Steve Vai: "I gotta get me one of them Arias."
While searching for videos of Aria bass players, I found some cool videos of the band Alcatrazz. I really didn't know much about them at first but quickly discovered they were a very talented yet underrated rock band that seemed destined for stardom but never quite became as popular as perhaps they should have been. First off, the band featured guitar virtuosos Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai (at different times of course!). Secondly, they also boasted Graham Bonnet, veteran singer of Rainbow and the Michael Schenker Group. The band obviously had talent. However, things didn't quite turnout the way they were expected to, for a variety of reasons. For more about what happened with Alcatrazz check out this interesting interview with Gary in two parts.
But as this is a bass blog I want to focus on Gary Shea and his Aria basses. He was part of the rhythm section, along with drummer Jan Uvena, that held things together while the guitarists and Bonnet went off. Gary was kind enough to give me some great info and photos to use on this blog! Thank you Gary!
Gary says he had 6 basses and 1 acoustic guitar from his endorsement deal with Aria. Among these were a pair of white SB-Elite II's, a couple RSB Deluxe I's, a red SB-R60 with an EMG pickup (pictured below, left and middle) and an odd, Steinberger looking bass. The bass has the same body as the Aria Wedge series, but the headstock is very different. That bass, pictured below, to the right, was mainly used on tour buses and hotels.
As Malmsteen was also an endorser of Aria at the time, he talks a bit about his Arias in this short interview followed by the instrumental "Evil Eye", with Alcatrazz. In the interview, Yngwie says that he has several Arias and that his "V" was one of his favorites (along with the Strats). You can get a look at some of them along with Gary's white SB-Elite II bass. At the end, Yngwie destroys one of his guitars...thankfully it's not an Aria!
Here is a picture of Gary and his red SB and Yngwie with an RS model. Also, you can see one of Gary's RSB basses in the background of the "Hiroshima Mon Amour" video, and also in the Alcatrazz Aria Pro ads.
Gary's main basses seemed to be the SB-Elite II basses. He had them both modified with EMG pickups and one of them has a Badass bridge. In the opening photo of this post, you can see Gary playing the Elite with EMGs and a Badass with Steve Vai looking on. Below on the right, you can see the bass again. Gary used Arias for recording the Alcatrazz albums "Disturbing the Peace" and "Dangerous Games". Below to the left you can see him playing in the studio with the Elite with stock bridge. The photo was from the "Disturbing the Peace" sessions. He also used the Aria to record for The Jonas Hannson Band, and here you can see him playing it in a promo video. As always Gary's playing is solid in the song and you can see numerous closeups of his bass.
Maybe the coolest thing is that Gary is still rocking the Arias to this day, long after Yngwie and other big name players either gave them away to Hard Rock Cafes or maybe even smashed them to bits! Gary played the SB Elite on reunion gigs with another of his old bands, New England, a few years ago.
Once again thanks to Gary Shea for the great info and photos! Check out Gary on Myspace for more pictures, videos and music!