Gary Cherone looked back on his favorite songs with Van Halen and those we’ve yet to hear during a recent interview with rock journalist Greg Prato.
Prato, who interviewed Cherone for Songfacts, has shared the Van Halen portion of the interview with the VHND:
Prato: What’s the best Van Halen song you worked on?
Cherone: Two songs come to mind. “One I Want” I thought was the closest thing to down-the-strike-zone Van Halen. And I thought lyrically it was fun – that it could sit well with their old catalog.
But something that I thought was new and original was a song called “Once.” I thought Eddie musically expanded his horizons. It started off as a piano piece, but then it got a little bit more elaborate with the band. Lyrically, I think it was a bit more complex.
“Year To The Day” is another track I thought was a strong song on that record.
Prato: What are your thoughts on “How Many Say I”? That’s the only Van Halen song that Eddie sang lead on.
Cherone: In the past with me and Nuno, we’ve always traded off – I would show Nuno a lyric, he might write to it. With my experience in Van Halen, that’s not how Eddie wrote. So, that was one of the new things we did together. I just had a lyric – I might have written it over three days – and he looked over my shoulder one day and said, “What’s that?” And I said, “I’m finishing up this lyric called ‘How Many Say I.'” And he said, “Do you mind if I take it?”
He took it, I went to bed in the guest house, and he stayed up all hours of the night. Woke up the next morning and he showed me on the piano. He sang it – he’d made a rough demo of it. I thought it was brilliant. His voice reminded me of Tom Waits or Roger Waters.
I was the one who encouraged him to do it on the record. He was a little reluctant. It’s gotten criticism over the years because Eddie sang it, but I thought the initial demo was so inspiring. For me, it was just like, “You should sing it.” I twisted his arm a little bit, but then he embraced it because I was comparing him to Floyd. His demo was so emotional – I thought it was great.
Prato: Michael Anthony and Eddie Trunk have both said that the material demoed for the next Van Halen album after III would have been even better. What are your thoughts and do you remember any song titles?
Cherone: In hindsight, looking back, joining the band, I would have rather toured and then recorded the first record with them, because Van Halen III was a studio production, I was getting to know the guys, and there was a writing/evolutionary process of me and Eddie writing. Then we went on tour and we became a band. We pretty much lived together on the bus and playing so many shows, so we came back tighter, we came back more focused.
I don’t know if it was subliminally because the record wasn’t received great that we were writing material that was more down the strike zone of VH. Titles come to mind… there was one lyrical title, “Left For Dead,” that I took those lyrics and I did a record with a band called Tribe Of Judah a couple of years later and wrote to different music. A song called “Rivers Wide” comes to mind. I’d have to rattle my brain as far as some of the other titles.
Prato: How much of that material was actually demoed, and would you like to see it officially released at some point?
Cherone: That wouldn’t be up to me, that would be up to Alex. There are different degrees of recording. There’s some demos that are just me and Eddie and a drum machine, there’s some rehearsal stuff, there’s some stuff that we brought in Patrick Leonard and did a couple of those songs, so those were pretty much finished.
It doesn’t bother me if they don’t see the light of day. Maybe somewhere down the road if they were to do a reissue of VH III and we would add a few songs, that would be something I’d be interested in, but that period for me is pretty well-documented. It is what it is. More importantly, I’d rather remix VH III if I had my choice. But I’m more focused on Extreme and the new music at this point.