Andy Timmons Weighs in on What Made Eddie Van Halen So Great and Unique

Guitar virtuoso Andy Timmons discussed Eddie Van Halen’s work and shared his thoughts on what made him so special and unique.

It’s no secret that Eddie was one of the most influential guitar players in history. His approach to playing and writing made tectonic shifts in modern music that we’re feeling to this day.

However, despite Eddie being one of the “shredders,” Andy Timmons pointed out that he and his brother and Van Halen drummer Alex Van Halen had serious old-school influences. Speaking to “Final Resonance TV” in a recent interview, Timmons reflected on this by saying (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“He was a big Cream fan, and they were adventurous in their improvisations. But his dad, coming from a jazz background — he would have heard any of the jazz. Because Alex and Eddie have an unmistakable swing that you don’t get by trying to swing — you get it because you feel it. And you only feel it if you’ve really absorbed a lot of the great jazz music.”

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“That’s why we love those records”

“So obviously, in jazz, that’s a very common improvisational thing where people are really responding to each other in real-time,” Andy continued. “It’s not overtly or exclusively jazz. But it’s way more commonplace in that pantheon for that kind of conversation to happen. As opposed to rock — where guys tend to kind of stick to what they’re doing, they’re gonna play their part.”

“They had that freedom, and that’s what came across, there was that in-the-moment thing, that can just be that kinetic human experience, that you’re not going to get when everybody’s ‘Okay, record your perfect part. Okay, that’s your part. Okay, let’s punch you in it.'”

And according to Timmons, this is exactly what we love about Van Halen records. Sure, shredding and virtuosity is fine. But it would not be good without the swing-ish feel that Eddie and Alex got from their influences.

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“That’s why we love those records. They have the feel,” he added. “Same with The Beatles, man. It’s those guys playing in a room together, they had two tracks in the first few records [where] they’re singing and playing live, and it just has an energy to it with the greatest drummer back there, Ringo, making it swing.”

“That’s the magic. And that’s cool that THAT is a part of the Van Halen thing, too — there’s that really connective thing, that conversation happening within the song.”

“You could just tell he was a workaholic”

One thing that we also know about Eddie is that he was insanely talented. And there’s no denying that. However, as Andy also argued during this interview, what made Eddie so great wasn’t just his talent but the insane amount of work he put in to become one of the guitar gods. As he offered:

“There may be some natural ability in some ways, but if you don’t honor that, whatever the seed of the gift is, you just don’t… You’re not born to be Eddie Van Halen,” he added. “You’re born Eddie Van Halen *BUT* you work your ass off to honor that and get to the level that he took it to.”

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Unfortunately, Timmons and Eddie never met, which he revealed during the chat. However, Timmons is 100% certain that he had an incredible work ethic:

“I never knew the guy, but you could just tell he was a workaholic. He was just gonna keep at it. He was driven. And you only get to that level by putting that pressure on yourself.”

“There’s nobody behind any of those guys saying, ‘Hey, did you practice today? Is that song coming?’

“You know they’re working on it, and if they’re not working on it, they’re thinking about working on it.”

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“They’re driven, man,” Timmons continued. “It’s a common thread with anybody that achieves that level of greatness. There’s no doubt about it. Nobody had to tell Michael Jordan to shoot free throws and layups, he was already out there doing it.”

Joe Satriani Playing Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen passed away on October 6, 2020, due to complications from his throat cancer and, reportedly, lung cancer as well. He was 65 at the time of his passing.

In honor of Eddie’s music, Joe Satriani has now joined ex-Van Halen members Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony for a tour dubbed “Best of All Worlds.” Rounding up the lineup, we have Jason Bonham on drums, the son of Led Zeppelin legend John Bonham.

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And as Joe Satriani himself revealed in a recent chat with Ultimate Guitar, there are a few important things that he’ll have to practice in order to make it sound closer to Eddie’s works.

“One of the things that Eddie had was this super tight swing that was ultrafast with his right hand,” Satriani said. “That is something that I remember hearing for the first time and thinking, ‘Well, I’m gonna have to work on that.’ That’s gonna take me, I bet, three months of 45 minutes a day, working with a metronome, to work that into my bag of tricks. Because that’s kind of like what it is.”

Photos: Joe Bielawa (DSC 0520 Andy Timmons (3998758003)), Carl Lender (Eddie Van Halen at the New Haven Coliseum)

Author

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.