portable recording studio that I could take with me on tour. I used Logic Audio for the sequencing. So this massive program was stuffed on a laptop computer and then all I needed was hard drives to record the material to, so we constructed this little system and here it is right here,[Ed. note: Steve shows the camera his recording gear,]


Anyway, we have songs that were recorded with sort of culturally written music for places like Bulgaria, Romania, France, Italy, Japan, Australia, Ireland. I've got one for Germany, England, the UK, and some others.


But what I'm going to do right now is break down one of these songs and show you what the process was like to make this song a reality. This song was a song written for Bulgaria. I had never in my life thought I would make it to Bulgaria to do a concert, but I did and it was fantastic.