Dweezil Zappa says Van Halen’s “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)” is firing on all cylinders no matter who the singer is. In fact, it could have worked just fine with no singer at all.
“If there was never a vocal on this, this would be a great Van Halen instrumental,” Zappa told Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine in a recently released clip of his podcast Runnin’ With The Dweezil. “One of the coolest things about [Eddie’s] playing is he can drive the song just with his feel. Like, OK, the drums have dropped out here and Alex has just got the high hat goin’ but the song feels so good. It’s the riff. You’re just, like, zoned in. If you’re a guitar player, you almost don’t even hear the lyric or the vocal at all. You’re just like, ‘Aah I gotta focus on the guitar!’ Lazer!”
Valentine added, “He was such a great rhythm guitar player because he had to drive it all by himself. It’s evident on a track like this and I think that comes from being the only guitar player in the band. You gotta do a lot of things all at once.”
Zappa also noted how the track’s Alex and Eddie Van Halen drum/guitar opening traces back to the brothers’ musical roots.
“The thing’s that cool is it’s just guitar and drums. To me this is the childhood of the Van Halen brothers,” said Zappa. “This is what they do.”
While on the subject of Alex’s drumming, Zappa pointed out the John Bonham influence on the mix of both the song “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)” and the album OU812.
“On a lot of tracks on this record they have that Bonham delay slap,” said Zappa. “Throughout the record that’s a theme on the mixes here. There’s Bonham slap on the drums. It’s probably, definitely their desire to have some essence of those [Led Zeppelin] records that they love ‘cuz clearly – it’s not as if Alex has never heard John Bonham play, ya know, [laughs] so that whole side of it adds another layer of character to the sound.”
While Zappa said “A.F.U. (Naturally Wired)” could be just as effective without vocals, he couldn’t deny the vocal excellence of Sammy Hagar on the track, particularly during the song’s solo where Hagar matches Eddie high note for high note.
“There’s an interesting thing that happens in the solo,” said Zappa. “That’s another one where its like, ‘OK, they have a singer that can do that.'”
Listen to the entire segment of Runnin’ With The Dweezil below:
The 30-episode Runnin’ With The Dweezil podcast is available exclusively through dweezilzappa.com. Packages include listening parties, Q&A sessions, “Brown Sound” bonus episodes, custom Axe-FX, Helix, and Kemper presets, a 1-year subscription to Premier Guitar, and much more.