Guitarist/vocalist Richie Kotzen said he discovered Eddie Van Halen thanks to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.
In a new interview with RockSverige, Kotzen (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, Poison) recalled the time he first heard the sound of Eddie playing guitar.
“I will never forget the first time I heard him, and this is how out of touch I was,” said Kotzen. “We were driving home, my parents had the radio on and I was in the back of the car and the guitar solo to ‘Beat It’ came on. That guitar started playing, and my dad was about to turn off the car, and I screamed and said ‘No!’, and I scared him. From there, I needed to find out who the hell was playing that. I had never heard a guitar sound like that. I had been around and I’d seen concerts and I was a [Black] Sabbath fan and a Scorpions fan, but I had never heard a guitar sound like that. That’s how I got turned on to Van Halen and from there I bought every record they made.”
While it was a guitar solo that got him hooked, Kotzen also became a fan of an often underappreciated aspect of Eddie’s talents – rhythm guitar.
“One of the things about Eddie Van Halen that guys like you and I understand, but a lot of people overlook it, is that his rhythm playing is spectacular,” said Kotzen. “He has such a swagger and a feel to what he played on those records.”
Kotzen is currently promoting ‘Smith/Kotzen’, a collaboration with Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith. The project’s self-titled debut album will be released on March 26th via BMG.
Smith/Kotzen “Taking My Chances”: