Wolfgang Van Halen told SPIN magazine his decision to delay the release of his debut solo album to be with his father was an easy one to make.
According to Wolfgang, the music that makes up the debut Mammoth WVH album was ready to launch as early as 2018. When Eddie’s health began to decline, however, he knew it would have to wait.
Here are some excerpts from Daniel Kohn’s article:
Prior to rehearsals for the Van Halen’s 2015 tour (ultimately their final run), Wolfgang had quietly begun recording his songs and quickly knocked out seven. When he wasn’t with the band, he traveled to North Hollywood and recorded an additional seven half-formed tracks.
While on tour, he ended up writing an additional 12 songs on top of the 14 he previously laid down–including one that eventually became his first hit. Confident, Wolfie called producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette and told him it was “go” time. The duo headed up to 5150, where they spent the better part of the next few years meticulously working on a then-unnamed Wolfie Van Halen project.
Singing and playing every instrument, Wolfie created his own style–a “swirly soup” of AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, Tool (speaking of which, who can forget this?), Jimmy Eat World, Alice in Chains and Queens of the Stone Age. (And of course, a splash of Van Halen because, you know, there’s that thing about genetics.)
“Foo Fighters and Jimmy Eat World–in particular Futures, Bleed American and Clarity–are the main ingredients,” he says.
By July 2018, one final recording trip in Florida later, they put the finishing touches on the album. He was finally about to escape from the lengthy shadow of the past decade, away from the Van Halen fans who doubted his musicianship. But instead of hitting the ground running, pushing out a release that received some online hype, Van Halen decided to take time off as his father’s health took a sharp turn for the worse.
“It was like, ‘Do you want to tour for 18 months, or do you want to spend three years with your dad?’ It was an easy decision.”
At this point, the album was done. Wolfie’s father had heard it in its entirety, offering his seal of approval. Given the two’s close relationship, Eddie beamed from ear to ear with pride at what his son created, knowing all 28 songs that he worked on. Every time he’d hear it, Eddie would tell Wolfie that it was his favorite album.
Later in the article Wolfgang explained why he was the one who broke the news of his father’s death.
Minutes after his father’s death, Wolfgang, surrounded by his mother and his stepmother, got a call from the band’s manager Irving Azoff. He alerted them that someone at the hospital leaked the news of Eddie’s death to TMZ, who was about to post it within the next few minutes. Appalled, Van Halen knew he had to do something–anything–to prevent the tabloid site from breaking the news.
“I’m in the [hospital] room,” he remembers, “and I’m literally sobbing, and I have to go through my phone to find a picture of him. I landed on my favorite picture of him where we were just sitting there, laughing. Hitting post [on Instagram] was one of the most painful things. It made it real.”
The article ends on a positive note, however, as Wolfgang is enjoying the success of the new Mammoth WVH songs he’s released so far and looking forward to hitting the road as the supporting act to Guns N’ Roses this summer.
The universal acclaim he earned from “Distance” was a major turning point. But the reception of his later singles was even more proof of his staying power.
“The thing that made me go like ‘Oh, shit, people are actually listening’ is to see the ‘Don’t Back Down’ video hit over a million [views],” he says. “It’s one thing the ‘Distance’ thing because you know for fans of my dad, it was a place to grieve as the comments are incredibly sweet and heartbreaking. It really feels a bit more real now to see something…maybe in a year it’ll hit a million.”
It took a week.
When touring resumes in July, Van Halen will unveil the live version of Mammoth WVH…in a setting he’s very familiar with. The stage group (which includes bassist Ronnie Ficarro, guitarist Jon Jourdan, guitarist Frank Sidoris and drummer Garret Whitlock) will make their debut opening for Guns N’ Roses on their upcoming stadium tour and play a slew of festival dates this fall.
Van Halen’s famous last name may have opened doors, the recent string of success wouldn’t have happened without his own talent and dedication. A name itself doesn’t keep an artist around, no matter how deep their familial roots run.
“It’s exciting to be able to finally be my own person,” he says. “I would love people to get into me and be like, ‘Oh, shit, that’s his dad’ instead of it being like ‘Oh, it’s his son. That would be the ultimate compliment.”
The self-titled Mammoth WVH debut album drops Friday (June 11). Go to the official Mammoth WVH website for more info.
To read Wolfgang’s entire interview titled “Rising Son”, go HERE.