Steve Vai is a now legendary guitarist who has lived an extraordinary career (playing for such acts like Frank Zappa’s band). When it comes to his solo career, Steve Vai has released ten studio albums; his most recent release came out earlier this year, the record being titled, Inviolate.
On that record, Vai has a song titled “Teeth of the Hydra,” and in the music video for that track, he plays a remarkable and bad ass looking multi-neck guitar. Said guitar is called Hydra, and you check out how awesome this guitar is in action via the music video for “Teeth of the Hydra” below:
In an interview with Brave Words (shared by Eddie Trunk), Vai is asked about the creation of the Hydra guitar. If you are a guitarist and interested in learning more about the technicality and creation involved in this multi-neck instrument, then you are in for a treat.
When asked about creating the Hydra guitar, this is what Steve Vai had to share:
“I’ve always had a fascination with multi-neck guitars – ever since I saw Jimmy Page with the double neck [a Gibson EDS-1275]. That was the start of it. And I pursued that in my career by developing various multi-neck guitars – the heart guitar with the triple neck. But I never really felt like I accomplished anything truly musical with one of them…the idea came probably about ten years ago to create three records…but the first was going to be all clean tones, the second was going to be my more normal distorted thing, and the third was going to be ungodly heavy. So I thought, ‘Ungodly heavy…and I just have one instrument to use. I’ve got to do something different.’ And the idea to create some kind of multi-neck instrument that had a bass, a 7-string, a 12-string, and these harp strings – that came back then, like ten years ago. But when you get these ideas, you can either act on them instantly, or you’ve got to wait until they make their way to the front of the line…
“So, the construction of the Hydra took my entire career, basically – if you consider the evolution of the influences. So, when it finally started to move its way to the front of the line, it was probably about seven years ago that I saw this Mad Max movie [2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road], and I saw the guy play the guitar at the front of the truck, and the guitar was very ‘steampunk And it was just cool. It was wicked – blowing flames and all this stuff. And the ham in me just lit up, and I’m like, ‘OK, I got it. I’m going to make it real.’ So, that inspired the steampunk motif…[and then I gathered a] the list of things I wanted to have in this instrument. And they were three-quarter size bass neck with the first two strings fretless, 7-string, 12-string with half of it fretless, 13 harp strings, guitar synthesizer, piezos, sustainers, sample and hold features. All of these things, that I’m just going to pack it all in there – because if this is going to be the only instrument in the track, it’s got to have options…So, seven years ago was the beginning of the slow construction, and then it just went through iterations…
“…once we got that far, we built a prototype, that I call the Hyena. But eventually, the Hydra was built and I got it. I knew all along that I wanted to create a piece of music on it that was compact – where that was the only instrument playing, with some keyboards and drums, of course. So, in my mind’s eye, I could see myself navigating this thing. I didn’t know what the music was going to be, but I was absolutely sure I could do it…But the process needs to be an enjoyable one, and it was challenging for me, but it was very enjoyable. And I knew first I wanted to make sure I had a good song – the song has to be first, the melody. Melody has always been very important to me…So, I just started really slow. And then just imagined…and it happened.
“When I watch the video, a part of me just can’t believe it. Because I’m a guitar fan – like everybody else who is watching. I love the guitar. And I love seeing fascinating things on the guitar. And when I finally finished the video, I was able to watch it without criticizing it… So finally, when we finished it, I’m watching it, and like every other guitar player that finds it fascinating, I’m like, ‘What the heck is going on? How did that guy do that?’ And then I remember how I did it- started really slow. I had the idea – which isn’t a brilliant idea – but I had the desire, and that’s all that you need. And then I just did it really slow and built it. It looks extraordinary, but really, just do it.”