This article is a public service announcement to all Van Halen fans who frequent the VHND…
Craig Parker Adams is a guitarist we’ve featured on the Van Halen News Desk multiple times, who’s written guitar instrumentals very much influenced and inspired by Eddie Van Halen. We love his music. And a lot of VH fans have loved what they’ve heard from him so far, but Craig has never had an official release… until now! He just released his first album, Vistahle Buel.
The title of the album is defined as “a compelled journey or quest”, which refers to his four-decade-long pursuit to capture the often hard-to-define, often unexplainable magic that is the sound of Eddie on guitar and the music of Van Halen.
Even though Craig is not affiliated with or endorsed by Van Halen, we at the Van Halen News Desk are very excited about this release, and highly recommend it to Van Halen fans! The ten blistering guitar instrumentals on this album truly capture the sound and feel of classic Van Halen!
Below is our interview with Craig, and you can LISTEN TO SONG SAMPLES at the bottom of this article. Please check them out – we truly think you’ll LOVE them! To support Craig with his original music, we are happy to offer this album through VanHalenStore.com for a limited time!
So here we are again. We’ve been here before. In the lulls of the Mighty VH with the rumors still flying around – Will they do this? Will they do that? Who will they do it with? and on and on and on, it’s exciting! And although a bit frustrating, we’re still here for whatever it may bring because we simply can’t get enough of their stuff and because, as we all know, NOBODY did it or does it like Van Halen.
As mentioned, we’ve been here before and that’s exactly why, during such times, the VHND purposely shines the light on those who we feel wave the VH flag in a worthy and meaningful way. It’s our attempt at continuing to spread the VH spirit that inspires us into action. And we feel THAT is important.
We first brought this guy to your attention about 14 years ago when, by chance one day, we stumbled across him on Youtube. This wasn’t just another guitarist playing Eddie’s licks, this was a person who wrote, played, and recorded his own original music that was undeniably brewed in the original spirit and essence of the band with a collection of songs that literarily sounded much like old unreleased VH originals. That was a new experience for us back at that time. It was inspirational and worthy of sharing. A couple of years after that initial article, we checked in with Craig again to see how things were going and did a follow-up interview as it related to the search for Eddie’s sound.
It’s been about 12 years since that last interview and much like the first time when came across his “VH-esque“ demos on Youtube, he has surfaced once again, this time with a new record of what he calls his life’s work as it pertains to rock guitar and all he’s learned from his 40-plus years of studying Eddie’s example at, as he says, “the sub-molecular level”. A few months back, our very own Eric Senich first learned about Craig from a recent podcast episode with Johnny Beane so he decided to also spotlight his latest release called Vistahle Buel. It’s been a while, so we knew it was time to check back in with Craig again after all of these years later.
VHND: Where have you been and why has this record taken you so long to release?
Craig Parker Adams: Ha! Wow! Ok well, the honest answer to that is that for me this record was a life’s lesson in purity. It’s my 40-year-old Lagavulin… ya know, my single malt scotch. It’s not a blended version and so it took time and my day and night job which is on the other side of the glass recording and mixing other artists can take a lot from you energy-wise or just even affect your energy in a multitude of ways and so I would never work on the record if there was any residual energy from another artist on me. It takes time to shed that off and I had to learn how to do that as the years went by because it becomes quite taxing on the system. I know it has been just one record that I’ve done since that interview we did long ago but actually, when you look at it, I’ve done about 150 records for others during that same time most of which was Frank Zappa’s material and that I can tell you is not so easy to shake off.
VHND: What is it for you that’s special about this record?
CPA: Ah I’d say that it took a Lifetime to do and, that although it’s a technically simple record to play it’s a very complex record. I call it complex simplicity. Like a drop of water. The notes and the feel that infuse them are deeply loaded. So much so that the music may just wash on over you and you may not get it at all, but your biology will. It’s talking to your D.N.A and it was designed to do that. This is why I suggest that first-time listeners listen with headphones because you’ll only ever get to hear it for the first time once and if you do it that way without distraction the notes will penetrate at a deeper level even if you’re consciously bored or distracted.
VHND: What does any of that have to do with Eddie?
CPA: That’s a good question. I knew of him since 1978 and was also playing guitar before then as well, but I was exposed to Edward I’ll say at a more profound level early in 1981 when I was a 12-year-old kid and that got me started on my life’s quest to find out what was behind or beyond the notes that he played. It was that aspect of what he did that I spent my life in search of and this record is the result.
VHND: What does “Vistahle Buel” mean?
CPA: It means one’s life journey or quest. Originally, I was just trying to come up with a name that reminded me of band names that I liked when I was a kid like “Uriah Heep” or “Pablo Cruise” or “Van Halen” but as the project began to reveal itself to me, I realized that as much as I would like for it to be a band’s name it was really more the name for the record and the band name was my name.
VHND: What is there that is unique or special to note as it relates to Eddie and this record?
CPA: I’d say lots of things. First thing is that this journey was originally instigated by Edward back in 1981 and it would actually bring us together and kindled a budding friendship years later. Edward knew my story and my – let’s call it – unique (to use your term) hunt/approach for his example. I think that would be my favorite aspect. He was a supporter of it and was even to be the very first person to hear it upon completion except he wanted to hear it mixed first. Sadly, I was not able to get it done in time for him to hear it. Nonetheless, he told me that the fact that he even inspired me at all was enough for him and so I have that among other things to cherish. But a couple of practical things to mention is that on the first tune on the record I’m using one of his old cabinets that you can see in the Van Halen II session photos at Sunset Sound that Neil Zlozower took and then on the 5th tune I’m using the Chris Holmes Ibanez Destroyer that Edward used on Women and Children First. Both of these were an incredible unexpected blessing that was provided by my longtime friend and amp tech Doug Anderson from the Tone Zone / Van Halen Museum. Other than that, I think the story in itself is very unique as well as the way I ended up learning and studying Ed overall has a bit of a twist to it compared to the norm. There’s a video called “The Origins of Vistahle Buel“, which is an excerpt from a podcast for Studio Rockstars that was recorded in early 2021 that was all about my recording studio history and work, and about an hour and a half into the discussion the host Lij unexpectedly starting asking me questions about me and my personal music and that is where the audio for that video is taken from and that is the best that I could ever fully describe how this all came together. So, if somebody is really interested in the details of the story behind the notes for Vistahle Buel I suggest watching that.
VHND: What, if anything, do you want the listener of your record to know or come away with?
CPA: I’d say first off that they enjoy it at some level and then next up would be that they sense the Authenticity and the essence of the Master which of course is Ed. I didn’t try to copy Ed on this record and it’s not a Van Halen soundalike either because I already did all of that a generation ago with that Demos CD. It’s my voice but with elements of his, like the flanger or phase 90 or slapback which in my case I coined my own version that I call “California Slapback”, which is the EPII Echoplex at a louder standing volume with a touch more burnt decay that makes me think of the beach on a hot sunny afternoon ya know [laughs] or a warm sunset at dusk.
VHND: What do you mean by not copying Eddie but using the flanger and phaser etc… and your voice?
CPA: In 2010 I was in a private meeting with Edward and a couple of other guys for a few hours and at this meeting, Ed was sitting across from me and talking to me about something that I can’t recall. While he was looking me in the eyes and speaking directly to me a voice all of a sudden came into my head and said, “It’s now time for you to get off of his shoulders, get off his back, leave him be, it’s now time for you to find and bring your voice to the surface using all that you have learned from him, he doesn’t need you on his shoulders, he needs to lighten his load so leave him be.” I left that meeting and literally quit playing the guitar that day. I took a year off to get my hands to unlearn certain things as well as to get my calluses to go away and when I did come back, I switched from Strats with light strings and a thin pick to a super fat pick and a Les Paul with really heavy strings so as to change and rebuild my hands and overall touch. Those were steps 1, 2, and 3. As far as using the same flanger and the phaser think of that like the colors brown and orange for a painter. His inspiration is embedded in every note there’s no doubt, but I didn’t reinvent the wheel… I couldn’t! So, I regressed it.
VHND: So just two last questions. How do you envision yourself and your music? And is there anything else that you would like to share with a Van Halen fan or a potential new listener?
CPA: Well to answer the second part first, I’d say something to share would be that the voice that came into my head in 2010 in that meeting with Edward was the same voice that came into my head back in 1981 that originally instigated the whole journey to even begin with and I explain that experience in-depth and many more in that “Origins” video. But the bottom line is, I’ve done thousands of sessions, I recorded hundreds of records, I chased Ed at what I would call the deepest levels for some 40 years and I got to know him a little bit and start a friendship initiated by his request which completely blows my mind and I’m not looking to waste anybody’s time. I completed what I set out to do and so now, I’d say that it’s all up to the listener.
And then for the first question, you asked about how I view myself and my music I’ll ambitiously and respectively say as the Laird Hamilton of Big Rock guitar. [laughs]
VHND: Well thanks for taking the time to have this conversation because we always love seeing and sharing the inspiring reach of the mighty Van Halen and we wish you and your new record every success.
CPA: Thank you, Jeff! I really appreciate it! And thank you also to Eric and everybody else at the VHND as well as the readers thereof. It truly is my honor!
Vistahle Buel Tracklist
[Click to hear one-minute samples… oh, such sweet ear candy!]
- “Honey Bun”
- “Chica Braca”
- “Sweet Talker”
- “Rock the Roll”
- “M.a. (The Badass)”
- “Once Not Never”
- “Hey Pretty Baby”
- “Hot All Day”
- “Dream Street”
- “In Through the Light”