|'Diamond' David Lee Roth. The very utterance of his name conjures up images of a blond-maned, spandex-clad rock warrior, strutting the world's stage in buttless chaps, a strategically ripped '84 tour shirt, a legion of scarves and bandanas, with a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand, a fully hootered babe in the other, and a herd of sunglass-wearing midgets by his side. A couple of years ago, when Dave was strutting his stuff in Las Vegas, I heard destiny calling. Being in a band myself, it seemed obvious that it was my duty to attend as many shows as possible to learn the finer points of showmanship from the master frontman himself. So I packed my bags, quit my day job, and headed to the glitterdome that is Las Vegas with the hopes of picking up just a smidgen of what Dave had to offer. As far as I was concerned, this was a high point in his career (and mine). Here was a man who was born to play Vegas.
But the critics were not so kind. Basically, everyone and their mother was slamming Dave. Those bastards! Why couldn't they understand his genius!?!
After an unfortunate career-halting performance on The Tonight Show- where Mr. coke whore himself, Robin Williams, even had the audacity to hurl a barb or two his way - Dave was hitting a low point. Or at least that's what those commies in the media would have had you believe! I thought Dave was rockin'! So I did what any artist does in the face of desperate times. I put pen to paper! I wrote, along with another Roth-supporting scribe, a glowing review of Dave from his show-stopping performance at the MGM Grand and hailed him as the true King that he is! Within a month of hitting the streets, we received a call from The Great One's manager, Eddie Anderson, praising us on our work and commending us on sticking with Dave in a time of need. Two years later, this proved to be my E ticket to glory
Knowing that Dave had a new greatest hits album on the way, appropriately titled The Best, and a new tell-all book, Crazy From The Heat, I decided to approach POPsmear about doing an interview with The Man on behalf of their fine magazine. Before I could finish a sentence, editor at large Troy Fuss hollered, 'Hell yes, you little puke, you get the interview and you've got yourself a cover story.' He proceeded to update me on the fine etiquette of the POPsmear interviewing procedure, ending with a firm, 'Don't fuck it up, Meyer!'
ith Troy's inspiring words echoing in my brain, I decided to go about it the 'official' way. After a call to Dave's publicist, I was told I could get a phone interview for half an hour. Yes! It couldn't get any better than this! But wait, fair reader, because this little dreamer was about to embark on a lot more than what we in the industry call a 'phoner.' Not two days passed before I was summoned to Lord Eddie Anderson's Hollywood condominium and told, due to the previous article from the Vegas era, I was being granted an in-person interview with the 'Full Bug' himself at a local strip joint. Wow! My heart raced, my eyes palpitated, my groin shifted...er, I mean...well, you understand. Anyway, after a barrage of phone calls, and date/time changes, I was told it would be on a Friday night, we would meet at the Sunset Marquee Hotel for drinks, then head to the world famous gentleman's club Crazy Girls for tits! Wow! Booze and dames with Diamond Dave. Fuck yeah! I was stoked!
I got to the hotel about 20 minutes early to order a drink and calm my nerves. I was shakin' like a leaf, man. I looked around and took in the scenery. This was one classy joint. I expected some divey cavern, hole in the wall, but this was like the Ritz Carlton or something! After a couple of cocktails and smokes on the solo tip, his majesty arrived. As he sauntered in, the room lit up like a Christmas tree on Sunday morning. I was expecting to see the short-haired, white-suited Dave I had seen at the MGM Grand, or at least the scruffy-haired, white-bloused Dave from the MTV-Van Halen debacle. But what I saw leapt so far beyond my expectations, my eyes bugged out like a Tex Avery cartoon double take. In walked Dave with full-on long blond hair flying in the wind, a pair of raggedy overalls, a patched leather jacket, and a scarf wrapped around his neck in a manner so rock and roll only Keith Richards would understand. He looked so badass, and carried himself with such a confident demeanor, that everyone in the room stopped and stared regardless of whether they actually recognized him or not (although I suspect most of them did). After exchanging introductions and watching Dave signal Eddie to slip his driver a hundred spot, we hit the couch for the much anticipated showdown. It went like this...
POPsmear: So where ya livin' these days, Dave?
DLR: I ping pong between wherever, whatever is required for what I do as an artist. For example, if I want the legal firm to move with all the lightning speed of a glacier, I come to Los Angeles. If I would like to order super size number two Happy Meals with a cheeseburger and small fries, but I'd prefer to receive it long after my clothing's gone out of style, I go to Florida. And if I want to make fun of everybody who goes to either of these places, well, I go to New York. New York City is the critical capital of merriness in the entire United States, that's why I adore being part of it. My first time was in the Fifties, and I was jetsetted into the nerve center of a gangland stronghold, as per my bohemian aunt and uncle, and developed the fine art of ridicule. I was in New York when I picked up POPsmear, probably a month before all of this came to be. And I said the same as when I discovered Howard Stern in the back of a Pakistani taxi...well, the taxi wasn't from Pakistan, but the pilot was. So, evidently, was the hydraulic system! Nevertheless, I determined instantly I had to be part of this!
POP: When I first got turned onto it, I saw it as somewhere in between Mad Magazine and Lester Bangs.
DLR: Yes, there's also an edge of the Algonquin round table, where ridicule and spite take on a refined artformism.
POP: I heard for some time that you were working on a book, even before the recent Van Halen episode. What influence did those events have on putting out Crazy From The Heat?
DLR: I delayed the book because of the ailin' of Van Halen. The siege of Howdy Doody Mountain. You know their next album is gonna be called 'Oh, You Miss Him Too?' Either that or they're gonna have to figure out an acronym for 'Oops, we fucked up the last decade!' The book was entirely done and had been proofread and edited many months before the debacle to follow. The only new chapter is 'Reunion Blues,' and what a smear of daytime psychology blowfish shit across my beautiful pristine graffiti wall. People say, 'How long did it take you to write this book, Dave?' Well, 42 fuckin' years! Thanks for nothing, Ed! We're not exactly talking Von Dutch here in terms of racing stripes! I do feel, however, that the only person who could possibly play me effectively, should they design to manufacture a movie based on this book, would be Jim Brown! A little spin there, but that's why you hire me.
POP: At one point I heard that Henry Rollins' company was going to put out the book.
DLR: Yes, Henry was involved and we were going to do it with his book company under all of his auspiciousness, but Henry got caught up in the Dreamworks schism. He had a whole new record and the whole push from the brand new company and he went out to conquer the whole world and then some-and barefoot!
POP: Wearing skinny little shorts!
DLR: You're talking about skinny little shorts, a fella asked me fairly recently from a super heavy metal, thrash, bladerunner magazine, whatever, he said, 'So Dave, would you ever entertain the notion of posing for a photo spread for a gay magazine?' I said, 'Wait, let's examine this. These are broad generalities, of which I am particularly fond of, but we got a few friends reading this here, some of them I got to see in jujitsu tomorrow morning bright and early. I don't particularize photo sessions per say, but when you speak about this kind of magazine, you're talking about a magazine that's read almost entirely by guys that contains almost entirely guys who are mostly in a state of great undress, right?' He said, 'Yes.' I said, 'Well doesn't that describe your magazine?' Ha Ha! I know how to get out of anything.
POP: When you put together your greatest hits record you obviously included all of the actual singles and hits, but how do you decide what other tracks to put on?
DLR: I remember shoplifting records at a very early age and always having to lift the tone arm over the ballad and the one about the relationship and so on. I don't wanna listen to the song about tuning the car, I wanna hear the song about crashing the car. Or at least driving it to a good liquor store robbery! So I cut off all the fat, loaded it with sugar, and then I'm a millionaire! You know soon we're gonna get to the 'So Dave, you're a relationship god' question, right? Same thing, fat free, loaded with sugar! Who do you wanna date? I'm Toastmaster General of the Immoral Majority. Our motto is 'Don't piss me off,' okay? You take me along to any great adventure, or celebration in the name thereof, for speed, dash and general insecurity. You need one of me in every great band, every rag tag army, as all the great armies have been. And this portion of this evening's program is built tough that way. If this was a bolt, you could hang a Volkswagon on it. You could use this as wallpaper music. Where you're not really listening, but Jesus, the color of the room! It changes what's happening outside your three dimensional mat-painting windows. It's like when you put on the Beach Boys, the sun comes up. This record does that. This is verb music. Pick a verb, goes beautifully. This is butt-muscle music. Need I illuminate further? This is the Devil's onion ring. This is guns and guitars, bikinis and fast cars. It's that erotic fascination with a brass section that's somewhat out of tune, with three girls in the background chirpin' along and accessory percussion. And it's all those dumpy lounge joints that you just love to drape. You don't kick back, you drape. It is all of those marvelous black soul tunes where you knew it was the ninth take and it was always a one take situation, and you hear 'em strangling for the note. That! But those by and large are vacations for me. To do Las Vegas, that's a vacation. Some of the good ones, they take three, four months.
POP: That was something I wanted to ask you about. In your book, you mention you thought it might take two or three years of playing Vegas to really break through. At that point in your career were you really willing to spend that much time to try to make it in Vegas?
DLR: Oh no. I was doing what in the South is called 'trying to pass.' I figured there was some sliver of hip in Las Vegas. It turns out you're more than likely to see a three times normal size stuffed bunny or Barney walking past the slot machines than you are to see somebody with a martini glass and a lit non-filtered cigarette. After extensive medical testing since that adventure it turns out conclusively that I do not have the Wayne Newton chromosome. I thought, Las Vegas, this was a city built by gangsters. The proletariat working man's vision of the future. It is one of two cities that has a comprehensive architectural design for the entire city. The only other city in history like that is Versailles. What we have now is major corporate concern. Boards of directors trying to figure out what the other guys think they should be. I always caution young musicians against spending your brief, marvelous and colorful time and talent trying to be what you think other people want you to be. Now you can take all of the most marvelous, brillianteen colors of the spectrum and mix them all together, what do ya get? Bleach! But Sarge, I mixed captain orange, incandescent yellow, and Day-Glo pink, and we shoulda got a horse of a different color, or at least something on par with Harold Arlen and Wizard Of Oz. All we got was Bleach! Ha Ha!
POP: There's been some rumors floating around...
DLR: Ooohhh, good. I'd just like to answer this right off the bat: probably.
POP: People have been saying that you were putting the original Eat 'Em And Smile line up of Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan, and Greg Bissonette back together. True?
DLR: What is in the works today is Billy Sheehan is definitely in. He's looking to go hunting. Carmine Appice is definitely in. I got Erwin Musper. He produced and piloted and engineered everybody from Bryan Adams to the last couple of Van Halen records. Sonically, not spiritually. I'm in charge of Zen quotient. And a soon to be announced guitar player. Oh my god, incandescent sound. He just fills the room with ambition, and torque, and belligerent enthusiasm, and enthusiastic belligerence. He's been trying to get with me for three years. He farm teamed somewhere. Boy, does he have an overhand right. And the skies are full of spinning, whirling steel. Duck! Joking. Ha Ha! Yes, this is my driving gear. Rock, hard rock. Big rock.
POP: Is this being put together for a new David Lee Roth solo record?
DLR: This is the David Lee Roth super band. This is a return to what I've always done best. I'm a one trick pony, Frank. Everything else that I do, writing books, doing interviews, is in support of my jones. Visualize the surf guy who lives in a tent by the North Shore so he can surf the 40 footers and now and then you'll see... (I wave some of my cigarette smoke away from him) No, don't blow the smoke away. Get it right in there, Frank. This is not steak. I'll kick your ass, Frank! Ha Ha. Maybe this will be a two-part! I never did get that. The whole rock stars calling each other out. The violence and everything and Eddie Van Halen constantly calling me out, screaming into a camera lens from three thousand, two hundred and twenty six miles away, 'I'm gonna kick you in your nuts! You better wear a cup. You better watch your balls.' This causes me to ask, Frank, because we're talking to a very articulate magazine here, with an articulate audience readership, and an entirely articulate interviewer here. What kind of balls is he imagining? What kind of testicles are haunting Eddie Van Halen's sleep? Are these giant turbo-prop monster truck nards that smash Chevies and Buicks and are now rolling over his front gate right now up there at 5150 and crushing his designer sports car and the family pet as it squeals a short, brief, glorious warning? Or are these highly trained, super-mobile, small, but highly maneuverable Belgian assault nards that even now are swarming under the gates and are about to sail into the nerve center of the gangland stronghold! The mind fairly reels, sire.
POP: Yeah, you're talking about a guy with a busted hip. So when he talks about kickin' nuts, he's talking about a hip replacement, a whole operation...
DLR: Oh god, for a long time I thought I was the 'hip' replacement! Shit, 'til he gets a hip replacement my sister could kick his ass in a street fight. I have never grown up to that. All my martial experience was because I was a product of interracial bussing and it was almost a prerequisite for both sides. Nevertheless, nobody ever said Jimi Hendrix, great left. Right? History for all the wrong reasons. That's why I'm here.
POP: In the book you speak of all your various travels around the world. What correlation do you see between the wild of the Amazon jungles and the music industry?
DLR: Somewhere between Robert Lewis Stevenson and Jack London, Treasure Island and Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 'I was there and it's all about me,' arrives the Diamond Dave, with a lot of luggage. I don't travel light and I don't jam, Frank. These are challenges that hail back to my early childhood. My first chapter in the book is 'I hurt constantly.' Not a day goes by I'm not in some kind of pain. All of them insignificant dents and bruises and contusions because I learned very early on, way before teenagerhood, that I got the most attention at the dinner table when I came back damaged. From the Pop Warner football field, from the Boy Scout outdoor survival jamboree, from karate lessons, ad infinitum. My parents would rub my shoulders and go, 'Hey, old paint, looks like one for the book.' Still to this day here you are asking me about it, 40 something years later. Seems to be working, Sarge.
POP: Well, all those trips make for folklore and the fans revel in it.
DLR: And it ain't adventure until shit rains out of the sky onto your big adventure! Example: Frank, ask me, 'Dave how was your vacation?'
POP: Dave, how was your vacation?
DLR: Oh Frank, it was glorious. The plane was comfortable, got along with the little lady marvelously. The food was great, natives were great (snore). Now ask me, 'Dave, how was your vacation?'
POP: Dave, how was your vacation?
DLR: I'm glad you asked, Frank. Let me order a drink. Monsoons arrived six weeks early, go figure. Plane crashed. Spent four bad days in customs and my old lady ran off with these three black guys. Now we have an interview! You can picture all of it. You're smiling as you flip the tape 'cause you don't want to miss a syllable. And I don't want to have to add 'miss a syllable' for you. The biggest part of going really far away from home is coming back home. The big return. All of my best stories are horror stories, monster stories, piranha stories, thorax stories. I almost drowned stories. I almost died stories. This is quintessential story telling and I think it's almost a forgotten art, a la conversation. To tell a story. And it is circuitous. We circle back, but how do we deal with certain years without discussing the impact on our culture permanently and indelibly of the '57 Bel Air coupe? You know, half of your Juxtapoz magazines are packed with Big Daddy Roth and Von Dutch. And these guys were the first artists. Why cars, Dave? Why cars? I don't own that many. I am not a car collector, but every time you crack a copy of Big Brother or Juxtapoz there's Von Dutch in his coveralls, covered in paint, wearing a painterly hat and what have you. This is our version of the Left Bank of Paris. These guys walked around without shirts all the time. They lived and starved for it. They were looked upon as infidels and throwaways and outcasts, but what they created has permanently affected our haircuts. I'd rather be the one with the scars than the bars.
POP: What to you is a crazier, more surreal existence, the Amazon or New York?
DLR: New York, because in the Amazon you can detail every inhabitant there. You can detail their wiles and wherefores. I can tell you, judging from sound, what's happening, and what's about to happen. You can't do that in New York, which is why I continually return to New York City.
POP: They're always throwing curve balls.
DLR: Oh yeah. Just when you thought you'd seen it all here comes a whole 'nother lofts worth. I describe adventure in a very simple term: the thrill of the unpredictable fetish.
POP: That's what was so great about Roth-era Van Halen. The rough edges. You can't polish off the rough edges. That's what's wrong with Van Halen today. There's no balls.
DLR: Classic Van Halen made you want to drink, dance and fuck. Current Van Halen encourages us to drink milk, drive a Nissan and have a relationship. And you've always sensed that, 'cause you feel the same way. I'm the most validating guy you could ever want. That's why I'm still in this magazine 20 summers later. Plus, you suspect me of everything, huh? Don't ya? And so do all of you reading this. You can go, 'Diamond Dave? Yeah, he does. You can tell, that's why he sings that way.' So no matter what I admit to, and I admit to a great number of things in my book, it's all totally validated. That's worth the price. The only things that I don't admit to in this epic tome are current with 'everybody got off easy.' So ya all better fuckin' behave. Nobody moves, nobody gets hurt. This is a robbery.
POP: When you recorded the two new songs with Van Halen, were there any other songs that you guys jammed on that were left unfinished? Any outtakes?
DLR: Your talent and output as an artist will always be a slave to your character, your personality and your lifestyle. And the Van Halens have changed to a great degree. I love responsibility. I volunteer for everything, but the Van Halens have a tremendous amount of responsibility, and on more than one occasion Ed Van Halen would look off, MTV style, into the past, blink a few dozen times like Oprah and go, 'I hate you. I'm jealous of you.' Why? 'Cause you followed your passions, even when it cost you in record sales. I have always done what I was supposed to do. I always had my brother, an agent, a manager, my brother in law,' and on and on. And I knew that in advance. Storming the Gates Of Leipzig will cost you a lot of your soldiers. Some of it is for valor. Some of it for ambition and imagination. Damn the torpedoes. With Ed Van Halen, it is strategic. It is taking care of responsibilities, which is great. God bless him. Mick seems to have pulled it off, so has Keith. The ultimate pirate. Nevertheless, let's hail back to Rocky II and III, with Burgess Meredith. Any great fighter, no matter how great you are, you can do 10 percent better with a beanie and a bucket. Smoke lightning and crap thunder. He sits with Rocky in his new Italian suit in his marvelous Mediterranean architectural pallet and says, 'I can't train ya, Rock.' 'Why not, Mick?' 'Cause the worst thing that could happen to a fighter happened to ya. You became civilized.'
Remember 'Eye Of The Tiger' and all of that? I do believe that if you're going to strike the blow, the shot heard 'round the world, you need not be a brillianteen Samurai or a five star general. You follow the story of the little skinny villager who was walking along in the late 1500s near the Osaka Gate outside of the castle in a conical hat and a little diaper who accidentally steps on the scabbard of a Samurai next to him. Which was a great insult. Big time insult, slap in the face. And the Samurai turned to him and said, 'I challenge you to a duel to the death for your disrespect.' And the villager had to accept and he was beside himself. And that night he went to the swordsmith of the village and said, 'What can I possibly do? Can you teach me something with the sword? Can you give me some advice? I'm a farmer. He is somebody who's been swinging around a 14 pound straight razor since he was 16 years old.' And the swordsmith laughed and said, 'Yes, I can teach you two things. First I will show you one cut, because I cannot teach you fencing in one night. One cut only. And then I want you to go home, and as you sleep I want you to get used to the idea that you're a dead man. There is no hope on this Earth for you or even in the next life. Get used to it. All is lost. Not that you are prepared to give up all, but that all is already lost. Then you will have such complete concentration on the one cut I am about to teach you that you have a chance of sending him to Hell as you ascend.' So they worked for 10 minutes, he went home, and got really used to the idea that all was lost. Not that he's prepared to give it up, but that it's gone. And the next day at high noon, he showed up in the village square and held up a sword that was as big as his whole little body. And the Samurai drew his sword eloquently and they locked eyes for 10 minutes and did not move. And after 10 silent, deadly minutes, the Samurai lowered his sword very slowly and said, 'You win. I can see in your eyes and the way that you hold that sword that you are protecting nothing. There is no gap in your defense that I could possibly surge through. Even if I take your head, I'm going to be leaving with you and that is no victory. You win.' That gap in your concentration in Japanese is called 'Suki.' I used to know a stripper from Dallas named Suki, but it was spelled differently. Nevertheless, just as terrifying. When you can take that spirit and pursue your vision, go! Climb the Treasure Mountain and do not return empty handed. This serves as advice to new young artists in any kind of art, poetic, ballet, theater, writing, computer, song, dance, photography. If you can really wake up in the morning with that in your heart, you'll climb the Treasure Mountain. The times that I have failed, and the only real regrets I have are the adventures and love affairs I didn't go after. I was not that little guy. I had fears, distractions, gaps in my concentration. When new artists say to me, 'Dave, how will I know that I've made it?' I tell 'em, 'When you can spell 'subpoena' without thinking about it, you made it.'
POP: There's tons of great unreleased old Van Halen songs from various bootlegs. Were there ever any plans to release this stuff as a box set, or is that now out of the question?
DLR: Those were the golden years. The struggle. When all else was put to the side. When I was in classic Van Halen, I was in charge of propaganda. Beautiful thing, all the photos, the rumors, the stage shows, the T-shirts, and on and on. I believe it all adds up to your message, especially if your message is, as mine so frequently is, 'I have no message.' What we got with the last greatest hits from Van Halen, who had a series of other agendas, was a black and white album cover picture of a piece of a guitar. Half of it was some other singer. No video. Had I been in charge, it would have gone something like this: In America, we believe big time in publicizing the shit out of 'we ain't talkin'.' First we make goddamn sure that everybody knows we ain't saying anything. Then we get three jets for each syllable, Van-Ha-Len, and ya gotta line 'em up so that it spells out. We reconnoiter a super studio somewhere tropical, salt water, solar power, fly the entire mad dog and Englishman retinue, wives, girlfriends, household pets, favorite paintings, don't pack light. Bring the palm trees, and we'll go get someplace with a vaguely French name like 'mosquito.' We'll spend three months down there, 90 days metric, putting together an entire album and rehearsing said material plus all the classic VH stuff by loading all of this 80 to a 120 person entourage onto between four and seven great, grandiose tall masted sailboats, and touring adjacent islands and playing at thatched roof, propeller in the ceiling bars on Friday and Saturday nights. I would hire the Coen Brothers and Sonnenfeld as our cinematographer to make a documentary with a twist. Build a sub-plot or four or five. Dinners on Friday nights will be replete and complete with 40-plus guests, doesn't include the 120 original members-Quentin Tarantino, Heidi Fleiss...now I'm just going off the top of my head here, this is just the first 38 seconds of recon here. Then it becomes suddenly evident that we must tour. Well, that means we have to rehearse in Paris, London, NY, Miami and LA. Just to get the flavor, because you play like what you ate for dinner. And then we run the band through its paces in the Pacific Rim and South America. And we leak, dribble, ooze and supply the internet with all the most colorful, rumor-mongering, gossip, detailed, tabloidal...'they were chasing him and nine paparazzi were killed in a tunnel.'
POP:I think people were really excited about a Van Halen/Diamond Dave reunion, and really wanted to see it come in with a bang and develop into an album and tour...
DLR: And why not? Live it and breathe it because it fuels what you do as an artist. If you hate where you are and you're sitting around on the Island Of Mosquito, 'Awe the fuckin' French. I hate the French.' Great! That comes out in your playing.
POP: If Van Halen were to approach you about getting back together...
DLR: Not without a lawyer and a valium!
POP: If they were to come back to you, tails between their legs and say, 'Okay, we fucked up, we've alienated all of our fans, and chose this loser from Extreme. C'mon Dave, let's do a reunion for real.'
DLR: Stop! I don't accept 'tails between the legs.' S'cuse me, my knuckles are draggin'. I still read the printed word, especially books. I eat red meat. I drink a strong drink without the ice in it. And I do not come from a smoke free environment. Should anyone approach me with, 'Baaaaa baaaaa' and a tail between their legs, not interested. Somebody comes back to me and goes, 'You heel-rockin', change-fumbling, puss-nutted, no-dick, cock-breath, throwaway fuck up, let's go hunting!' What's happening over there on Howdy Doody Mountain is that there's an ego problem. They don't have one. What kind of animal makes the most angry faces and loudest sound out in the bush? The one that's the most frightened. I have an ego the size of Texas and then some. You need me to sit down and start over again-I don't care how many times-you want me to reconvene and be with and break bread with you. Can do! I'm very settled in who I am.
POP: So it would depend on how they came back to you?
DLR: Oh Jesus, this band has been at each others throats since before the beginning. Once upon a time, no even before that. And out of this conflict comes marvelous, competitive, flame throwing, hallelujah, dump truck size, Bubba's hot barbecue, Watusi couple number two to the dance floor please. When classic Van Halen is together it's like one person. When I say 'I' in this respect, I mean my whole cadre that I am part of. I'm the tear boss, and I'm a fuckin' lifer.
POP: When you guys got back together was there any point when you just hung out and jammed?
DLR: No. And that's why it's so magnificent that the result transcended all of that. It is purely magical to be part of a dynasty. Van Halen, to many people, is equal to what Mick and Keith may be to some people. Page and Plant. Lennon and McCartney. There comes a point in your career if you make it past the requisite three to six years, which if you think about it, Beatles, six years and gone. Hendrix, six and a half, gone. And on and on. There comes a point, if you're lucky, where you enter a pantheon of heroes where you're known for what you've done, not what you're doing now, or what you're going to do in the future. If Beethoven were cryogenically brought back into the market place tomorrow, what would we all want to hear, 'da-da-da-da' (Beethoven's 5th)! When the Three Tenors get together and they surf every wild vocal wave operatically throughout history that you could imagine and then some, what's the encore? 'O Solo Mio!' Ha Ha! When you go to the Stones, what do you want to hear? Play me 'Brown Sugar' and I'll go get a T-shirt. That's Van Halen. And that is part and parcel of when what you do as an entity transcends just music.
POP: Were you worried when you left Van Halen in '84 that you might not be as successful a solo artist? That the sound of the group might have transcended the talents of any one player?
DLR: I had no delusions about that when I left Van Halen. I left for the same reasons that this time occurred. But to start a band from scratch? Oh my god, Frank. Wow! That is something. But I am a team player. Spiritually, critically, I am. I love the responsibility that is labeled onto me because of that, and I love to be able to depend on it, ya know. For me it's not the Dave Roth show. For me, it's back to The Dirty Dozen and The Wild Bunch. Remember the bald black guy who was a bow and arrow expert? And this one's a sharp shooter...
POP: You got a safecracker...
DLR: Right, a computer programmer. That's what I always based it on.
POP: A covert, operative, vigilante, destroy-everything-in-sight team.
DLR: And every bit as knuckle dragging and marshall-spirited as all of those movies. When we're through pounding everybody else into oblivion on the Monsters Of Rock Festival, then we'll turn on each other.
POP: Why is it that Michael Anthony is only mentioned in the book like two or three times? Is he, to quote Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap, 'like luke warm water'?
DLR: I grew up in a family with parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc., who weren't happy unless they were completely miserable. Ed Van Halen and his brother are cut from the same stone. Somebody always has to be under their thumb. Mike Anthony has always played that part because I refused to.
POP: Is he the 'yes man' of the band?
DLR: Very much so. He doesn't come from the background of 'I'm not afraid to get in your face.' I been places with my face you wouldn't go with a Glock, okay? My best pal in jujitsu is Greg. Sniper on the Florida Swat Team. 6'4 and huge. He says, 'Hey, ya wanna hear some war stories? Remember that guy who kidnapped the bus load of retarded kids? I'm the one who capped him. Three hundred meters with a Honeywell scope.' And I said, 'What kind of gun did you use?' Michael doesn't have that facility. He doesn't question. Which is great, but you can't school somebody into invincibility. So like the current bass solo where he rolls around on stage and makes like he's a cheetah, I invented that solo for him back in 1980 because he couldn't really play something articulate musically. Which is fine. Never held me up. So I said, 'Okay, now you are a professional wrestler, now you're a machine gunner, now you're a desert rag,' and what have you. But he's always been under the thumb of Ed Van Halen. Now again, I have an immense ego. My whole strategy is based on: I like you. I hope ya love me. I hope ya love everything I do. And this is what I do, Frank. If ya love what I do, tell a friend. If you don't, tell an enemy, 'cause I'm still gonna be here tomorrow.
POP: When you were touring in the Eighties and early Nineties, Extreme opened for you. What was your relationship with Gary Cherone like before the recent chain of events?
DLR: I always pictured Extreme as being short for 'extremely boring.' And I describe their music and Gary Cherone's contribution as a condom advertisement, have you read this before? 'Thousands of tiny little notes, urging you to let go with music so thin, you feel like you're hearing nothing at all.' There will always be a Holyfield or a Tyson, but there's only one Mohammad Ali. There will always be a new body building champion, but there's only one Arnold. And there's only one David Lee. I'm the fun in Van Halen, always will be. And I think you can see that now. My belligerent enthusiasm is as optimistic as ever. I'm an optimist. When I go fishin', I take a Nikon and a frying pan.
POP: A staple of rock concerts in the Seventies and Eighties was for every musician to take a solo, but the vocalist usually just stuck to fronting the band. You took this to another level on the 1984 tour when you did a sword and streamers dance as your solo section. Where did that come from?
DLR: It should look like it sounds. And it should be Esperanto. It should cross all racial, economic and language barriers. When I did the sword routine, that's classic kung fu. Why do I do what I do? Or why do it the way I do it? Well, I've always believed that it should be based on the personality, the character and the musicality of the individual. So I'll use my body language in a variety of ways. And when you do a kung fu form, or even pretend that you're doing a backhand in tennis for the final hit of a song that ends, you can feel it. Twenty thousand heads reflex back. These are ancient art forms. I also believe in the Kabuki method that you should be able to freeze the action at any single point in time and have a perfect photograph. There's no such thing as a bad photo. At any point, transitional or otherwise, even when they're switching the stage set and the curtains. You should be right on. And that doesn't mean that you're always strategizing exactly where you're gonna be. The best photography, according to the great photographer Diane Arbus, always shows the flaw. The guy who gets himself totally fixed up, thinks he's looking sharp, cool and happening, but his pants are four inches too short or the belt shouldn't really be poly-vinyl-fluoride. You know what I'm saying? I believe that imperfection, when you are completely immersed in the thing at hand, won't deliver a bad photograph.
POP: I got one more question, and I hope this isn't too weird.
DLR: I hope you can catch as good as you can fish!
POP: One of the rumors that have been floating around over the years is that the real reason you left Van Halen is that you had slept with Alex's wife and they kicked you out. Any truth to that?
DLR: What it was, was that I kept riffing that Valerie had slept with Schneider!
POP: Any last word for POPsmear readers?
DLR: Larceny! Somewhere between shoplifting and manslaughter two is larceny! Thins the blood, builds character, keeps the skin looking good.
At this point, we ended the 'official' interview session and headed over to Crazy Girls to enjoy some of Hollywood's finest female attractions. When I entered, Dave, who had arrived before me, had officially draped the room. He was sitting proudly in a back booth with an array of empty shot glasses before him and two strippers next to him performing lap dances on each other! As I entered, he shouted, 'Frank! Hey pal, come over and join the party!' As I approached the beaming, jovial, center of attention that is Diamond Dave, it dawned on me: this was a moment that, in my wildest childhood fantasies, I had never imagined could possibly come true. I had money in my pocket, a whole bar full of booze awaiting my consumption, a bevy of naked women at my disposal and David Lee Roth calling me 'pal.' What more could I ask for? What followed was an evening so far beyond my wildest expectations that I have actually been sworn to secrecy by the powers that be. So I'll just have to let your filthy little imaginations paint the pictures and fill in the blanks. Let's just say that I'll never listen to the song 'Unchained' the same way again.
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Interview © 1997 POPsmear Magazine