WVH Interview: "Dad would rather people not try and sound like him"
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    Default WVH Interview: "Dad would rather people not try and sound like him"

    Wolfgang Van Halen: "Dad would rather people not try and sound like him but sound like themselves.

    Iím being myself Ė Iím not sitting there doing covers of Panama"

    By Jonny Scaramanga
    First Published 4 hours ago

    The multi-instrumentalist details the recording of Mammoth WVH, and explains why making the music he wants to make is the best way to honor his father.

    The buzz for Wolfgang Van Halenís solo debut began in 2015 when Eddie Van Halen told Guitar World, ďItís like AC/DC meets Van Halen meets aggressive pop...

    Itís so powerful that Iím jealous.Ē

    The project had to wait, as Wolf fulfilled his commitments as bassist in Van Halen and Tremonti, as well as drummer for Sevendustís Clint Lowery.

    But following the devastating loss of Eddie on October 6, 2020, Wolf released the tribute single Distance. A moving video featuring childhood footage of Wolfgang with Eddie quickly racked up four million views, and the song debuted at #1 on the Billboard Rock chart.

    With the album completed, Wolf has told Twitter ďItís important I forge my own path,Ē but that doesnít mean distancing himself from his father.

    His band name and album title, Mammoth WVH, is a nod to Van Halenís original moniker, and album opener Mr Ed features a tapping lick to make any EVH fan grin.

    But on the preview singles, Wolf shows his own identity, whether itís the bruising slow groove of Youíre To Blame or the stomping shuffle on Donít Back Down.

    Speaking to TG from his home in California, Wolf explains how he put the album together, and reflects on how his fatherís influence has shaped him as a musician...

    Congratulations on the album. How do you feel about the reaction to Mammoth WVH so far?

    ĒWeíve got four songs out and people are really stoked about it. I really didnít see it winning this many people over so soon, or at all, really.

    I just made the record for me. For it to resonate with a bunch of people has been really awesome.Ē

    It must be hard performing Distance on TV when itís such an emotional tribute to your dad.

    ĒYeah, performing it is a whole different thing. That was very difficult.

    In terms of releasing it, it just seemed like the right thing to do. Iíd been working on my music for so long, and with somebody as important as that in my life not being around anymore, it just seemed right.

    It seemed right thing to get Distance out there as a tribute for Pop and have it all go to his favourite charity, Mr Hollandís Opus.

    ĒIt certainly wasnít the first song I was planning on releasing. Itís a bit to the left of the core sound of the album, but I think it fits still.

    It seemed right thing to get that out there as a tribute for Pop and have it all go to his favourite [music education] charity, Mr Hollandís Opus. There was no ill intent behind it, thatís for sure.

    I know there are some people who are like, 'heís just using this,' but I love my dad and I just wanted to show everybody.

    ĒA bunch of Van Halen fans were like, 'This was the closure I needed.' You can relate the song to any type of loss anyone has ever experienced, so the comments on the video are beautiful and heartbreaking, like 'I just lost my dad and I heard the song on the radio and it really touched me. I didnít expect it to resonate with so many people.Ē

    The album has quite a few Easter Eggs for fans. Is the ending to Donít Back Down a quote from Van Halenís So This is Love?

    ďYeah, except Dad does the little kink with the pick on the on the strings, and I do a little phaser pick slide.

    Thatís definitely the vibe I was going for.

    Iím surprised at how quickly people caught that. Itís the same thing with the back cover of the album, people were like, 'Oh my god itís arranged like the first Van Halen album!'

    I didnít think people would notice that the second they saw it. Theyíre kind of winks and nods. Thereís nothing bigger behind it.ď

    Youíre not hiding from the Van Halen connection.

    ďIím just not milking off the legacy. Iím sure thatís up for debate for some people that hate me, but Iím being myself.

    Iím not sitting there doing covers of Panama and going, ĎIf you want Van Halen, come to me!í If you want Van Halen, go over there.ď

    I never wanted to plaster the whole album with solos. It was only if it feels right for certain songs

    How do you deal with the haters?

    ďItís an up and down thing. Sometimes itís too much, and sometimes youíre ready to take it on the chin and tell them to fuck off.

    You kind of go through ups and downs because itís always a constant thing.

    Sometimes you just need to take a little break and ignore it for a while, but every now and then and some asshole lobs you a really big softball that you could just fuckiní knock out of the park, and itís really fun.ď

    I was surprised to hear you tapping straight out of the gate on Mr Ed.

    ďThatís actually why I called it Mr Ed. That was the demo title because at the beginning of the riff I do a little harmonic tap.

    Then I just liked that name so much that I kept it.ď

    The lyrics donít sound like theyíre about him.

    ďThatís the one mistake I think, people are really going to be like 'is this about his dad?'

    Lyrically, it has nothing to do with that.ď

    Thereís another standout solo in Youíre To Blame.

    ďI think thatís a really good kind of core sound of the album. I never wanted to plaster the whole album with solos.

    It was only if it feels right for certain songs and that song just seemed to really fit. I just kind of went for it.ď

    Thereís a video online where Paul Gilbert had commented ďworld- class vibrato, just like your dadĒ.

    On this album your vibrato is nothing like Eddieís. What were your influences on that?

    ďNothing in particular. I kind of just do it. I donít really have anything in mind while Iím doing it.

    Iím sure thereís plenty of things that influenced me into doing it, but nothing actively in my mind.

    I never sat there and went, ĎIím not going to sound like Van Halen.í Iím going to make music I want to hear.ď

    Where was the album recorded?

    ďSome vocals were recorded in here [Wolfís home studio]. I recorded the vocals for Distance and Resolve in this room, but most of it was at [Van Halenís studio] 5150.

    We tracked almost everything to tape so it just sounds extra crispy. I think Elvis [producer Michael ĎElvisí Baskette] did a phenomenal job mixing it.ď

    What were the main guitars that you played on the album? Thereís a Fender Starcaster in the Donít Back Down video.

    ďYeah, I never tracked with a Starcaster, I just thought it just would be fun to have. I recorded a lot with the Gibson ES-335 that I play in the video.

    I have a black [EVH] Wolfgang Custom that was kind of all over it. It was such a free-for-all really that itís kind of hard to remember everything, but mostly it was that 335 and the black Wolfgang.ď

    Did you play any of your dadís gear?

    ďYeah a handful of it. I played the original Frankenstein on the solo on Mammoth and on Feel.ď

    What was that like?

    ďYou feel the history. Itís kind of terrifying holding it, just because arguably it is the most famous guitar in musical history.

    Itís definitely quite the thing to hold it. When we were pulling it out of its safe, Dad picked it up and he was just noodling with it for a second.

    Heís like, 'Yeah, feels about the same' and he tossed it onto the couch.

    Everyone just gasped when he did that. To Dad itís just a little piece of junk that he built himself, but to us itís the most famous thing in the world.ď

    What amps did you use?

    ďThat was probably the one area that we made a collective effort to not replicate Pop.

    We did use a bunch of 5150s mostly, but there were also Marshalls Ė a red early '70s 100 watt Superlead, and a í72 Superlead metal panel 1959 model.

    All the Marshall heads were modified with extra gain stages. We used a lot of cabinet variations, with Celestion G12H-30s, G12M-25s, and G12-EVHs just to contrast the sound.ď

    How about pedals?

    ďIf we ever used a pedal it was for an overdub or we plugged in for a certain moment.

    On Donít Back Down we did use a Foxx Tone Machine fuzz, but I canít think of any others.ď

    What about the famous Plexi amp Ė a 100 watt Marshall 1959 model Ė that your dad used on the classic Van Halen albums? Do you know where it is now?

    ďYeah. Iím not gonna tell people where it is, but itís in our hands and itís being kept safe.ď

    Iíd heard it was damaged.

    ďIím sure it was at some point. Dad definitely fixed it up over the years, but he kind of just evolved past the sound.

    When were on the 2012 tour, [Pearl Jamís] Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder came backstage. Mike was talking to Dad.

    He said, 'Oh man, the first Van Halen album sounded so good.' My dad growls, 'It sounded like sh*t!'

    Mike was just like, 'Oh, okay. Well... I liked it.'ď

    There are entire guitar forums dedicated to reproducing that sound. If they heard that, theyíd be crushed!

    ĒI think Dad would rather have people not try and sound like him but sound like themselves.

    You know, tastes change over time.

    Obviously he was super-happy with all the 5150s as he kept building on them.Ē

    You played all the instruments on the on the record. How did that affect your perspective on the guitar?

    ĒI think it was just kind of a collective process between Elvis and I, and Matt Bruck as a liaison for the amps. It was always a conversation of like what would be good for the song.

    It was never some static thing we were just kind of happy with. We were always chasing that tone.Ē

    I think Dad would rather have people not try and sound like him but sound like themselves.

    What are your favourite guitar parts on the album?

    ĒI used a talk box on the on the solo for Youíll Be the One.

    When we were tracking all the guitar solos, Elvis was like 'I got a talk box, you want to fit it somewhere?'

    It was fun to do but it was really tough because my nose kept exhaling too much so you couldnít really hear it.

    I had to tape my nose just for the tracking of it.Ē

    Youíve tweeted that Think It Over is one of your favourite songs.

    ĒItís also Dadís favourite. Itís definitely one of the poppier songs on the album. I thought it was important to show where the sound could go.

    My dad always said something I loved. He always called the solo my George Harrison solo: nothing flashy but perfect for the melody supporting the song.Ē

    What age did you start playing guitar?

    ĒIíve always been a drummer first, but [guitar] wasnít until I was about 12 because I wanted to play [Van Halen instrumental] 316 for my sixth grade talent show.

    That was the very first thing I learned, and then Dad taught me how to do powerchords. I just kind of took it from there.

    People always comment 'Well, he had a good teacher!' But Dad wasnít a very good teacher.Ē

    Did you have any other guitar teachers?

    ĒNo, he just showed me how to do powerchords and I learned from listening to whatever I like and maybe you know guitar tabs here and there, just kind of figuring out how to play.

    Thatís why I feel more like a stronger rhythm player than a lead player.

    ĒI mean, I can play lead but Iím more comfortable in the rhythm space. Also I really donít want to try and be Dad.

    Thatís not me. Iíll be the dude playing everything else, but not the shreddy guy. Sure thereís tapping and stuff like Mr Ed, but itís because the song called for it.Ē

    One of my biggest influences is Jimmy Eat World. I think you can really hear that in Think It Over.

    What were your influences for this record?

    ĒVan Halen always will be a part of it because I canít really shake that. Itís just in my blood.

    But I love everything from AC/DC to Foo Fighters to Nine Inch Nails and Tool.

    One of my biggest influences is Jimmy Eat World. I think you can really hear that in Think It Over.

    Maybe throw in some Alice In Chains and Queens Of The Stone Age and all those bands kind of represent what compelled me.

    I think you can really hear the Alice In Chains influence on The Big Picture, on the bridge with the harmonies. I was proud of that.Ē

    What was it like learning the guitar in a house with the best guitarist on the planet?

    ĒHeís Dad. Heís not Eddie Van Halen first. I was learning whatever and he was there to cheer me on.

    He was happy to see the process. Itís not like I was doing it to appease him or because I felt like I should be doing it because of my name.

    Itís because I genuinely wanted to involve myself in music, and I think thatís all he wanted.

    He never forced me. He was happy to see the honest obsession rise on its own.Ē

    Youíve mentioned it being intimidating having Eddie Van Halen as a dad when it came to learning the guitar. How conscious were you of that?

    ĒGrowing up, not at all. Looking back on it now, obviously [it is intimidating].

    People are always going to hold me to something thatís completely out of my control.

    I see Van Halen fans say, ĎThe kidís 30 now, and at his age his dad was up to Fair Warning!í

    I think itís really unfair to hold me at the same level as my dad.Ē

    Dad wrote music very differently later in his life. I think some people werenít a fan of that.

    Take Van Halen III for example Ė Dadís melodic ideas changed over the years.

    It was cool to hear a shuffle on Donít Back Down, because Van Halen was always a rock band that could swing.

    ďI love that you say that. If you look at some of the comments on the video theyíre like 'This is just a rip-off of this or that song!'

    Itís not even in the same key. Youíre misinterpreting it sounding like another song just because itís a shuffle.

    The demo title for Donít Back Down was ĎSabbathí. It was very Sabbath-y, and then my engineer misread it so we ended up calling it ĎSalt Bathí for a while!ď

    Did your uncle Alex Van Halen [Van Halen drummer] teach you anything about groove and playing behind the beat, or was it all osmosis?

    ďThereís a picture somewhere of me at three or four years old just banging on his kit. Alís sticks are big anyway but in the hand of a three-year-old they look like two feet long.

    It was just osmosis. We played together for a long time. Dad, Al, and I rehearsed at the studio so much, at a certain point itís like the 10-thousand-hour rule.ď

    Did you get any tips from your dad about how to write songs?

    ďNot really, it was a thing that just happened. I wrote what I wanted to hear, you know.

    With Dad, I guess itís another osmosis thing, just being around it, you see how it goes and youíre like I want to do some things this way and some things a different way.ď

    You must have picked some stuff up when you were the bassist on the last Van Halen album, A Different Kind of Truth.

    ďFor sure. Dad wrote music very differently later in his life. I think some people werenít a fan of that.

    Take Van Halen III for example Ė Dadís melodic ideas changed over the years. I donít think thatís generally a bad thing.

    ďI think itís great when artists expand and change, but it was important to kind of go back and look at what made the classic stuff sound the way it did.

    Thatís why I thought it was a good idea to check out some of the older demos [recorded for A Different Kind of Truth]. I donít think thereís a shelf life on ideas.

    I thought that was a good way of bringing in that classic flavour into it again, and there was definitely some newer stuff on there, too.ď

    It seemed like you understood classic Van Halen in a deep way. When the first reunion tour with singer David Lee Roth happened, fans were excited about the setlist because there were some deep cuts.

    ďYeah, one thing I did every tour was the setlist. I was happiest with the 2015 tour because we really got to dig in.

    We played Dirty Movies, In A Simple Rhyme. We played Women In Love and Drop Dead Legs.

    Itís like, 'F*ck yeah! Iím so stoked to have played that!' It was really fun to go deep in the vaults and play all those.

    That was definitely me pushing everyone.

    We opened with Light Up The Sky on that tour, too. That was fun.ď

    It seems like youíre a Van Halen fan as well as a family member.

    ĒOh for sure. Before I was in the band Iíd listen to it all the time.

    Now itís kind of... Itís a little difficult for me to listen right now, but yeah I was a fan of it all first.

    I think going into it I really knew what the fans wanted to hear, so I did my best to be like, 'Come on guys, letís mix it up!'Ē

    How did you discover that stuff? Did your parents play it to you?

    ĒI remember when they were recording stuff up at the studio.

    When they were recording Me Wise Magic [a brand-new track with David Lee Roth, featured on the 1996 collection Best Of Volume 1].

    I remember thinking that was a fuckiní awesome song.

    Probably the album I was closest to growing up was Balance [1995] because it happened while I was alive, so I still hold that album very close.

    ĒDiving deep into it, as time went on it was just fun to go through my dadís history and everything that he did.

    Thereís actually some clips in the Distance video where my dad and I are sitting at the piano together.

    It was from a larger 15-minute video I found of him teaching me how to play Why Canít This Be Love.

    Itís a really special video.Ē

    I got little points here and there but know itís not like how everybody imagines it. ĎOK Wolf, youíre sixteen. Time to learn to play Eruption!í

    Thereís a video online of you playing Eruption. Did you figure that out by sitting there with the record like millions of other guitarists?

    ĒNot really. I got to watch Dad play it every time we were rehearsing, so it was just like, 'Oh, so itís that.'

    I figured out some of it, and Dad was like, 'No, you gotta do it that way!' Oh, OK! So I got little points here and there but know itís not like how everybody imagines it.

    ĎOK Wolf, youíre 16. Time to learn to play Eruption!í Itís never something I would plan on playing on stage.

    My dad already did it. Why would I do that? There are plenty of other people who can do it, too.

    I want to be me.Ē

    Mammoth WVH is out on June 11 via EX1.
    RECENT NEWS
    Beauty is life when life unveils
    her holy face.

    But you are life and you
    are the veil.

    Beauty is eternity gazing at itself
    in a mirror.

    But you are eternity
    and you are the mirror.

    -Kahil Gibran

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    Is that the Total Guitar interview? I was curious to read that
    "People ask me how far I've come. And I tell them twelve feet: from the audience to the stage." - David Lee Roth

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    Quote Originally Posted by KS 5150 View Post
    Is that the Total Guitar interview? I was curious to read that
    I think so!
    Beauty is life when life unveils
    her holy face.

    But you are life and you
    are the veil.

    Beauty is eternity gazing at itself
    in a mirror.

    But you are eternity
    and you are the mirror.

    -Kahil Gibran

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    Too fucking bad big boy, itís my gimmick and Iím running with it to the grave.

    Just kidding, of course...

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    ďDad would rather people not try and sound like him but to sound like themselves.Ē


    THIS.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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    I can just picture Ed tossing the Frankenstein without a care in the world and the whole room bracing themselves. That made me smile.
    I miss Eddie Van Halen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MF5150 View Post
    “Dad would rather people not try and sound like him but to sound like themselves.”


    THIS.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Well, not everyone plays guitar 8 to 12 hours per day. I never learned music theory , scales, modes and don't really know fretboard notes. That said, I feel good when playin' ATBL. When I do it, I am not super crazy about sounding like Ed, but naturally I want to be close enough. I have no interest in writing my own music cause music is just one of many things that keeps me rollin'. Wolf may say that they would rather people not to try to sound like Ed. I can say that I would rather VH guys be more interested in literature (correct me if I am wrong but I remember Ed once stated that he hates books) , the life and work of Salvador Dali, or Czechoslovak/Polish/Russian artistic movies. This is when I appreciate DLR for having multiple interest, not only being devoted to music.

    That said, it is obvious that people want to sound like Ed. Had VH not been a successfull band, with multi million seller albums, noone would want to sound like Ed. But then, most of us wouldn't have heard about Ed and Al.
    "If it sounds good, it is good" - Eddie Van Halen, 1981

    "If you ever speak to me like that again, you better be wearing a cup" - EVH, 1996

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    When I was a teenager and learning to play guitar, I so badly wanted to learn to play and sound like EVH......probably like many of you here. Everything about his playing was so seductive to my young ears and mind at that time, but eventually I got away from that as I realized I would never be able to do "EVH" better than Eddie himself. Some of the bands and players that tried to emulate Van Halen so closely never were as good as the real thing. They always sounded like a pale imitation of VH.

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    I respect that. I started playing guitar in 03 and for 10 years all I ever did when I picked up the guitar was play VH riffs or VH style stuff. It had to be tapping, or harmonics or VH-like riffs and it always ended with playing VH songs.

    At some point though, I wanted to actually be able to pick up a guitar and just play whatever was in my head. I wanted to be able to jam with somebody without being stuck in a VH box and that line of thinking.

    And once I started veering away from playing VH music and trying my darnedest to play like Ed, I feel as though I actually learned how to play. Like me. I can now just pickup a guitar and play it.

    One way isnít right or wrong. Itís different strokes for different folks, but personally Iím glad I veered away from it.


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    I always chuckle when I hear Ed referred to as ďdad.Ē Actually I just feel old.
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  15. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by dislocatedday View Post
    When I was a teenager and learning to play guitar, I so badly wanted to learn to play and sound like EVH......probably like many of you here. Everything about his playing was so seductive to my young ears and mind at that time, but eventually I got away from that as I realized I would never be able to do "EVH" better than Eddie himself. Some of the bands and players that tried to emulate Van Halen so closely never were as good as the real thing. They always sounded like a pale imitation of VH.
    But honestly, how many big guys out three really emulated Ed? Nuno on the first Extreme album, Vito Bratta... Who else? I can't recall anyone else, at least from bigger bands. And I don't consider Gilbert, Vai, Satriani, Kotzen and similar guys VH copycats. You say that some of these guys were never as good as the real thing. I say all of them were not as good but that's not saying much.
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    Quote Originally Posted by marcin View Post
    But honestly, how many big guys out three really emulated Ed? Nuno on the first Extreme album, Vito Bratta... Who else? I can't recall anyone else, at least from bigger bands. And I don't consider Gilbert, Vai, Satriani, Kotzen and similar guys VH copycats. You say that some of these guys were never as good as the real thing. I say all of them were not as good but that's not saying much.
    Just for context, I am not referring to any of these bigger, well-known rock guitar players when I say they were pale imitations of Van Halen. They were all influenced by Ed to varying degrees, but I never felt like these guys you listed were just trying to be EVH JR...........although there are definitely a couple songs on that first Extreme album that are a huge nod to VH.

    My memory of specific players and bands from the 80s who seemed like they were trying to be just like VH but were just weak imitations escapes me now, so perhaps there were not as many as I thought. Bulletboys, XYZ, and Hurricane are three such bands that come to mind off the top of my head.

    And yes, as you noted, nobody in hard rock was as good as VH during that time from 1978 through the entirety of the 80s. When I started playing guitar seriously in 1983 there was EVH and Randy Rhoads, and then everyone else was well behind them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by marcin View Post
    That said, it is obvious that people want to sound like Ed. Had VH not been a successfull band, with multi million seller albums, noone would want to sound like Ed. But then, most of us wouldn't have heard about Ed and Al.
    It seems odd that someone would sell iconic striped guitars and then want you to not try to emulate the tone that they once produced. I would think that would be part of the experienceóat least in the beginning.

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    Well I don't think or can remember any big guitarist sounding like another big or huge guitarist. I mean maybe SRV nodding a bit to Hendrix but he had his own tone. Who was huge and sounds like Clapton? Nobody. I mean maybe at times John Mayer sounds like Clapton or SRV but he also has his own tone. Joe Bonamassa does sound at times like EJ and SRV but nobody has EJ tone and he is primarily a Les Paul user now. Think of who sounds like Beck?

    Anyway we all know lets say with SRV that millions of guitarists have tried to sound like him. Same with Eddie but due to the lack of gear, fingers, etc you just can't. However who decided to get a single coil strat to sound like Hendrix or SRV? Crapload. How about the Superstrat with Eddie? Up until Slash popularized Les Pauls again, everybody wanted a strat style body with a humbucker.

    Eventually if a guitarist wants to find their own voice, just like a painter, dancer, etc The great ones then create their own style and signature. That's why you don't hear great guitarists that mimic otehr guitarists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MF5150 View Post
    I wanted to be able to jam with somebody without being stuck in a VH box and that line of thinking.
    This is something Ed eventually lost the ability to do.

    I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with chasing Ed's playing or tone. I look at is as sport and get a ton of enjoyment from it. But there's a reason my top 10 guitar players don't have anybody who's even close to being an Ed clone in there. There's a lot more to the instrument, especially if you're playing live.

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