Wolfgang Van Halen Explains What Makes His New Semi-Hollow Guitar So Special

The leader of Mammoth WVH, Wolfgang Van Halen, reflected on his EVH semi-hollow guitar and what makes it special.

Of course, there’s more than one of these in existence, but the plan for EVH is to release this model under the designated name of SA-126. We’ve been waiting for a while now and Wolfgang himself has been talking about it since 2022. And it seems that we’ll have to wait at least a little while for it to come out.

What we do know now, however, is that Wolfgang has a few of these, and, as he told Guitar World in a recent chat, it’s way more than just a “thinline”-style take on the standard EVH Wolfgang model.

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

“The SA-126 is way beyond a typical semi-hollow,” he said when talking about guitars used on his latest album “Mammoth II.”

“There’s really nothing else like that guitar”

“There’s really nothing else like that guitar,” Wolfgang added. “It takes its inspiration from a classic design, but the way we put it together, the pickups, and pretty much everything else, make it a different-sounding guitar. It’s like a hot rod but with a souped-up modern engine. Nothing like this existed until we made it.”

During the interview, Eddie Van Halen’s son couldn’t hide his amazement with this new instrument. When reminded of guitar solos on the record and how each one “has its own sonic personality,” he offered:

“The biggest part of that was the sunburst SA-126, which was the third prototype of that model. That is basically all the guitar on the album. It was such a monumentally important guitar to the whole process.”

COFFEE WITH WOLFGANG VAN HALEN

“You can really hear the tones and how different it is and how dynamic it is, from the heavy, chuggy stuff to the clean tones at the beginning of ‘Take a Bow.'”

“It’s such a versatile guitar. This album is an incredible showcase for what the SA-126 is capable of.” 

But part of this massive sonic equation was also the use of his 50-watt EVH 5150 III amp head, featuring 6L6 tubes in the power amp. “I named the 50-watt head Noel, and the cabinet is Liam,” said Wolfgang about this stack that he used at the Taylor Hawkins tribute show at the Wembley Stadium. Further explaining his tone, he added:

“That amp/cabinet and the SA-126 were the winning combo on this album. That’s also what I have with me on tour all the time, which is why we sound so good.”

Wolfgang Van Halen, Justin Hawkins, Dave Grohl (Hot for Teacher) Multi-cam – Live 2022

So… When is SA-126 Coming Out?

But after all that praise, one question was expected — when’s the SA-126 coming out?

“We will be able to talk more about that next year when everyone will be able to get their hands on it, finally. It’s taken a while, but that’s exactly what Dad did with the Wolfgang, road-testing and crash-testing it. It just gets better with each revision we’ve made as we’ve gone along.”

We assume that the “next year” here is the current year, meaning that the interview took place in 2023. Or at least we hope so. Whatever may be the case, Wolfgang seems pumped about it.

“I’m really excited for people to finally get it in their hands,” he continued. “It’s such a rare thing and such a wonderful opportunity to be able to design a brand-new instrument that’s ideal for what I’m doing. But it’s capable of so much more. I can’t wait to hear what other people use it for. I’ve had such a wonderful time with Matt [Bruck] and Chip [Ellis] designing it. It’s just a dream.”

“I’m really excited for people to finally get it in their hands”

Back in mid-2023, Wolfgang discussed this guitar model, sharing some insight into what makes it different from other semi-hollow guitars we’re used to. For him, it was the perfect blend between vintage and modern elements. He said:

“I mean, really, the semi-hollows, [they always have] like a really big wide almost like baseball bat neck. And so the instrument didn’t really exist.”

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

“So it was fun to sort of merge the worlds of the classic semi-hollows with like the performance sort of guitars that the brand is known for, and kind of putting them together. So it’s like a marriage of like a Wolfgang.”

“And actually, what we’re using the neck profile of the Bumblebee [Eddie Van Halen’s old custom guitar], the black and yellow. That was like the base. It’s definitely been moved around a little bit. But sort of that really thin but wide [neck].”

“It’s a very shredder neck,” the musician added. “It’s like a shredder hollow-body, it’s a fun little marriage of both, it’s got a basswood center block. That was dad’s choice of tonewood. And it’s got this really cool… The way Chip Ellis who’s the designer — his whole process for putting it together is really cool.”

Wolfie at Taylor Hawkins' Tribute in LA

“It’s got a maple top, mahogany sides and back, ebony fretboard. I believe that the neck is maple too. I have to double-check. But yeah, it’s badass. And it’s really fun to be crash testing.”

Photo: Andraia Allsop (Wolfgang Van Halen Instagram)

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.