Khamis, 20 Mac 2014

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

For the love of Vai

Posted: 19 Mar 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Meet Steve Vai, guitar hero and amateur beekeeper.

THE last time Steve Vai was in Malaysia almost 15 years ago, he was at Stadium Bukit Jalil watching on as his mentor and fellow guitar supremo Joe Satriani was told to get off the stage just 10 minutes into his set.

That was during the ambitious RentakAsia music festival in 2000, where the G3 virtuoso guitar collective featuring Vai, Satriani and Eric Johnson were meant to play at the climax of the festival – until poor scheduling (blamed on the preceding artistes' long soundchecks) meant that police were forced to pull the plug on Satriani's solo set (and G3's combined set) at around 4.30am.

Considering Vai and Satriani were widely considered among the greatest solo instrumentalists in the world at the time, it must have been a big slap in the face.

In that sense, it was pretty refreshing to see Vai laugh off the whole incident ahead of his return to Malaysia.

"Oh my god, I remember that!" he said with a laugh. "That big festival at that giant stadium that only had about 2,000 people in it?

"You know I feel bad for Joe on that one, because I played my set, and everything was fine. But when it was time for Joe to come on, there was no time and they shut him down. He was like two songs into the set!

"But besides that, everything else was fine. I had a good time!" he adds during this phone interview from Los Angeles.

This Saturday, Malaysia will have a second chance to experience Vai's genius, and hopefully not have things end on a bad note again.

The New York-raised Vai, 53, will be here with his band – drummer Jeremy Colson, guitarist Dave Weiner and bassist Philip Bynoe, top musicians who have played with him for almost 15 years – for a show at KL Live. His current An Evening With Steve Vai 2014 tour stops only in two South East Asian cities (Singapore and Kuala Lumpur).

For most musicians, Vai needs no introduction. The man's albums – Flex-Able (1984), Passion And Warfare (1990), Fire Garden (1996) and Real Illusions: Reflections (2005) – remain key texts in the guitar music scene. His unparalleled technical wizardry and eclectic, sophisticated compositions have made him a cult icon since the mid 1980s. He has sold over 15 million records, bagged three Grammys and clocked up over 85 million views of his jaw-dropping performances on YouTube (and that's just on his official account).

No surprise then, that when a journalist from another local newspaper asked Vai the typical "who would you like to collaborate with" question, his answer was a terse "no". That same journalist had earlier asked how Vai "plans to stay relevant in the music industry".

Having negotiated those awkward questions, Vai was chatty, funny, insightful and self-deprecating throughout the phone interview, talking about everything from his recent obsession with contemporary classical music, to beekeeping.

Yes, Steve Vai is an amateur beekeeper.

When we asked "why beekeeping?", he laughed and said: "There were two things I had always wanted to do – one of them was to be a beekeeper, and the other was to drive an ice-cream truck. And when I was in high school, I drove an ice-cream truck, so ... it's a very easy hobby."

But one thing's for sure – his passion for music, and for pushing the boundaries of his craft, is undiminished.

"The one thing of absolute importance to me is finding exciting, interesting musical ideas in my head – and coming up with something new on the guitar – and not being able to play it. Then I get to work on it until I'm able to play it," he said.

"For me, that's the biggest pay-off, the biggest thrill of playing the guitar, from day one until today. Everything else is relative – getting the music out, recording the music, going on tour, figuring out budgets... I enjoy all of that, but it's secondary."

The latest challenge for Vai, who admits to losing a bit of his legendary "shredding" (guitar-speak for playing real fast) powers over the last few years, is to further refine every single note he plays.

"I can sort of feel (his shredding speed slowing down) now. I didn't realise it until I looked back at some of my videos from the past. I'd be like, 'whoa, I was really shredding!'

"(In 2012) I made a conscious meditative effort to fuse my performance – my playing, my body, my expressions – everything, into the notes. And that requires going deeper and deeper into every note you play. That's a real exercise. That's the real exercise. Because you can mindlessly play scales, and there's a place for that, but to really be an effective player has to do with how close you can get to the note."

The result of that exercise was even more expressive performances from Vai, who was already known for his sometimes over-dramatic showmanship – something he poked fun at of himself.

"While I was editing (the 2012 concert tour footage), it was almost freakish! I'm like, 'is that really me?' I mean, the faces, the body movement ... There's something bizarre, exotic, other-worldly to it, and to some degree it was just weird. To some people, it's beautiful, and to some, it's just nuts.

"But that's where I put my energy now, that's where I'm still growing. My chops are going to slow down, and I've purposely avoided playing in a particular way that sounds fast. I'm not a fan of the way notes sound going up and down a scale really fast. Why do it? It's been done. Now I develop in other areas that back when I had more chops, I would have never been able to do."

Steve Vai will be playing at KL Live, Kuala Lumpur on March 22, 8pm. Tickets are priced at RM199, RM299 and RM399. To purchase tickets, visit

Datuk Nicol David talks about her challenges on Capital FM

Posted: 20 Mar 2014 12:00 AM PDT

The radio station will be airing an interview with Malaysia's own world champion squash player.

This weekend, tune into Capital FM to listen to a special interview with the world's top female squash player, Datuk Nicol David.

David, who is currently participating in the Penang-CIMB 29th Women's World Squash Championship,
will be talking about not only her hopes and dreams for the future, but also the many challenges she has faced to get where she is today. 

The interview will be played on Friday and Saturday over Capital FM (88.9FM in the Klang Valley and 107.6FM in Penang). For airtime information, log on to

Blanked out: Life In Color cancelled due to drug deaths

Posted: 19 Mar 2014 12:55 AM PDT

Organisers of upcoming music fest Life In Color decide to pull the plug after recent drug-related deaths at Future Music Fest Asia.

In another blow for ravers, Life In Color, dubbed the "world's largest paint party", that was scheduled to happen at Sepang International Go-Kart Circuit on April 19 has been cancelled.

The organisers – Life In Color, Future Sound Asia and Zouk KL – in an official announcement posted on their Facebook page stated that the tough decision was made out of respect for the country and people of Malaysia.

The post said: "Life In Color wishes to announce that due to the unfortunate events that took place this past weekend, we have decided to cancel the upcoming Life In Color Malaysia. We would like to extend our sincerest apologies to our wonderful fans. We appreciate the love and support of our Malaysian fans, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those affected."

A screen capture of the cancellation announcement on Life In Color's Facebook page. 

This decision came after organisers of last week's Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) decided not to proceed with the final day of the festival after six concert-goers died and 14 people were hospitalised for apparent drug overdose.

The concert revellers had been partying on Friday, during the A State Of Trance leg of the festival, which featured renowned international DJs Armin van Buuren and Paul van Dyk, when the deaths occurred.

FMFA organiser, Livescape Asia, had received brickbats from the public for their decision to cancel the third day concerts, which promised to feature hip hop stars Pharrell Willams, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis as well as major international acts like DJs Martin Garrix and Bassjackers.

Livescape Asia, in an official statement said it made the decision in the interest of public safety and to heed the authority's advice to not proceed with the festival.

They added: "This is also to help in the on-going investigation. We appreciate the understanding of all parties and will share updates on this matter as soon as possible,"

In a grim coincidence, The Jakarta Globe also reported that three people died of drug-related issues at the A State of Trance festival in North Jakarta on Sunday.

The tabloid claimed there were witness testimonials indicating the victims had taken drugs before attending the event, which also featured van Buuren and van Dyk.

However, the Jakarta Police claimed that until autopsies are performed, it is difficult to ascertain that the same batch of chemicals were factors in both concert-related deaths.

Despite the Malaysian concert organisers' assurance that the decision to cancel FMFA and Life In Color was to ensure the ravers's safety would not be jeopardised, concertgoers are still seeing red over the matter.

They took to Life In Color's Facebook page to voice their dissatisfaction over the organisers' decision to pull the plug on the upcoming event, which was to be its first appearance in this country.

It was set to feature some of the hottest EDM acts around, including Holland-based duo Firebeatz, Dutch House DJ Fedde Le Grand, Zouk Singapore's resident DJ FORMATIVE as well as Malaysia's BATE and Goldfish & Blink.

Iman Izzura ranted: "This is so unfair to us man. It's not like we're disrespecting those who have died, we're just celebrating those who are still living on, right? But seriously, this is NOT the way!

"I've been waiting for way too long to spend time with friends I never get to meet and events/raves are the only time we ever get to see each other. People are still gonna party even more irresponsibly now that every organiser wants to cancel."

Amelda Lim, another dissatisfied patron, vented: "Instead of stepping up the security or whatever, you guys take the easier way out and cancel the show. Already paid for air ticket to come here, how? Thanks Malaysia! Truly Asia indeed. Never trusting a single Msian music festival organiser ever again."

However, there were also individuals who supported the organisers' decision, such as Han Leon who said: "After FMFA's cancellation this one comes as no surprise. We've always taken for granted how easy it is we have here. Don't blame the organisers. I'm sure they're hating this decision too."


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