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Wolfgang Van Halen talks about his dad, "Distance" and his new music: Q&A
By Gary Graff
firstname.lastname@example.org, @GraffonMusic on Twitte
Posted: Monday, December 7, 2020
See more SOUND CHECK
Wolfgang Van Halen has never been a spotlight seeker -- although with his surname, and membership in the band that bears it, that's not been easy.
But the Oct. 6 death of his father, rock legend Eddie Van Halen, has thrust the 29-year-old, the only child of Van Halen and actress and Food Network host Valerie Bertinelli, into the forefront. He's handled it with grace and has sought to do some good with the release of a single, "Distance," and a touching companion video, to raise money for the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation.
The younger Van Halen, who's played bass in the group since 2006, has lashed out on occasion, at those spreading fake rumors about his father and the Van Halen band and most recently slamming the auction of three of Eddie Van Halen's guitar for a combined $422,000. The new year, however, will bring his first solo album, under the name Mammoth WVH, and the start of a next generation of Van Halen music...
"Distance" has been received as a fitting tribute to your father. Is it helping as part of the healing process?
Van Halen: "It's a giant cacophony of many different emotions kind of all swirling -- given the situation, obviously. But the response to "Distance" is something that I never could have seen. It's kind of insane to me, I can't believe it. This whole process has been therapeutic, just within it itself, but then to see the response (to the song) is a whole other side of it.
"Distance" has been around for a bit, right?
Van Halen: I've been writing my own album for a very long time. It was part of 28 songs I had recorded, but that and a handful of others didn't make the cut, so I planned on saving it for later. But when everything happened I thought if I could finish it and put it out for my dad and have the proceeds go to his favorite charity, it's a gift.
Have you been in regular communication with the other guys in Van Halen?
Van Halen: To a certain extent -- some more than others. I think everybody has been respecting my space, more than anything, 'cause it's still very fresh. But I still talk to Al (his uncle and Van Halen's drummer) every day.
Have you started to go through your dad's tape vaults at all?
Van Halen: No, that's not gonna happen for a long time. I have no idea what's in there that would be worth releasing; To a certain extent my dad released all the good stuff. Even without the intention to release I want to archive it properly and digitize it so everything is safe for years to come. It's going to be an incredibly difficult process and a very long process to do properly. I think when a very important musician passes you usually see right away the compilations of unreleased music that maybe should have stayed unreleased, and it just seems like a cash grab to take hold of the moment. I've always disagreed with that, so if we're ever gonna do anything with the vault I want to make sure we do it right and do something that dad would be OK with. So I humbly ask the Van Halen fan base to not hold their breath on this, because you'll pass out.
There was another Van Halen tour broached during the past couple of years. What was the story with that?
Van Halen: I had spearheaded the plan to get Mike (Anthony) back and I could open for the tour, 'cause dad still wanted me to be part of it somehow. I think once we talked with (manager) Irving Azoff he kind of went off and talked to Mike before I had the chance, 'cause the plan was for me to hit him up just like I did with (David Lee Roth's) manager in '07, or '06. As Dad and I kept talking about it, we kept going back and forth, 'Y'know what would be really cool is we just got everybody in there (including Sammy Hagar) and then we jokingly started calling it the Kitchen Sink Tour. I think it would've been crazy and fun and exciting. It's a bummer we never got to do that.
You've been visible with Van Halen and, briefly, the Tremonti band. Does "Distance" feel like your first real step as an artist in your own right?
Van Halen: Yeah. It's weird; I've been doing this since I was 15, but in a way it feels brand new. I feel like a baby again in this (laughs), 'cause I've never done this before. It's so many firsts and a lot of discomforts and anxiety. But also, I'm really excited.
What kind of vision have you had for yourself as a solo artist?
Van Halen: All I knew is that from a young age, whenever my dad would tell me the story that Van Halen was called Mammoth first, and it was a three-piece, I thought, "God, the name Mammoth is so cool. I want to name my band that when I grow up!" And then the other half was I really wanted to see if I could play everything myself, like Dave Grohl did on the first Foo Fighters album. It's really nice to be on this side of it now and say, "Hey, I did it..."
What can we expect to hear when the album comes out next year?
Van Halen: "Distance" is one part of the sound. There's a couple other songs that might have that "Distance" vibe, the core rock sound, but there's some songs that are heavier. There's a bunch of different vibes on the album. I think anyone who likes music can find something to enjoy on the album. Especially given the response to 'Distance,' I'm excited for everyone to hear the rest of the music.
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