Phil X delivers near-perfect version of Van Halen’s Unchained and dives deep into how to achieve Eddie’s “violent” sound

We’ve seen plenty of virtual performances over the past few months, but Bon Jovi electric guitar player Phil X has one-upped the game with his performance-plus version of Van Halen’s Unchained.

The new video kicks off with Phil jamming the tune alongside bassist Daniel Spree and drummer extraordinaire Kenny Aronoff.

But it’s after the song where the real fun begins, with Phil diving deep into the gear he used to try to nail Eddie Van Halen’s classic tone on the track.

Let’s start with guitars.

“I was trying all the different kind of Strat-type ‘Frankenstein’ whammy guitars with the maple neck,” Phil says. “And I found that the maple neck made the high F chord a little spanky. So I tried a couple rosewood necks and the spank went away but it didn’t sound right.”

He continues, “So I tried my Explorer because it’s a hunk of mahogany but it didn’t work. I tried an SG. And the Les Paul won. So I used a Custom Shop ’57 Gold Top with an Arcane PX-8  [humbucker] in the bridge. Not the guitar [Eddie] used, but it sounded closest to me.”

For the solo, meanwhile, Phil grabbed a whammy-equipped Luxxtone Choppa S, also loaded with a PX-8.

After that? Well (big breath), there’s a 1976 Marshall JMP, a Boss GE-10 graphic EQ, which Phil claims Ed used back in the day, a ‘70s-era MXR Flanger, an original MXR script Phase 90, a Digitech CabDryVR dual cab simulator and more.

Even so, Phil warns that when it comes to Eddie’s tone, “You’re never, ever, ever, ever going to nail it. But it’s fun getting close.”

Finally, Phil closes with a few thoughts about gearheads in general.

“I think guitar players are the new nerd,” he says. “There should be a Revenge of the Nerds 3 movie and it should be about guitar players and how nuts we are.”

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.