Steve Vai and Favored Nations / Mascot Label Group have announced the release of VAI / GASH digitally and on CD January 27, 2023. The vinyl album release will follow on February 24. “In The Wind” which can be previewed here: https://youtu.be/AkbnEj2yDw0 . Vai offers, “’In The Wind’ was the first track that was recorded for this record. It captures the spirit of the open road freedom we felt while riding our Harley’s on bike rallies and interstate road trips. The track has the exhilaration of having that kind of power under you while kissing the wind”
As Vai shares, “This record was written and recorded in somewhat of a stream of consciousness in 1991 within perhaps a 2-week period as an answer to my desire to have a particular kind of music to listen to when I was riding my Harley Davison Motorcycle with my friends. It’s reminiscent of a certain type of rock music I enjoyed as a teenager in the 1970’s. These recordings sat on the shelf for over 30 years and are being released now in 2023. Here’s the story…”
An abbreviated synopsis of the anecdotal history and fond remembrances as articulated by Vai in the liner notes offer detail on singer Gash and his deep connection to Vai. From his teenage years on Long Island, to today, he has openly shared his love of motorcycles. Gash shared that passion.
Vai reflects, “Around 1990, I was overcome with a desire to rip out what I thought would be a straight-ahead type of rock record that contained the kind of music I wish I had to listen to when I was that teenager ensconced in the biker culture. And then I met Johnny “Gash” Sombrotto.”
John was born in Queens, New York and as a youth was an avid motorcycle enthusiast. In 1977 at the age of 21, he endured a serious accident that caused his body to catch fire while plunging 30 feet onto a barbed wire fence. Vai wrote in the liner notes, “The doctors told his family that he had third degree burns over 60% of his body, and that if he even survived, there was a strong possibility that he would lose his right arm and left leg. While in the Burn Unit, he endured excruciating pain, especially when given the intense daily cycle of hot baths for his burns. He soldiered on, and after a month he was finally discharged from the hospital. Luckily, no limbs were amputated. He was, however, left with a partial left ear and layers of skin grafts over his neck, arms, legs, and entire chest. The stories he told about his recovery and the excruciating pain involved were crushingly gut wrenching. But he survived, and eventually thrived again. He made his way out to Los Angeles in 1982 and got right back up on his motorcycle.”
Vai met John through a mutual friend, Mark Cimino. They bonded over biker culture, and he choose the name “Gash” as a nickname. Vai wrote, “…I’ve observed many people interacting with him on our numerous motorcycle road trips and other adventures. At first sight, many people could be taken by his bald head, scarred neck and burnt-off ear. Looking as he did and riding a Harley it was easy to assume he was perhaps a tough, menacing biker with a nefarious attitude, but after engaging with him for even a minute, his charm and magnetic charisma had them laughing in their shoes and completely enjoying his uplifting presence. He endeared people with his wit, warmth, and sparkle. John hit it off instantly with the most unlikely of people of every age, color, size, political or sexual persuasions. He was non superficial and never judged people. This allowed his engaging personality and intoxicating charm to draw you in. Under all those scars was a bold and fearlessly warm heart that can be seen in his disarming and big soft blue eyes.”
He continues, “…something in me wanted to get him in the studio and see how he would belt over these biker type songs I had demoed, but nothing could have prepared me for the voice that came out of his mouth. I had to think, off course he sounds like that because that’s him, confident, authentic, fearless but with a lighthearted intention. This was the voice I wanted to hear wailing over these slamming rock tracks. I was stunned. Around that timeframe I was also starting to launch work on ‘Sex and Religion’ and was hoping to eventually record more than the 8 songs I had laid down with John for an alternative project, but that was proven impossible. On September 7th, 1998, two days after my father had passed away, the phone rang, and it was John’s beloved girlfriend Nancy. Her voice was quaking, and I somehow knew what she was going to tell me. ‘John was in a bike accident and was killed’.”
After three decades, Steve Vai has finally shared this master with The World. In his opinion, “He would have absolutely been the greatest rock lead singer you would ever want to know. All the elements were in place, but he was gone. Disheartened, I put the entire project on the shelf, and would listen to it at least once a year for the past 30 years, especially around the anniversary of his passing. Then recently something compelled me to want to put it out now. I wish you would have had a chance to get to know John. I believe you would have loved him just as we all did. For now, he is ‘In the Wind’.”