Guitar World has commemorated the tenth anniversary of Van Halen’s A Different Kind Of Truth album by revisiting a 2012 interview with Eddie Van Halen.
Here are the excerpts from the interview (originally run in the August 2012 issue of Guitar World) regarding the album conducted by Guitar World‘s Chris Gill.
Q: You’re using a lot more wah on your solos on this record.
A: “Yeah, I noticed that too when we were done. I said, ‘I’m using an awful lot of wah on this record.’ The Trouble with Never was designed to be kind of Hendrix-ish, so using wah on that was a given. On other spots I just stomped on it and went, ‘Oh great. That works.’
“There wasn’t a whole lot of thought given to that. You know me. I’m the kind of guy who likes to wing it. I don’t plan out my solos. The one solo that I had to plan out was on She’s the Woman. The original breakdown of She’s the Woman ended up being the breakdown in Mean Street. Wolfgang came up with a new breakdown that had these crazy chord changes.
“The chord changes were so fuckin’ weird, but I didn’t even think about them until I had to solo over it. I couldn’t just go…[plays random notes in a pentatonic scale]. It wouldn’t be in key. Instead I had to go like this…[plays melodic line from solo]. I never really worked out a solo like that before. It took me a couple of days to figure out what notes worked against those chords. If I don’t hit these particular notes [plays solo] it wouldn’t work.
“It flipped me out. When we did the demo, Matt punched me in, and I just sat there going, ‘Goddamn. This doesn’t work!’ [laughs] You can’t just noodle your way through those chord changes. You have to hit the right notes. The only thing I ever really planned before was the solo in Runnin’ with the Devil. Other than that, nothing else was planned or written out in advance.”
Q: Blood and Fire used to be Ripley, which you originally recorded with a Ripley stereo guitar. Did you break out the Ripley guitar again to record the new version?
A: “Oh yeah, but I had to send it back to Steve Ripley to have him fix a couple of the panning pots, since I hadn’t used it in quite a few years. Even before the first note is played, you can feel this huge presence at the beginning of the song, where it seems like you’re sitting in the room with a very loud amp.
“It’s actually two big, loud amps, since I was playing in stereo. The single-coil pickups — there are two of them because it’s in stereo — had something to do with that. It’s a hell of a sound. In the room it was really loud. The Ripley guitar sounds different than a Strat. It has Bartolini pickups and a proprietary circuit, so you have a lot of unique things going on there. Put that all together and you’re not going to sound like a Strat.”
Q: You used a whammy pedal on several songs.
A: “It’s on China Town. A lot of people thought that I used a harmonizer or octave box on the intro to that song, but that is just Wolfgang and me. The Whammy is just for little parts here and there during the chorus. I don’t use it live. I just hit a harmonic instead.
“On Honeybabysweetiedoll I used a Whammy, a Boss OC-3 octave box, a Sustainer and a Line 6 DL4 Delay Modeler. That’s only on the intro, where all those weird noises are happening.”
Q: The legato lines you play with the sustainer have a very Middle Eastern sound.
A: “That was the point. I love that song. We have some other versions of that song that are really twisted. The main riff on the intro is all Wolf; it’s all bass. I’m just making noises. Up at 5150 when Wolf unplugged his bass, it picked up all these radio frequencies. You hear this whooshing sound until he plugs it in. I’m doing the high, cascading whistling shit; he’s tapping the main riff.
“The end of the song is him unplugging his bass. If you give that a good listen you can hear all kinds of weird shit going on. I also used the Sustainer on the end of As Is.”
A: “It’s very straight ahead. I wanted to stay true to the original version. Dave’s guitar playing often gets overlooked. He’s really good at fingerpicked, country-style blues like he plays on the intro to Stay Frosty.”
Q: Yes! He is great.
A: “He played guitar on that song up until the band came in, and then I took over on acoustic. He played that on a nylon-string flamenco guitar. It’s an interesting sound. But he can really fingerpick! Even on our first album, a lot of people thought that I played the intro to Ice Cream Man but that was Dave.
“His lyrics on the album are full of wit and personality with a lot of street wisdom. Some of his lyrics are hilarious. Dave’s good. He’s a very well-read person, and it shows in his lyrics. I don’t know of anybody else who can write lyrics that are so out there. Some of the stuff is blatant, but a lot of it makes you think. It’s tripped-out and deep, but not so deep that you can’t relate to it. I think he’s brilliant.”
Q: Considering the reception to the album and the tour, and the fact that you recorded so many songs, it seems like there’s good motivation to continue moving forward for a while.
A: “Oh yeah. As far as I know, when we’re done with this cycle we’ll take a little break and make another record. That’s what I hope to do. I’m pretty sure that’s what our intention is. We truly are a band; it’s not just a one-off thing. I don’t want to say it’s a rebuilding process. If anything it’s a continuation. It feels more like a band and a family than it ever has, and not just because three quarters of it is family.
There’s much more from this interview including EVH discussing the evolution of his onstage solo, working in the studio with Wolfgang and more. You can read the entire article HERE.
Watch Van Halen’s “Tattoo”
Chris Gill, along with Brad Tolinski, is the co-author of the 2021 book Eruption: Conversations with Eddie Van Halen, which is available at the Van Halen Store HERE.