WOLFGANG VAN HALEN DISCUSSES NEW MUSIC, BEING BETRAYED AND THE CONFUSION SURROUNDING THE PURPORTED EDDIE VAN HALEN TRIBUTE
Brian Hiatt of Rolling Stone spoke with Mammoth WVH‘s Wolfgang Van Halen, excerpts from the interview appear below.
Rolling Stone: ….can expand…because it was a long, long process to get to the debut [album].
Wolfgang Van Halen: There was a lot of work. I didn’t know who I was before it started. I didn’t know what it was going to be. I just knew I had this dream of pulling a Dave Grohl and doing an album all on my own – you know, recording everything, writing everything. And I wasn’t sure if I could do it. I didn’t know if I could sing. But my producer [Michael “Elvis” Baskette], when he heard me sing a couple demos, he was like, “You’ve got this.” In general, I’m a very self-doubting person. I’ve been raised for half my life, with everyone – outside of my inner circle of people who are kind to me, and family and friends – vehemently hating me and trying to convince me that I’m not good enough. And I won’t lie. That, at a young age, really gets in your head. And I’ve had my trust abused throughout my life, in many different episodes with a handful of different people that have really shaken me up in different ways. And I’m still working through some of that, and a lot of that sort of fallout from those incidents in my life has resulted in me having a really poor opinion on myself. And it’s really difficult to kind of pick yourself up and get anything done.
Rolling Stone: That must make it all the more triumphant that you got the album out and went on tour and got a great reception.
Wolfgang Van Halen: Yeah, it’s an amazing feeling. When you really look at everything that we’ve done in the past year, it’s kind of crazy for a new rock band in 2021. So I’m really proud of the whole team. It’s really amazing.
Rolling Stone: When you were talking about negativity, you mean online, right?
Wolfgang Van Halen: Yeah. You know, it’s hard. You know, I spend my life trying to get, you know … You want people to like you, you think you’re a nice person, you know, and then all these people who don’t know you have decided the person that you are because of who your parents are and what you do. We’ve become such a cynical place where everything is judged first. It’s who can get the most cynical hot take, rather than, you know, actual kindness. It’s a very unkind world out there in many aspects.
Rolling Stone: It’s easy to forget that you were just a teenager facing online hate for replacing an original member of Van Halen.
Wolfgang Van Halen: It’s a thing that we can’t escape in this internet age, and I don’t know, I just get really tired of it. It’s like, “Don’t you guys have anything better to do?” Yeah, that’s why I just make jokes back at the s–t…
Rolling Stone: And what were the betrayals of trust you’re referring to?
Wolfgang Van Halen: I don’t want to call people out or anything, but I’ve had people in my family steal from me. I’ve had people who I thought I was friends with, end up taking advantage of me in the end. I’ve had people I’ve been in a relationship with, abuse that trust. Cheat on me, steal from me. If you listen to the lyrics on the first Mammoth album, it’s like everything I write is directed at this amalgamation of people who took advantage of me.
Rolling Stone: What are some of the sort of peak experiences along the way over this past year?
Wolfgang Van Halen: Starting it up with opening for Guns [N’ Roses] was just being thrown into the fire in a really exciting way. Having the third show ever be at Hershey Park in front of a sea of people was something I’ll never forget. I can’t thank the whole Guns crew enough. I think that was 28,000 and change.
Rolling Stone: You started playing a heavy new song called I Don’t Know at All on tour. Will that be on the next album?
Wolfgang Van Halen: Most likely. I really like it. I don’t know if it’ll be a single or anything. But it’s a song idea that was left over from the first album. There’s about seven or 10 ideas left over that were written around that time. And since then, I’ve written many, many more. So there’s a lot to pick from.
Discussing music he likes: …I f–king love Meshuggah. Meshuggah is, like, my favorite band. And Jimmy Eat World is also one of my favorite bands. There’s nothing I hate more than gatekeeping in music, you know, or just gatekeeping in general.
Rolling Stone: What’s the timetable on the next album?
Wolfgang Van Halen: Not a specific timetable, really. But more than anything, I just want to be able to take the process and squash it down a bunch.
Rolling Stone: So you’re aiming to release next year?
Wolfgang Van Halen: I’m aiming for that. Absolutely. I want it to come out next year.
Rolling Stone: There was apparently some kind of Van Halen tribute attempted that involved your uncle [Alex Van Halen] and Joe Satriani. What can you say about that?
Wolfgang Van Halen: What I can say is that there was an attempt at doing something. But, you know, I don’t like to speak negatively about people, but there are some people that make it very difficult to do anything when it comes to Van Halen. After being in Van Halen for a long time, I really have strived to have an environment where there is no walking on eggshells and there is no personality that you have to deal with. It’s just guys having fun making music and just having a good time. But, you know, from my time in Van Halen, there was always some stuff that gets in the way from just making music and having a good time. And, I think, that’s what happened.
Rolling Stone: Let’s see, how can we decode that?…
Wolfgang Van Halen: I would love to just sit here and say everything and say the truth. There are plenty of interviews my dad did, where he straight up just said everything. And people hated him for it and thought he was lying. So I could just say s–t, but people have already decided how they feel about things, facts or not. So I can say the facts. But that may not align with how certain people feel. I know how Van Halen fans get. They are very motivated by which specific people they like in the band. And it’s just not worth it. Just, we made an attempt, and some people can be hard to work with, and made it not happen.
Rolling Stone: When you say “we,” what would your involvement have been in this?
Wolfgang Van Halen: When it comes to Van Halen, and decision-making overall and what Van Halen does, it’s Al, and then I’m there and supportive. You know, I basically help make the decisions that dad would be there to make, because I’m in there in his stead.
Rolling Stone: So basically, you gave your blessing to this attempt that didn’t work out.
Wolfgang Van Halen: It didn’t even get to that point. It was in such an early stage that it never even got off the ground.
Rolling Stone: Too bad.
Wolfgang Van Halen: Yeah, no, I would really like to do something for Pop.
Rolling Stone: So to get this straight, was this going to be a tour or a single concert? There’s a lot of confusion.
Wolfgang Van Halen: It was not a tour.
Rolling Stone: So it was a one-off tribute concert. And even on that, they couldn’t get together?
Wolfgang Van Halen: Right, surprise. Look at anything that’s happened with Van Halen. And look how things have fallen apart. You know? The fact that in my tenure, in Van Halen, we managed to do three tours, put an album of original material and a live album out is a f–king miracle.
Rolling Stone: There’s been a tremendous amount of confusion out there on this tribute thing.
Wolfgang Van Halen: People love to pin every decision Van Halen has ever made on Dad. But Al’s the brain. Al has been the guy forever. He’s the dude. When it comes to Van Halen, Dad just wanted to play guitar. But, you know, Al’s mentality, and it’s the mentality that Van Halen took for the entirety of its band, is that there’s nothing worth talking about, unless it’s happening. So, the reason that nothing has been talked about from Van Halen, the official channels, is because nothing’s happened. And I know how that will stir people up and piss them off, but that’s how the operation is run.
Rolling Stone: When Robert Plant wouldn’t tour with Led Zeppelin, they auditioned all kinds of singers, including Steven Tyler. But just because they jammed a couple of times, doesn’t mean anything really came of that.
Wolfgang Van Halen: Not at all. And just because one person [former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted] decided to talk about it when they weren’t supposed to, it f–ked everything up.
Rolling Stone: Was that really what f–ked it up?
Wolfgang Van Halen: That wasn’t the end of it, actually. It was already not happening.
Rolling Stone: And if someone were to assume that the main problem was a certain singer with three initials, what would you say to that?
Wolfgang Van Halen: I would say “Do your research on the history of Van Halen, and come to your conclusions.”
Rolling Stone: We joked last year about how you had to save rock & roll, and weirdly, now it looks like it’s kind of coming back in the mainstream, from Olivia Rodrigo to Harry Styles to the pop-punk revival.
Wolfgang Van Halen: You know, Demi Lovato just came out with a pop-punk song. F–kin’ Machine Gun Kelly switched genres. It’s what’s in. I don’t know if it’s just being used as a facade or if they’re just kind of copping on the scene to look cool. But, at the same time, they’re playing the music and that could open up the doorway to other things. It really does seem like rock-based music, or at least guitar-bass-drums-style music, is coming back into the limelight. That’s pretty cool.
Rolling Stone: Maybe you did it.
Wolfgang Van Halen: Rock & roll is saved! Sorry, Gene [Simmons]! [Laughs.]
Read more at Rolling Stone.