|Very few guitarists have had as intense an impact in as short a time as
Eddie Van Halen. The sparkplug of the band that bears his family
name, he exploded into ears around the world in February 1978 with
the release of Van Halen. On this debut album Eddie wrestled
devastating feedback, kamikaze vibrato moans, sustained harmonics,
white-hot leads, and liquid screams out of a cranked-to-the-max
homemade guitar that combined a Fender Strat-style body with the
electronics of Gibson Les Paul. Even on this first effort, underneath the
raw intensity of Eddie's solos-many of which were spontaneous first takes-lies a strong melodic
and rhythmic sensitivity.
The immediate success of Van Halen catapulted the band on a 10-month world tour, during
which Eddie stunned audiences with his seemingly off-hand ability to instantaneously convey to
his fingers what he heard in his head. He toted a suitcase full of guitar parts with him, building
and fixing instruments in his spare time, in November 1978 Eddie was first presented in the
pages of GP, discussing his early life and classical piano studies in Holland, His family's
immigration to the U.S. in 1967, the founding of Van Halen with his brother Alex, bassist
Michael Anthony, and singer Dave Lee Roth, the band's discovery and first album, and his
equipment. By the end of 1978, companies had cloned his trademark guitar, players had began
borrowing his licks, and Eddie had walked away with GP's Best New Talent poll award.
For Van Halen II, released early in 1979, Eddie slapped together another Strat-style guitar and
took up where the first LP left off. Besides pulling off several imaginative, fat-toned solos with
dizzying skills of stunt pilot on a grand finale spin, he furthered his exploration of new and usual
guitar sounds. In the opening of "Women In Love," for instance, he achieves a chime-like effect
by fingering notes with his left hand while simultaneously tapping each note's harmonic
counterpart on the fingerboard above-a technique he also uses in "Spanish Fly," a fast
flamenco-style nylon-string piece.
Van Halen set off another world tour in March 1979, spending eight months playing the U.S.,
France, Belgium, Holland, England, Japan, and Canada. Van Halen II went gold in two weeks
after 500,000 copies were sold; seven weeks later the record was declared platinum when
sales climbed over1,000,000 units. (Since the release of Van Halen, the group's name has
never been off the charts.) In December 1979 -- just one year after he won Best New Talent --
Eddie edged out veteran guitarist Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, and Steve Howe to win Best
Rock Guitarist in GP's Tenth Annual Readership Poll. He also topped readership polls in Japan.
Accolades were not limited to record buyers and poll balloteers in U.S. and abroad, though;
players, too, began acclaiming his guitar wizardry. In the August '79 GP, Ted Nugent
proclaimed him "a Fantastic guitarist." Three months later Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen
discussed Van Halen's deft use of the vibrato bar. Then, in the first cover story of the '80s, Pat
Travers declared Van Halen the state-of-the-art rock guitarist, adding, "I don't think there's
anybody better for saying more, getting a better sound, or just taking advantage of the straight
Van Halen came of the road in December 1979 and almost immediately went into the studio to
record the third LP, Women and Children First, in only eight days. Once again, Eddie proved
that his playing is not limited to rock styles. On "Could This Be Magic" he performed an
impromptu Hawaiian-sounding acoustic slide part, and also played the steel-string on "Take
Your Whiskey Home." And with the enthusiasm of a mad scientist ready to pull the switch, he
continued his quest for weird sounds, using his guitar to duplicate a prop plane revving up,
shaking his bass E string against the pickup to heighten the intensity of a passage, and
banging away on an electric piano hooked up to his pedalboard and Marshall stacks. The
electric solos continue in the fiery tradition of the first two albums.
The interview below was conducted while Woman and Children First was in its final mixing
stage. During the seven-hour conversation, Eddie unhesitatingly discussed his guitars,
techniques, and views on the art, revealing some information for the first time. He celebrated his
birthday a week later on January 26. And now, at age 23, he's the youngest cover story artist in
Guitar Player: When you started playing guitar, how much time did you spend with it?
EVH: All day, every day, I used to cut school to come home and play. I was so into it.
GP: Were you self-taught?
EVH: Definitely for guitar, I never had a lesson in my life, except when a friend of mine a long time
ago showed me how to do barre chords. I just learned from there.
GP: How did you teach yourself leads?
EVH: [Duplicates Eric Clapton's solo in "Crossroads" from Cream's Wheels of Fire LP]. I know that
song note-for-note, and also "I'm So Glad" [Fresh Cream] and the live version of "Sitting on Top
of the World" [Cream, Goodbye]. I used to know all that stuff.
GP: Did your brother Alex jam along on drums while you were learning?
EVH: Actually, I started playing drums first. I bought the Surfaris' "Wipe out." I loved that song, and
said, "I'm going to go out and buy myself a $125 St. George drum set." So I got a paper route
to pay for it. I'm out throwing the paper -- five in the morning, in the rain, with a bicycle with a
flat tire -- and my brother is practicing on the drums. He got better so I said, "You take my
GP: Is this when you got your first guitar?
EVH: Yeah. It was a $70 Teisco Del Ray electric with four pickups. I used to think, man, the more
pickups, the better. And look at what I've got now! One pickup and one knob.
GP: How did you develop your speed?
EVH: Well, I'll tell you, They used to lock me in a little room and go, "Play fast!" [laughs]. I was
actually trained to be a classical pianist. I had this Russian teacher who couldn't speak a word
of English, and he would just sit there with a ruler and ready to slap my face if I made a
mistake. This started in Holland, and both my brother and I took lessons. Then when we got to
the U.S. my dad found another good teacher. Basically, that's where I got my ears developed,
learned my theory, and got my fingers moving. Then when the Dave Clark Five and those bands
came out, I wanted to go [plays the riff from "You Really Got Me"]. I didn't want to go clink,
clink, clink. I still play piano, and I also play violin.
GP: Did your piano study influence your guitar playing?
EVH: Things like this are classical [plays the continuous left-hand tremolo technique from "Spanish
Fly"]. I know that had some things psychologically come out, but I don't actually sit down at a
piano and try to apply it to guitar.
GP:Were your parents supportive of your move to the guitar and rock and roll?
EVH: My father yes, but my mother no. My mom wanted us in the U.S. and out of Holland -- she was
afraid we'd get into music like my father. She still doesn't think it will last, but she's proud. My
dad was one of the baddest clarinet players of his time. He was so hot -- unbelievable. And he
had tone. My dad is the person who would cut school and smoke cigarettes, and my mom
would be the cheerleader. Complete opposites-the conservative and the screw-up. If you sat
there and talked to my dad, he'd make your roll over and laugh. He's just like me and Al -- 16
years old. His whole life has been music; that's all he knows.
GP: Do they ever go to your concerts?
EVH: Yeah, my dad cries when he sees us play because he loves it. You know he's so happy. It
really is like his dream come true: The family music tradition is continuing, and it's also his
name. Like when I was in school, everybody said "Forget my parents -- they're assholes." Not
me -- I was always the weirdo. I'd say, "Hey, I love my parents. I'll do anything for them. They've
always busted their ass for me." On my dad's birthday last year we retired him and bought him
a boat. I want to make my people happy.
GP: What made you decide to build your own guitars?
EVH: A Les Paul to me was just the cliched guitar, the rock and roll guitar. I liked the sound, but it
didn't fit my body. I'd have to wear it too high to be able to stretch as I do, and it looks funky.
So I wanted to get that type of sound, but with tremolo. And Bigsbys have got to be the worst.
So I bought a '58 Strat years ago when we played high school dances, and Dave and Al just
turned and started throwing sticks at me! They said, "Don't use that guitar -- it sounds to thin!"
You know, single-coil pickups. They had a real buzzy, thin sound unless I used a fuzz box, and
that's even worse. So I sold that and then two years later I bought a router and dumped a
Gibson PAF pickup into a '61 Strat. It got very close. All of a sudden the band said, "That's
okay, It doesn't sound like a Strat anymore." Then I heard that a company called Charvel made
exact duplicates of Fender guitars, but out of nicer wood.
GP: Is this where you got the wood for your first homemade guitar?
EVH: Yeah, this very first one was the black-and-white striped one on the first album. I went to
Charvel and had them rout a body out for just one pickup and one volume knob. I had to cut my
own pickguard to cover everything up because it was originally a three-pickup Strat body. I
used the vibrato tailpiece from a '58 Strat for that guitar. I also had Charvel make me a really
wide neck. I hate skinny necks. I like it bare wood because I hate to slip and slide when I start
stretching strings. Now at the same time, I built what I call my shark guitar, which is actually
one of the first Ibanez Destroyers [shaped like Gibson Explorer] made out of Korina wood. I
made the mistake of taking a chainsaw to it and putting a bunch of weird stuff on it.
GP: Did it lose some tone?
EVH: It lost the tonality I want. Now, kids can't tell -- they can buy a DiMarzio pickup and stick it in
anything and go, "Yeah, it's rock and roll!" But it was that distinct little tone that I look for that
was cut out of the guitar. Then I went to Charvel and bought the parts for a Destroyer with a
vibrato. I got tired of playing it, and so I had a friend of mine carve a dragon biting a snake out of
the Destroyer's body.
GP: How long did it take you to build the black-and-white Strat?
EVH: Not really too long, but it took me a while to build up to doing that. I used to have an old Gibson
ES-335 that was my main experimental guitar. That was the one I refretted and painted and
totally screwed up! I mean, I did everything you can imagine to that guitar to ruin it. But I
learned from it. It's too bad, because that guitar would have been worth some bucks today. But
I learned what I know of building guitars, so I guess it's worth it.
GP: Have your since modified the black-and-white Strat?
EVH: Yeah, a company started copying it, and I said, "man, I better change it." So I really went to
town painting it all freaked out, and I put three pickups back in, but they don't all work -- only
the rear one works. I just did it to be different, so every kid who bought one like that model
would go, "Oh, man he's got something different again." I always like to turn the corner on
people when they start latching on to what I'm doing. Here I am just a punk kid trying to get a
sound out of a guitar that I couldn't buy off the rack, so I build one myself and now everybody
else wants one.
GP: Did you make another guitar for your second album?
EVH: I made the yellow-and-black Strat. It has an ash body by Charvel. It was my idea to have it
rear-loaded so I wouldn't have to have a pickguard, and Charvel routed it for me. The pickup
that's on the photo is not really what I use -- I had just finished slapping it together and painting
it when they shot the album cover, and just stuck some garbage pickup in it to look like a
complete guitar. Then I took the pickup out of my first guitar and stuck it in there, but it didn't
sound too good. I don't really go for DiMarzio pickups, because they're real distorted. I like a
clean sound with sustain -- I hate the fuzz box, real raspy sound. So I put a PAF magnet in a
DiMarzio pickup and rewound it by hand, which took a long lime. I actually ruined about three
pickups, and by the fourth time it worked. I didn't count the windings -- I just did it by sight.
GP: Was that the guitar you took on the second tour?
EVH: I used that one plus the original one from the first album for the first half of the tour, and then I
ran into Floyd Rose, and he showed me his special bridge and nut for keeping a Strat in tune. I
said, "What the hell -- I'll give it a try." I'm up for anything. So I had Boogie Bodies make me a
mahogany body that's fit to my size, and I put the Rose device on it. The body is a Strat-style,
but it's 2 1/2" thick, which is thicker than a Les Paul. The Rose tailpiece gets a thin sound, and
I thought a chunky piece of wood could make up for the thickness. It works a little bit. That
guitar has a Gibson PAF and just one volume knob -- it's real simple.
GP: What is your overall opinion of Floyd's vibrato device?
EVH: I like it and I don't. For one, on my guitar it sounds real brittle-bright, and I have to do some
heavy equalization to get my tone. That's why I don't like to use it in the studio. We just go in
there and play live, and I depend on making my guitar sound good out of the amp instead of
fixing it in the mix. Number two, if you pop a string, you can't even one-note your way through
because the whole guitar goes out of tune. Sometimes I'll hit a chord and tune really quickly.
With this device you can't -- you have to unclamp it. On top of that, sometimes when I jump off
the drum riser the neck shifts just a hair, and then I can't tune it. But it has advantages: When
you're using the bar, it will not go out of tune.
GP: What are the most difficult aspects of building your own guitar?
EVH: Making the neck fit the body. Another problem is that the strings on a Stratocaster are spaced
differently that a Gibson's; if you use a humbucking pickup, the strings don't line up with the
pickup holes. So I've tried slanting the pickup so the high E string will be picked up by a front
pole and the low E will be picked up by a rear pole. For the sound I like, it is also important to
get the space between the bridge and pickup right. I do it almost like Les Paul. If I put it too far
towards the neck I get the Grand Funk and Johnny Winter tone, and if I put it too close to the
bridge I get a real trebley Strat sound. So I move it up towards the neck a little bit from the
Strat sound to get a beefier tone.
GP: Do you carry any special tools or extra parts with your when you're on the road?
EVH: I bring along a least five extra necks, three different bodies, ten different pickups, some
machine heads, and a couple of different tremolo pieces in case one breaks -- you know, just
spare parts mainly. See, like if we're six months through the tour and the frets are starting to go
bad on one neck, I'll slap another neck on instead of refretting it, because I don't have time to
refret while I'm traveling. In tools I carry screwdrivers, chisels, drills, chainsaws -- very simple
GP: Have you any special methods of refretting necks?
EVH: Yeah, I hate the way people refret necks. I do it real simple: I sand them down with some 400
wet-or-dry sandpaper and then use some steel wool. I hate flat frets because the more space
you have for the string to rest on, the more room you have for the intonation to be off. I like big
frets height-wise, but I make them come to a peak. From a side view, one of my frets would
look like the tip of a pick. It doesn't come to a complete point, but it would be rounded as
opposed to flat. Another thing is that you have to put them in from the side rather than from
above, and a lot of people take them straight out and rip the wood. I toured the factory and saw
how they did it and said, "No wonder I ruined so many fenders by pulling them straight out!"
GP: Do you do anything special to your pickups?
EVH: I usually use old Gibson PAFs, and I always pot them. I submerge the whole thing in paraffin
wax, and this cuts out the high obnoxious feedback. It's kind of a tricky thing because if you
leave it in there too long. The pickup melts. I take a coffee can and melt down some wax -- the
same kind that you use for surfboards -- and put the pickup in it. See, one of the reasons a
pickup feeds back is that the coil windings vibrate, and when the wax soaks in there, it keeps
them from vibrating as much. It will still feed back, but it's controllable. After I dip the pickup in
paraffin, I put copper tape around it. You have to be really careful if you do this to a pickup like
a DiMarzio. You can throw an old PAF in there and let is soak it up; it doesn't melt. But with
DiMarzio, if you blink, all of a sudden your pickup's ruined.
GP: Do you own any stock factory-made guitars?
EVH: Yeah, I have a new Gibson ES-335, and two '58 Les Paul Jrs -- a single-cutaway and a
double-cutaway. I've got a whole load of Japanese Strat copies. I also just two vintage Les
Pauls -- a'59 flame top and a '58 gold top. These are pretty much in immaculate condition. I
bought them as an investment; I don't play them. My main stage guitars are the ones I build
myself for under $200. I have an acoustic, too -- the one I used on "Spanish Fly." It's an Ovation
nylon-string, not the real expensive model. I've never owned a steel-string.
GP: Are there any guitars that you'd like to build in the future?
EVH: I'll have the next one built, and it will probably be difficult and cost a lot of money. What I'd
really like now is like a three-quarter sized 335. I was playing a 335 for a while before we got
signed, and it sounded fine. But the other guys would go, "Come on you look like Roy
Orbison," Really, here's this little skinny punk kid playing a Ted Nugent axe, you know. They
said, "You're rock and roll; you ain't Roy Orbison. Either get some dark glasses or get rid of the
guitar." So I dumped that and started playing the Les Paul again. So what I would like is a 335
to fit my body, and maybe not quite as hollow as some 335s. I'd like a solid beam all the way
to the back of the wood in there. The one I have now locks a little bit of tone -- it's too
acoustically toned, too hollow.
GP: Would you put a vibrato bar in the 335?
EVH: Yeah, I love 335s. I can haul ass on those things. When I pick up a stock 335, you probably
wouldn't even recognize my playing, It's more jazzy, more fluid and fast -- kind of like Allan
Holdsworth. One of the reasons I started using a vibrato was that my playing got so fast it was
just too much. So now I break it up a little bit, It's like a race car racing down the road and then
crashing every now and then.
GP: What are your views on using a vibrato bar?
EVH: It's more of a feeling as opposed to an effect. I don't really use it for freak-out effects; I use it to
enhance a little more feeling. I really don't have any special chops with it. I just grab it when I
feel like it. It calls for a totally different technique. I have special tricks for keeping it in tune, but
it still goes out. You have to play with it. Like if you bring the bar down, the G and B strings
always go sharp when you let it back, so before you hit a barre chord you have to stretch those
strings back with a real quick little jerk. The vibrato is actually like another instrument. You
can't just grab it and jerk the thing and expect it to stay in tune.
GP:How do you keep tuned while using a standard vibrato?
EVH: It's a combination of a lot of things. For one, some manufacturers don't keep in mind that the
distance from the bridge to the machine heads has got to be straight line so the string windings
won't get caught anywhere. A lot of people drill the machine holes off center, and the strings
get caught up. I have extra-wide notches in the nut, and string trees for only the high E and B
strings. I also set the vibrato bar so I can only bring it down; you can't pull back on it. See, I
rest the palm of my hand on the bridge, so If I use a standard vibrato, I sound like a warped
record. Sometimes I'll bring the bar down before I hit a note and then let it up.
GP: What's the advantage of playing with your hand on the bridge?
EVH: I like getting a muffled effect with the side of my hand. It gets more tone, it's a definite texture
you can use in combination with straight picking.
GP: How do you hold your pick?
EVH: Between my thumb and middle finger. Sometimes when I play fast I'll put the tip of my index
finger on the corner of the pick.
GP: Do you ever use your other fingers to pick?
EVH: No. I can't fingerpick for anything. I've never had the time.
GP: Did you use a pick for "Spanish Fly"?
EVH: Yeah, except for the part near the end that sounds like Montoya or something.
GP: Do you ever use the side of your pick to get high-pitched harmonics?
EVH: Sometimes, I do it in "I'm The One" [Van Halen]. I also get harmonics by hitting a note with my
left-hand finger while I tap my right index finger on the fingerboard exactly one octave up. When
it's an exact octave, you bring out the harmonic plus the lower note.
GP: Do you tap right on top of the fret wire or behind it?
EVH: On the fret, I guess. Like "Spanish Fly" I start out by tapping harmonics and then do
hammer-ons and pull-offs with my left hand while I tap above with my right-hand index fingertip.
Now this is my latest: I hammer-on and pull-off with my left hand and reach behind my left hand
with my right and use my right index finger. In other words, my right-hand finger changes the
lowest note. See, the way I play is in my fingers. I could play a Strat or a Les Paul, and it's
going to sound like me. People say, "Oh, how do you get that sound?" They could play my
guitar and it wouldn't sound the same. I have a style of playing where no matter what amp or
guitar I use, it sounds like me.
GP: How far can you reach on the finger board?
EVH: On the high E string I can reach from the 5th fret to the 12th. From the 12th fret I can hit any
note on the fingerboard above. That's how I get weird noises.
GP: Are you learning new things on the guitar all the time?
EVH: Yeah. Like if I sit down and play by myself, I play completely different than I would with the band. I
just really go for feeling in my playing. All our albums have mistakes -- big deal, weíre human. But they reek
of feeling, and that, to me, is what music is all about. Itís not like Fleetwood Mac. You know, they spend so
much time and money on their albums. I think that if something is too perfect, it wonít faze you. Itíll go in
one ear and out the other because itís so perfect. Like our stuff, to me, keeps you on the edge of your seat. It
builds tension whether you like it to or not. It slaps you in the face.
GP: Like in ďIce Cream ManĒ when the band comes in?
EVH: Exactly. Itís almost like youíre just waiting for us to blow it -- waiting for something to go wrong, but it
doesnít. Thatís what creates the feel, the tension; just like winding something up and waiting to see when
itís going to break. Itís just inner feelings coming out; itís not conscious. The way I play is the way I am.
GP: When you play onstage, what do you think about?
EVH: Nothing. Itís like having sex, actually, I swear to God. Itís definitely my first love. Got in a fight with my
girlfriend before. I used to go over to her house and play my guitar in her bedroom, and sheíd go ďYou love
your guitar more than you do me!Ē And Iíd go, ďYouíre right!Ē Hey, Iím sorry -- itís part of me.
GP: How many times a day do you pick up a guitar?
EVH: All the time. Sometimes I play it for a minute, sometimes half an hour, and sometimes all day. Thereís
no schedule; I donít run by schedules at all. Usually I play before I go to sleep, when I wake up, when I
come home, when Iím bored.
GP: Do you usually use an amp?
EVH: When Iím at home I use a little old Fender Bandmaster. I plug into the extension speaker so I can crank
it all the way up and it fuzzes out. Itís actually like at full volume. You get tube distortion and it sounds real
good. Like a Marshall has two outputs, and you can use either one and get a full output. With a Fender, you
have a main speaker jack and if you want the extension one to work, the first one has to be plugged in. If you
bypass the first one and just plug into the extension speaker, you get a real low signal, but you get the same
sound as if you plugged into the main one. You blow a transformer every eight months, but itís worth it. It
sounds great. Thatís what I use at home.
GP: What do you look for in a solo?
EVH: Feeling. I donít care if itís melodic or spontaneous. If itís melodic and has no feeling, itís screwed.
GP: What should a good rock and roll song do?
EVH: Move you in any way. Depress you, make you happy, make you horny, make you rowdy. Anything. If
it doesnít, itís like Fleetwood Mac! Excuse me, I should point out that I love Rumours -- thatís a hot album.
GP: When your band is putting together new material, do you work on both words and music?
EVH: No. Dave writes a majority of the lyrics and I write the music. I donít consider myself a songwriter to
begin with. Iíve written songs on the piano, but theyíre not Van Halen. Itís very easy to write a song on the
piano. You just pick some chords and squeeze a melody out of it; I learned that in school. So when I write on
guitar I always come up with a theme riff -- you know, some powerful opener -- and then a verse, a chorus, a
bridge, a solo, back to the bridge, chorus, and then the end.
GP: How do you decide what to do with the solo?
EVH: Sometimes itís spontaneous, sometimes itís set. Like the solo in ďRunniní With the DevilĒ was set.
And the same with ďAinít Talkiní ĎBout LoveĒ. By ďsetĒ I mean that I figured out something melodic instead
of just going for it. When I wrote ďAinít Talkiní ĎBout LoveĒ I thought it was about the lamest song I ever
wrote in my life. It took me six months before I even worked up the nerve to show the guys, but kids go nuts
for it! I love the beginning -- Am and G.
GP: What were some of your spontaneous solos?
EVH: ďIce Cream ManĒ was one -- that was a first take. The solo in ďYou Really Got MeĒ was totally
spontaneous. Next time you listen to it, turn the balance to one side, because the way Ted (Templeman)
produces, my guitar is always on one side. Listen to it -- thereís only one guitar, no overdubs. But it sounds
GP: Do you repeat solos from night to night, or do you change them around?
EVH: I rarely repeat. Sometimes I remember the way I did it on the record and kind of follow it, unless they
are melodic solos like in ďRunniní With the DevilĒ and ďAinít Talkiní ĎBout LoveĒ. You know, if I start
noodling around, kids go, ďHey, that ainít the same song!Ē
GP: Are there some songs you stretch out on in concert?
EVH: ďFeel Your Love TonightĒ. My guitar solo without the band, definitely. ďYou Really Got MeĒ ends with
a long jam.
GP: It sounds like a lot of your solos are built off of lines rather than chords.
EVH: Well, the thing is, in rock and roll you only have so many chords. If you start hitting chords like this
(plays 7ths and 9ths) in rock and roll, forget it! They have emotion, but they donít fit power rock. Theyíre so
dissonant that the vibrations of the overtones with that much distortion sound like shit. Thatís why most
rock and roll songs are simple -- straight major or minor chords. You start dickiní with chords like the 7ths
and 9ths through a blazing Marshall, and it will sound like crap. Itís very tough to come up with an
interesting solo when youíre just in one key. But see, there are ways to get around it -- you can be playing in
E and you can solo in D. There are certain chords that are relative to the key youíre playing in, like in the key
of A you can play around in F#m.
GP: You seem to end a lot of phrasings with a blues feeling.
EVH: Yeah, well, I started out playing blues -- the Blues Breakers album where Eric Claptonís on the front
reading the Beano comic book. I can play real good blues -- thatís the feeling I was after. But actually Iíve
turned it into a much more aggressive thing. Blues is a real tasty, feel type of thing; so I copped that in the
beginning. But then when I started to use the wang bar (vibrato), I still used that feeling. I like phrasing;
thatís why I always liked Clapton. He would just play it with feeling. Itís like someone talking, a question and
GP: On your records, Michael Anthonyís bass parts are subdued compared to what you do. Is this
EVH: Yeah. Heís a damned good bass player. He plays bass. Heís not Jack Bruce; he doesnít play guitar on
bass. When Al and Mike are playing, itís an open world for me. I can do whatever I want. Theyíre right there
backing me up, feeding me. Whereas if he was a Jack Bruce, Iíd be in competition with him. Everyone is hot,
but in their own pocket. A lot of it has to do with the mix on records, whereas live it comes off much better,
much more powerful. I kind of like it because most bands sound like hell live and great on records. I think we
sound good on record but better live. Iím totally happy with our records, but live it comes out better.
GP: How do you warm up before going onstage?
EVH: Just scales. Fast or slow, depending on how cold my fingers are.
GP: Do you put new strings on every night?
EVH: Yeah, Fender 150XLs. I stretch them to death. With that new Rose thing, I boil the strings so they
stretch, because if you just put them on and clamp it down, the strings stretch out on the guitar. I just take a
pack and let it boil for 20 minutes in the hot water. And then I dry them in the sun, because otherwise they
rust. But I only use them one night anyway, so who cares if they rust?
GP: Does anyone take care of your guitars besides you?
EVH: Rudy Leiren -- heís my roadie.
GP: How do you tune up before a show?
EVH: I tune all my guitars myself. We tune a quarter-step down, so itís like right between E and Eb; this is for
vocal reasons. I used to tune down to D, but Mike couldnít get his bass tone. Heíd get too much slap. When
we go in the studio, man, I donít strobe tune or anything. I just pick the guitar up and if itís in tune, I say,
ďMike, tune to me,Ē and we play. Why does it have to be the same? Who says it has to be tuned to E? Why
the rules? Fuck the rules! I mean the main reason I get all the weird stuff I do on guitar is because I donít do
it by the rules.
GP: Do you experiment with open tunings?
EVH: No, because thatís kind of a rule too thatís been done. I donít care that much about things that have
been done, where most players have only done whatís been done. They look at the guitar as if thatís all itís
for. They donít even go beyond to think. Like they donít know how I get some of the weird noises I make,
but itís just the guitar. Just do anything to it! I could drop a guitar and get a noise out of it. The guitar is not
designed for one purpose. You can do anything with it. Iíll do my damnedest to squeeze every noise out of
this thing I can.
GP: What is your philosophy on using effects?
EVH: What Iím really into doing is squeezing anything out of the cheapest possible thing. Like whenever I
get something made or built or designed I always say, ďmake it as cheap as possible.Ē Iíll walk into this
music store where I buy all my stuff, a place in Pasadena called Dr. Music, and they laugh at me. Because I
ask them what they have, and they go, ďOh, got this new this, got the new digital delay or something or
other,Ē and I go , ďGot anything cheaper?Ē Because I can get weirder noises out of them than the expensive
state of the art shit.
GP: Do you feel the state of the art ones have too much control in them?
EVH: They donít have enough. You pay so much, and theyíre so precious. You canít take them around, you
canít kick them, you canít drop them. If you ever saw my pedalboard!
GP: Whatís in it?
EVH: Itís a piece of plywood with two controls for my Echoplex on it,, an MXR Phase 90 that Iíve had for
years, and an MXR flanger. Theyíre all taped to a piece of board with black duct tape. And like a lot of big
name players laugh themselves silly when they see it, but after they hear me, then they go, ďCan I plug in?Ē
Some of these guys have got four out-of-phase switches, and a this and a that, and a biamp crossover, and
blah, blah, blah. And I just go, ďIs it on? Is it working? Whatís it for? Whatís it do?Ē I canít tell! At least
when I use an effect, you know Iím using it. My main tricks are in my amps.
GP: What kind of amps are you now using?
EVH: Well, in the studio I use my old Marshall, my precious baby. it gets a slightly different sound. Live I
use new Marshalls. I made the mistake of taking my main one out on the road last year and I lost it on the
way back from Japan. It was flying around India somewhere and six months later, thank God, I got it back.
This is the one I bought when I was a kid. I didnít even know what I had until now. Itís very old; it has a
Plexiglas front. It used to be the house amp at the Pasadena Rose Palace; whoever played there has played
through it. Itís a real good amp -- unbelievable balls!
GP: How do you modify your amps?
EVH: Okay, I use a combination of two different kinds of amps. Theyíre both Marshalls, but one kind
actually has less power than the other, which is boosted. I use them together. The ones that have less power
have a giant capacitor in conjunction with the fuse; if anything happens, the fuse blows first. The capacitor
has something to do with the computerized ignition system of a car. I canít give you the exact specs, but it
looks like a stick of dynamite, only fatter. What it does is suck juice. I hook it up to the fuse holder and the
mains, and it lowers the voltage about ten volts so the amp lasts a little bit longer. It doesnít really change
the sound, but whatever I use, I use to the max. I just turn it all the way up. So this capacitor lowers the
voltage and the amp lasts a little longer. I still have to retube them once a week. (Editorís Note: This is not a
recommended procedure for modifying amps and should not be attempted by anyone inexperienced in the
field of electronics and amp modification.)
GP: What is done to the other kind of amps?
EVH: I use a Variac, which is like a dimmer on a lighting system. Itís an autotransformer which goes all the
way from 0 to 160. In the studio I crank it up to 140 and watch the tubes melt! (Editorís Note: Again, this is
not a recommended procedure for modifying amps, as Paul Rivera of Rivera Research and Development
points out: ďYou can cause severe damage to the amp besides melting tubes. Since a Variac is an exposed
transformer, by hooking it up incorrectly you could get the hot of the AC line on the chassis of the amp and
electrocute yourself. Anyone wishing to attempt this sort of modification should go to a knowledgeable
GP: Do you lose many amps during your shows?
EVH: Yeah, but I have so many of them. I have like 12 to 15 100-watt Marshalls onstage in pairs of four,
hooked up together. Then I have three switches where if the first stack blows, I can switch in the next one.
Thatís about it for live. I have such a big setup: 80 12Ē speakers for my last setup, which was the equal of 20
Marshall cabinets. The next one will be World War III. But itís not for over-blitzed noise.
GP: Is it to refine the sound?
EVH: Itís to make a good tone even louder. Some people get a sound like an amplified AM radio. I like it to
be like a nice home stereo amplified -- you now, the difference between tone and no tone. I have some other
tricky stuff in my amps which I donít even want to talk about because if someone reads it in the magazine
they are going to hit up Jose, an old guy from Argentina who knows a lot of tricks and does stuff for me. He
doesnít want people to know who he is because heís getting mobbed. He also puts little things inside my
MXR stuff, like permanent gain controls that boost when I kick them on. I donít even know what theyíre
called. They reduce noise and boost the signals.
GP: Do you have the sound you want?
EVH: Sometimes. It depends on the arena, depends on my mood. Itís dependant on a lot of things. Iíll tell
you, the best sound I ever get is sitting home alone playing through that little Bandmaster cranked on 10.
GP: What do you use as an onstage monitor?
EVH: We use two giant Showco M-4ís (four way cabinets), which are actually like a complete system in
themselves. They have the highs and lows and everything. The only thing I add to the mix is a teeny bit of
my voice, so I can hear if Iím in tune with my guitar and my brother.
GP: Do you ever have trouble hearing yourself?
EVH: Never. Dave and Mike wonít even come to my side because Iím so loud. But there is a difference
between being just loud and having what I call a warm, brown sound -- which is a rich, toney sound. I guess
a lot of people are tone deaf and canít figure it out because they just crank it up with a lot of treble just for
the sake of being loud. Anyone can do that. I can actually play so loud onstage that you wonít hear
anything else, but I donít really like to do that. I like to get a balanced sound.
GP: How loud do you play in the studio?
EVH: Very loud. I use four 100-watt Marshalls, which are cranked up to close to 600-watts with the Variac. I
like to feel it, you know, make my arm hairs move. If you stand in front of a big PA you vibrate. Itís the way I
get off. I donít wear ear plugs, either, so Iím surprised Iím not deaf yet. We used to get kicked out of clubs
because I refused to turn down. Itís the only way I could get a sound -- crank it all the way up.
GP: Do you use wireless transmitters?
EVH: Yeah, I always do because I bounce around a lot. My first one was a Schaffer-Vega. It took me a long
time to get it working right with my system because at the time my amps were so powerful that the thing was
overdriven and wouldnít work. It was too much power. Then when I got weaker amps I could use it. If you
use it with too high of an amp it will just freak out; you get the weirdest feedback noises you ever heard in
your life. And then I got a Nasty Cordless. Now the Schaffer-Vega is tuned to a fixed frequency, and one of
the advantages of the Nasty is that you can dial in the frequency, just like a radio. The Schaffer-Vega has a
built-in compressor in the transmitter, which is kind of cool, depending on what amp you use it with. I think
that the Nasty is weaker. Like with the Schaffer-Vega Iím always reaching at my knob, trying to get 11 out of
it instead of 10. And with the Nasty, Iím reaching for 14, so I use an equalizer to boost it. But it is actually a
cleaner sounding system. When we played the Budokan in Japan I couldnít use either one because there
were heavy radio signals everywhere.
GP: When you go into the studio to record, how ready are you?
EVH: Weíre ready with the structure of the song -- thatís about it. We jam on tunes a few times in the
basement. When I get to the studio, I tell Ted, ďJust put a mike to my amp; letís get going.Ē You know, they
are always dicking around with the mikes, the speaker mix, Alís snare tone, and this and that. I really get sick
of that because Iím just sitting there ready to go: ďCome on, letís go while I feel like playing.Ē You know,
after four cups of coffee and a bottle of wine, I donít feel like playing. And then they yell, ďLetís go! Weíre
GP: Do you have a good idea of what youíre going to play?
EVH: Solo-wise, no.
GP: Have you ever tried recording direct-to-disc?
EVH: I wouldnít mind. We record very live. The only thing that I think wouldnít work on direct-to-disc would
be vocals. See, I stand right next to my brother when I play. I donít use headphones; neither does he. If I
was playing direct-to-disc, how could I sing, playing at that volume, unless I played in a booth, separated.
Then I just wouldnít get the vibes of playing with Alex.
GP: Letís discuss some of your parts on the Van Halen album. How did you do the descending growl at the
end of ďEruptionĒ?
EVH: Thatís a $50 Univox EC-80 echo box, a real cheap thing that works off a cartridge. Itís like a miniaturized
8-track cartridge. One day some kid turned me onto it and all of a sudden I hit a note, turned it all the way up,
and got that growl. I go, ďWhoa!Ē So I mounted it in an old World War II practice bomb that I picked up in a
junkyard. Iíve read reviews in papers that have said, ďEddie Van Halen with a synthesizer solo.Ē Actually all
it is is a $50 piece of junk.
GP: Did you plan the solo in ďOn FireĒ?
EVH: No. Itís funny -- I wanted to do a melodic solo and the guys go, ďPretend youíre John McLaughlin!Ē
So then that solo came out. I donít even know what key Iím playing in! I just started playing and it fit
perfect. Thatís how a lot of it works -- totally spontaneous. Itís not like I decided, ďIím going to start here
and end up there.Ē
GP: How did you get that scratchy sound in ďAtomic PunkĒ?
EVH: A phase shifter was on, and I rubbed the strings by the bridge with the heel of my hand -- Iíve got
calluses on it. I do the same thing on ďEverybody Wants SomeĒ (Women and Children First). I just love
doing weird things.
GP: Whatís the sound at the opening of ďRunniní With the DevilĒ?
EVH: Car horns. We took the horns out of all our cars -- my brotherís Opel, my old Volvo, ripped a couple
out of a Mercedes and a Volkswagon -- and mounted them in a box and hooked two car batteries to it and
added a footswitch. We just used them as noisemakers before we got signed. Ted put it on tape, slowed it
down, and then we came in with the bass. It sounds like a jet landing.
GP: How many tracks did you use for ďAinít Talkiní ĎBout LoveĒ?
EVH: Two. I soloed on the basic track, and if you listen real closely on one channel, I overdubbed the solo
with an electric sitar.
GP: In the solo section of ďYou Really Got MeĒ thereís a staccato part that sounds like a car lurching. Itís
right before Dave starts in with the ďooohsĒ and ďahhhsĒ.
EVH: Yeah. I hit the G string at the 7th fret and bent it up to G and flicked my toggle switch back and forth.
GP: Was there much of a difference in how the first and second albums were recorded?
EVH: I donít think we spent as much time on Van Halen II. We toured from the second week in February until
December 5th, 1978, and then on December 10th we went into the studio. We didnít spend as much time
getting the sound. I like the guitar, but Iím not particularly pleased with the drum sound. I like the drum
sound on the first album much better.
GP: On the songs ďSomebody Get Me A DoctorĒ and ďYouíre No GoodĒ you have an effect that sounds like
a volume pedal.
EVH: Thatís just the knob of the guitar.
GP: Did you double-track the harmonic intro to ďWomen In LoveĒ?
EVH: Yeah, I played it twice. It sounds like a Harmonizer, and live I get the same effect using the Harmonizer.
I like that chime, clock-like sound.
GP: How long did it take you to cut Women and Children First?
EVH: We finished the music in six days, and the whole album took eight. I donít understand how people can
take any longer. Iíd say we did it for between $30,000 and $40,000.
GP: What is the strange effect at the beginning of ďAnd the Cradle Will RockĒ? It resembles the sound of a
prop plane starting up.
EVH: I pinged my strings above the nut and asked Ted to play it backwards so the attack comes at the end
of the note. In conjunction with this, I scraped the springs in the back of my guitar. I also took my vibrato
bar all the way down so that the strings were limp and then with my left thumb I flapped the low E string
around the 3rd fret. Sounds great; I love it.
GP: Is there a piano later on in that song?
EVH: Yeah, itís a Wurlitzer electric piano that I ran through my MXR flanger and my Marshalls. I just banged
on the keys -- broke two of them doing it. Who would ever think of doing anything that lame? But it sounds
good. You could never tell I had classical training on piano. I bought that piano in Detroit and started
pounding on it one night in the bus and wrote ďAnd The Cradle Will RockĒ.
GP: How did you do the clicking sound in the middle of ďRomeo DelightĒ?
EVH: I shook my low E string against the pickup.
GP: What kind of a 12 string did you overdub in ďSimple RhymeĒ?
EVH: Itís a Rickenbacker electric. At first it didnít sound right through my amp, and I asked Ted, ďCan you
doctor it up later in the mix?Ē Then I told him to forget it. I wanted to make it good out of the amp before itís
recorded. My theory is if it doesnít sound good coming out of the speaker box, it ainít going to happen on
GP: How did you come to play acoustic slide on ďCould This Be MagicĒ?
EVH: They just handed me a guitar and a slide and said, ďCome on, you can do it.Ē I said, ďOkay, Iíll do my
best.Ē And I never in my life ever even played slide before! Iím going, ďNo, let me practice,Ē and the guys
said, ďCome on, man, just play.Ē I pulled it off decent. I think I used an old Gibson acoustic, and it was in
GP: Your part almost sounds Hawaiian.
EVH: Yeah, it does. It almost sounds like Andy Griffith on the front porch. We wanted to get a horse in there
at the end, or a cow going, ďMooo.Ē That song is funny as hell! Thatís one thing -- slide never interested
me, because youíre going like that (moves little finger up and down fingerboard). Why? I like to use all my
GP: You donít have an instrumental on Women and Children First.
EVH: No. What for? Maybe later on Iíll do one if I figure out some finger thing thatís just totally different.
ďEruptionĒ was the first one, and then the second one I did was in flamenco style (ďSpanish FlyĒ), but it was
still the same type of thing. And what could I do this time? I didnít want to do one just for the sake of doing
another solo, so Iím going to wait until I have something really good. Something that sounds classical --
electric or acoustic -- like some Bach stuff. Iíve been listening to a lot of classical music, especially Debussy.
God damn, that mother wrote some hot shit!
GP: Have you ever thought of doing a solo album?
EVH: I never will until maybe years from now. All of my energy goes into Van Halen; itís my family. Iím not
going to leave my family until one of the members passes on. But still, I have a whole backlog of tunes that
weíve never done. So if I ever do a solo album, which I donít see in the near future, Iíd have plenty of ideas.
GP: Has seeing other guitarists ever inspired a change in your playing?
EVH: Allan Holdsworth -- that guy is bad! Heís fantastic; I love him. Heís got a rock sound. I love his solo in
ďIn the Dead of the NightĒ on the U.K. album. I love the solo in ďHellís BellsĒ on One of a Kind. (Drummer)
Bill Bruford plays hot on that album. Holdsworth is the best in my book. I can kind of play like him, but it
doesnít fit our style of music. Heís a real artist. He plays a guitar like mine, too. He wears it up high, like a jazz
guitar. I could play all that stuff, too, if I played with my guitar up that high, but how would a rock and roll
kid look with a guitar up like that? I do have to sacrifice the amount of movement I do onstage for the way I
play. I like playing much better on a stool. I donít do it, though, not even in the studio, because then it
would sound like Iím sitting on a stool.
GP: So the movement of your body is really tied in with the way you play?
EVH: Definitely. 100%. I never do anything the same. I have no choreographed steps where I have to be in
any part of a song. Iím wherever I want and do whatever I want whenever I feel it.
GP: Are there any other players you like to listen to?
EVH: Randy Hansen is hot. I know him real well; heís a good friend. Now heís coming out with his own stuff,
and I hope to God he succeeds. Rick Nielsen is very funny; I love the guy. Heís (Bowery Boy actor) Huntz
Hall. They (Cheap Trick) are the comedians of rock and roll, whereas KISS are the circus of rock and roll. The
reason I think weíre happening is because we are one of the only real bands out there. Weíre not punk; we
donít dress weird. We play good music -- or at least I think so. Half of the critics think itís thud rock bullshit.
They label us heavy metal old hat. Name me a heavy metal band thatís done what weíve done. I sound like
Iím bragging, but I donít mean it that way. Iím not saying that all the things I come up with are genius-brand
riffs, but neither is punk. Punkís like what I used to do in the garage.
GP: What do you think when you hear other players using your licks?
EVH: I guess they always say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. I think this is a crock of shit. I
donít like people doing things exactly like me. Some of the things I do I know no one has done, like the
harmonic runs and the clock chime-like sound. The ďEruptionĒ solo: I never heard anything done like that
before, but I know someone must have figured some of it out. What I donít like is when someone takes what
Iíve done, and instead of innovating on what I came up with, they do my trip! They do my melody. Like I
learned from Clapton, Page, Hendrix, Beck -- but I donít play like them. I innovated; I learned from them and
did my own thing out of it. Some of those guys out there are doing my thing, which I think is a lot different.
GP: Do you feel that your playing is constantly progressing?
EVH: I donít think itís ever progressed -- just gets weirder all the time. How much can you progress? Iím as
fast as I can possibly get. I canít picture myself being too much faster. I mean, you can only hear so much.
What Iím trying to do is be weirder and different.
GP: Do you get in slumps?
EVH: Yes and no. You always reach a plateau, and then moving up from there is a bit tough. But for me itís
not that hard.
GP: How do you do it?
EVH: Just continue to play and play and try different chops. Itís especially hard for me after touring for ten
months and playing the same songs. Now, depending on the beat of the song, I play differently. Iím a very
rhythmically oriented guitarist. I really work off of the rhythm, so if the songís fast, I play a certain way. If
itís blues, I play completely different. So if I do the same set for almost a whole year, I get into that rut of that
style, and it takes me a month or two to change and come up with new things. Thatís my rut.
GP: How do you prepare for a tour?
EVH: What we do is go into a small room or a basement for two weeks and do physical training. Itís like
getting ready for a boxing match -- real heavy duty jumping around, going through the set. We play without
a PA, just instruments. Then we rent a big place and do the full show. Iíll tell you, Iíd sell my guitars to go on
tour. Itís a world vacation, a way of life.
GP: Whatís it like?
EVH: Itís living out of a suitcase, being in a different town every night, getting a squeeze here and there,
seeing the world, experiencing different cultures -- Japan, France, Germany. Itís traveling. Iíve always wanted
to travel and make music.
GP: Do you find that you get enough time alone?
EVH: We have that sometimes. See, like if we play Paris and we party out too late that night, Iíll sleep and
pass on the sightseeing. But sometimes Iíll pass on the party and take a day and go out and trip around. So
itís whatever you want to do.
GP: Do you make money on tours?
EVH: We break even because we put all our money into sound and lighting. We tour to sell records; the only
thing that sells us is our live show. Everything we do is a complete reverse of other people. All we ever knew
was our live show. Like when we went in to record the first album, I said, ďHey Ted, Iíve never done
overdubs.Ē Just the thought of playing to a machine, to me, would lose feeling. So I said, ďCan I just play
live?Ē You know, go for what you know. So I did and Ted freaked out. He said, ďWhoa! It doesnít even need
another guitar.Ē What we did was apply our live show to plastic, whereas people like Boston and Foreigner
do it the opposite way: They work it out in the studio and then have to rehearse before they go on tour. Live
shows are the bottom line for us. On this next tour, weíre going to be taking out the largest lighting system
ever taken on the road.
GP: Whatís it worth?
EVH: Money-wise, I donít even know. I know itís taking all of our money, though. Weíre betting the whole
wad that we will sell. And if not, then we wonít. But we always bet our all -- give it all or nothing. We are not
about to go, ďWe can save a little money here if we donít do that.Ē We design what we want, have it built,
and then say, ďHow much money have we got?Ē If we donít have enough, we say, ďWeíve got to get it.Ē
GP: So you look at money mainly as a tool to advance your art?
EVH: I donít even look at money. So far the only thing Iíve done with money is retire the old man and stuff
like that. I havenít bought anything for myself except for my guitars and my Jeep. You know, Iíve got
everything I want, which is music, a squeeze now and then, and a car you can mess around in. Itís mainly
music: Thatís all I really care about. (Sings ďItís my life and Iíll do what I want.Ē)
GP: Has the attainment of success -- stardom, some would say -- matched what you imagined it would be?
EVH: To tell you the truth, Iím not into the star bullshit at all. A lot of people get off on it -- let their hair grow
long, buy a Les Paul and a Marshall, and be a rock and roll star. I donít even consider myself a rock star. I
enjoy playing guitar. Period. I had an English class where I had to do an essay on what my future plans were
-- what I wanted to do in life. I said I wanted to be a professional rock guitarist -- not a rock star. What is a
rock star? Itís a mystical image kids have. Iím considered a rock star because kids label me as one. Thatís
kind of why I hate going out partying and playing the part of a rock star, because I donít know how a rock
star is supposed to act. If I act too normal, theyíll go, ďOh, thatís him? Thatís all he is?Ē And if I act too
much like, ďHey, Iím a bitchiní rock star,Ē they go, ďHey, this guyís egoed out.Ē So I donít show my face too
much. Iím pretty much a loner. I just canít get along with people; they donít understand me. So I spend a lot
of time alone, playing my guitar. Itís just more satisfying. I donít like to waste my time acting, because Iím no
good at it.
GP: What are the major disadvantages of the rock life?
EVH: The disadvantages of being a rock star is your private life is gone, but your sex life increases. And you
have to do interviews. I hate doing interviews.
EVH: Because they always fuck me over. I donít feel like I have anything to say, because if I really say what I
feel, theyíll twist and bend it and make me seem like Iím egoed out and that Iím God, you know. But Iím not
at all; thatís one thing I just never expected. I did an interview once and said that my main influences were
Clapton and the usuals. And they said, ďNot Jimi Hendrix?Ē I go, ďNo, actually I didnít like Hendrix at all. He
was too much flash for me. I got off on the bluesy feeling that Eric Clapton projected, although I donít play
like Clapton or sound at all like him,Ē which doesnít sound egoed out. I donít sound like him. But when I
read it back they made it seem like, ďI donít play like Clapton. Iím better than all of them.Ē I called the guy up
and said, ďHey man, thatís the last time Iím doing an interview with you,Ē which I guess was bad to do, too.
The thing is that kids only know me through what they read. I feel like going door-to-door, saying, ďHey,
this is bullshit. Donít believe it.Ē But the kids do.
GP: How can you keep journalists from exploiting you?
EVH: Donít talk to them. But then again, then they really think Iím egoed out. But they donít understand; itís
just that I ainít got nothing to say. Like playing the guitar is part of me. I just feel like saying, ďEverything
Iíve got to say is in notes.Ē It really is. I project more feeling out of playing than I can with my mouth. Iím no
extrovert. Iím a quiet person. Thatís probably why I do all those weird things on guitar. The only thing I like
talking about is the guitar, which is why I wanted to do this interview.
GP: How do you view your career with the band?
EVH: Weíre looking at it as a lifetime thing, like the Stones. Weíre not out there for the quick buck. A lot of
acts burn themselves out by playing all those stadium shows; they overexpose themselves. They just grab
the bucks and go for it. I donít care about money. We need it to survive, but I can survive with whatever --
musician soup, if I have to. We put our all into the music and the production. Look at the greats: Elvis, the
Who, the Stones -- they have no gimmicks. Theyíre personalities. And thatís what we are, too; or thatís
what we need to keep striving for. It was kind of scary when all these bands were doing a glitter trip a few
years ago. We had to gamble: Should we go that way or just bet on ourselves? Itís a lot easier to have a
gimmick. But if you lay your personality on the line and they donít like you, youíre gone. So far weíve gone
the personality way, and itís worked. And thatís how a band lasts -- being real. Weíre not bullshitting
people; weíre not a circus.
GP: That spirit comes through on your records.
EVH: Well, itís our whole attitude; itís the way we feel. Weíre there to party with the people. Weíre not there
to show off. Weíre not out to prove anything, although we do have an aggressive attitude towards
everything we do.
GP: What do you picture yourself doing in 30 years?
EVH: Same thing weíre doing now. Thatís what I want. I donít know whatís gonna happen in the future --
maybe somebody else in the band will get egoed out and quit or something -- but Iíd love Van Halen to be
forever. And if not, I know I can always make it playing guitar somewhere, because Iím getting hit up left and
right now: ďWill you play on my record, will you do this, will you do that?Ē And I go, ďNo, Van Halen is my
family. Iím not gonna wash your dishes. Iíll wash dishes for Van Halen alone.Ē
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Interview © 1980 Guitar Player Magazine