David Swan of Australia’s Faster Louder spoke with Van Halen singer David Lee Roth about new music and the band’s dynamic with 20-year-old bassist Wolfgang Van Halen. Portions of the interview appear below.
Q: Are there any plans for new Van Halen recorded material?
Roth: Yes. I was just on the phone with the fellas … We are going to be getting together, not this month, at the end of June to start preparing for some new recording and some new songs, but we’re touring a little bit this year. That’s kind of a surprise. We’re in Australia, we’re doing a Japan tour for a couple of weeks, and we’re doing some American stuff. That comes as a bit of a surprise. Van Halen projects are a bit like James Bond movies. They come around about once every three-and-a-half years. Any sooner and it’s like, “Weren’t you just here?” It’s like that third Johnny Depp pirate movie [Pirates Of The Caribbean]. Weren’t you guys just here? Oh, that’s a rough one right. Leave before the sun sets, quit just before the party begins to disintegrate, don’t be the first one back in next week. We’ve been around for so long that that is a deft kind of a tactic. And there’s politics. So with that in mind I imagine we’ll be doing extensive touring and traveling outside the United States after this upcoming tour.
We plan ahead by about two-and-a-half years in advance, which sounds extravagant … [But] from the time you go, “Let’s start to write some songs”, until all of the machines of production and humanity kick in, things move achingly slow. Achingly slow. Especially if you are art-centric, if you want something to last, it’s going to take a long time to put it all together. Quick up is quick down. We know about one hit wonders and we know about fast, but it’s about three years, it takes about three years.
Q: Tell me about the dynamic of the band now, especially with a 20-year-old in the band [bassist Wolfgang Van Halen], compared to all of those years ago, onstage and off?
Roth: Back then the goals were a little bit different, but the energies were a little displaced, I think the band is more focused now, on all of the details of what we do. So things like the website, show up a little more colorfully, as opposed to hiring it out to other folks. As you’re learning and new moving along, you have to subdivide, you have to have somebody else do your video, you’re gonna have to have somebody else working on your stage design, because those are languages you don’t know. We speak those languages now. And the band is, if nothing else, a bit more thankful for the privilege of the job that we have, compared to a lot of the other jobs that we’ve had … I think the Van Halens have the same perspective.
Having someone who’s 20 years old in the band? Well you’re gonna have to keep up with us. The brothers and I are still skinny and full of victory. Gonna Fly Now and all those great theme songs [laughs]. It’s pretty rare that somebody our age just signs up for the first stop time and can just keep up, but there’s a thrill of competition, the band ensemble competing with the world, then individually we still compete with each other, and it’s not really soured notes in the symphony. It’s volition, it’s sparks, and I think you’ll find that with any good team. And I find Wolfgang fits right in. Now that the three guys look the same, and I’m the one that’s different, I feel like Sammy Davis Jr. I’ve got a better sense of how he felt in the Rat Pack [laughs].
Read more at Faster Louder.