Polyphia’s Tim Henson Recalls How Steve Vai Reacted to Them Editing His Guest Solo: ’I Chopped It Up Really Hard’

While recently appearing on Reverb’s YouTube channel, Polyphia guitar players Tim Henson and Scott LePage reflected on their collaboration with guitar virtuoso legend Steve Vai. The song in question was “Ego Death” from the band’s 2022 album “Remember That You Will Die.” When asked what did they take away from meeting Steve Vai in the first place, Henson replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“Steve changed the way that I carry myself. Not only has he influenced my playing, but he’s influenced my behavior. The first time we met Steve was at NAMM in 2020. And he was the coolest guy ever. Like, when he talks to you, he looks at you and he talks to you like you’re the only person in the room. You know, literally everybody that I’ve ever met who’s met him only has amazing things to say about him.”

“And it really made me stop and think like, dude, I’m kind of a shit-ass. [Laughs] And I want to be like Steve. And so every day I try to work towards being less of a shit-ass and more like Steve. So I often asked myself, ‘What would Steve do?’ He’s an incredible role model. He’s very wise. He’s very kind. He’s very patient. A good dude. All around.”

Recalling how they ended up meeting him at his home, LePage pointed out Steve’s pleasant nature:

“We fucked up his speakers and he didn’t even get mad.”

Polyphia - Ego Death feat. Steve Vai (Official Music Video)

The story goes that they played him the initial version of “Ego Death” and then, due to the way the song was mixed and the way his speakers were set up, it all went south. Henson added:

“[They were] people size monitors, but they’re set up so that like you could listen to I guess, like, Pink Floyd or something like rock music really loud and it sounds incredible. But then you play anything with 808s in it and it’s gonna fucking just… [Laughs] So yeah, we blew his speakers and he was really nice about it and did not make us feel like dickheads.”

Going more into how they ended up editing the song and Steve’s solo, Henson added:

“The story of that is when he sent it, he said, ‘This is my gift to you guys. Please do whatever you wish with it.’ And so we took that as ‘Let’s fuck it up.’ [Laughs] Yeah, I chopped it the fuck up and like changed a bunch of notes.”

Polyphia X Steve Vai

LePage chimed in:

“Yeah, because when we send each other guitar parts, we’re like, ‘Hmm, this is cool. How do we make it not this?’ All of our guitar parts that you’ve ever heard? They’ve never sounded like that until the very last day. They’re always changing. So we wanted to see how much we could do with it.”

Henson then continued:

“Yes. So I chopped it up really hard, changed a lot of things, change things like that were happening under it, change things that were happening around it. I brought in brass tracks to kind of, I guess, ‘float’ everything.”

Steve Vai in Dallas with Tim Henson and Scott LePage of Polyphia

But what did Steve think of it? Well, after the initial reaction, Steve felt like he couldn’t give them a full-blown feature for the song but just have a songwriting credit. Henson added:

“And then we sent it back to Steve and said, ‘What do you think man?’ And he took days to answer. And he then came back and was like, ‘Oh, wow, I guess I was a bit taken aback by how  ‘Polyphia-ised’ it is. And then he was like, ‘I think it might be better if I just get a writing credit instead of a feature just because I don’t feel as though I’ve contributed enough to warrant a feature.'”

“And me and Scott were like, ‘Oh, fuck, fuck, fuck…’ So we fucking wrote the craziest long as fuck email. And it was basically just like, ‘Dude, we’ll change it back, please, please please!'”

Polyphia Roasts Fan Covers

“We didn’t want to make him feel like we’re disrespecting his art or anything. And it was just more so like the process of figuring out what it needs to be.”

Fortunately, things turned out for the best:

“And then, we sent him that email, and he came back and was like, ‘Oh, no, I’ve been sitting with it and I think everything you did to it was the exactly the right thing that needed to be done and I’m more than happy to give you guys the feature, let’s do this.'”

Polyphia - Playing God (Official Music Video)

“And so we did it. A couple weeks before the record came out, Steve was in town on his tour. And we went to go play with him in Dallas. And we were hanging out in the greenroom and we were talking and he was like, ‘I really truly believe that every choice that you guys made to that solo is exactly what it needed.”

Photo: Delusion23 (Polyphia – Manchester, UK – 6 February 2019), Wojciech Pędzich (Steve Vai, 3-Majówka 2023 62)


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.