Skip to main content

Steven Wilson explains why he was "never a fan" of Eddie Van Halen

Like many guitarists these days, British prog-rock master Steven Wilson was asked in a recent interview for his thoughts on Eddie Van Halen, and whether he was affected by his recent passing.

Wilson, known for his unorthodox approach to the electric guitar with his work with Porcupine Tree and as a solo artist, as well as his forthright approach to interviews, had a different answer than most.

"Honestly, it didn't, because I was never a fan," Wilson told Face Culture. "I know he's an extraordinary musician, and it's always sad when an extraordinary artist dies. I was never a fan of the so-called shredder mentality. And I think in many ways he was the father of that whole kind of movement."

He continued, "I never understood that 'playing as fast as you can' thing. And I know that wasn't all he did – I know he was a more flexible musician than that – but I think that the legacy that he has, Eddie Van Halen, is in creating the shredder phenomenon, which is something so vile to me. That kind of idea that you play music almost like you're playing an Olympic sport is kind of anathema to my kind of ideas on creativity and music."

See more

Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang, took to Twitter to express disappointment at Wilson’s comments, while also respecting his opinion.

"Damn this bums me out hard. Been a huge fan of his for years. Deadwing [Porcupine Tree’s 2005 album] is one of my favorite albums of all time."

“Although... the title is a little too clickbait-y, because what he said really wasn’t that rude.”

Wolfgang went on to write several follow up tweets about the comments, stating: “What hurts is that he seems to only view Pop as a “shredder” when in my opinion he was anything but.

“Sure, he COULD shred, but Pop had melody and finesse like NO other “shredder” that swam in his wake ever had (in my opinion) and on top of that he was an incredible songwriter.”

Elsewhere in the Face Culture interview, Wilson discussed why he moved away from the guitar on his new record, the electronic-focused The Future Bites.

“I think the time is right to try and make a record maybe that reflects more of the world that I live in, a record that feels like it draws much more from the world, the electronic world that we all live in these days,” he said.

"And there's no doubt in my mind that we do live in an electronic world – all the sound around us all day long, from our laptops, our phones, even our doorbell, it's all electronic sound. And that's the world we live in now and I think there's a sense that the guitar now almost belongs to the past.

I still love the guitar, but it seems to me now the sound of the guitar is the sound of the second half of the 20th century

"I still love it, I still love the guitar, but it seems to me now the sound of the guitar is the sound of the second half of the 20th century, in the way that jazz music was the sound of the first half of the 20th century, and was kind of wiped out by rock 'n' roll in the second half of the 20th century.

"I think it's fair to say that the sound of the 21st century, at least so far, has been an electronic world."

Regarding his relationship to the instrument, he continued, "I still use the guitar. There are still guitars on this record but even the guitar on this record is used with more of an electronic sensibility, almost more of a sound design element. There are no classic rock guitar solos, there are no classic rock riffs.

"And part of the reason is that I think that vocabulary is absolutely exhausted. I just think there is nothing more to say with the classic rock vocabulary. So the answer question is – yes, I think the guitar will always have a place, but it needs to adapt.

"I don't think it will be the center anymore of contemporary mainstream music. There's no doubt in my mind that electronic music has now become – urban music is all about electronic sound, and modern pop music is all about electronic sound.

"In a way, the part of me that grew up in the '80s, the part of me that fell in love with Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd, and The Cure, and all these bands when I was a kid, part of me is sad about that.

"But part of me also acknowledges to myself that one of the beautiful things about music is that it continues to evolve."