In a new interview with The Washington Times, Edward Van Halen spills the beans about what the band’s “secret project” was originally, why their initial ideas didn’t come to fruition, and why it morphed into a live album. Here’s the pertaining excerpt:
WP: You just released Van Halen’s first live record with Dave, “Tokyo Dome Live in Concert.”
EVH: We were trying to figure out what to do since we didn’t have time to put a studio record together.
[My son Wolfgang] is working on his own project. Dave is off doing his thing. What I originally wanted to do was remix the original 25 song demos. That would have been really cool. But the tapes are lost. They are gone. So that was out the window.
Then we started digging through bootlegs from the club days. We tried our best to make those sound good, but ultimately it wasn’t good enough to put out. The quality of the recording was so bad that we tried to enhance them and make them better. Once we made them better, you lost that fly-on-the-wall aspect of it. It just didn’t jibe. So we decided, “How about a live record?”
WP: What was special about that night that made for such a great CD?
EVH: In the old days, to make a live record, you had to have a mobile truck following you everywhere and all the BS that comes along with it. Not to mention the money it costs. Nowadays, we’ve got a Pro Tools rig out by the console, and we just let it run every night. We have a couple hundred shows archived.
When it came to doing a live record, none of us wanted to sit there and listen to 200 shows to pick the best one. So we left it up to Dave.
[Drummer] Alex [Van Halen], [bassist] Wolfgang [Van Halen] and I were pretty consistent every night, [but] for a singer it’s more difficult. Because if the bus ride is too long, or you slept with the air conditioner on or the heater on and your throat is [messed] up, [it can change his voice].
Dave said, “How about Tokyo Dome?” We said fine. The bonus of that show was we didn’t have an opening act. So we played much longer. It’s about a 2-hour show. We got Bob Clearmountain to mix it. We were pretty involved with the mixing. Once we got the instruments sounding the way we wanted, we just let him go. He would send us mixes, and we would say, “Yeah, it sounds great. As long as you hear all the instruments and the vocals, that’s all you need.”
So there you have it, folks. Originally, their idea was to put out the unreleased song demos from the ’70s. Then they considered releasing uncirculated recordings from the club days. We can add that they also considered additional ideas, which Edward didn’t mention. In the end, they decided on a recent live recording. Dave picked Tokyo Dome, which was unchained this week!
In one respect, it’s unfortunate the band decided against releasing ’70s demos and unheard club days performances. That’s because many fans would love to have it, whatever the quality. But who knows? Maybe the future could hold some releases like those.
As for this year, we have a bombastic live album released this week, and a Summer/Fall tour! As one fan commented on our Facebook page today, “Somehow a world where Van Halen is shutting down Hollywood Boulevard and performing live on TV shows while gearing up for a summer tour is a much better world than when those things are missing.”