"Wanna Borrow My Guitar?"
By: Christopher Hurley

The Inside (Issue 16, Summer 2000)

Long before hitting it big, Chris Holmes -- the 6 foot 6 lead guitarist of the band W.A.S.P. -- was just a kid from Pasadena with a guitar and a dream. Along the way, he befriended Eddie Van Halen, and later earned a page in the annals of Van Halen history when Eddie borrowed his Ibanez Destroyer to record parts of the Women and Children First album.

We recently caught up with Chris during W.A.S.P.'s tour stop in West Warwich, RI, March 8, and asked him about his involvement with our favorite guitarist.

The Inside: So how did Eddie Van Halen come about borrowing your guitar for the Women and Children First album?

Chris Holmes: I got into a motorcycle accident in 1980. I had broken my back and I was in the hospital. I couldn't play. I was in traction and he just came into the hospital. He just got off the road. He asked if he could borrow the guitar and I said yes.

The Inside: What kind of guitar was it?

CH: It was an Ibanez Destroyer, a certain kind that I had bought. Honestly, I got one because he got one. He was just somebody I really envied when I grew up playing and he was cool. I always wanted to play like him, but you've got to do your own thing. I bought one because he got one that had a cool shape. It was made out of a certain kind of wood that they didn't make very many out of -- crayna, I think. He cut his out and changed the sound, but he couldn't fix it back. So he said, 'Hey, can I use your guitar?' I said 'Sure, man.' And he used it on the album.

The Inside: Did he return it to you in one piece?

CH: It was funny; when I got it back, the bridge was turned around backwards and all that intonation... it was just backwards to the way I would have had it. I just don't see how he played it that way, but he did. It's funny, I've been to a few Van halen shows and I put on Ed's guitar and it's just the complete opposite of the way I set up mine.

The Inside: Different strokes for different folks.

CH: Yeah, he'd have the strings about a mile off the fret board. He likes his whammy bar so loose that he super glues the nut on the back so it spins around. I don't use a whammy bar, but everybody has their own way of playing.

The Inside: How long have you known Eddie?

CH: I've known him since I was 13 (1974).

The Inside: Did you grow up in the same neighborhood?

CH: Yeah, Pasadena. We didn't go to the same High School. He had Mammoth when I started playing guitar. He was somebody I looked up to and watched play backyard parties. I'd have a really shitty band, he'd have a good backyard garage band. Things got better, they'd play clubs and he'd use some of my equipment.

The Inside: Kind of like a next door neighbor borrowing a cup of sugar.

CH: Yeah. I'd go to the clubs when I was 16 and just learned a lot going down to sound check. I remember when Gene Simmons took them to New York to record. It was cool. Once they got their record deal, they took off on the road and everybody hated them in Pasadena.

The Inside: How come?

CH: Just jealousy. A lot of other bands were just jealous and shit. It was cool. I'm not saying I helped them; I was just around and got to see them go from a garage band to where they ended up.

I always felt good about that. Still to this day we're friends.

The Inside: So what was that whole musical vibe like back then?

CH: Well, every band had their rivals and back then, Quiet Riot was Van Halen's. They were about the same age. The San Fernando people were Quiet Riot fans and San Gabriel people were Van Halen fans. I just never liked Quiet Riot. I used to make fun of them because they wore polka-dots and bow ties, and Van Halen was like a drunk party band all the time. I didn't like Randy Rhoads either. I don't want to say anything bad about the guy, but there's always rivals.

The Inside: Did you know the guys in Van Halen?

CH: Ed, Al and Mike, they're good guys. Dave's just the way he is. I'm not knocking him as a person, just his personality. But they wouldn't have gotten half as big as they did without him in the band. They would have gone nowhere. Ed and Al would still be playing backyard parties in Pasadena if it wasn't for that guy.

The Inside: But Eddie can play that guitar.

CH: Oh yeah, but it's not just the guitar; it takes talent to get there.

The Inside: Do you have any preference as to who you think should be the new lead singer of Van Halen?

CH: I would say... as much as I don't like Dave Roth personally, I think they should get him. But I like Hagar, too. I don't know. I mean, who is going to tell Ed what to do? You can't. His wife could, I guess (laughs). She'd tell him what to do.

Interview 2000 The Inside Magazine