Steve Vai on How Frank Zappa Inspired Him to Design the Ibanez JEM – 2022 – NEW ALBUM ‘INVIOLATE’

Guitar World: Steve Vai on how Frank Zappa inspired him to design the Ibanez JEM – and why the Japanese guitar builder succeeded where others failed. -READ MORE



The JEM has been around for 35 years. At the beginning, why did you feel the need to develop that guitar?

I was fortunate working for Frank Zappa because one of the things I learned from him is if you want something, just do it. So Frank was molesting his guitars with electronics and putting things in them, like frequency modulators and parametric EQs, and I’m changing the necks, changing the pickups.

“I thought, ‘Well, that’s what you do. You find what you want.’ I loved Strats because they had a whammy bar, but I didn’t like the way they sounded. They weren’t rock ’n’ roll enough to me. I loved Les Pauls because Jimmy Page played a Les Paul and they had a better sound for me, but they weren’t sexy to me. They felt awkward and none of them you could really comfortably play in the high register. I don’t know why they give you the frets when they don’t give you the access to them.

“I knew that I wanted to have something that was not necessarily one of those. Edward [Van Halen] came out with a humbucker on a Strat-style guitar, that was perhaps the first SuperStrat. That was fantastic because now we can get a really good, big fat sound with a whammy bar. But there were things about that guitar that were very limiting to me. So very innocently I decided, ‘What do I want? I could have anything made.’” -READ MORE