Skip to main content

Eddie Van Halen Opens Up in his First Guitar World Interview From 1981, Part 2

Eddie Van Halen made his first Guitar World cover appearance with the January 1981 issue, during the magazine's second year of publication. The cover beckoned readers to ponder if the young EVH was the world's greatest guitarist, while the original headline (on page 35) dubbed him The New King of Heavy Metal Guitar.

To see a full photo of the first Eddie Van Halen cover, check out our photo gallery of all six GW covers from 1981.

Here's part two of the interview. The first question is from part one, so you can see where we left off:

One thing that strikes me about your playing is that of all the high-energy players, you don't take long guitar solos.

I haven't heard anyone do a long interesting guitar solo outside of early Clapton. I do a guitar solo in the live show which is long, and some people may think boring, but I have fun. Clapton was my favorite. With his feel he'd hit one note where someone else would hit twenty, and his one would do something to you, whereas the other person's twenty would leave you flat.

I'm going to turn that against you, pointing out your own notyness.

I'm not Eric Clapton. I might play fast, but there's a lot of people who play fast with no feel at all. I think I'm high-energy, but I think I combine a little more feel and some different techniques than other high-energy players.

Have you ever thought that you may now be part of the guitar heritage you once studied? Thinking of players like Beck, Page, Clapton and Hendrix, you may be next in line for guitar hero.

It's very hard to say. That's like me telling you I'm the best. I can't say that. I'm not. I can't say I'm going to influence people, but I know a lot of people are using their right hand on the fingerboard now that never did it before.

Would you like to be thought of as a great player?

I'd Just like people to like what I play. I don't want people to say, "You're Number One." It's a matter of taste. To me Allen Holdsworth is Number One. Other kids might listen to him and not even understand what he's doing. Older people might think I suck.

Hard rock is usually associated with a younger crowd. I think it's something you grow through more than with. When I want to rock out, I put on the albums that were happening when I was 15. Does that make sense to you?

Yes. It might be that's what you remember as the good times. It could be because you don't like what's on now. Rock 'n' roll is for 12- to 21-year-olds. When you get past that age, people have more responsibilities. They don't buy records anymore, they stop going to concerts, they have jobs, and a lot more troubles.

What about your quieter side? Beck, Page and Leslie West all put out acoustic guitar pieces that contrasted with their normal styles.

There's a lot you haven't heard yet. I had more of an acoustic intro to "In A Simple Rhyme," but the reason we didn't do it is because everyone would immediately go, "He's pulling a Zeppelin." We did "Could This Be Magic," but it's a joke.

Have you started thinking about the fourth album?

I've got a load of ideas, but we don't know what we're going to do until we walk into that studio. What we do is tour for ten months, come home, go to the basement and make songs out of the ideas. We invite Ted [Templeman, producer] down and he picks what he likes. We argue a bit, compromise, and we usually have a final say on what material goes on. We spend a week rehearsing in the basement and go straight in the studio.

Sounds like you like to work quickly.

For "Women and Children First," it took four days for the music and six days for the singing. "Dance The Night Away" (on Van Halen II) was written on the spot, in the studio. I never played slide guitar before "Could This Be Magic." I had something totally different in mind for the song, and Ted says, 'Try playing slide?' I did it right there on the spot and that was it. "Cradle Will Rock" was first take. A bunch of songs were first takes. We don't go for perfection, we just go for spirit. There are mistakes, but I'm happy with everything that's on our records. That's not to say when we do them live we might do it differently.

Do you have a preference between live work and recording?

Performing, of course! I play for self~satisfaction, but it makes it even better when other people enjoy it.