"Sass Jordan Explains Her Van Halen 'Audition'"
By: Lucas Aykroyd

Wall Of Sound (July 16, 1998)

As everyone knows by now, following Van Halen's split with Sammy Hagar and public spurning of David Lee Roth, former Extreme singer Gary Cherone was eventually tapped to step behind the mic. The result was Van Halen III, which met with lukewarm reviews from critics and garnered a downright hostile reaction from many longtime fans. But shortly after the release of the album, reports surfaced that before Cherone came aboard, Edward and Alex Van Halen had considered taking a serious left turn to fill their vacant singer slot by approaching a female singer. Although Edward has since denied the claims, the woman who believes Van Halen considered her for the job is Canadian rocker Sass Jordan, who spent a month jamming at 5150, Eddie Van Halen's home studio, in the summer of 1996.

While on the road, promoting her album Present, Jordan spoke with Wall of Sound regarding her courtship with the kings of "testosterone-driven rock," as she puts it.

Wall of Sound: How did you end up jamming with Van Halen?

Sass Jordan: A friend of mine knew somebody in Van Halen's management office in Toronto. I was living in L.A. at the time, and one day my friend came home and said, 'Somebody in the Van Halen camp wants to get a couple of your CDs.' I just said, 'Tell them to call the record company.' Then a couple of months later, Alex Van Halen called me up and said, 'What are you doing? You wanna come over and hang out, maybe sing something for us?' I lived exactly one and a half minutes away from Ed. So I went over, and the two of them were playing me new stuff that they were working on. We hung out for about a month.

WOS: Were you much of a Van Halen fan before this?

SJ: I liked Van Halen with David Lee Roth. No offense to Sammy Hagar, but I didn't like his voice. I was not a major fan, but I respected the band.

WOS: What was the process you guys used?

SJ: Ed would leave me in the studio and say, "Can you just sing something over this particular piece of music? I'm going to listen to you. You sing whatever you want, and I'll be back." And I'd say, "I can't sing by myself!" I can't say if any of it ended up on the record because I don't remember well enough. Anyway, I didn't come up with anything brilliant, because I have to be sitting there writing with the person to do it well.

WOS: When did you get the sense that the Van Halen brothers were considering asking you to join the band?

SJ: One day it just suddenly dawned on me. I don't know how stupid I could have been to not figure it out before. I looked at them and I said, "You guys couldn't possibly be thinking of having a female singer in this band, could you?" And they went, "Why?" I said, "I think that is the dumbest idea I have ever heard in my life!"

WOS: Did Ed or Al ever ask you flat out, "Will you be the new lead singer for Van Halen?"

SJ: Those guys never said anything of the sort to me. A couple of weeks later I was talking to their manager Ray Danniels and I said, "I swear to God, I think they were thinking of having a female singer in the band." And he said, "Of course they were! Why the hell else do you think you were up there?"

WOS: How do you think the public would have reacted if you had gotten the job with Van Halen?

SJ: I think Van Halen would have pissed off a huge amount of their fans.

The press would have had a field day. Just look at poor Gary Cherone. I've known him longer than anyone in Van Halen because we toured together in 1992. He's a very decent human being. He's never said a bad word about anyone. But I've seen all this crap written about him. To blame him for everything is really pretty rude.

WOS: Do you think Gary was a good choice for the lead vocalist of Van Halen?

SJ: [pauses] No. I don't think it made it any better. That's just my personal opinion. I think he's terrific as a person. But I don't think it brought anything new to the band.

WOS: So two years afterwards, what do you think of this whole experience?

SJ: You know what? Now, I think Van Halen should definitely use a female singer at some point, but not one of those airy-fairy types—more somebody like me. I'd be up for it. But not if it was called Van Halen! If Ed and Al did a side project for fun, I'd love to do something like that.

Interview 1998 Wall of Sound