“I know what you’re thinkin’
What you’re thinkin’ is easy to see
I know what you’re dreamin’
I have those same dreams”
-David Lee Roth, “Me Wise Magic” lyrics, 1996
Van Halen fans got something very unexpected Tuesday, when Rolling Stone released their new interview with David Lee Roth. Roth is uncharacteristically open and sheds light on the current state of Van Halen, as well as being witty and entertaining, as usual. Dave reveals that the future of Van Halen is more up in the air than most people would probably expect. We don’t have much of an inside scoop, and that’s probably because there isn’t much of a scoop to be had right now. The current state of the band is somewhat in limbo. Things could go just about anywhere from here.
The following are our thoughts on this interview. Dave’s getting a bit antsy. He is a showman and he wants to get on with the show always. But keep in mind that David’s a smart guy and everything he said was probably well thought out.
We already mentioned the praise Dave had for Michael Anthony, which was very deserved. Note that Dave didn’t say anything about Wolfgang in the interview. He doesn’t give interviews often, but what he did say about Wolfgang in this interview last year was very positive; “I’m starting to be impressed by the kid. I didn’t want to be. He can play the shit out of that thing. He’s bringing it.”
Regarding his relationship with Alex Van Halen, Dave says he speaks to Alex every morning, even from his home in Tokyo. This meshes with what we heard last summer around the end of the 2012 tour. We heard that Dave and Al speak every day while on tour. So, it’s very nice to hear that Dave and Al are still very tight. Interestingly, he says that him and Alex have been starving for Van Halen to play huge events such as Coachella:
“Alex and I have been begging to become part of that, and Glastonbury and Reading and Hyde Park. We keep being shuttled into the heavy metal world, and that’s a very exclusive neighborhood, but here we are – we’re back knocking on the doors begging for Bonnaroo and begging for Lollapalooza and Coachella, not even as an advancement of career, but there’s a whole new audience who doesn’t know and doesn’t give a shit about Van Halen, and that’s exactly the best audience to sharpen your spirit on. That will compel you to the very best that you have. I can’t wait for those opportunities and wish us well. We’ve been asking for those shows since I’ve gotten back with the band six years ago, and I’ll be very curious to see where we wind up come next season.”
When asked about writing new Van Halen material:
“I would certainly look forward to working with Ed on some new material, but we have yet to do that. Almost all of the music that you hear on our most recent album was written and demoed before the first album. And I would certainly look forward to writing a whole list of songs with Ed, but we haven’t found the time to do that [laughs]. You hear the tone. I’m not sure what’s in Ed’s mind at this point. I’m gonna guess that his plans are to write with his son, and I’m not sure where that actually leads. But truth be told, Edward and I haven’t written a new song in 20 years.”
It seems Dave is lamenting over the fact that at no time during the recording of the last album did all four band members get together in the same room and write a song from scratch (except for “Stay Frosty”). For the dozen other songs, the three Van Halens first recorded the music and then handed it over to Dave, who wrote the lyrics and the melody. We can understand him wanting to collaborate and write songs from scratch. Then again, A Different Kind of Truth was a magnificent, critically acclaimed album, even though most of the actual music was written years ago. To the fans, the end result – that the songs are great – is all that matters.
In fact, last summer Edward told Guitar World that the band recorded 35 songs for the producer to pick from to make up the album. Our sources told us that all of those “35 songs” were strictly instrumental demos and none of them had any lyrics. But if Ed is correct about there being a whopping 35 songs to start with, that would leave 22 instrumental demos leftover from the album. Why doesn’t the band simply hand these over to David for some lyrics and melody? Van Halen bootleg enthusiasts are well aware that there are still many unreleased songs which are incredibly good that have yet to be officially released. Not to mention some great ones that have never left 5150. Putting together a followup album to A Different Kind of Truth wouldn’t seem to be that difficult, and would be guaranteed to please their rabid fanbase.
Regarding the scheduled Japan shows in June, Dave mentions the Tokyo Dome show coming up, but later admits there is nothing else on the agenda:
“There’s nothing on the ticket as far as travel, and that’s a disappointment, frankly. How long have I been back with the gang? Maybe six years, we’ll say and we have yet to travel to Europe, South America, Japan, anywhere outside of those basic 50 cities in the United States. And again that’s been a disappointment. We have an audience and we have a potential future in many, many places, but our story is one of a whole lotta Shakespeare going on. And I don’t know where the Van Halen future lies aside from the States. We’ll always be able to play our hits – and keep in mind we have more hits than Beethoven, we have more hits than Tony Soprano – so getting onstage and playing that is glorious, and certainly getting onstage with the brothers will always be an excitement for me. But in terms of taking the music past where we found it, I’m not sure where that’s going to go.”
A large chunk of the interview is Dave confronting his own mortallity, and that time is precious and not wanting to waste it.
“Then there are folks who have lived much faster and got much farther down the track. Now my wristwatch seems to be moving forward faster and my knees seem to be going slower.” … [I have] fear that I might not have all the time that I wish I could in order to do what’s in my imagination. I don’t think what I’m imagining is preposterous. I don’t think what I’m imagining is undoable at all. Maybe I’m audacious, but I can’t really even smell it. Let’s get after this, like Grandma Roth said. I’m furious to beat the clock here. And whether or not I do last to 93, I want to live a life well-lived. And I do it with a sense of humor.”
What is there left to accomplish that you still want to do musically?
“I don’t know that it’s so much to accomplish as it is to get with a team or a group, to get with other folks and have an idea and a vision and to be busy all the time. My favorite expression of Andy Warhol’s was, “I think to be busy is the best thing in life.” And I can heartily agree now and just get on horseback, and if you have to change your direction in momentum, so much better than sitting and thinking about and deciding and not even going. So get going, start heading north. And whether we accomplish anything or not becomes beside the point. The goal is to get with somebody and get with a group or team or a squad and get going on something that everybody’s contributing to. I believe in that for me, probably for most folks, more than ever.”
And as always, Dave gives us some hilarious quotes:
“For me, 60 is the new 80. You oughta see my X-rays.”
“I wish Bon Jovi would’ve given me a call before he recorded all of his hits, because the lyrics would’ve been smarter, the melodies would’ve been much more smashing, and they would’ve sold a lot fewer records.”
One thing to keep in mind is that the interview lasted over an hour long, so it’s likely that Roth talked about a lot of stuff that never made the interview, which was probably some talk about The Roth Show and also some of the fun stuff in Tokyo he’s doing. Dave probably said a lot of other things about Van Halen that weren’t nearly as dramatic, but Rolling Stone probably wanted to squeeze all the drama out of it that they could for the sake of controversy.
The main purpose of this interview seems like it’s a calculated move on Dave’s part (and probably on Alex’s part) to inspire Eddie Van Halen to record and/or tour. Life is short and Dave and Alex want to get the show on the road. “Sometimes friends of ours have Maserati-style talent and they treat it like a fucking lawn mower.”
In fairness to Eddie, he has been recovering from his emergency surgery from a sever bout of diverticulitis. In fact, word is that that he nearly died! We are lucky he’s still with us. Thankfully, he’s probably almost fully recovered by now.
What does Eddie want to do at this point in his life? That is the question. He had a dream to record an album with his son, and that dream is fulfilled.
Over the last six years, Wolfgang has proven his talent and has been accepted by the fanbase. Valerie Bertinelli has said that there would be no new Van Halen album or tour without Wolfgang Van Halen’s involvement. “This brings joy to Ed. That’s what he wants to do now — just have fun playing. As great as Mike is, this wouldn’t be happening if Mike was still in the band. There would be no tour, there would be no album, there would be no nothing”, said Bertinelli. From what it seems, this is true or at least partially true.
Currently, Wolfgang is touring with the Tremonti Project. Wolf says that Van Halen is his main priority, and that this other band is just something he is doing in between Van Halen activity. Are Ed and Wolf planning on getting Van Halen up and running again after the Tremonti tour ends in a few weeks?
Will Wolfgang one day choose to break away from Van Halen and forge his own path, whether it’s with Tremonti or some other band? If Wolfgang does leave, would the fans want Michael Anthony back for complete reunion? The answer to that is obvious. But would Michael want to return? And would Edward have the motivation to continue the band without Wolfgang?
Only time will tell.