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I've been FB friends with Roger Bell, Vai's old tech, for a few years now and occasionally I get some pics/stories from him. Roger is a really great guy and the people he has worked with/made friends with is INCREDIBLE. He was Vai's tech from the Sex And Religion days until Nordegg took over around the Ultra Zone.

There has been discussion over the years regarding the ebony fingerboards on the 7V's and why Ibanez stopped making them that way. I can get more on that in a bit, but first, Roger posted this the other day-



That is the original neck that came on EVO when Vai received the first 5 prototypes of the 7V's with different pick-ups. It's very much rosewood. Apparently, after the Sex And Religion tour, it warped and needed to be replaced. Roger says the neck he replaced it with was one of the spares he had on hand for the Attitude/Lasher guitars Vai would play "Kill The Guy With The Ball" with and smash at the end of the song. That neck would be the one that you can see in promo shots for ALS, Fire Garden on the the G3 DVD (that neck does not have the word JEM written on the headstock and the Ibanez logo was black).

The replacement neck was the neck that got smashed in Australia, which was replaced with the black headstock neck, which was taken off of Red Lace. That neck stayed on for a few years until it was replaced with a neck made in '00, which was the neck that the JEM-EVO was modeled after, then the True Temperament neck. There is currently a different neck on it that I don't believe is a TT neck, but slightly scalloped. (Jeroen can correct me if I'm wrong on that!) However, the guys at TT have made a new neck that's slightly scalloped for him, which will be going on EVO any time.

What's interesting is that none of those necks had an ebony fingerboard. I believe someone here asked Vai before about it at an EVO experience and Vai said he doesn't even really notice a difference. I imagine now that he's playing all scalloped necks, he notices it even less!

There was speculation before on why Ibanez went with ebony for the first half of the 7V's production, we can keep speculating on that, but it's safe to say that the decision didn't matter much to Steve and was probably for a nicer contrast to the white finish more than anything.

So why did Ibanez stop using ebony on them? Jim Donahue was kind enough to drop a few words on FB and give some insight-

Jim Donahue: The reason why it was changed the real reason the ebony was Indian and had too many spots very high reject rate and the ebony would shrink and in a thin neck would over bow and had one way truss Rods
When asked why this didn't happen to all the 7V's leaving the factory-

Jim Donahue :Yes the problem guitars never made it out of the factory I was in charge of worldwide quality control back then
I know most don't care about this stuff and it's all trivia, but there are also guys out there like me who enjoy hearing the history of certain guitars and eat this stuff up. Also, the gentleman who got his hands on the broken EVO neck from 96' got it out of the trash can when it was discarded and pieced together a whole, smashed guitar out of parts that fell off them when Vai would smash them nightly! You can check that out here- https://www.vai.com/saturday-gear-p...8J6APK6duo_XAj36kme65HilnyoHZRAjOF3SVPS0Y55bM

Thanks to Jeroen for providing a timeline of neck changes in those FB discussions! Between him and Roger's comments, the full history of EVO is known! I've been trying to talk Roger into writing a book for a few years now, I mean, the guy used to shoot guns with Hunter S. Thompson and was responsible for getting Zakk Wylde signed to Gibson! The pics Roger posts make my draw job all the time and I really hope he decides to put some of his history in print sometime!
 

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I have a different version of EVO, hopefully Jeroen can chime in.

Steve originally ordered a set of 3 in VWH specs, they were called the Trio. 1 in alder body, maple, and basswood, all had ebony fretboard, and this was in 92'. The alder was his choice. It was assumed that that guitar actually became EVO. If it didn't and he ordered 5 more of the same spec and one of those 5 became EVO, but now they had rosewood boards?

I'd love to know the serial number on that neck to compare to the first 3.
 

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It's going to be very difficult, if not impossible to correctly put that part of history together. I've even heard stories of the very first Jem7vwh not having an AANJ neck.
Steve gave tons of guitars away, others didn't survive tours etc. etc. Maybe Mace Bailey would still remember what he created around that time.
 

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This story came from the person that received the maple bodied guitar in 1993, she was the audio engineer and assistant engineer for S&R as told direct to her from Steve and she wrote it down at the time so it wouldn't be lost.

And now that I got it out, I have to make a correction to my own story [it's been awhile]. This one was part of the "twins" he ordered, not the Trio.

I'll start from -

"He spoke of these guitars in a 1993 Guitar World interview:
'Steve Vai Discusses Devin Townsend and New Album, Sex And Religion'

"Originally I had a basswood body, and I had them make me identical guitars with alder and maple bodies. I recorded all three and did the AJB test. What I noticed was that the maple was very bright. The alder is a little warmer, and that is the one I like. The basswood sounds thinner. So this is an alder body (brandishes guitar). Then we started experimenting with necks. I found that a thicker neck usually has better resonance. But I like the way a thinner neck feels. So I just made a compromise there."

So the story really has no bearing on if that first alder VWH became EVO with necks swapped around, or if it was one from a later batch. But this maple body guitar is absolutely pure VWH except the neck is a little more C shape and is 18.5-20mm, so those first 3 VWH's, from the article, were all identical except for the body wood. This is a pure Fujigen built as I would assume the first basswood one was also, so Mace wouldn't be of help I don't think.
 
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