Eddie Van Halen and his Bandmate/Bandleader/Son Wolfgang
recently sat down with Esquire magazine to talk all things Van
Halen and the prospect of twenty-one-year-old 'Wolfie' continuing
the band after his father retires. An excerpt of
the interview follows:
ESQUIRE: Did you actually have to decide at one
moment that I'm going to be in this band? Or did you just feel like
you were - I mean, there had to be a point where you're like, Holy
shit, they're really planning this thing around me.
WOLFGANG VAN HALEN: I guess it really didn't
hit me until, like, the first night of the tour, in 2007. It just
felt so normal, because we had already been rehearsing for two
years. It just kind of fell into place, you know? I didn't really
have anything that I felt like I needed to do other than music.
It's the only thing I had, I think.
ESQ: So you joined when you were fifteen?
WVH: We started rehearsing when I was almost
sixteen, like four months before I was sixteen. But then we
rehearsed for, like, a year and a half, two years - it takes a
really long time to get shit done - but by the end, we were all
practiced up. It's just so crazy. We're playing while rehearsing.
We started rehearsing and recording ourselves for the record right
before I turned eighteen. So for about two and a half years, we've
pretty much been rehearsing every single day - excluding Sundays,
maybe, just the three of us, and it's funny, it doesn't feel like
work at all. It just feels like something that we do.
EDDIE VAN HALEN: Not even close to work - we
just kind of meet each other every day. "See you in the studio
tomorrow!" "Okay!" "You wanna play?" "Yeah, okay, let's play."
WVH: We call each other at 10:30, like, "Hey,
see you at 12."
EVH: Sometimes we go, "You wanna play or
WVH: Dad always goes, "Do we have to?" And I
EVH: No, but half the time it was because I was
so tired of setting up mics and engineering.
ESQ: You don't have some guy that does that for
EVH: No, because I know what I want. The shit I
record sounds way better than the record.
WVH: The early demos of just the three of us
sound fantastic. We had severe cases of demo-itis.
EVH: I'm the only one who knows how this band
is supposed to sound. Drum-wise, it starts with the drums. If Al's
drum sound isn't there, you know, forget it. I'm the only one who
can get it.
WVH: The band has never sounded this good.
ESQ: So you enjoy playing sound checks? Are you
really working kinks out, or do you just enjoy playing?
WVH: It's kind of just a ritual, almost. We've
been doing this new thing to mix it up - every single show we've
played has been different - I want to keep it interesting. Since
we're on the second tour, I think we've earned the ability to play
older songs, like "Hear About It Later." Last night I was so happy
we played that.
ESQ: Have you written an entire song for Van
WVH: Not yet. Just little parts. It's a
collaboration. Like, we go, "Hey, I came up with this idea," kind
of just all play. We jam it and kind of play around: "Hey, that
works." "No, no, no, this works." "No, how about that?"
ESQ: A lot of people who are famous for
something, their kids turn out to be assholes.
WV: Yeah. You kind of inherit the lifestyle
without any of the skill that got them to where they were.
ESQ: Seems like you're the new face of Van
Halen. I saw this real kind of leadership quality in what you were
doing, not only onstage, but when you're backstage, you're the guy
saying, "We're going to play this," "Let's rehearse this," "Can we
learn how to play this?"
WVH: I mean, I kind of come up with the set
lists. When we've got a song that we haven't done, it's like, we
should probably run through this before the show and figure out
like the count of it. Because dad, for some reason, counts in odds.
He'll land on three instead of four.
ESQ: He'll go "1,3,5,7" instead of
WVH: Yeah, I have to look at him sometimes and
EVH: You making fun of me?
WVH: He still, to this day, does not know the
lyrics to "Beautiful Girls." You know how we go, "top of the world,
beautiful girls"? He has it written down on his pedal board. On the
last tour I used to have to go [mouths lyrics]. You were at sound
check yesterday when we were practicing "Full Bug" and he was like,
"I don't know when to stop!" So I had to go over there and was just
ESQ: This music was written well before you
were even born. And you enjoy it?
WV: Oh, yeah, I love it.
ESQ: The whole sound sounds much meaner. I
mean, it is just thunderous. To hear all those old Van Halen songs
with your bass, it's like, bass-plus. It's like turbocharged Van
EVH: The bass sounded a lot meaner at home when
we recorded it ourselves.
ESQ: Well shit, man. How the heck are we going
to hear that stuff?
EVH: Eh, we'll leak it out. The demos of the
ESQ: Are you writing music on the road?
WVH: Not much. I mean, we have a lot of ideas
that we wrote that never made it to the record that were so awesome
I wish they had made it. But we kind of held it off to another
ESQ: Because there's just so much material?
WVH: Yeah, there's so much. And there's so much
material that dad wrote such a long time ago that has never seen
the light of day, either.
ESQ: But when your father is retired, okay
WVH: That's going to be a while.
ESQ: I know, but when his arms fall off… okay,
when his arms fall off and his ears fall off, you're going to carry
on this band.
WVH: Yeah, it kind of falls on my shoulders. I
thought it would be really fun if dad and I just sat down and
started jamming and see if we came up with something together,
instead of him writing something and me putting my spin on it.
Read the full interview here www.esquire.com
Photo: Theo Wargo, Getty Images
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