The Greek Songs of Steve Vai: ‘The Moon and I’, ‘Power of Bombos’ and more, by Nasos Kavathas
Flying over Athens
The song 'The Moon and I' is one of the two 'Greek' songs by Steve Vai. At first the song was titled 'Flying over Athens'! It is also one of Vai's own absolute favorites. (Two more were recorded here, Greece, keep reading). In his most recent podcast, Alien Guitar Sectrets Episode 6, Vai started the podcast playing 'The Moon and I' and later on, ('round the 34th minute), 'The Moon and I' again, mentioning that the track was inspired and written in the Athens soundcheck, in 2000. That's when yours truly had brought Steve Vai and band in Greece for the first time, for two concerts still regarded as groundbreaking.
I love it all. Those concerts were the last of the Ultra World tour. Attention now: On that tour, Steve had a 'secret' agenda: he'd record a brand NEW song for each country on the tour map. Thus, the next album, 'Alive in an Ultra World' (2001), would contain a Song for Greece, a Song for Bulgaria, Spain, France, Russia, Japan etc, 16 tracks and countries in total.
It was the end of the tour, no time to waste, the soundchecks and concerts were recorded in full concentration by Steve and his fine musicians. Finally, 3 (at least) tracks of the final 'Alive..' album were recorded here, in Greece, even though 2 of them were to be "dedicated" to other countries! I was present at the soundchecks and I had (always at that time) been recording everything with my small tape recorder, documenting. The track for Bulgaria, 'Incantation', I thought (at the time) that would be the one for Greece, but the Greek track came to be a piece called 'The Power of Bombos' with its suspenseful, almost catastrophic backstory! The other thing that was also definitely recorded here in Greece is the track for Spain, 'Iberian Jewel'. (I'll listen to those files again, who knows what else could be found there!) But other than that, 'The Moon and I', written and recorded on stage in Athens, was fated to be Steve's own favorite piece. Good stuff.
It was my 'personal mission', then, to bring Steve Vai in Greece. Otherwise, the Ultra tour would have had ended 2 or 3 days earlier. Four tracks in total were recorded here, Greece. The Moon and I and The Power of Bombos, wouldn't even exist. (For the other two, Incantation and Iberian Jewel: other recorded versions could probably be used).
Vai singled out 'The Moon and I' with bigger intentions: he kept it as a centerpiece for his studio album 'The Story of Light' (2012), which is also the 'latest' full studio album with original material to date! (His intensions, when we met again in 2012, were to make two more albums, I suggested he calls it all a 'Quadrilogy').
The quarantine podcasts
Every Tuesday Steve does the 'Alien Guitar Secrets' (two-hour) podcasts and every Thursday the 'Under it all: Hard Questions' (also two-hour) podcasts. In total, he will make ten of each, I think, now he is in the 6th of both series. A polite, honest and generous gesture. They are watched (live or taped) by an audience of several hundred thousand people around the globe.
What a more pleasant surprise for me, the fact that 'The Moon and I' is mentioned again and again in his podcasts -read my recent article: "The Moon and I, Recorded in Greece, 2000, under my watch!". (Find it at the bottom of the page, on the list of my recent articles).
The Moon and Vai ...and I
It is one of the rare joys of our 'job'. And it's purely a personal matter, you don't expect recognition for something, or some credit for your contribution. (Although I remember, then, when the album 'Alive in an Ultra World' came out, we were expecting to see a few of our names in the 'Thanks' section, at least!). It doesn't matter! How could Vai know who I was, (a successful/reknown artist in Greece). The Moon and I continues this journey, as Steve plans to re-record it, with a new orchestration, rather with an orchestra. Elevating its stature as one of his 'signature tunes', a piece that represents him, a piece with which he wants to be identified.
Well, if I hadn't put in stubbornness and hard, poorly paid work, Vai and the band wouldn't have come here. And these beautiful things would not have happened. The concerts were packed, answering properly the nay-sayers of the Greek scene. I'm proud of this. Two years after Vai, I brought Satriani too, (for the 1st time in Greece, again).
Wrapping up the Ultra tour
As I said, it was the end of the tour, hard work for everyone, but also a festive mood: in a few days everyone would return home, after months and months of concerts, recordings, soundchecks, tour buses, planes and hotels. There are so many memorable moments, some almost catastrophic events too (!), that, as I say elsewhere, one day I will write them down in a memoir, with such: important music moments with me involved. And even more, for artists that I brought for the 1st time in Greece: Vai, Satriani, Toto, Kansas, Zappa plays Zappa etc. and for others in which I 'ghost'-contributed. For the events, how I experienced them, what they mean. And all those things in parallel (or mixing with) my own multi-artistic adventure.
'Flying over Athens'? Now, that's a title that I can identify with. Thanks Steve! (For the readers outside of Greece: If you don't live in Greece you probably never heard of this Greek-Canadian. Imagine me as the coolest guy possible! That's the spirit!)
Often, I'm making illustrations while listening to music or podcasts. The one appearing here is titled 'The Moon and I'.