Gary Cherone says “singers are secondary” in Van Halen tribute – it's all about the guitar players

Extreme and Eddie Van Halen
[ (Image credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Solters)

Extreme's Gary Cherone has addressed the possibility of taking part in the potential Eddie Van Halen tribute tour that has been the talk of the guitar world ever since it was mentioned earlier this year.

While in conversation with SiriusXM’s Eddie Trunk, the former Van Halen vocalist revealed he hasn’t yet been contacted about starring in any tribute project, but went on record saying that "of course" he would take part should such an event take place.

He did, however, take the opportunity to stress that the focus of the whole show should, naturally, be on one aspect: the guitarists. 

“I think the singers are secondary,” he said. “You know, this is an Eddie Van Halen tribute, so it's all Eddie’s disciples. Or whatever, not even Eddie disciples but the hierarchy of guitar players – you think of Vai [and] Satriani.”

It’s a notion that makes sense, owing to the caliber of guitarists who have been mentioned throughout discussions. Joe Satriani was the first name to emerge when news about the project broke, and he even went as far as to meet Alex Van Halen and Jason Newsted to start jamming.

Nuno Bettencourt and Gary Cherone

(Image credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

When Satch’s name was first confirmed, David Lee Roth cited the need to have at least two musicians per slot and name-dropped Steve Lukather to play alongside him. As per Cherone and Trunk, though, the final list of players would have to be far longer.

Trunk observes that Cherone’s Extreme bandmate Nuno Bettencourt is a name that has been mentioned – something the singer strongly supports – as have John 5 and Zakk Wylde.

Cherone and Trunk voiced excitement about the prospect of assembling an A-List team of musicians to celebrate Van Halen, much in the same way the music world came together to pay tribute to Freddie Mercury, or in the upcoming stadium shows scheduled in Taylor Hawkins' memory. Cherone went on to joke that the size of the project may pose a key logistical problem.

“All I can see is a soundcheck nightmare,” he said. “It’s one thing for singers – you give them a mic, they sing. But with guitar players, soundcheck is going to be crazy, because everyone’s got their own amps… it’s going to be a nightmare. It is gonna blow up before the gig! [Laughs] You're dealing with guitar players. Singers are tough but when it comes to equipment it's just a mic. That's the first thing I thought, soundcheck – who is going on before who?”

As to whether it is going to happen, Cherone concluded that Alex Van Halen has the casting vote. “At the end of the day, I think Alex will [have] the final word on it, whether he wants to do it. If it happens, it will be great.”

That sentiment was shared by former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony – another name being thrown around in discussions – who told Trunk the whole thing rests in Alex Van Halen’s hands.

“He’s gotta be the person, really, that wants to do this and give his blessing to the whole thing for it to move forward,” he commented.

Trunk has been doing a fine job in recent weeks digging for details surrounding the project, and managed to unearth more tidbits from an undisclosed source who said the entire gig was being held up by David Lee Roth.

“I had a very reliable source tell me last night at The Black Crowes’ show that the hold up on the Van Halen [project] happening is [that] a lot of it [is] falling on David Lee Roth,“ explained Trunk. “That David Lee Roth – to no surprise; it shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody – is a difficult guy to wrangle, a difficult guy to get an answer on, a difficult guy to get focused on anything, a difficult guy to get to sign off on anything.”

As of this moment, the Van Halen tribute project looks unlikely. While Newsted admitted plans had “fizzled out” early on, Satch has said that the event has been shelved indefinitely. 

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.