The first time I heard Van Halen, a friend’s babysitter played the first album for me. It was like the clouds parting, or like aliens had landed and they were showing us how music is played.
Running with the Devil – the guitar comes in and it chills you to the bone – in a good way. It scared me. And then Eruption comes on and you haven’t heard anything like it at all. It was a lot different from the freedom rock I was listening to at that time. It was weird music.
And it’s inspiring music. When I started playing guitar I remember my brother telling me, “Oh, this is how he does the hammer-ons.” And he was showing me how to hit and pull the string – not with two hands, just one hand.
It was all so innovative. Eddie was a modern virtuoso. He influenced everyone. He created this springboard for every other guitar player. Just think about '80s guitar players all emulating Eddie Van Halen and trying to top him. Guys like Michael Angelo Batio – “I need two necks!” “I need four necks!”
A lot of people, when I’d tell them how much I like Eddie Van Halen they would say, “Well, I don’t really hear it in your guitar playing…” And yeah, I’m more of a rhythm guitar player, and my leads are more like a vocal. But Eddie had stuff like Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love – his leads in that [song] are very vocal-ish and very structured, with a lot of discipline. My ringtone is Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love.
Eddie’s son Wolf is a big Tool fan and a really cool guy, and he brought his dad to our show at the Staples Center [in L.A.] last year. I don’t know if you saw that thing online where there was a guy in the audience that asked someone to take his photo, and he doesn’t realize the guy he asked is Eddie Van Halen, the greatest guitar player ever. It was great.
Afterward, Wolf brought his dad to my dressing room and we had a good talk. Eddie was so humble and I was really happy to have that moment with him. To have one of your ultimate heroes shake your hand and say, “Hey, what you’re doing, it’s really cool,” it’s like a trophy.
Meeting Eddie Van Halen and having him tell you that he thought your show was really cool and you’re a good guitar player? That’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. I feel lucky to have had that music in my life and to have that influence. And even though people can’t pinpoint it to what I do, it is absolutely there. Especially my riff writing – it’s influenced by Eddie Van Halen. Absolutely.
I worship that music. I connect with the way he experimented, and just the idea of taking what you do as far as you can take it. One hundred years from now, when people talk about music and the history of music, they will talk about Van Halen, and Eddie’s name will always be there. That guy will live forever.
Adam Jones was speaking to Richard Bienstock