If you’re going to hang out and listen to Van Halen albums with Wolfgang Van Halen, don’t stress over which album to bring along – he’s a fan of all of ’em.
“I think there´s something great to be found on every Van Halen album,” Wolfgang told the Sweden online magazine Rocksverige. He was asked to give his thoughts on Van Halen’s 1986 album ‘5150’, which had just reached its 35th anniversary. “It’s phenomenal! I’m not picky. I mean, ‘Dreams’ is on this album and it´s one of the best songs my father ever wrote, I think. That melody is untouchable.”
Rocksverige‘s Niclas Müller-Hansen followed by commenting on how happy Eddie Van Halen appeared at the time Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth as the band’s lead singer in 1985.
“You weren’t born back then, but from watching live videos and interviews, it seemed to be a really happy time for your dad. He was constantly smiling,” stated Müller-Hansen.
“I think they were all really stoked,” responded Wolfgang. “Especially after losing Dave and finally finding somebody they could continue on with, I think that’s where the happiness was coming from. Feeling refreshed.”
Müller-Hansen had more Van Halen questions for Wolfgang. Below are the VH Q&A segments:
Your dad always said he wasn’t completely happy with “Eruption” and he always said there was a mistake in there. Did he ever tell you what mistake that was?
“Not in ‘Eruption’, but I know at the beginning of ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ there’s a little mistake, but other than that… it’s so part of the song that it doesn’t even seem like a mistake at that point.”
What is it? Hitting the wrong note or…?
“Yeah, I think… let me see… (picks up a guitar). It’s like he hit the B string twice by accident instead of hitting the E or something. If you listen to the beginning of it you can hear it.”
Do you think the completely different personalities of your dad and Dave back in the day was a part of creating the magic of those songs and albums?
“I’m sure to a certain extent. Kind of like an opposite attract type situation, but they have the same end goal in mind of making awesome music. I’m sure.”
You’re coming out with your own album and you also have the name Mammoth… can the name Van Halen sometimes be a burden? You’re you and people have these enormous expectations of what that name means?
“Oh, for sure! I think it’s a crazy shadow to be under, because you’re just gonna live behind all the people’s expectations instead of being able to stand on your own. I think that’s why I’m trying so hard to stand on my own as a musician. There are benefits and burdens to the whole thing. Sure, the name does help open some doors, but I don’t think it helps to keep them open. I think it’s one thing if you get opportunities because of your name, but it’s another thing to actually stay around and last. There’s no staying power. You have to be able to back it up.”
Going back to that time when you played your first show with Van Halen. You had been rehearsing like two shows every day. Your dad and your uncle must’ve thought so highly of you and that you would actually pull it off even though you were just 16?
“They put a lot of trust in me and I think that shows you the legitimacy of it all. If they were comfortable having me involved they must’ve been very confident and I thank them for that, for giving me that opportunity. That they had the faith in me to pull it off.”
You must’ve been nervous as hell at that first gig.
“Definitely, but at a certain point there’s just so many people that you just kind of shut the world off and focus on playing.”
Is that really it?
“Yeah, at that point in my life, absolutely.”
Did it take several shows before you felt that you really locked in on it?
“I think that’s always what it is with every tour. You’re excited to just get a few in. You always want to see a tour like in the last third or last fourth. It’s second nature.”
Was there any song that was more difficult to play than others?
“Not really. It was more what was more fun to play. Dad and I had a lot of fun playing ‘China Town’ from ‘A Different Kind Of Truth’ (2012), a really fast and aggressive song.”
I think Bill Burr asked you about when you were rehearsing for the first time and if it was hard and you said it was nothing. Was it really like that?
“Yeah, it’s not like it’s too difficult and that’s not a slam on the music. It’s all about the groove. It’s not a complicated… it’s not like it’s Dream Theater or anything. It’s all about the groove and how you play it.”
Between those two massive Van Halen tours I always wondered what your dad was up to? Was he playing every day or down working in the studio?
“I think at that point in all their lives it was nice to reap the benefits of what they had been working on their whole life and be able to relax. I think that’s just something my dad wanted, but then in the last four or five or six years of his life, there was always some health issues. Whenever he was out of the hole and everything was ok, he just wanted to live life.”
He never talked about doing a solo album or something? Something that was completely different from the usual stuff he did?
“Not really. He was just happy being with Al.”
Do you hook up with Al on a regular basis?
“We talk every day. Even just if there’s nothing to say, just to say hi. Family is important.”
What would you say was the greatest musical lesson you learned from your dad?
“My favorite one and it’s a bit tongue in cheek and it was something his dad taught him: ‘If you ever make a mistake, do it twice so that everyone thinks you meant to do it.’”