Eddie Van Halen’s Son Defends Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar Era: ’It Doesn’t Get Any Respect’

Eddie Van Halen’s son and Mammoth WVH leader, Wolfgang Van Halen, recently reflected on his involvement with Van Halen and the band’s album reissues, particularly the “Live: Right Here, Right Now” live record. Speaking to Oklahoma-based KATT radio station, Wolfgang explained that it’s his uncle and late Eddie Van Halen’s brother Alex who’s making all the important decisions about anything. He explained (transcript via Guitar.com)

“[Alex Van Halen] is, obviously, he’s the head honcho when it comes to making the decisions. Obviously, I default to him on anything that he thinks is the right thing to do.”

He continued:

“But when it comes to decision-making or at least just kind of helping out, yeah, I am that sort of what would have been my dad’s vote for stuff there with Al. So Al and I are kind of that team. But, all in all, he’s the guy.”

Of course, what’s also pretty exciting about this reissue is that this is the first time that Van Halen’s camp is honoring the era when Sammy Hagar was fronting the band. Now, we all know how volatile these things may be among Van Halen fans and we assure you that we’re not planning to start the good old online flame war. Whether David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar is better comes down to one’s personal tastes.

Nonetheless, Wolfgang admits that this particular era of the band, popularly known as Van Hagar among the fans, deserves more praise. He explained:

“That era [of Van Halen] doesn’t get any respect, I don’t think. And there’s a lot of amazing songs and just obviously brilliant guitar playing on a lot of that — on all of that stuff — and I think people don’t give it a chance ’cause they fall into that just exhausting ‘this singer is better, this singer is better’ crap, when it’s, like, just give it a chance. There’s some really good stuff in there.”

VAN HALEN - RIGHT NOW - LIVE: RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW 1993

The live album in question is the only official live release with Hagar in the band. Originally released back in 1993, this reissue will include a total of 7,500 copies on a red translucent 180-gram vinyl.

In another recently conducted interview, Wolfgang Van Halen discussed his band Mammoth WVH and the project’s upcoming new album. Asked whether it’s done, he 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.”

Regarding the album’s overall style and musical direction, Wolfgang said:

“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.”

As far as the new potential gear used on this record, he offered:

“Well, the main thing which stole the show is the SA-126 [his EVH prototype 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!’”

Wolf Van Halen's EVH SA 126 Prototype | Mammoth WVH Rig Rundown Trailer

“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.”

On the band’s previous album, Wolfgang ended up using his father’s legendary Frankenstrat guitar on two songs. Asked what it was like to play it, he said:

“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.”

Eddie Van Halen - "The Frankenstrat" Interview (Guitar World, Nov. 2006)

“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!”

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

Reminded of the refretting work on the instrument, he also added:

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

Photo: Thomson200 (2021 Shaky Knees – Mammoth WVH (1) Wolfgang Van Halen (cropped)), Matt Becker (SammyHagar)

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.