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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk
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    Default Roth Interview (San Antonio Express News)

    David Lee Roth reprises rock classics with a bluegrass flavor

    Hector Saldaña
    San Antonio Express-News

    Imagine former Van Halen wild man David Lee Roth.

    Now imagine him with a blade of grass in his mouth, pulling a Bill Monroe.

    Yeah, the same brash, high-kicking yahoo who orchestrated the smiling, sailing-through-the-air act in the "Panama" video is featured on a new bluegrass CD, "Strummin' With the Devil" (CMH Records).

    "I'm never gonna show up with a genuine cowboy hat pretending to be flat country," Roth said from his home in New York's Lower East Side.

    But the irrepressible Indiana native, who is promoting the acoustic bluegrass tribute to his old band, keeps insisting he's a country boy deep down.

    If you have any doubts, Mr. Gigolo himself, now 51, will whip out a steel-string acoustic guitar and prove it to you. Even if that means playing it over the telephone during an interview while acknowledging that the two worst words in a rock band's lexicon are "acoustic set."

    Long before there was a Van Halen, Roth entertained himself on a cheap guitar like the kid from "Deliverance." Or so he would have you believe.

    "Everything that you heard at the local diner, particularly back in the '50s and the early '60s, when I was a little kid, was all flat-picking and country," Roth said. "Consequently, everything I write comes out classically Americana."

    He swears hillbilly influences sneaked onto his old records with Van Halen. On "Strummin' With the Devil," the famous power chords are reworked so there's no missing it.

    Roth calls the enjoyable, if off the wall, new album of vocal and instrumental remakes his "boat" record. "If I threw a barbecue somewhere near salt water, you can put this disc on and leave it going from beginning to end, without fear of ruining the ride."

    "Strummin' With the Devil" isn't just an off-the-cuff, vanity throwaway, he insisted. With the help of top bluegrass players, he rearranged the two songs he remade and learned that messing with the past is fun. He's no fan of the low-wattage "MTV Unplugged" tradition, which leaves song arrangements essentially unchanged.

    'Why not take the music past where we found it?" he said. "(Van Halen's) music is as familiar as 'My Country 'Tis of Purple Mountains.'"

    The album is subtitled "The Southern Side of Van Halen," but doing "Jump" and "Jamie's Cryin'" with the John Jorgenson Band? Won't Van Halen fans freak out over such sacrilege?

    "What's more Texas than Van Halen?" Roth asked. "What has more dirt under its fingernails? What's more likely to show up for work in a pair of torn jeans than the Van Halen sound?"

    OK, he's got a point.

    "This is part of rock 'n' roll," he added. "There's a sense of humor involved in this music. There's a clever sense of humor to this."

    But with a caveat. This is Diamond Dave, after all. "I ain't no comedian. I'm a cynic just like you. And you're never gonna get tired of me speaking your mind. That's why I'm still here 30 years later."

    Roth doubts that any good crying-in-your-beer songs will come out of his recent bumpy experience taking over for shock jock Howard Stern at WFNY in New York. He was canned quickly.

    "I don't think there's any seeds of lyric in that," he said. "I had a great time, though. But beyond that it's the traditional, 'Well, that's showbiz.'"

    Roth said he practiced radio voices as a kid, from Wolfman Jack on Mexican radio to underground FM radio voice. DJ-ing was always in the back of his mind, he said. "What better opportunity than the hottest seat in American radio for three months?"

    As an aging rocker baptized on the road in cover-band hell in the '70s, he laments the death of the bar-band scene, which he compared to the farm team system in sports.

    "The only place you're going to learn, via the repetition required, is gonna be in a bar or a club where you're playing other people's music — not your own," he said. "Now John Lennon or Miles Davis will tell you the exact same thing."

    With Van Halen, Roth had a repertoire of more than 200 songs, from James Brown to Aerosmith.

    "It was at the start playing seven sets a night," he said.

    They played those songs a thousand times. The result: "You know how to play with the flu, you know how to play when a string breaks, you know how to play when you've received a 'Dear John' letter and on and on and on."

    Roth believes those old ways could redeem rock 'n' roll, which too often these days is made by shut-ins on computers.

    "There's only one way to do it," he said. "You've got to get out of the house."
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

  2. #2
    Hot For Teacher forrestjump's Avatar
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    Excellent!!....Boy, he loves to repeat things at every interview. The "purple"mountains thingy is pretty funny. I think he sets the slate for anything he does in an interview. He Rules.
    Let's Go Reunite !! We had the Sammy years...Let's go CLASSIC!!! BRING IT ON DAVE!!!...Eddie..c'mon. I'll tribute to your riches. All you gotta do is play the guitar and jump around a lot.
    Still drunk from last night,
    Forrest

  3. #3
    Eruption RKVH5150's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by forrestjump
    Excellent!!....Boy, he loves to repeat things at every interview. The "purple"mountains thingy is pretty funny. I think he sets the slate for anything he does in an interview.
    There are some interviews that sound exactly the same and they are decades apart. He talks in sound bytes.

  4. #4
    Atomic Punk
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    USA TODAY

    Roth 'Strummin' With the Devil' on bluegrass tribute

    NASHVILLE (AP) — The blond mane and leather pants are gone from his days fronting Van Halen in the '80s. But David Lee Roth's boisterous personality is still intact.

    He was in town recently to promote his latest project, a bluegrass tribute to his former band called Strummin' With the Devil: The Southern Side of Van Halen that came out Tuesday, and he seemed every bit the "Diamond Dave" of old — a wisecracking, motormouth cross between Robin Williams and Wolfman Jack.

    "It's been 27 summers — like the way I put that?" he told The Associated Press, explosively laughing. "That's metric for years. Sounds like less. Sounds thinner (more loud laughter). Easier to digest, like, 'I'm watching what I eat as opposed to I'm on a diet' (laughter). I venerate the language also, sir (laughter)."

    Roth's emerged as Van Halen's party-loving lead singer in the late '70s and stayed with the group until splitting on less-than-amicable terms in 1985 for a solo career that started strong, then petered out. (Rock fans still debate whether Van Halen was better under Roth or his successor, Sammy Hagar.)

    In January, Roth took on the daunting task of replacing Howard Stern on a syndicated morning show for CBS Radio. His show was canceled in April.

    In a posh hotel suite with the bed still unmade and empty beer bottles on the end tables, the 51-year-old Bloomington, Ind., native picked up a guitar and played a country-flavored tune he said he wrote when he was 9 and discussed his appreciation for 1970s country-tinged rock acts like Jackson Browne and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

    The tribute album began with Roth deciding he wanted to cut an acoustic record and putting out the word to some of Nashville's finest pickers, including Blue Highway, the John Cowan Band, Mountain Heart, Larry Cordle and David Grisman. He said he wanted the album to be a credible interpretation of Van Halen, rather than a tongue-in-cheek exhibition.

    "Nine times out of 10 when people do a tribute album or tribute songs for somebody, it's what I call 'white boys playing reggae,'" Roth said. "They know they can't, we know they can't, so they sing like they can't and play like they can't. They gently make fun of the idiom or sing in a false accent.

    "My only real insistence was that we reinvent the songs completely. Take it way past where we found it to the degree you may not even recognize the song until the vocals come in, so other ingredients of the music present themselves that you may not have been consciously aware of before."

    As odd a concept as the record might seem, it mostly works. Hard rock classics like Panama and And the Cradle Will Rock ... retain the energy of early Van Halen, but with mandolins and fiddles instead of electric guitars and drums. The first single, Jamie's Cryin', takes a new, mournful tone with the acoustic instrumentation.

    Roth sings on only two tracks: Jump and Jamie's Cryin'. The singer who made a career of leaping into the air on stage and surrounding himself with scantily clad women in his videos didn't want to go over the top.

    "I'll never convince you that I'm either a cowboy or black. Those two songs stuck out as the most legitimate," for his vocal style, Roth said.

    If he had sang on the others, "Well ... white boys playing reggae."
    "Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.” -- Gen. George S. Patton

  5. #5
    Good Enough Rocket's Avatar
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    For a guy who sometimes looks as though he has a coke induced smile painted on, he sure does sound intelligent at times.

    I love his reasons for making the record and for only singing on two cuts. Makes sense to me.

    Also, I think he knows exactly what he wants and does it whether or not it fits with modern pop or standards. I give him props for his artistic experimentation, knowing a bluegrass album will not sell before he even lays down a note.

  6. #6
    Atomic Punk smithjc's Avatar
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    Donor

    Those were great vod. Thanks.

    The Diamond One rules the school.

    Gotta get outta the house. Kewl.
    RIP - Classic Van Halen

    "A lot of people take Van Halen more seriously than we do." The Diamond One



  7. #7
    Sinner's Swing! diamondsgirl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocket
    For a guy who sometimes looks as though he has a coke induced smile painted on, he sure does sound intelligent at times.

    I love his reasons for making the record and for only singing on two cuts. Makes sense to me.

    Also, I think he knows exactly what he wants and does it whether or not it fits with modern pop or standards. I give him props for his artistic experimentation, knowing a bluegrass album will not sell before he even lays down a note.
    exactly...and if he happens to make some coin off of it...thats great!
    "The spirit can not be contempt. The spirit can not be sour and angry" - DLR on The NEW Van Halen

    "Shutthefuckupity" - DIF on John Cusack.

    "Baby, where'd you sleep last night?
    Your hair is all tangled
    and you ain't walking right." - Robert Johnson

  8. #8
    Hang 'Em High Blind Lemon Loons's Avatar
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    Donor

    What's more Texas than Van Halen??

 

 

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