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Wolfgang Van Halen explains why his surname is a “blessing and a curse”

Wolfgang Van Halen
(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

It’s been a remarkable year for Wolfgang Van Halen, son of late electric guitar legend Eddie Van Halen. In the space of 12 months, the Mammoth WVH frontman released a debut solo album, made his national TV debut with his new project and embarked on a sprawling tour of the US with rock ‘n’ roll royalty Guns ‘N’ Roses.

In a recent conversation with Classic Rock magazine, Wolfgang reflected on the impact the iconic Van Halen surname has had on his 2021 successes, acknowledging that, while it’s given him certain opportunities, it’s also a “curse”.

“It’s definitely a blessing and a curse,” he explained. “I’m very blessed to have the opportunities that I’m able to just because of my last name, but I really don’t think that the last name keeps those doors open for you.

“If you don’t have the goods to back it up,” he continued, “you're not going to be there for long. So I guess if I disappear in the next year, I didn’t have it! [laughs]”

Safe to say Wolfgang certainly has the goods to back it up. Mammoth WVH’s self-titled debut effort climbed to number 12 of the Billboard 200 chart after its release in June, and Van Halen was rewarded for his stellar record with a Grammy nomination.

Distance, which has been put up for Best Rock Song at the awards, was penned by Wolfgang as an emotive tribute to his late father.

“My father had every opportunity to listen to it and he loved it,” Wolfgang said of Mammoth WVH's album. “He couldn’t have been happier with it.”

And, despite Wolfgang's efforts to differentiate his own career from his father’s, he couldn't resist digging out Eddie’s original Frankenstein for a couple of key moments on the Mammoth WVH album.

“I played the original Frankenstein on the solo on Mammoth and on Feel,” he told Total Guitar. “You feel the history. It’s kind of terrifying holding it, just because arguably it is the most famous guitar in musical history. It’s definitely quite the thing to hold it.”

Matt Owen

Matt is a News 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.