How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop? - Jemsite
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 05:33 AM Thread Starter
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How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

What I'm asking for here is your story on how you first heard of Steve Vai and, of course, the JEM line of Ibanez guitars.

I'll start with mine, even though it makes me look completely clueless, which I was.

It all started (typical story beginning ) when I went searching for my first electric guitar when I was a bit younger. when it came to high end guitar brands I had only really heard of one brand... Fender (I was very uninformed).
So you can imagine my confusion when I walked into a good guitar store and couldn't spot a Fender anywhere. Instead, there were sharp guitars with "LTD" or "ESP" on the headstock on one half of the wall, and on the other half were guitars that had interesting, spear like headstocks with sharp logos on them, and bridges that looked beyond the complexity of any Stratocaster.
Of course we asked the attendant what happened to all the Fenders, and he said "we personally don't think their quality is as good as they used to be. THIS is what we go for..."
With that, he took a black guitar off the wall hangar. As he lowered it, I could read the sharp logo on the spear-like headstock:


Never heard of it. (When I said VERY uninformed, I wasn't kidding).

As he explained to me just what Ibanez was, and why he would recommend it instead of Fenders, I started to realise these guitars both looked and sounded better than any Stratocaster I'd messed around on in the past. Obviously, we weren't going to be rushed into the desicion (this salesman wasn't that type anyway), so he gave me the current Ibanez catalogue (2007 at the time) and told me to check out what was in it.

The first section of pages featured what looked like sharpened Strats, many with unusual finishes and no pickguards (which I now easily recognise as the RG series). After the RGs and RGAs came the S series, along iwth its denominators like the SZ, then the Xiphos and VBT (I was starting to realise this was nothing like anything Fender could dish out). Then I turned that page...

The first thing that grabbed my attention was a bright red RG with a reverse headstock and black EMGs (I knew what EMGs were lol). It looked different from the other RGs, but even the picture of the guy with the ugly mask didn't make me think twice. It was another RG, like the rest on that page.

I turned the page again. Now I saw what I thought was a bright red S series guitar with more rounded horns (it was actually the JS1200 CA). And on the other page next to it was a line of "RGs". One was a seven string, but I'd seen one further back. I was getting pretty interested in Ibanez' ability to take the RG series and make so many different variations of it under the one "RG" name. These "RGs" even had a handle carved into them! Later I noticed that these RG's names started with the letters J, E and M, but it didn't really make me twig, as I assumed it just stood for something to do with the handle, and I thought it was still an RG.

I looked through the rest of the catalouge, decided the RG series was my favourite (thinking that it and the S series were the only two large lines), and that was that for the day.

Time passed, and I got my first guitar (an Ibanez, which I'm glad I went for).

More time passed, and I was at school one day talking to my friend, and he mentioned a game he had gotten, called Halo 2. When I got home, I looked it up, and suddenly they were advertising a Halo 3. Out of interest, I watched the trailer, and the orchestral music caught my attention. I liked it, and looked it up. A whole list of different Halo themes popped up. I went for the Halo 3 theme, which was what I had been looking for, but then another one caught my eye:

"Halo 2 - Electric Guitar Theme"

Now, being a guitar lover, I clicked on it, and the song started up. The opening note from the guitar droned into action, and got me interested straight away. After hearing the song, I was interested to see who the guitarist was, and so I looked up the song on Google.

Introducing... Mr Steven Siro Vai!!!

Normally of course this would just be a name, but it twigged something in my memory; it was a name I'd seen somewhere before. I was sure it was in that old Ibanez catalogue, so I opened it up, and there was his name in the top corner, above that row of RGs with the handles in them. But this time I investigated the page more closely, and discovered that not only was the solo I'd heard played on those RGs, but that he designed them, and they weren't RGs at all!

Introducing... the Ibanez JEM Series!!!

This definitely got me more interested in the JEM line, and I learned more and more about them and just how different they were to an RG. A while later, while looking up the series on Google, I decided to be lazy and leave the "Ibanez" out of the search. Therefore, I only typed "JEM". Even then, I was lazy, so I typed "Jem" without the capitals.

This fastracked Google on to a slightly different list of sites to what usually appeared...

One of the top ones read "Jemsite".

I clicked on it, checked it out and left it like that.

1 and a half years later, I stumbled across it again, and decided to join.

So that's my story of how I learned of Vai, the JEM series and Jemsite too. I hope you guys got a good laugh out of my total ignorance of the JEMs as a completely different series, and the fact that they are a signature model.

So, what's YOUR stories?
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 06:22 AM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

Ok I'll run with my story, rather interesting that you only just recently heard of Vai and Ibanez, but then I have friends that like the look of guitars more so by the colour of the shininess of the hardware more than anything else.

My first exposure to Vai was courtesy of David Lee Roth on the Eat Em & Smile album, I still love that album to this day. My older sister had originally exposed me to Van Halen via the 1984 album, and as I would read all her music magazines after she'd finished with them, I vaguely recall that David Lee Roth was no longer in Van Halen and going solo. Now it's a long time ago since that happened so forgive me if my memory is a bit dodgy, I can't recall if she had the album or what the deal was but I remember video clips that used to get played on Rage like Goin' Crazy and Yankee Rose, I remember being blown away by the theatrics of the uitar player with the flame guitar and the green meanie.

Anyway I now knew who Steve Vai was, so if he popped up anywhere I would read about it. A few years later I actually got around to deciding that I was gonna play guitar (courtesy of the dual guitars of Aces High by Iron Maiden....but that's another story). So there I was deciding I was gonna play guitar, I was more into bands like Metallica and Slayer, and didn't know anything about guitars.

Fortunately for me the bass player from my sisters band was selling her electric guitar, and it was cheap at $150 Aus, with a case.....GREAT I thought....I'll take it, I had some money saved and the guitar became mine, and lo and behold it was an Ibanez Blazer Series (which I later sold to my sister....again another story). So that was my introduction to Ibanez, not long after that I started deviating my journey home from High School to go past the local music shop, that just happened to stock Ibanez, it must have been about 89/90 by this stage. I was also getting up early every Saturday morning to watch the Metal n Rage and was beginning to notice Ibanez popping up on various video clips. I ended up gong into the music shop and scoring myself a few catalogs and drooling over the guitars which I just had no hope of affording. But a bit of a love affair with the brand began back then.

I can't recall when I first noticed the Jem as such but I must have known about it for a while, then I on a trip to Melbourne I got to play 1 in Allans, again I can't recall the year exactly, and I"m not even sure of model or colour now either. What I do remember though was not being impressed, if I had the knowledge I have now I could have said maybe the action/set up was terrible or something else but I have no ideal. I do recall playing what must have been maybe an S540 and preferring that over the Jem.

I can also remember that in the Window they had a Swirled Universe guitar, whi ch I instantly recognised due to the Passion & Warfare album cover, which I thought was kinda cool, but by that point I was getting a bit better and had gotten myself a 2nd hand Charvette off a school mate, and I was really lusting after a Randy Rhoads Jackson more than anything. From back home I had also lusted after a Lazer Blue RG that I think had a blue mirrored pickguard aswell, and I think there must have been a violet RG with pink mirrored pickguard. Either way I kept grabbing the catalogs every time I go tthe chance.

It wasn't until years later that I actually got around to owning 1, then 2, then 3 and so on haha, and I don't own a Jem as yet, I think I'll try and get a Swirled Universe firstly as I prefer 7 strings, but if a Jem happens to fall into my lap I just may not be able to resist.

A bit of a long winded dribble but ya get that sometimes :-) There's some of my history.
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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 06:30 AM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

I was discovering Satch when I borrowed the 1997 G3 album from a friend.
There was Vai... there was the JEM. Then, I recall seeing a JEM555BK and a JEM7DBK in a music store and I tried both... and I loved the DBK!
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 07:11 AM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

Well, for years I was a fan of Queen and thought Brian May was the best guitarist ever. At about the time Van Halen and Roth parted company a friend of mine introduced me to Dave's new guitarist. My friend was a real fan a bought one of the early 777SKs which being a Brian May fan I thought was ludicrous!

I asked why my friend wanted a Jem rather than any other guitar or even custom instrument and he said "If it's good enough for Steve, it's good enough for me." I thought he was a twit!

Many years later and having played a number of cheapo guitars I'd kind of lost a little interest in Brian May and Queen (complicated personal reasons) and Steve Vai was my new hero, When I inherited some cash I decided to buy my first decent guitar and bought myself a VWH.

It turns out it suits me very well, I don't play like Steve Vai (and in fact nor could I if I wanted to). I play in a covers band doing all sorts of rock/pop/blues covers and it's versatile and reliable (and a bit flashy).
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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 07:21 AM Thread Starter
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

Originally Posted by Poiyda View Post
A bit of a long winded dribble but ya get that sometimes :-)
Hey, that's the idea! We want the in-depth story!

Good stories so far guys, good to know not everyone was as clueless about the whole thing as me. :P
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 07:26 AM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

I was into Frank Zappa back in the 70's. I bought his album "You Are What You Is" and found Steve Vai.
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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 10:39 AM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

for me it was back in 1992, i went to see a friends band play and the guitarist was really good, he was doing stuff on guitar i hadnt seen before really ( harmonics all over the place, tapping, sweeps and fast legato runs) anyway got to know him and he was a big vai fan, ended up getting a copy of eat em and smile off a mate, from there on i checked out passion and warfare. so thats how i got into vai, as for his gutiars it all stemmed from passion's cover with the swirled universe then finding out that not all his songs are 7 string songs and that he also uses a 6 string called the JEM.

Finding out about vai i also got to find out about satch the same way so when i bought passion i bought surfing round about the same time.
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 12:35 PM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

I was about 14 when Eat 'Em And Smile came out. At that same time, I had just picked up the electric guitar. Right before that album, Crossroads came out. I was blown away by Jack Butler. Then I saw the Yankee Rose video. I put 2 + 2 together, and thought that looks like the same guy. (no internet in those days kids). Anywho, there was Steve Vai. I was hooked ever since. Of course in videos to come and guitar mags like Guitar for the practicing musician, guitar school, guitar world, etc there were the Ibanez Jems. I loved them from the inception. There was NOTHING like it at the time. That monkey grip was the shiznit in the '80s.
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 01:24 PM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

+1 for the Eat 'Em and Smile crowd.

As a wee one I used to get up very early on the weekends, something I find incredibly hard to do any day of the week now it seems. For a short period in the early nineties I think it was Channel Four would air thirty minutes of music videos while the BBC would run their weekend morning cartoons, something I didn't find interesting. There's only so much Postman Pat/Fireman Sam/Round the Twist one can take when they're a Thunderbirds/Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends/Stingray kind of lad, so I switched to watching the music video run. I remember on rare and lucky days, classic rock would be played rather than pop, to tie in with the grunge scene and among those videos was the Van Halen, Panama video. It only came on the one time, but it was enough to stick in my impressionable young mind. It never occurred to me to start a music collection when I could hear music I like for free if I found the right station on the old beat up radio I had. Sometimes I would get lucky and find a classic rock station, other times, nothing but static, but it kept me pleased musically.

I was around six at this time, so my mind wandered very easily and I quickly grew more interested in playing Ninja Turtles with the neighbours' kids and Doctors & Nurses with a girl who lived a few doors down. (Another story for another time) I'm close to turning eight years old and its time to head off to prep school (high school to the US fellas) where they had a strict rule of all students having to learn a musical instrument, but the choice was up to them. Although everyone still had to learn the recorder too, which irked me somewhat. My parents asked what instrument I wanted to play "ELECTRIC GUITAR!" was my answer.

My parents, fearing years of headaches to follow, insisted that if I wanted to learn the guitar, I would have to play classical or acoustic, very kindly pointing out that I would be able to move onto Electric when I was a few years older once I'd understood how to play an acoustic. Being a stubborn and idiotic eight year old, I thought this meant no electric (several years is an eternity to an eight year old) so I said no thanks, I'll play the flute instead, thinking I would somehow get my own DragonZord out of it to take me to school each morning.

So years go by, learning the flute, moving to violin, not finding any interest in music. At this point, my cousin is heading off to the army and decides to rid himself of possessions he no longer has any use for. Among which, are a collection of Van Halen CDS and the first David Lee Roth solo Album, Eat 'Em and Smile.

It wasn't until I was in my teens that I started to wonder who on earth it was playing on Big Trouble, who was it that was making these weird sounds and composing them in such a way to make incredible music? So I started checking out the names and bios of everyone in bands I liked and found that Mr. Vai had been around in several bands I was interested in, he just had THAT sound. He quickly found himself right at the top of my favourite musicians list next to EVH, which at the time was mostly a drummer list with two guitar players in it. (I was a drummer for a few years in my teens) I still had no idea what gear Vai used, but I knew who he was and what he was up to.

Finally when I picked up a guitar when I was seventeen (The result of looking around a music store and realising, "Hey, I have my own money now... I can spend it on what I want? Hellooooo childhood wish of playing guitar". But I had no idea what I was looking for and was on a tight budget. After talking to the manager of the store, I walked out with a Squier Strat starter package. My guitar love became an obsession. A level Art projects turned into portraits of guitar idols and advertising for a local guitar store. Design Technology projects turned into building a Hard Case. Free periods and nights at home were spent on the internet learning more and more about players' gear. Money was spent on music magazines and reading them cover to cover, several times.

Somewhere in the chaos of that obssesive research I stumbled up Ibanez and the JEM line. I noticed the name Ibanez kept coming up around players I followed. Gilbert, Vai, Satch... All the gods were playing Ibanez, so something about them must be good!

Sorry about the long winded story, but I thought It'd be better than just saying "Listened to an album, years later learned on the interwebs about the JEM via a bout of gear obsession."
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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 02:00 PM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

Eat em
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post #11 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 07:44 PM
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Smile Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

I went to Guitar Center on Milwaukee Ave in Chicago in March of 1988. I grabbed a Jackson Soloist, Peavy Pacer American, a Jem777SK and either an ESP or a Vandenburg off the shelf and started playing all of them through a Marshall. The Jem played, sounded and looked the best. It also stayed in tune! I was in love and bought the Jem!
It hardly faded much and I played countless gigs till I sold it like a fool in 04. At the time I had like 6 Les Pauls I never played, and I sold the Jem! It was the BEST guitar I ever had IMO.
I bought a 04 7VW last year thank God!!

I am happy again!

But I WILL have a LNG someday!!

+1 A proud EEAS fanatic!!!
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post #12 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 08:10 PM Thread Starter
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

These stories are all very interesting.

But people please stop apologising for the long posts! I was expecting long posts and in fact that's what I'm hoping to see more of.
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post #13 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 08:13 PM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

It was the during the month of July, 1986. I was 13 and spending a month with Uncle's family in Phoenix, Arizona and they had MTV!!!! David Lee Roth's "Yankee Rose" was on the top 10 countdown for the whole month along with Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and Genesis's "Invisible Touch." I would watch it everyday. I got back home and bought "Eat 'em and Smile." Later saw the "Goin' Crazy" video. Then I saw "Crossroads" and went to see DLR during the "Skyscraper" tour (Poison opened the show) at the old Hersheypark Arena. David said, "Steve, say 'Hello Hershey," and he did. It was so cool.
I think that I must have known about the JEM model for a long time because when I saw it, I always knew it was his signature model. But the first time I remember REALLY WANTING a JEM was in 1995 while looking through the 1995 Ibanez Guitar Catalog. I knew that I had to have one which finally happened in June of 2007.
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post #14 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 08:20 PM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

Hearing other recounts of the time takes me back to those moments of sitting in awe.
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post #15 of 25 (permalink) Old 01-29-2009, 08:40 PM
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Re: How did YOU get into the Vai and JEM loop?

My answer is here on my guest post on the Jemsite blog:

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jem , loop , solo , steve , vai

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