STEVE VAI Talks Working With Guitarist TONY MACALPINE - "Some People Are Just Naturally Gifted, And Tony Is One Of Them"

November 21, 2015, 3 years ago

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STEVE VAI Talks Working With Guitarist TONY MACALPINE - "Some People Are Just Naturally Gifted, And Tony Is One Of Them"

Guitar legends Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde and John 5, along with drum powerhouse Mike Portnoy, bass icon Billy Sheehan and keyboard phenomenon Derek Sherinian are joining forces to play a benefit concert for guitar and keyboard virtuoso Tony MacAlpine, who was recently diagnosed with colon cancer.

Vai recently spoke with Guitar World about his relationship with MacAlpine. An excerpt is available below:

Guitar World: Tell me about your relationship with Tony MacAlpine and how you guys met.

Vai: "Back in the '80s when there was this emergence of virtuoso-style guitar players, there was this handful of guys that had extraordinary chops and were always raising the bar. Tony was a part of that movement in a big way. He made some excellent records that really showcased his tremendous guitar finesse and virtuosity.

So I had always known of him, but it wasn’t until years later that we actually met. I was putting a band together and needed a guitar player who could also play keyboards, and I had heard that Tony could play some keyboards. I also knew having someone like Tony in the band would bring everything to a whole different level. It worked out great and we had so much fun. Tony’s a lovely guy and it was such a pleasure to tour with him. Some people are just naturally gifted, and Tony’s one of them.

So when Mike Mesker (Tony’s manager) called me about the benefit, I was completely on board. It’s since snowballed into what's going to be an absolutely incredible event to raise money to help Tony. There’s a tragedy in it, but there’s also the divine shining through from all the love and support he’s getting from everyone he’s worked with and who’s supported him."

Guitar World: Was there anything you didn’t already know about Tony that surprised you?

Vai: "When we were on tour, we were at a venue where they had a piano set up in the back room, and I remember hearing this piano playing from around the corner. At first, I thought it was a concert pianist that had somehow been left over from the night before. But when I go around the corner there’s Tony playing this Chopin etude absolutely flawlessly. Just like an accomplished concert pianist with tremendous accuracy and emotional investment. It was something I never expected. After he had finished, I said, 'What the heck was that?' He told me it was a Chopin etude. I asked him if he could play some more and that’s when he said, 'Which one? I know them all.' (laughs)."

Go to this location for the complete interview.

The Benefit for Tony MacAlpine will take place at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles on December 12th, at 7 PM, featuring performances from John 5 & The Creatures, Zakk Wylde with Mike Portnoy, Billy Sheehan and Derek Sherinian; Steve Vai and band, and culminating in an all-star jam with house band Portnoy, Sheehan, Sherinian, and featuring special guests. Eddie Trunk will serve as master of ceremonies for the night.

In addition to this extraordinary musical event, Steve Vai, John 5, Paul Gilbert, Joe Bonamassa, Steve Lukather, Steve Stevens, and Joe Satriani have all graciously donated personal guitars to be auctioned during the event. In addition, Rudy Sarzo has offered private lessons as an auction item, and Simon Phillips has donated a signature snare. Tony’s gear manufacturers Ibanez, Hughes & Kettner, EMG, Ernie Ball, Source Audio and Voodoo Lab have also generously donated equipment to be raffled.

Tony’s cancer diagnosis comes on the heels of his wife’s diagnosis with breast cancer in June, making the situation even more trying for Tony and his family.

“Tony is a dear friend, an absolutely sweet human being and one of the most talented musicians I've ever worked with,” says Mike Portnoy, “We are coming together to help raise money and awareness to help him fight his battle and come out on top!”  

Adds Steve Vai, “It's a great privilege to take to the stage with my friends Zakk, John, Mike and Billy in support of our dear friend Tony. Tony has always been blessed with an exceptional talent and more so, he's an exceptionally cool guy. It's a great cause and will be a magical evening of guitar extravaganza.”

“Tony has been such an inspiration to me,” says John 5. “He is an incredible musician and an unbelievable talent. Please let's all come together and beat this!”

"Tony is our brother. We look forward to making a historical night, and raising a lot of money to help our friend in need.” said Derek Sherinian.

Tony MacAlpine is widely known as a guitar virtuoso who is just as skilled on the keys. Edge of Insanity, his classic debut album, was recently ranked by Guitar World magazine as one of the Top Ten Shred Guitar Albums of all time. Aside from his solo work, Tony has also been part of several rock supergroups including Planet X with Derek Sherinian and Virgil Donati; PSMS (Portnoy/Sheehan/MacAlpine/Sherinian); as well as the Grammy nominated CAB with bassist Bunny Brunel and drummer Dennis Chambers. MacAlpine also spent seven years playing guitar and keys in Steve Vai‘s touring band The Breed.

Tony’s most recent album Concrete Gardens was released in May. Tony toured the US in June to promote the album, but was forced to cancel tours of Asia, Australia and Europe when his health deteriorated.

Tickets went on sale Saturday, November 7th through LiveNation.com, with all proceeds going to help Tony and his family. A GoFundMe campaign will be set up for fans who can’t make the show, but still want to contribute.

Doors will be at 7 PM with the show set to begin at 8 PM. For tickets, visit livenation.com.



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