Steve Vai defends his 'guitar face': 'It’s entertaining, it’s interesting, it’s engaged'

Steve Vai is on list after list of the top guitar players of our time, and has rocked alongside legends Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth, John Lydon, and Ozzy Osbourne. The guitar hero took time out from his 25th anniversary tour for his classic album “Passion and Warfare" to talk to FOX Rocks about, among other things, his signature facial expressions.

“With me, the ham is cooking, as you can tell,” Vai joked about his showmanship.

“I’m very animated, and it was something that I kind of fought through the years, because at one point it was kind of odd when people would see it, they’d be like, ‘What is that?’ And I used to feel 'I’ve got to do less,'" Vai said. "But then I just surrendered to what felt really natural to me and the body language, and the face when it’s connected the note, it’s entertaining, it’s interesting, it’s engaged.”

YouTube is full of aspiring guitarist making tribute videos to Vai, and the legendary rocker is humbled by it.

“It’s nice to feel like you’re contributing something to a younger group that’s finding inspiration in it, and, you know, we’re all standing on the shoulders of everybody that came before us," he said. "There’s various generations and I’m probably two generations removed now, back in the 80s, so there’s this new generation of young guitar players that are really doing remarkable things."

And Vai's heroes?

“Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin and Brian May from Queen, and guys like Ritchie Blackmore," Vai said. "All the rock guitar players of the 70s.”

And of course Frank Zappa, who got Vai his start in music when he was just a teenager.

“Frank was always completely present in the moment and constantly creating," he said. “I was 18 when I started working for him and then I joined the band when I was 20 and, you know, that’s a very impressionable age. And Frank was Frank, and one of the most remarkable things I noticed was when Frank got a creative idea about something he just did it. He stayed right with it. He never expected anybody to do it for him, and he never made excuses.”

For more information on Steve Vai, the Passion and Warfare 25th Anniversary World Tour, and current Vai happenings, visit