Capturing Eddie Van Halen’s early-era tone is much like cracking a secret code. It’s no easy task and it most definitely won’t happen overnight. Take twenty-six year-old Cameron Brown for example. He’s been chasing Eddie’s classic “Eruption” tone since he was 11. It’s only now that he feels he’s ready to share it with the world.
Brown is a second-generation Van Halen fan who was born and raised in Scotland. He was listening to “Hot For Teacher” before he even stepped foot in a classroom thanks to his father, who introduced him to the band’s music.
“My dad is a guitar player and has been a Van Halen fan since they released their first album in 78’,” said Brown. “I started to show an interest in music really early on and when I was around four or five years old, my dad got the ‘Van Halen Volume 1’ DVD with all the band’s music videos on it. I still remember that night like it was only a couple of years ago. I sat in front of the TV and watched the music videos for ‘Jump’, ‘Panama’ and ‘Hot For Teacher’ and couldn’t believe what I was listening to. The breakdown section after the solo in ‘Panama’ blew my mind and, from that moment, I became an instant Van Halen fan. That section of ‘Panama’ is still one of my favourite parts in any song I’ve ever heard.”
It was a couple of nights later that Brown experienced the jaw-dropping, mind-blowing moment every Van Halen fan has experienced. He heard Eddie’s iconic instrumental “Eruption”.
“The first time I heard ‘Eruption’ was probably a couple nights after I watched their music video DVD with my dad for the first time,” Brown said. “I asked him if he had any more Van Halen that I could listen to, so he let me listen to the first Van Halen record. When ‘Eruption’ came on I couldn’t comprehend how it was even possible to make a guitar sound that way. I must’ve listened to ‘Eruption’ at least ten times in a row that night in both disbelief and amazement.”
And so, Brown’s journey began. Eventually he got his very own guitar and set out to play like his guitar hero – Edward Van Halen.
“My dad taught me a couple of chords when I was around three and a half, but I didn’t start taking guitar seriously and start playing all day every day until I was eleven,” said Brown. “Very early on, when I started playing guitar every day, I’d read any and every guitar magazine article about Eddie that I could find. I thought it was absolutely fascinating that Eddie built his own guitars since there wasn’t an instrument out there at the time that done what he wanted it to do. It was also really encouraging for me as someone who was new to the world of guitar, that you didn’t have to follow the ‘rules’ to get a certain sound which made trying to chase Eddie’s ‘Brown Sound’ really exciting!”
As for taking in the challenge of playing “Eruption”, that was one task Brown took his time on. As you can hear in the recently released video below, the time paid off.
Brown said he had his sights set on performing “Eruption” since he first learned the guitar at the age of 11.
“[Playing ‘Eruption’] took me pretty much since my journey of learning guitar began,” said Brown. “I’ve covered quite a lot of Van Halen videos over the last few years on social media, but I always avoided ‘Eruption’ because I figured if I was ever going to cover it, I’d try to get as close as I could. I guess in a way I was scared to film a cover of it since it’s arguably Eddie’s most famous piece of guitar music. When I decided that I was going to cover ‘Eruption’, I spent around three weeks listening to the original recording and practicing it every day before I recorded the video.
“I spent a quite a while researching everything I could about the gear Eddie used on the first Van Halen record,” continued Brown. “I watched interviews on the Sunset Sound YouTube channel where they talk about how they recorded that album. I also watched and read interviews of Eddie talking about his gear and learned about how his Marshall was mostly stock apart from a couple of small changes over the years etc.”
Brown added that he wouldn’t have been able to capture the “Eruption” sound without the help of some talented and experienced friends in the guitar business.
Brown said: “I have a Marshall Plexi amp which I decided that I’d try and mod myself to the same spec of Eddie’s amp…but I quickly realized that I don’t know how to do any of that kind of thing and would probably ruin my amp in the process of trying to do so! I’m an artist with the good people over at Suhr Guitars and I remembered that they make an amp called the Suhr SL68, which is based on Eddie’s famous 68 Marshall Plexi, where John Suhr has already done all of the work for you in making the amp sound the way I wanted it to. It also has a built in Variac that drops the amps voltage down to 90 volts like Eddie used to do in Van Halen’s early days. The guys at Suhr helped arrange an SL68 amp that I could borrow for the video with a guitar store here in the U.K called Peach Guitars.”
And it goes without saying that Brown had to play “Eruption” on one of Eddie’s very own EVH guitars.
“The guitar I used is one of the EVH Gear Striped Series ‘Frankie’ guitars which I’ve modded slightly by changing the Wolfgang pickup out for an EVH ‘Frankenstrat’ pickup that I’ve had for years,” he said. “I put a Floyd Rose Original trem loaded with an FU-Tone Brass Block and also used a script MXR Phase 90 and an MXR Echoplex delay pedal that the guys at Dunlop sent out for the effects. The reverb comes from the IK Multimedia Sunset Sound plugin.
“I even went as far as finding out what gauge of strings Eddie used during Van Halen’s early years,” Brown continued. “So the guys at D’addario kindly made me a few custom sets of 9-40 strings for the video. A big thank you to Suhr Guitars, D’addario and Jim Dunlop USA, and to Peach Guitars for working alongside Suhr in letting me borrow the SL68 amp – without those people I wouldn’t have been able to get all of the cool gear I used in this video!”
Watch Cameron Brown Play Some Van Halen Licks On His EVH Guitar
Now it’s time to throw out some must ask Van Halen questions to Brown:
What’s your favorite Van Halen album? “1984. I love every Van Halen record but 1984 seems to have everything I love about Eddie’s playing and the band all in one album!”
What’s your favorite Van Halen song? “That’s a tough one! I’ll say ‘Panama’ because it’s the song that really started my love for music in general.”
What’s your favorite Eddie Van Halen riff? “‘Drop Dead Legs’!”
What’s your favorite Eddie Van Halen solo? “Another super tough question and my answer probably changes from week to week…but right now it’s the solo from ‘Somebody Get Me a Doctor’, I get goosebumps every time I listen to that solo!”