As we’ve learned since his passing in October, there’s at least a little Eddie Van Halen in just about every guitarist who came after him. A recent article by Revolver offers more proof of that.
Steve Appleford has written an extensive article on how Eddie had a huge influence on both Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello and Tool’s Adam Jones. The two grew up together in Libertyville, Illinois and shared a love of Van Halen’s music. As they went on to take alternative rock and metal into a new future in the nineties, they would inject the style, energy and finesse of Eddie Van Halen into their own unique approach to the guitar.
Below are excerpts from the article:
[Tom] Morello first heard the man he now calls “the Mozart of my generation” on a rainy Saturday in the late-1970s in small-town Libertyville, Illinois. The song was “Runnin’ With the Devil” by a new band called Van Halen, and it erupted from his mom’s car radio with the sound of an otherworldly siren descending on his young ears, followed by an electric guitar riff that marched to its own swaggering rhythm.
There was also some oracular rock & roll wisdom being projected from a bellowing singer named David Lee Roth: “I found the simple life ain’t so simple/When I jumped out on that road …”
This was a different universe from what Morello knew in the Midwest suburbs, and a Southern California rock sound far afield from the heavy metal coming out of England. When Morello finally got the first album, 1978’s Van Halen, to study at home, the overall impact was intense and kaleidoscopic, powered by the slippery growl of Eddie Van Halen’s riffs, and solos that were soaring, stuttering explosions of beautiful noise. Morello tells his One-Man Revolution listeners that it was life-changing, and he wasn’t alone.
“Someone who agrees very much with me is Adam Jones of Tool,” he goes on. “We grew up together. We listened to a lot of Van Halen together. And Eddie was a huge influence on both of our lives as musicians.”
Both Morello and Jones played leading roles as guitarists in taking alternative rock and metal into a new future beginning in the Nineties. In high school, they were in a flinty punk band called the Electric Sheep, with song titles like “She Eats Razors” and the topical “Salvador Death Squad Blues.” Morello was on guitar, Jones on bass, and both connected at their core to what Eddie Van Halen was doing.
“Adam and I, for all of our ‘alt’ pretenses, we’re metal at heart,” says Morello now. “It was me and Adam in his pickup truck driving to the Judas Priest and Iron Maiden shows at Alpine Valley” — an hour-plus away in East Troy, Wisconsin — “and admiring the awesomeness of guitar heroes like Eddie Van Halen.”
Back in Libertyville, Jones used to sit on the edge of his bed studying the pictures of Van Halen’s four band members on that first album cover while the vinyl spun on his turntable. The songs shook him in ways both exciting and alarming, much like the first time he heard the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” or, later, “Blackened” by Metallica and “Loud Love” by Sound-garden — shadowy tunes that scratched a nerve to fuel his own creative impulses.
“It’s the haunting guitar riff that inspired me,” Jones explains excitedly. “Those records just scared me in a creative way. I can’t tell you how many Van Halen songs are like that for me: ‘Oh my God, they did it again’ — this wonderful creep factor.”
Jones and Morello ultimately absorbed different les-sons from Van Halen’s dazzling example. Both are distinctive players of rhythm and lead, but Morello leaned heavily in the direction of the explosive, hyperactive shredding of EVH and Ozzy guitar phenom Randy Rhoads. (Morello even named his oldest son Rhoads.)
It could be heard in 1992 on the very first album from Rage Against the Machine, which collided that metal guitar god tradition with Morello’s layering of deep funk, hip-hop and extravagant special effects that at times had his guitar sounding like turntable scratching, a synth melody or the cello-like cries of a blue whale. It was as recognizably his own as EVH tapping his fingers along the frets and slamming down the tremolo bar.
That sound unfurls again on Morello’s recently released Comandante EP, including an instrumental called “Secretariat” played with a delay pedal set to what he calls “EVH” or “Halen,” as he has it scrawled in Sharpie right on the EFX stompbox. The song lands like a cosmic dispatch from quarantine and is in the one-man tradition of Van Halen’s “Eruption.” Morello dedicated the track as a tribute to the late sound-scientist.
“Tom learned all that stuff and then he just went down a path that is completely his,” Jones says of his high school bandmate. “If anyone is the modern Eddie Van Halen, it’s Tom to me, in my age group.”
For Jones, discovering Van Halen came during the same years he was learning of guitar alchemist Robert Fripp and wading into his older brother’s prog records. Eddie’s mastery of the riff was part of what led Jones to Tool’s evocative, mysterious rhythms, layering ominous walls of sound. The instrumental adventurousness heard on 2019’s long-awaited Tool opus, Fear Inoculum, was a fusion of guitar, drums, bass and vox — coalescing into something meticulous, monstrous and gorgeous.
Another reflection of that sound is “The Witness,” a 7:38-minute instrumental he recorded with Tool’s bassist, Justin Chancellor, and drummer, Danny Carey. The track was released in October to coincide with Gibson’s release of the Tool player’s first-ever signature guitar: the Adam Jones 1979 Les Paul Custom.
With Tool, Jones pushed his music forward, crafting his own voice, even as he keeps “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” as his permanent cell ring tone. He also uses an EVH-brand flanger pedal in his gear setup, and it can be heard right at the end of “Pneuma” on Fear Inoculum. “I’m allowed to like shredders,” Jones says humbly, “even though I’m not a shredder.”
There’s much more to read in Appleford’s article, which you can find at Revolver‘s website HERE.
Tom Morello Talks Guitar Influences:
Tool: Stinkfist (Live 2019):