Steve Stevens Remembers What Eddie Van Halen Was Really Like, Recalls Playing Through Eddie’s Rig

Known for his work with Billy Idol and Michael Jackson, guitarist Steve Stevens reflected on the time when he got the chance to open for Van Halen, revealing what Eddie Van Halen was really like.

This was back in the early 1990s when Stevens was a member of Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil’s backing band. And just like most guitar players who built their name in the 1980s, he was more than impressed by Eddie Van Halen.

But as he told Final Resonance TV in a recent interview, it was more than just admiration of Eddie’s guitar work.

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“Sometimes, when you’re truly gifted like that — there’s a saying — you don’t have to tell people how brilliant you are; they’ll tell you,” Stevens said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs). To explain this stance further, the guitarist compared Eddie to Jimi Hendrix, offering:

“And I’ve read the same thing about Hendrix: he was kind of a shy guy. Onstage, Ed was a showman! That’s the other part of it. It wasn’t just the technique.”

“There’s 12-year-old kids on YouTube doing stuff that’s mind-boggling, but Ed presented it in this guitar hero… Guy looked the part. When you hear that guitar playing, you want a guy who looked like Van Halen onstage.”

During the interview, Stevens was also reminded of the time when he, as a part of Vince Neil’s band, opened for Van Halen. The tour in question took place in 1993 and was in support of the band’s double live record “Live: Right Here, Right Now.”

vince neil steve stevens Look in Her Eyes Exposed minneapolis mn 1993 Part 01

At that tour, as Stevens revealed, he got the chance to play Eddie’s amps and rig. When asked about the tour and what it was like, the guitarist replied:

“So we’re out on the road, and I’m bringing out my vintage Marshalls and stuff, trying to keep them working on the road. And Ed goes, ‘Hey, man, why are you bringing out that vintage stuff?’ And by then, he had Peavey 5150s.”

So, instead of going with his old Marshall amps, Steve was allowed to use Eddie’s stuff.

“He said, ‘Why don’t you play through my rig?’ And [I said], ‘Okay, I’ll come early tomorrow.'”


Interestingly enough, one would always think how a famous guitar master would keep his rig as a secret so that no one would copy his tone. Stevens was obviously impressed by how these Peavey 5150 amps and all the other gear sounded. And, on top of that, he was impressed how open Eddie was about sharing his supposed sonic secrets.

“But his rig sounded absolutely incredible,” Steve added. “And he arranged it. I think, from that point on, within three days, a truck shows up with a bunch of 5150s and cabinets. And from that point on, I used a very similar situation to Ed’s.”

“And man, that goes to show the guy wasn’t trying to keep his secret sound,” Stevens said. And that wasn’t all. As he added, Eddie even let him use one of his guitars:

“And he handed me one of his guitars right off the racks, ‘Hey, you want one of my guitars?’ ‘Yeah, I like the black one.’ ‘Okay, here, take it.'”

“I mean, that’s incredible. And I’ve heard he did that for Jerry Cantrell and numerous other musicians, so that shows how secure the guy was.”

The reason behind this kind of confidence lies in the fact that Eddie simply sounded like Eddie. There was no rig in the world that would help anyone else sound exactly like him. So he just let people use his stuff.

“There was no secret sauce or something to being Eddie Van Halen,” Stevens added. “I played through his rig. I sounded like the guy from Billy Idol. I didn’t sound like Eddie Van Halen.”

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Nonetheless, the gear used still allows any guitar player to get the best out of their musical and technical skills. So it’s still a major factor. And as Steve further argued, Eddie’s rig was insanely good. Recalling what this rig was really like, he said:

“The sound was incredible. What was really cool was that Ed had his wet/dry amp configuration. But also, he liked Billy Idol.”

“Van Halen had what we’d call S4 for cabinets — they were big PA cabinets, and we’d hang them as monitors. So not only did you have wedges, but on stage left and stage right you’d have these big S4 — huge cabinets, 1000-pound cabinets off the truss, above.”

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“So you got sidefills, you got cabinets above S4s, and you got wedges. And Ed’s guitar was in stereo all over that stage. It was like being engulfed in a hurricane when he’d play, and it really was so powerful.”

Photos: Stefan Brending (2019 RiP Deadland Ritual – Steve Stevens – by 2eight – 8SC9894), Abby Gillardi (Van Halen-8597 (20643101375))

  • 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, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.