Steve Vai's latest album, "The Story of Light," is the second part of a conceptual project that started with 2005's "Real Illusions: Reflections," and will continue with one more album and then a fourth release that he says will "put everything in the right order and make it all understandable."
But given the seven-year gap between the first two installments, the guitar virtuoso clearly isn't in a hurry.
"It's a standard concept, but I wanted to stretch it out over a period of time," Vai explains to Billboard.com. "The story evolves as my life evolves. As we go through life our perspective changes. Our understanding of things changes. We can clarify our own beliefs. So I'm letting it flow however it should flow. My next record may not have anything to do with the 'Real Illusions' trilogy, but I'll eventually get to the rest of it."
Vai says that on the first two albums, "the songs are kind of disjointed and basically not in the proper order. They just depict characters and situations within the story." That will likely be the case with the third one, too, which is why he's planning a four-CD box set that he promises "will have the music from the three records and additional music" that will tell the tale in a more straightforward narrative format.
"It's a human interest story, about the human condition," Vai says. "It's a story about this guy who has this traumatic experience in his life, and it drives him insane. We see the story through his eyes. It also involves the town he lives in and this stranger that enters the town who's like a shaman; he builds this giant edifice, like a reflecting pond, and when people come to it they see aspects of their personalities and identities and discover things about themselves. There's some comedy involved, too, but it's pretty esoteric. It's about a lot of lofty principles, so it's not a bad idea to dish this all out slowly."
And Vai is well aware that some of his fans might choose not to follow it at all.
"Some people just want to hear me play guitar, too, and there will always be a lot of that," he says. "But for anybody who's interested in really delving deep into the story, eventually I think there's going to be a lot there for them to enjoy."
He would also like to see the story "be a film or a play. That would be the goal, because I think when it's finished, the story will be very accessible. And I love theater. I grew up in theater. But you've got to take things one step at a time and let the universe play it out."
Vai is hedging his bets on when he'll have the third album of the trilogy ready. As with the time between "Real Illusions" and "The Story of Light," which yielded a pair of live and orchestral albums and some compilations, he has other projects lined up. He continues to release material digitally through his online VaiTunes series. And he's commissioned to compose a piece to help celebrate the centennial of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring," which Vai is slated to premiere on May 19 in Holland. He's planning to take four months off after his current tour "and just compose 15 hours a day to create this piece of music." After that he's planning to tour with a small orchestra in eastern Europe, followed by an international tour with his rock band.