STEVE VAI Hopes To Bring His 'Hydra' One-Of-A-Kind Instrument On Tour In The Fall

July 1, 2022

Steve Vai will bring The Hydra one-of-a-kind instrument out on tour and perform the jaw-dropping solo piece "Teeth Of The Hydra" as early as the end of the year. The guitarist made the revelation while talking to Eonmusic on June 23 at Hellfest in Clisson, France.

Vai's comments came during a press conference ahead of his appearance at Hellfest's 15th edition. In a day of revelations, the celebrated player also went on to perform with former boss David Coverdale and WHITESNAKE during their set, marking their first appearance together in three decades.

Asked by Eonmusic if he had been tempted to perform "Teeth Of The Hydra" — the solo piece that caused a stir when its video was released back in March — with the beast of an instrument, which has been described as a one-bodied, two-headstock-ed, three-neck-ed creature, during his live concerts, Steve said that it had indeed been the plan.

"Well, I was absolutely determined to bring it out," he said emphatically. "That was part of the plan, but what happened was about a year and a half ago, I had to get my shoulder fixed, and it takes like a year to heal. And halfway through it, I had another tear and I had to get it fixed again."

Going on to reveal that he recorded both the song and the one-man video in between surgeries, the former David Lee Roth sidekick said: "Before that, I wanted to complete 'Teeth Of The Hydra', the song and the video. So, the song took about six weeks to carve out, and then I knew I had to make a video because that's where all the enjoyment is — in watching and seeing it."

Talking about the physicality that performing on the one-of-a-kind hybrid instrument demands, Steve revealed: "It was difficult because it's a heavy instrument, and I use a strap that goes around my waste, so all the weight is on your legs. And it doesn't move like a guitar — it doesn't go 'this' way or 'this' way — and if you move, The Hydra thinks you want to go all the way over there."

Regarding the recording of the track's video, he confessed: "I struggled through getting the video complete, and two days, three days after I shot the video, I had the shoulder surgery, and that was three and a half months ago." All of which has meant that the Hydra hasn't made its live debut… yet.

"I couldn't play The Hydra for this [current] European tour as it takes like a year to heal, but I was absolutely determined to take it, because I can play it, absolutely," he revealed, adding. "Of course I'm disappointed I couldn’t bring it, but I can't play it right now."

The Hydra will likely make its live debut during Vai's U.S. tour, which is scheduled to kick off on September 28 in El Cajon, California.

"I'm expecting that in the fall [crosses fingers] I should be ready to go," he said. "I'll probably be doing another swing through Europe in '23, and I hope to have it then too."

The Hydra is the realized vision of a collaboration between Vai and Ibanez that's been five years in the making. It encompasses, among other things: 7 and 12-string guitars; a 4-string ¾ scale length bass; 13 sympathetic harp strings; half-fretless necks; single-coil, humbucking, piezo, MIDI and sustainer pickups; floating and hardtail tremolo bridges; phase splitters; and much, much more. Director Garson Yu and his team at yU+co were brought on to capture a deep look into this magnificent creation which can be screened below

Earlier this year, Vai commented: "We absolutely respected this instrument by having the brilliant Garson Yu and his team at yU+co create this phenomenal Hydra reveal video. The guitar geek in me is stunned every time I see it. This video captures the splendor and mystique of the Hydra in intimate detail. The conception and construction of the instrument was a monumental feat of creativity by a whole group of inspired people, and I could not be more happy with the way this video came out. Imagine being a half an inch tall and exploring the Hydra as an adventurer. It would be like exploring an alien planet. Sign me up!"

Yu said: "When I first saw the instrument at Steve's studio, I was stunned. I thought this was a creation that didn't belong here on earth — it looked extraterrestrial to me. When Steve played a track that he composed with the Hydra, I told him that it sounds so transparent and open, complex and spiritual on many levels. When we were filming, I put the guitar on the turntable and looked through the lens: It looked like an alien spaceship. It's epic. I told myself we need to create a video that has the same transcendent feeling of this instrument. My team and I are honored to be part of it."

Ibanez artist relations manager Mike Orrigo stated: "'The 'Hydra', as Mr. Vai has appropriately dubbed it, started off as a concept that Steve approached Ibanez with several years ago. While it was understood then that the task to turn Steve's vision into reality would be a tremendous undertaking, we were undeterred by the challenge. Fueled by Steve's inspiration, our team of designers, engineers, and luthiers worked tirelessly together in order to create a truly one-of-a-kind instrument, remaining as true to the initial vision as possible. This incredible reveal video, produced by yU+co, perfectly captures the same feeling of awe and amazement that this magnificent beast of an instrument imparts on to all who are able to witness it in person!"

Over the course of a more than 40-year career, Vai has routinely transformed what would appear to be outrageously impossible into something very, very possible… and still also pretty outrageous. From his days as Frank Zappa's "stunt guitar" player to his more recent expansive and exploratory solo work, Vai has continually challenged notions of traditional guitar playing and composition — and on more than one occasion even reimagined the very instrument itself.

Vai's newest and 13th solo album, "Inviolate", is a nine-song opus that pushes the boundaries of instrumental guitar music. The body of work presents his most focused, streamlined and perhaps invigorating music in years. "It's very 'Vai,' whatever that means," he said, and then laughed. "Someone else might be better than me at explaining what that is. But it's just very honest music. Because a lot of my records, they're long and there's a lot of concepts and playing around with stories. This one has none of that. This is nine pretty dense all-instrumental compositions that I wanted to capture and record so I could get out there and play them live for people."

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