Eddie Van Halen en de contouren van 1984

Music U.K. September 1983 Part 1 (muzines.co.uk)

Music U.K. September 1983 Part 1

Van Halen - 1984 (amazon.com)

Dit artikel hoort bij het verhaal 1984 en het einde van de klassieke Van Halen line-up.

Interview Music U.K. magazine september 1983

In 1983 werd Eddie van Halen geinterviewed voor het Engelse muziekblad Music U.K. Het interview vond plaats voor het US Festival 1983, waar Van Halen zou optreden op 29 mei. Tegen die tijd was al gestart met de opnamen voor het in januari 1984 te verschijnen 1984 album. Het onderstaande interview vond plaats op een cruciaal moment in de geschiedenis van de band en zeker voor Eddie Van Halen, die zijn grote droom, een professionele thuisstudio, op korte termijn waarheid zou zien worden.

Eddie Van Halen

By Steve Rosen
Photos by Glen LA Ferman

The accolades are by now common knowledge. They come from every level of the music industry, from producers like Ted Templeman and Quincy Jones to players like Steve Lukather and Frank Zappa. Guitarists utter his name with no little respect – and rightly so. Because Edward Van Halen represents a rarity in today’s musical arena: a non-imitator, an original. He has had more impact on the style of modern electric guitar than anyone since the legendary days of Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. Though legions of players feed off his licks, not one of them possesses the drama, drive and clarity he displays at every live outing and on his five studio albums.

During recent rehearsals in preparation for the band’s headlining date at the US Festival, a four day rock extravaganza featuring some of the world’s most popular groups, Edward took time out to talk about the forthcoming album, involvement in outside projects and his own updated musical gear.

Have you been working on a new album since the release of ‘Diver Down’?

You want to know what I did today? I pulled the Lamborghini (Miura, an exotic sports car purchased from Rod Stewart by wife Valerie and presented to Edward as a gift) up to the studio and miked it. It sounds bad. We miked the trunk (boot), from inside the cab, and outside by the exhaust pipes. It sounds alive, it sounds like it’s breathing!

Do you think you might use that as an effect on the next record?

Maybe. We have a song called Go Ahead and Jump which is a synthesiser song and sounds real good. We did it at an out-of-the-way studio and Donn (Landee, engineer) and Ted (Templeman, producer) are mixing it right now. The chorus goes “Go ahead and jump, jump wvwrrrrrooooommmmm”. And just for a joke we thought we’d try the car. We played it backwards and it might work and it might not. But it was fun doing it.

Are there any other tracks already completed for this upcoming album?

We cover another oldie and it’s raunchy, real raunchy. It doesn’t sound anything like the original at all. It’s real simple though, any two-year-old could play it.

What type of recording are you doing at this studio?

Everything. Masters. It sounds unbelievable, it really does. And it’s such a relaxed atmosphere. Actually it’s not work, we just have fun. It’s good because we really don’t need more than sixteen tracks. And that way it limits us from doing too much garbage that you have to filter through later when you mix. It’s perfect. Sometimes you have to kick some things to make them work right but Donn loves it and I love it too.

Do you have any idea when you might be through with the new album?

I think we’re shooting for September (a more recent projection has the album completed in January of 1984). This US Festival has gotten in the way. We figure a month of playing, singing, mixing and album cover design. We’ll start two days after the US Festival finishing the record. There’s some good stuff.

Are you looking forward to the US Festival?

Sure. For starters it’s the first live gig since our tour in South America which was over four months ago. So I’ll be a little nervous because it’s weird getting up in front of people again when you haven’t played.

What was it like playing in South America for the first time?

It was great. We didn’t do like a Queen thing and play soccer stadiums. We wanted to start off small. It’s kind of ridiculous to say small because we played the equivalent of The Forum (an arena in Los Angeles seating 18,000 people) for three nights every where we went. And still people wanted to get in. So we did real good. The people down there are crazy, they rip the place apart. They’re starving for the shit. The only bands they ever get down there are has-beens like Johnny Winter or Grand Funk. When we went down there they ate us up alive.

Do you have any feelings about headlining what may be seen as one of the biggest musical events in history?

I hope it turns out good because the last one (in 1982) bombed! We’re just going to treat it like a backyard party. It’s an outdoor show and I’m expecting everything to go wrong. I am. I’m totally ready for it. The people doing the show are so unorganized. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing and they’re blaming it on us which is ridiculous. (Steve) Wozniak got on the radio and said “Because of certain bands wanting 1.5 million dollars…” That’s not what we wanted. He offered us a million dollars and we weren’t going to say no. But we had a clause in the contract saying that no one else is allowed to get more. And then Bowie walks in and he wants a million and a half so ours automatically went up to match his.

What guitars will you be playing at the US Festival?

The same old one (pictured on the cover of the first Van Halen album) except I put a Kramer neck on it. They’re starting to make necks that I like. It’s real wide. And I have a Kramer for a backup.

You’ve been using the Edward Van Halen tremolo?

Floyd Rose is part of Kramer now and my name is not on that. It’s Floyd Rose. In the beginning I didn’t know Floyd was looking for a company, so we were happy that he joined. But before that the one that was called the Edward Van Halen tremolo was still superior to Fenders and Gibsons and Bigsbys. But obviously the Floyd Rose is superior to that. So they discontinued the first one and the Floyd Rose is going to be made by Schaller.

What was it about Kramer guitars that attracted you?

Their quality. The time they spend to make it right, and they listen to people. If you pick up a Kramer in a month or two from now, they’ll be even better than they were. I asked them to make a different neck, wider and not so thin, and things like that. And I worked with Floyd Rose developing the tremolo unit, too. It’s just a company that listens. They take a lot of pride in what they do and they don’t want something on the rack that is a piece of garbage. I have faith in the company and I think they’re going to be the next biggest thing. They’re not businessmen; it’s not like you have to go through the corporation to get something done.

When you were helping design the Edward Van Halen tremolo, did you want a unit that you could push down on as well as pull up?

No, I don’t like that. I don’t like pulling up. With my style of playing, I always rest the palm of my hand on the bridge. It sounds like a warped record. I figure there are just as many people who want it to pull back as don’t want it to pull back. So we’re setting them up so they don’t pull back but you can take the little piece out underneath the block so it can be pulled back. That’s the way Floyd himself likes it, but I personally don’t. So it will be able to be used both ways.

Are you using basically the same amplifier set-up with the Marshall stacks?

No. I’ve totally changed my stuff. I’m using only one Marshall and three 800 watt power amps. It duplicates the Marshall sound exactly so you don’t have the problem of one amp sounding better than the other. You take your best sounding one and take a complete output signal. It’s not like a line out. The complete output signal, the output tube stage, through a power amp in Marshall cabinets and you have the identical thing. The amps are H.H., the same kind we use in the studio. This way I have all the headroom I need. I still use Marshalls for recording. This is just for live, on stage, when I need a lot of coverage, a lot of sound. Especially for an outdoor show.

You’ve been involved in some projects outside of Van Halen. Could you talk a little bit about your solo on ‘Beat It’ from the Michael Jackson album, ‘Thriller’?

That’s interesting how that happened. I was in a guest house out in back, and a stranger called and the phone was messed up so he couldn’t hear me and I could kinda hear him. But he never said my name, he never asked for me. So I didn’t know what he wanted. I hung up, he called back and the same thing happened. The third time Valerie was going to grab it and I said “Let me take care of this guy”. So I picked it up and said “What do you want, you jerk?” And it was Quincy. He said “Eddie, this is Quincy, Quincy Jones.” What a way to meet a guy! And he sent me a letter after I played the solo on the record thanking me for my input and everything else, and he signed it, “Truly yours, the jerk.”

Didn’t you help re-write the solo section?

Yeah, because they actually wanted me to just solo over one chord so I suggested soloing over the verse section. Which worked out a lot better since there was a chord change underneath the solo. Soloing over one chord gets stale after a while.

Do you think people see you in a different light now that you’ve done something musical away from Van Halen?

I guess. I think it was good for the band, too. It got the name of the band around a little more and it sure helped Michael. They played him on stations they wouldn’t ordinarily have. And that’s why Quincy is good, he knows who is good for what. That’s why he wanted me to play on it, because he knew that’s what he wanted.

Would you like to do something of that nature again?

Sure. Why not? Quincy was a great guy, a real nice guy. Really, he didn’t even say anything. I just walked in, sat in the booth and played. Quincy was sitting on the left of me and I asked him what he wanted and he said, just go ahead and play. I played two solos and he said “Great”. And I left. I used that same old Strat and a rented amp (Marshall). My stuff was on tour because I was just home for a break.

Weren’t you also involved in producing an album for Allan Holdsworth?

Yeah. We originally scheduled to go in (to record) when I got off tour but I wasn’t exactly sure how long the tour would go. Anyway, Allan didn’t want to wait, he was climbing the walls. He would only have to wait a month but he didn’t want to, so he produced it himself. I think he made a big mistake because Ted Templeman (also scheduled to work on the project) could have made his ideas reach a lot more people. Allan is a fantastic guitarist but needs direction. Everyone does. I’m not trying to be holier than thou because I need it too. It’s easy to get one-sided about something and you need an outside person or persons.

And I think Allan, Donn Landee, Ted and I could have done a great job. I don’t know what was involved because I wasn’t there. It was between Warner Brothers and Ted. But I do know he was signed because of my interest and Ted’s.

Would you like to produce anyone else?

Sure, but to tell you the truth I don’t have the time right now. I thought we were going to take a little break this year, but it doesn’t look that way. It’s the same old story, jump in the studio and then we’ll probably go back on tour in October.

Didn’t you do some work with G.I.T. (Guitar Institute of Technology)?

I did a semi-seminar with Allan Holdsworth one day. It was right after I played at the Roxy with Allan. (Van Halen guested on an encore number when Holdsworth played the Roxy, a live music club in Hollywood, some time ago.) He spent the night at my house and the next day he had to do a seminar at G.I.T. so I brought my guitar along and played with Jeff Berlin and Allan and Gary Husband (Holdsworth’s drummer). It was a lot of fun considering I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I was playing along with Allan’s stuff and Jeff Berlin was whispering the chords to me. I ended up playing chromatically the whole time. But I surprised myself. I freaked myself out because I landed on my feet. I love doing that too, just going out and playing in weird keys and stumbling and landing on your feet. It’s a great feeling. It’s like doing a backward flip off the high dive and landing right.

G.I.T. also put together a little book and I thought it would be a nice thing to be associated with those guitarists. It wasn’t just a who’s who of rock and roll. They wanted me to explain how I played and the different techniques. It was funny because in the introduction they had to make a note explaining the symbols they put above the notes showing what I do. I guess there is no musical way to write it so they used little letters with circles around them and stuff.

You must be able to see the influence you’ve had on guitar players?

Yeah, I guess so. Every time I put the radio on nowadays I hear a lot of me. Sometimes it pisses me off, sometimes it makes me feel good. I just don’t think about it. I try and move forward – or backward. Whatever works. It’s not planned, I just do what I like to do and it just happens other people like it too.

What does it feel like to win all those awards from Guitar Player Magazine?

That blows me away. I’m in the Hall of Fame, Gallery of Greats. I won Best New Talent in ’78 and four years of Best Rock Guitarist.

Are there any other projects you’ve been involved in?

I did a thing with Brian May. We went to the Record Plant (recording studio) but I don’t think it was meant to be released. We did two songs, both his, and one was actually on an English Saturday morning kids’ cartoon show called Starfleet. It sounds real neat, it was a melodic tune. Brian’s a good friend and he called me up and asked me if I wanted to play. Phillip Chen, the bass player who played on Blow by Blow (and more recently with Rod Stewart), a real nice guy and a great player, and Alan Gratzer, the drummer from REO, also played. It was fun. At the end of the song I wouldn’t stop playing so it’s like half an hour long. It was just jamming, just basically to clear our heads.

Will the band be working on any more videos?

We’ll start working on that as soon as the US Festival is over. We’re going to try and be ahead of the game this time. Usually it’s right up to the wire. I hate serious videos. They’re supposed to be entertaining like Pretty Woman. And they banned it from MTV (a video cable programme). In ’78 at the Whisky we did two videos, Jamie’s Cryin’ and Runnin’ With the Devil, but those were real cheesy. Basement productions. For each album we did some except for the third album. I liked Pretty Woman because it was different. I still haven’t seen anything like it. It’s so ridiculous, it’s funny. A visual is supposed to make you do something, either laugh or cry or get angry. And half the stuff I see on MTV is just blah. It doesn’t excite me so I’d rather just listen to the music than see what those geeks are doing. Sometimes the videos are so distracting that you hate the songs. I turn the radio on sometimes and I envision what I saw on the tube and I hate the song even though it’s good. If you’re not an actor, don’t act. I’m not but I’m forced to. There’s nothing better than real. Real situations are much funnier than planned stuff.

I think it’s that real quality which has been a big part of the band’s success. You act the same way onstage as you do offstage.

Yeah. The people definitely take us a lot more serious than we take ourselves!

© 1983 Music U.K.

Music U.K. September 1983 Part 2 (muzines.co.uk)

Music U.K. September 1983 Part 2

Iets later in het datzelfde jaar spraken Steve Rosen en Eddie Van Halen elkaar nogmaals. Dat ging met name over het US Festival, maar ook even over het nieuwe album.

You’re working on a new record?

It’s near completion and will be out in January. It seems like we’re taking our time on it but we’re actually not. The US Festival, again, hasn’t stopped haunting us. We were committed to do a radio show we didn’t know about and in the meantime we’re trying to do a record. We get a call, “Hey, you’re committed to a radio show,” and we go, “Oh, God, not again!”
We have all the tracks finished for thirteen tunes but we can’t use them all. The songs are four to five minutes long and we don’t like putting more than thirty-five or forty minutes on a record because you lose that crispness. It starts sounding like a greatest hit package from the ’50s. You lose fidelity. People give us shit about that too: “Your records are too short.” You listen to a record from beginning to end and if you feel you got your money’s worth, that’s fine.
I think this next one is going to be a hellified record. The majority of the solos will be overdubs. It just depends on how it feels right. There’s a fast boogie called “Hot for Teacher.” There’s another one called “Anytime, Anyplace” with a live solo on it. Lots of overdubs. My dad might play an intro for a song. There’s a song called “Panama” with a live solo, and a song called “Jump.”

There are some keyboard tracks on the album?

Yeah, I’ve been getting into keyboards lately. Donn [Landee, engineer] is going to find me a piano. There are two songs basically based on keyboard; one is called “Jump” and I don’t know what the other one is called yet.
I’m using an OBX-A and an OB-8. With a synthesizer you can fool around with sounds to the point where you’ll be happy. The last song we did I actually came up with on the OBX-A, but the thing wouldn’t stay in tune so they gave me a loaner while the OBX-A was being fixed. They gave me the OB-8 but it wouldn’t get the same left-hand sound as the OBX-A, so I just had to make do with whatever it would get. It ended up sounding completely different, but I still liked it.

Do you think at all about what people might say concerning you playing keyboards as opposed to guitar?

I think as long as I do whatever I do well, whatever they say I don’t really care. I mean they can’t say that it sucks. If they don’t like seeing me play keyboards that’s too bad.

Haven’t you also been using another guitar built specifically for you?

It’s a guitar built by Steve Ripley. He had this idea where each string on the guitar has an individual pan pot. You have to use two amplifiers. On this guitar you can pan each string to whatever side you want. I have a super-duper prototype which allows you to not only put each string to the left or right, but also add an effect to each string, left or right. It’s a crazy sound. I use it on two tracks on the album and I’ll definitely take it out live.

Are there plans for a tour?

January 19th is the last I heard.

© 1983 Guitar International

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