From controversial keyboard mishaps to giant show-stopping bugs, Van Halen guitar tech Tom Weber and keyboard tech Greg Rule shared over two-hours worth of must-hear tour stories during a recent podcast appearance.
First-Time Van Halen Experiences
Weber was just finishing a tour working with Poison when he got called in for an interview. It was to work as Eddie’s guitar tech on the upcoming 2007 tour. He realized quickly that getting the gig wasn’t going to be easy.
“I flew out to LA, I took a cab to the Sportsmen’s Lodge [Hotel] and got checked in and Matt [Bruck, Eddie Van Halen’s long-time tech] picked me up,” Weber said. “We go to 5150 [Eddie’s studio] and walk in and Matt takes a guitar out of a gig bag and he hands it to me and he said, ‘You’re to set this up the way you think Ed would like it and I’m to give you absolutely no information to go by’. I’m thinkin’ ‘OK. Nothing like trial by fire, crash and burn.’ I figure if this was easy I wouldn’t be here and I know that they’re on at least their third guy in production rehearsal so things aren’t going well at this point. So I have to think, ‘How far outside the box do I have to make this for it to work for Ed?'”
Rule’s first-day story involved an unexpected casual introduction to Eddie prior to the 2015 Van Halen tour.
“The day I got called up to Ed’s house this was kind of in pre-production,” said Rule. “Me, sort of having the keyboard tracks and being in the band but not really in those songs, it was important for me to come up to Ed’s house with the computers so that they could practice the keyboard songs. So I’m on my way up there for the first time ever and I’m thinking, ‘Wow! I don’t know what to expect. This could be quick, I could be there all day. I’m gonna pull in to the grocery store a mile from Ed’s place and just get a bottle of water, maybe a power bar or somethin”. Just in case I’m kinda stuck in the studio all day I don’t wanna be expecting food or I don’t know what could happen. So I go to the grocery store, I’m in line at Ralph’s grocery store and I’m thinkin’ to myself, ‘Here I am a mile away from Eddie Van Halen’s home. What are the chances that he comes down the hill and buys his own grocery’s here at the grocery store? I’m sure he doesn’t.’ And I’m not kidding you, the minute that thought pops into my head, guess who comes walkin’ toward me at the grocery store? It’s Ed! Ha, ha, ha!”
Getting In Tune With Eddie
Weber cleared up an infamous keyboard incident that occurred during Van Halen’s 2007 tour in Greensboro, North Carolina. During a performance of “Jump” Eddie’s guitar was not in tune with the song’s keyboard lines.
“It’s not the keyboard sample rate. It had NOTHING TO DO with the keyboards,” said Weber. “I haven’t been able to address this because it’s a sore spot for Ed. During the guitar solo, which was a couple of songs before the infamous incident, Ed loves to make noises with the guitar, we all know that. Anybody that’s been to a Van Halen show and been there for the guitar solo knows that you’re liable to hear any unearthly sound that Ed can make with a guitar. So, at one point he took the guitar and literally jammed the head stock of the neck into the stage several times. Normally if there was a situation where the guitar was out of tune, obviously, my job is to be ready for him with another guitar, which I was. Ed’s right hand guy Matt Bruck and I were in guitar world and it’s like, ‘Oh crap. He’s knocked the guitar out of tune.’
Well [Eddie] fine tunes it some and gets back into playing and I’m holding another guitar over my head so that he can see it and he’s waving it off,” continues Weber. “OK. He’s still playing the solo, he’s fine tuned, it’s passible OK? Well they go right from that into ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’, that’s the next song on the set list. Wolfgang starts playing and realizes that he’s not in tune with the guitar so he retunes a little bit so they’re in tune. You have guitar and bass in tune. So they play ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ and ‘Panama’ and then typically the band, at the end of the show, they come off stage for a minute, I switch guitars with Ed, and they go back on for the encore which is ‘Jump’. That night they didn’t come off stage. They went around the corner of the – we had what we call the phone booth on stage left, the big ego ramp that went up around to this big cabinet that nobody ever used for anything. But they went around the side of that and Ed didn’t come off the stage to get another guitar.
So now you have Wolfgang on his bass and Ed with his out of tune guitar on a keyboard song that is in tune,” Weber continued. “Ed didn’t have keyboards in his monitor mix so he didn’t hear that he was out of tune so that’s where all that went. He didn’t know that that had happened until a couple of weeks later when somebody was at the venue and showed him the video of it.”
The Giant Bug Incident
Weber shared a story of the time when a giant bug invaded the stage and interrupted Eddie’s solo during a Van Halen show in Kansas City on July 22nd, 2015.
“I don’t remember what song they were playing but all of a sudden this MONSTER bug is flyin’ around Ed’s head,” said Weber. “We’re talkin’ a HUGE bug. There’s video of it, you can see him battin’ it away. It lands near his pedal board and he’s tryin’ to kick it away and it won’t go away. Finally he calls me out on stage after the song. He’s tellin’ everybody in the audience, ‘This airplane sized bug is dive-bombin’ me here.’ And he calls me out on stage and he goes, ‘Tom! Come out here and take a picture of this!’ In front of a sold out show, sold out crowd, I get called out with my phone to take pictures of this thing. And I still have it, it’s still on my phone.”
Rule added, “I remember when that happened. That whole night was awful. There were swarms of bugs, the band was swattin’ bugs all night. Wolf was real creeped out by it. He kept comin’ off stage. It was very distracting…I remember Ed getting on mic finally and saying to the audience, I think his words were, ‘I’m sorry but there’s a big ass bug!'”
There’s so much more in this lengthy interview, including Alex Van Halen using Toto’s 1992 song “Jake To The Bone” for his drum solo during the 2015 tour, Eddie being told not to throw guitar picks and another infamous moment involving Eddie throwing a monitor off stage.
You can watch the entire interview in the video at the top of the article. Below is a breakdown of the interview courtesy of Jeremy White’s YouTube channel:
22:02 – Infamous KEYBOARD incident
29:46 – The GIANT BUG story in Kansas City
33:51 – Greg’s first meeting with Edward Van Halen
36:17 – Tom’s first day with Van Halen
39:33 – Setting up Edward’s guitar for the first time
44:14 – Ed’s insane memory of meeting people
47:06 – Temper Tuning of Edward’s Guitars – 14 cents out of tune
49:35 – EVH LIVE Guitar Tone and AMPS
59:39 – Going to TOTO for Advice and using TOTO in Alex’s solo
1:04:24 – Recording Ed’s guitar part for Al’s solo
1:06:58 – Doing playback for artists
1:07:54 – Eddie’s WET DRY WET amp set up
1:12:22 – Eddie’s guitar set up, action and FU TONE Titanium
1:17:47 – More GUITAR ACTION talk
1:21:00 – Ed’s TUNING
1:28:52 – Eddie Van Halen was told to STOP throwing picks
1:31:27 – Specifics on FU TONE on Ed’s Guitars
1:35:56 – Crazy story why Eddie was told NOT TO THROW PICKS INTO CROWD
1:41:16 – Eddie’s famous long cable vs wireless…
1:54:25 – Tokyo Dome and getting called back to work for Ed in 2015
2:00:30 – Playback rigs and Al’s cue
2:05:30 – Ed’s tone in the PA
2:06:57 – The infamous MONITOR THROWING incident and Ed rupturing his eardrum
2:09:31 – Cable vs wireless, Ed using IN EARS and David Lee Roth’s PA Monitor system