White Lion Guitarist Opens Up on How Eddie Van Halen Influenced Him: ’What I’d Heard Before Seemed to Pale in Comparison’

White Lion guitarist Vito Bratta never hid his admiration of Eddie Van Halen. But we can’t blame him — he’s far from being the only guitar player to praise Eddie and his impact on our favorite instrument. And in a new interview with Guitar World, he mentioned him as one of the 11 guitar players who shaped his sound. Vito said of Eddie:

“This was the guy that taught all about what technique was. Like a lot of the kids around me back then, I used to sit in my room and practice for hours. I’d work on muting my strings, so I didn’t wake anybody up, and then I read that Eddie said he did the same thing, so I was like, ‘OK, that guy’s cool.’”

As Vito also explained, Eddie inspired him to further improve his guitar chops and keep pushing into new territories. He added:

“But that aside, it was just the sheer technique that Eddie had. He forced me to say to myself, ‘How do I elevate my technique?’ And remember, I was a young guitar player, and I had been listening to a lot of the same old pentatonic scales and shit like that.”

“When Eddie Van Halen came along with all this insane rapid-fire stuff, a lot of what I’d heard before that seemed to pale in comparison.”

White Lion - Vito Bratta - SOLO - Wait - Live At The Ritz - 1988

You can only imagine what it must have felt like back in the late 1970s to hear someone like Eddie. He was so incredibly skilled and versatile that no one could deny his superb musicianship. Vito also explained what struck him the most about Eddie:

“But the thing that struck me most about Eddie Van Halen when he came out was that here was literally everything that I had been chasing wrapped up in one guy. He had the melody, the tone, the picking, the rapid-fire stuff, and he had the look of being a guitar player.”

While we’re at Vito Bratta and Eddie Van Halen, things have been a bit rough for the White Lion guitarist. Over the years, he’s often been accused of being an “Eddie clone.” In another section of the same interview, Vito said:

“Once I became established with White Lion in the ‘80s, I got a lot of shit from people who said I was aping his style. That was all bullshit. It got to the point where I met Eddie once, and I asked him, ‘Does it freak you out that I play like you?’ I thought that because it had been drilled into my head by magazines and stuff.” 

Vito Bratta solo when the children cry (1988 NY)

“Now, I’m not the type to use Eddie’s name for whatever – especially since he passed away – but I will say that Eddie complimented me, and that he didn’t agree.”

“What I will say is that when I talked to Eddie, he didn’t agree. I got to meet him once when he came into the studio during the recording of [White Lion’s 1991 album] ‘Mane Attraction.‘ He came in, and he was sitting on my 5150 amp. I was blown away. Here I am, standing in the studio, watching Eddie Van Halen sitting on my amp, jamming out on guitar.

“Eddie said a lot of nice things to me that day,” Bratta went on, “and I’ll take them to my grave, but I’ll tell you this, I was touched enough to where I had to leave the room, go to the bathroom, and cry. That might make me sound like a dick, but after being told I sounded like him, that I was copying him, and all this shit, it meant a lot to hear that he liked what I did, and that he respected it.”

Vito Bratta Wait solo

During the same chat, Vito also praised a few other legendary guitar players. One of them, expectedly, was Jeff Beck. Vito said of him:

“I mean… ‘Blow by Blow‘ and ‘Wired‘? Come on, forget it – those albums were amazing when they came out. I was very into those and played them constantly in the ‘70s. I heard Beck, and I went from wanting to be a straight rock guy, to [wanting] to take it further into what would become known as ‘jazz-fusion.’

“But I’ll always remember the struggle I had in discovering guys like Jeff Beck, because I really had to dig around and find ways to hear this stuff. Again, we didn’t have much money, and I couldn’t just go and buy whatever I wanted. I’d have to go to newsstands and look around in magazines to find out what the new stuff was.

Vito Bratta - Interview

“I’d start asking around, ‘Hey, what are you hearing out there? What’s new?’ Finding the sounds and notes that Beck played wasn’t easy, but it opened me up to modes, and all these things that I wasn’t doing through hearing [Jimmy] Page.

“I just played stuff and then, you know, I had to look around in the guitar magazines, but I didn’t have that much money so I couldn’t buy [them], and I couldn’t go on Amazon and buy the stuff.

“I didn’t know what books [to get], but you had to start asking around and reading – ‘what are these sounds that Jeff Beck plays?’ Like, I don’t even know these notes. Then you start learning about modes and whatever the major seventh chord [is] – stuff I wasn’t playing with Jimmy Page.”

Photo: Abby Gillardi (Van Halen-8597 (20643101375))

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.