White Lion guitarist Vito Bratta was among the leading guitarists of the 1980s. He had the speed, style, and look of the prototypical 80s guitar god. But the critics said he was merely an Eddie Van Halen imitation. In a brand-new interview with Guitar World, Bratta says he was eventually able to find out firsthand what Eddie himself thought. His response brought Bratta to tears.
Here’s an excerpt of Bratta’s interview with Guitar World‘s Jackson Maxwell (with contributions from Andrew Daly).
One of the names that came up in the discussion was Eddie Van Halen, to whom Bratta was often — in less than favorable terms — compared in his early days. As annoying as they were to the White Lion guitarist at the time, however, those comparisons did end up making the one in-person meeting he had with Van Halen a rather cathartic one.
Van Halen, Bratta tells GW, was indeed a significant influence on his development as a guitarist — in his words, “the image of what I thought of when I thought about being a guitar player in a rock band.”
“The thing that struck me most about Eddie Van Halen when he came out was that here was literally everything that I had been chasing wrapped up in one guy,” Bratta explains.
“He had the melody, the tone, the picking, the rapid-fire stuff, and he had the look of being a guitar player. He was the image of what I thought of when I thought about being a guitar player in a rock band. And it was all wrapped up in one person. It was unfathomable to me then, and it still is today.”
His admiration of Van Halen aside, though, Bratta was, understandably, less than thrilled when accusations of stealing Van Halen’s style were lobbed in his direction upon White Lion’s commercial breakthrough in the mid-1980s.
“Once I became established with White Lion in the ’80s, I got a lot of shit from people who said I was aping his style,” Bratta says. “That was all bullshit. It got to the point where I met Eddie once, and I asked him, ‘Does it freak you out that I play like you?’ I thought that because it had been drilled into my head by magazines and stuff.”
Van Halen, Bratta tells GW, was dismissive of the notion that the latter player was merely an EVH clone.
“Now, I’m not the type to use Eddie’s name for whatever — especially since he passed away — but I will say that Eddie complimented me, and that he didn’t agree,” Bratta shares.
“What I will say is that when I talked to Eddie, he didn’t agree. I got to meet him once when he came into the studio during the recording of [White Lion’s 1991 album] Mane Attraction. He came in, and he was sitting on my 5150 amp. I was blown away. Here I am, standing in the studio, watching Eddie Van Halen sitting on my amp, jamming out on guitar.
“Eddie said a lot of nice things to me that day,” Bratta went on, “and I’ll take them to my grave, but I’ll tell you this, I was touched enough to where I had to leave the room, go to the bathroom, and cry. That might make me sound like a dick, but after being told I sounded like him, that I was copying him, and all this shit, it meant a lot to hear that he liked what I did, and that he respected it.”
Guitar World says the full interview with Vito Bratta will be coming soon.