Like Father, Like Son: Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen Discuss the New Face of Van Halen
From 2008: Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen discuss the evolution and future of the band.
GUITAR WORLD How did Wolfgang join the band? Did you ask him to join?
WOLFGANG VAN HALEN I didn’t ask to join.
ED VAN HALEN I asked him. We were in the studio one day. Al was in the drum room. The drum room is in the back of the studio so we couldn’t see Al and Al couldn’t see us.
WOLFGANG We were standing behind the console in the control room. That's where we stand when we rehearse.
ED That way I can engineer and it’s so much easier to monitor all the instruments. It’s really fuckin’ loud and crystal clear. It’s like making a record, because I have the ability to mix while we’re playing. So Wolfgang picked up a bass, and I put the bass in Al’s headphones.
WOLFGANG It was in the summer of ’06. My dad had said, “Hey, do you want to jam?” and I said, “Sure.”
ED We were just jamming on some stuff. I’ll never forget it. You played the blonde five-string bass with four strings on it.
WOLFGANG Oh yeah!
ED Al had no idea that it was you. I put you in his headphones. It was the first time in 30 years that Al’s had bass in his headphones. Al said, “Hey! How are you playing bass and guitar at the same time?” I got on the talkback and said, “Say hi, Wolfie!” and you went [in high voice], “Hi, Uncle Al!” Your voice was a lot higher then. Al went, “Who’s playing bass?” I told him it was Wolfie, and it blew Al’s mind.
WOLFGANG After that, Al asked if I wanted to jam again. I said, “Yeah!”
ED That’s when I asked him if he’d like to be the bass player in Van Halen. He said, “Yeah, as long as I don’t have to do a certain thing,” which I won’t mention. [laughs deviously]
WOLFGANG I can say that: I said, “Sure. I just don’t want to do a bass solo.”
ED Even though you do have a couple of solo spots that shows everyone that you are a world-class player.
WOLFGANG Yeah, whatever. Then we just made it a religious thing on every Wednesday and Saturday to play. We just kept playing relentlessly and eventually we thought, Hey, we’re pretty damn good!
GW So in the beginning everything happened organically.
WOLFGANG We didn’t lay out a plan or anything. It just fell together. We played together a good four months without any vocals, and we just looked at each other and knew it was awesome.
ED It’s like Dave says, “Three parts original, one part inevitable.” And it was inevitable.
GW Wolfgang, you play several instruments—guitar, drums, keyboards. What drove you toward the bass?
WOLFGANG Well, it was the only open spot. [everyone laughs] And the people filling the other spots—drums and guitar—are the two greatest players of those instruments in the frickin’ world. I find the bass safe. You don’t have to go out on the line.
ED I remember another thing you said at the very beginning: “Can I just groove?”
WOLFGANG I just like to be there to groove and keep the song going.
GW Your dad always says he wishes he was the bass player.
WOLFGANG I love being a bass player. It’s just me and Al—a groove section. Just boom, boom, boom, and we’re good.
ED He is so on. Hey Wolf, wanna switch gigs?
GW There are huge expectations on you, Ed.
WOLFGANG But you’ve got to admit that there were huge expectations on me before the first show.
ED Before we went on tour a lot of people were saying that Wolfgang got the gig just because he’s my son. But after that first gig, forget it. It’s just hands down, hands up, hands sideways: he’s a musician and a Van Halen.
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