We’ve got an unbelievably cool treat for everybody on Eddie Van Halen’s birthday today!
Veteran rock journalist Jas Obrecht has shared another never-before-heard gem of an interview with Eddie Van Halen, this one from January of 1980! And, just like his complete 1978 and 1979 Eddie interviews, this is absolutely incredible to hear!
As you listen to this, just realize how lucky we are to have this. Jas had the foresight to realize his interviews would probably go on to become historically significant, so he took great care in recording them on good quality equipment, preserving them in ideal temperatures and conditions for decades, and digitizing them in a state-of-the-art studio. (Obrecht’s man behind the scenes is Nik Hunt, who has produced and engineered all of his podcasts and has worked wonders with the sound. He put many hours into it.) So BIG THANKS to Jas and Nick!
It’s a real trip to hear the passion in Eddie’s own words. The entire interview is captivating, especially with Ed using his amplified Frankenstein guitar to help him answer the questions. Hearing Eddie play riffs from Van Halen songs is amazing. But perhaps even more amazing to diehard fans is hearing him play riffs of unreleased Van Halen songs. There are a few seconds where Eddie is playing an unreleased riff. And then he goes on to play sections of an unreleased song that has leaked out over the years. That instrumental is known to diehards as “Act Like It Hurts”, but that was never its title. (“Act Like It Hurts” was actually the working title to “Tora! Tora!”). You can hear Eddie give away the real title in this interview.
Another real treat was hearing Eddie and Jas discuss Van Halen bootlegs. We don’t think Ed ever talked that much about bootlegs, especially so early in his career. He even mentions two widespread vinyl bootlegs by the names the bootleggers gave them.
Jas sets up the interview:
Eddie Van Halen often claimed that the most important elements of his sound were his imagination and his hands: “The way I play is in my fingers,” he insisted. “I can play through any amp and it still sounds like me.” During this first hour of our marathon 1980 interview, Eddie proves this beyond all doubt. Playing his unamplified Frankenstein, he does note-for-note covers of his favorite Clapton solos, demonstrates specific songs and techniques heard on the first three Van Halen albums, shows how he composes the band’s music, and plays an original song that was rejected by the band.
This interview took place a couple of weeks after our previous Talking Guitar podcast, “Eddie Van Halen: The Complete 1979 Interview.” Near the end of that conversation, Eddie asked me to write a cover story on him – his first one ever – for Guitar Player magazine. I quickly arranged for this to happen.
About two weeks later we met on the morning of January 15, 1980, at Neil Zlozower’s photo studio in Hollywood. Eddie drove himself over in his brand-new Jeep CJ. He walked in wearing beige corduroys and a black-and-white checkered shirt. He was carrying two guitar cases. One held a guitar he’d recently assembled using an extra-thick Boogie Bodies body and a Floyd Rose locking tremolo system. The other was the latest incarnation of what would become known as the “Frankenstrat.” At this time, the guitar’s body was spray-painted red with black and white striping. Its full-sized white pickguard had the standard holes for the two pickups nearest the neck, but there were no pickups in these positions. Eddie had enlarged the rear pickguard hole to accommodate his Gibson P.A.F. pickup.
In addition to his extensive playing during this first part of our four-hour meeting, Eddie talks about a wide array of subjects, including his piano background, how he learned to play guitar, the differences between his “planned” and spontaneous solos, the limitations of rock and roll, blues influences, the importance of phrasing, where the band’s money goes, VH bootlegs, the recording of the just-mixed “Women and Children First” album, and, naturally, his pedalboard, amps, and guitars. I hope you enjoy the interview!
Listen to the never-heard 1980 Interview below: