Eddie Van Halen’s Son Speaks Up on What It Feels Like to Play Legendary Frankenstrat Guitar Today

In a newly published interview with Guitar World, Wolfgang Van Halen looked back on what it was like to use his father’s legendary guitar known as “Frankenstrat” on some of his own material. The instrument, used by Eddie Van Halen, is an important part of modern music history and was one of the earliest combinations of the best of two worlds — the raw power of Gibson guitars and the playability and finesse of Fender guitars.

The whole talk about this guitar was brought up while Wolfgang was discussing his new material. Asked about the new album, Wolfang replied:

“Yeah, I’ve almost finished it! Some people try to turn me playing everything into a negative thing, which surprises me! It’s like they think I won’t let other people play on it or something like that. But really this is what Mammoth is and always has been – it’s my artistic expression.

“I’ve been in bands before where you collaborate and that’s not what this is. I have a live band but in the studio, I do everything and have a fun time doing it. I enjoy being able to express myself musically in every avenue.”

Mammoth WVH: Don't Back Down (Official Video)

Asked whether there’s anything new about the musical style on this new album, Wolfgang responded:

“It will always sound a bit similar, I guess, because the same dude is writing it! But I think on this current material, you can hear me challenging myself a bit more. I’ve gotten more confident and I know what the project is now, rather than trying to figure out what it was from the start, like on the first one.

“On the debut there was this width of what the project was – on the left you had songs like ‘Distance‘ and ‘Circles,‘ those softer vibes, and on the right you had tracks like ‘Stone‘ and ‘The Big Picture.‘ In the middle, there were songs like ‘Mammoth‘ or ‘Epiphany‘ and stuff like that. What I want to do with this album is widen what that breadth is.

Wolfgang Van Halen - Mammoth WVH: Distance (Official Music Video)

“Further left, for example, there’s a song that’s all on piano… so it has more of a softer vibe. But on the right, there’s some really heavy sh*t in comparison to the debut! That’s what I find really exciting, it’s fun to stretch the definition of Mammoth on both sides.”

When asked about the gear that he used on this album and the differences compared to previous Mammoth WVH album, he said:

“Well, the main thing which stole the show is the SA-126 [his EVH pototype signature guitar]. It’s on pretty much the entirety of the album. We were almost surprised as we kept going through. It was like, ‘Wow, okay this works for this, too’ and ‘Oh my god, this works really well again over here!’”

Mammoth WVH: Epiphany (Official Video)

“From the cleans to the really heavy stuff, it sounded crazy! The only thing I have left to do is track the guitar solos, so what I want to do is go through some of Pop’s notable guitars and do a solo with each of them. Guitars like the Frankenstein or the Shark, stuff like that.”

Of course, on the previous record, Wolfgang used his father’s legendary Frankenstrat guitar. Asked about what it felt like to hold this guitar in his hands and make his own magic with it on two songs on his previous album, he replied:

“Well, if anyone’s ever played the EVH Bumblebee reissue, it’s very similar to the Frankenstein profile. Dad was developing that neck at the same time, and hell, with the Frankenstein reissue it’s pretty much one-for-one. It’s very faithful to the original, which is obviously a lot older.”

Wolfgang Van Halen Shows the First Guitar His Dad Gave Him

“You can feel the history sort of emanating out of the Frankenstein. Picking up that guitar is almost a religious experience, even if you’re not a religious person. You just kinda hold it and feel the history right there in your hands.”

“It’s funny, when I started recording with it back in 2015, we pulled it out and Dad picked it up, played it for a second and then sorta just tossed it on the couch. Everybody in the room gasped!”

“Because to us, it’s quite literally the most famous guitar in the existence of music, where to him it was this little piece of junk he put together. So that divide in opinion over it was funny to see!”

Edward and Wolfgang Van Halen - 316 (Live) New Jersey [2004]

When reminded about the guitar’s refretting, he said:

“Oh yeah! [Eddie] was constantly tinkering with it – that’s why it was called the Frankenstein! He was never satisfied.”

Asked about new additions to his pedalboard, Wolfgang said:

“I have pretty much every EVH pedal but honestly they’re there just for fun. My whole pedalboard isn’t really born out of necessity except for one pedal, which is the Afterneath. I use that for the solo on Distance. It’s a killer reverb. It’s the only pedal I have to hit during the show.”

Eddie Van Halen Frankenstrat Guitar History aka EVH "Frankenstein" | Guitars of the Gods

“I use the DD-3 occasionally too. Sometimes the signal varies from building to building, so if I want that extra bit of ‘jooj’ I’ll hit the delay as well. I used a talkbox on ‘You’ll Be The One,’ but a wah is fine for when we play live… I really don’t need much to get the job done!”

Elsewhere in the interview, he was also asked to share some info on the official release of his EVH SA-126 guitar to which he replied:

“Oh, it’s been a very exciting project! I think we’re nearing completion now. We’ve been working on it for a few years, revising the way it’s built so manufacturing can be easier, making little changes here and there. There’s an E-hole instead of an F-hole for Pop – and we’ve made that a tiny bit bigger and lined it up with the pickups.”

EVH Striped Series Frankie Electric Guitar - History of The Eddie Van Halen Frankenstrat

“It’s just been little innocuous things that people won’t really notice, but we’re very critical of everything so we’ve been trying to figure out the right kind of updates. I can’t exactly guarantee when it will be available, but we’re getting really close. This next year will be the last crash-testing phase for the guitar, given all the touring we have planned. I’m very excited about 2023!”

Photos: Thomson200 (2021 Shaky Knees – Mammoth WVH (1) Wolfgang Van Halen (cropped)), EVH frankenstrat

  • 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 and brands like Sam Ash.

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