Eddie Van Halen Speaks! Five Things We Learned in a Rare New Interview
Eddie Van Halen is known as a guy who doesn't often give interviews, but he's been relatively chatty with the press lately. Two months ago he had a Q&A at the Smithsonian, and now he's opened up at length again.
Speaking recently with the Washington Times, Eddie offered a number of insights into the current state of Van Halen and its members. He discussed the probability of a new Van Halen in the near future, the music his son Wolfgang is planning to release, what he would have released instead of the new live album, Tokyo Dome Live in Concert and his current relationship with his lead singer.
"What I originally wanted to do was remix the original 25 song demos. That would have been really cool. But the tapes are lost. They are gone. So that was out the window," said Van Halen. "Then we started digging through bootlegs from the club days. We tried our best to make those sound good, but ultimately it wasn’t good enough to put out. The quality of the recording was so bad that we tried to enhance them and make them better. Once we made them better, you lost that fly-on-the-wall aspect of it. It just didn’t jive. So we decided, 'How about a live record?'"
The band ended up drawing on one show from its 2012-'13 tour for Tokyo Dome, a decision Van Halen says rested with singer David Lee Roth.
"When it came to doing a live record, none of us wanted to sit there and listen to 200 shows to pick the best one. So we left it up to Dave," continued Van Halen, pointing out that while it's relatively easy for the musicians to be consistent, a variety of factors can alter the sound of the singer's instrument. "Dave said, 'How about Tokyo Dome?' We said fine. The bonus of that show was we didn’t have an opening act. So we played much longer. It’s about a two-hour show."
Van Halen also claimed that Roth would be largely responsible for the set list on the band's upcoming tour, responding to a question about what the group would be playing this summer by saying, "A lot of times that comes down to what Dave will sing and what he won’t. ... Ultimately, if Dave doesn’t want to sing them, then we can’t do them. I would love to throw in 'Drop Dead Legs' and 'Light Up the Sky.' All kinds of stuff. I think it would be a treat for the audience. Maybe we can convince him this time around."
On the subject of the upcoming solo project he recently announced from his son — and Van Halen's current bassist — Wolfgang, Van Halen added a few extra details, saying Wolfgang is working as half of a duo with his friend Eric Friedman. "Those two guys, working with a producer named Elvis Baskette," said Eddie, describing himself as "jealous" after listening to the tapes. "Wolf is playing drums. And bass. When he plays bass to his drums, it is so locked in. He plays guitar to it and it is just so damn tight and powerful. It is like a freight train coming at you. Then you add Eric Friedman on top of it, and that’s the icing on the cake."
While Wolfgang's extracurricular work helped thwart Eddie's hopes for a new Van Halen album in 2015 — along with Roth being "off doing his thing" — he's hopeful that a follow-up to 2012's A Different Kind of Truth isn't too far off on the horizon.
"After this touring cycle, we will probably hunker down and do a studio record," mused Van Halen. "We certainly have enough material. It is a matter of timing and getting everybody together. That’s the only way it can be done."
And as for the state of Roth's relationship with the rest of the band? Same as it ever was, according to Eddie — which really isn't a bad thing as far as he's concerned.
"The relationship has always been the same, really," he shrugged. "Just because he quit back in 1985 to pursue a solo career, the press I think made a bigger to-do out of our relationship being sour than we did, you know what I mean?"