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Van Halen Interview From 1980
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  1. #1
    Band Technician
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Van Halen: Remnants Of The Flesh Hangover

    Dave DiMartino, Creem, July 1980

    ONE THING that's always bothered me about myself: I enjoy offending people. I've done it for years and see no need to stop. I have offended people by the way I look, the way I speak, the way I act, the films I see, the hamburgers I eat, the people I know, and the snotty, elitist music I most often listen to. This is not a healthy way to live and I realize it. I can't explain the essential why behind it all, so I don't. And I guess I'm an asshole.

    But you aren't reading this magazine because of me and I'm going to shut up in a minute, so don't worry. Just consider the above paragraph and answer the following question:

    Why do I love Van Halen?

    First of all, let's round up some names. Ted Nugent, UFO, Judas Priest, Scorpions, Rush, Foghat, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, maybe Foreigner. Next, let's consider the ONLY reasons this trainload-o'-turkeys will be remembered 10 years from now. Ted Nugent: funny guy, song titles like ‘Wang Dang Sweet Poontang’: UFO: covered a song by Love; Judas Priest: funny clothes, did ‘Diamonds And Rust’ the way it should have been done: Scorpions: offensive album covers; Rush: I'll think of something; Foghat: Dave Edmunds – produced debut LP; Aerosmith: big lips; Black Sabbath: the phrase "I am Iron Man"; Foreigner: new racist slogan, not much else.

    Basically this music shares one really important quality: it's BORING as hell. It also functions at two important social levels – 1) it scares the hell out of parents who hear it blaring out of their kiddies' bedrooms, and 2) played loud enough, it fills in the gaps of silence between the conversations of kids who really don't have anything to say to each other. It provides release, albeit a flawed one, and considering how screwed up the world is right now, who says that that in itself is "bad" or not entirely appropriate?

    Hey, this isn't a flat out dismissal of current HM music, it's just that there was (and is) so much BETTER music-to-bang-your-head-to than the current Nugent sludge. Before I took this assignment, I decided that if there wasn't some kind of Positive Message behind it, I wouldn't even bother with it. Honestly. So I went through my records and pulled out what meant the most to me as pure, bona fide Heavy Metal music, and came up with a pile of records that puts Judas Priest & company back in the Bozo Leagues where they belong Though I usually listen to this stuff when I'm flat-out drunk these days, it still sounds just as good right now, while I type, completely sober:

    1) BLUE OYSTER CULT – ‘The Red And The Black’, from their live EP.

    2) MC5 – ‘Looking At You’, first version.

    3) IGGY POP – ‘Gimme Some Skin’ 45.

    4) PINK FAIRIES – ‘Do It’.

    5) YARDBIRDS – ‘Stroll On’ from Blow-Up, the best Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page ever have been.

    6) VELVET UNDERGROUND – ‘European Son’ and Side Two of White Light/White Heat.

    7) BLUE CHEER – ‘Doctor Please’ from Vincebus Eruptum.

    8) RORY GALLAGHER – ‘Laundromat’ from Rory Gallagher.

    9) GOLDEN EARRING – ‘Radar Love’.

    10) LOVE – ‘August’ from Four Sail.

    You think I don't realize how dopey ‘Radar Love’ looks up there? The point is that this is the kind of music that used to make me lock my bedroom door when I was a kid and jump up and down in front of the mirror and pretend I was playing lead guitar. This music excited me at one point in my life and continues to excite me today. And I don't think that someone else will be writing in CREEM in 10 years (ignore obvious joke) about how they used to jerk off in front of a mirror playing ‘Fly By Night’ or something from the fourth Aerosmith album. I don't think it'll work like that, and the basic reason is quality. Nugent, Judas Priest and all their buddies simply can't write songs, songs that mean anything or songs that aren't mere platforms for their meager playing ability – and therein lies all the difference in the world.

    Which, of course, brings us to Van Halen.

    I've tried but can't precisely explain the power of Van Halen's appeal, let alone why I like them so much. I'd be tempted to call the band "America's Led Zeppelin" if I thought that would be a compliment – and here I'm talking about magnitude and ability, not style. Fact is, Van Halen surpassed Led Zeppelin on a pure artistic level when their debut album came out, back in '78. As everyone intelligent surely knows by now, the last and only great Led Zeppelin album was their first one. And that's over 10 years old


    1) Playing Ability – Guitarist Edward Van Halen plays the best Stun Guitar around. He's one of the few good HM guitarists with chops who truly realizes that Excess Means Success; in his case, he couldn't be more excessive if he tried. You know what "Eruption" is? It's that almost two-minute guitar intro to ‘You Really Got Me’ from their first album. You know what "Tora! Tora!" is? It's the minute-long guitar intro to the new Van Halen album's second side. And do you know what both those cuts sound like? Buzzbombs. Or the inside of an Oldsmobile plant.

    2) Songwriting Ability – Like I said before, songs are what it all boils down to, and Van Halen, as much as they'd hate to admit it, write great pop songs. ‘Jamey's Cryin'’ and ‘Dance The Night Away’ are about as far removed from ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ as you can get. And they don't make a heavier song than ‘Runnin' With The Devil’. ‘The Iron Butterfly Theme’ comes close, but look what happened to those guys.

    3) Sense of Humor – Face it, these guys realize what they sound like. That's why David Lee Roth laughs all over the place on their three albums. And that's why "I need 'em, gotta have 'em," from ‘Beautiful Girls’ sounds just as cool as "Here comes one now/umm-Ummm!" from the O'Kaysions' ‘Girl Watcher’. Plus, they really do like girls.

    4) Obnoxiousness – Hey, there's no two ways about it, Van Halen is as obnoxious as it gets. On one side of the stage there's Edward Van Halen pumping away Dinosaur Death sounds, on the other is obvious-cool guy David Lee Roth making Arnold Ziffel-ish "EEEAAGGHHH!!" war whoops. And most people think Roth is either God's Gift To Women or a Total Jerk-Off, one more sure sign that he knows what he's doing. The full-length Roth-in-bondage poster that comes with the new album is the finishing touch. A great move.

    5) Great Records – Ted Templeman, who produced Captain Beefheart's Clear Spot, has given Van Halen the best recorded sound any HM has ever had, bar none. State of the art production for, no kidding here, the state of the art band. And according to both Templeman & the band, it's almost all done live in the studio. And why would they lie?

    Van Halen have booked two nights in Eetroit's Cobo Arena, and I, for one, am happy to hear it. Sad Van Halen fan confession: I'd never seen the band before. Offered a chance to talk to the guys, how could I turn it down?

    So I get to Cobo Arena a few hours before the show, hang around a little, and then hook up. A woman who works with the band brings me outside and a waiting limo delivers us to the front of the Detroit Plaza, at the new, big-bucks Renaissance Center. We walk inside and take an elevator up.

    The first thing I see on the Van Halen Floor is a robot. Really. Someone steers it by remote control, back and forth through the corridor. Already I can see that these Van Halen guys like fun. We walk into a room and I am introduced to the band: David Lee Roth, heavily-tanned, shirt off, just like all the pictures; Edward Van Halen, short, not quite as flashy; his brother Alex, muscle-bound, wearing sunglasses, grinning; and bassist Michael Anthony, short, not at all the total bull his pictures make him out to be.

    Big Question: Are these guys pricks?
    Big Answer: Nope.

    I tell David Lee Roth he should have read the letters we got about his CREEM DREEM shot. They were filthy. And mostly written by females. And the band loves it, happy with Roth's cutey-pie image, as they probably should be.

    I ask them how they hooked up with Helmut Newton, the hot-to-trot sicko photographer who shot the David-in-chains poster included in the new LP.

    "Well," says Roth, the natural wheeze in his voice just like on the records. "We jus heard he was in town." He's proud of it.

    "Helmut Newton is like what Andy Warhol was seven years ago. He did The Eyes Of Laura Mars – all the pictures that Faye Dunaway supposedly took are actually Helmut Newton's. They're really kind of way-out stuff," he says. "You know, kinky. It's different. It's upsetting. We heard he was in town. He shoots for a lot of fashion magazines and had turned down the Rolling Stones because he'd never shot rock 'n' roll, it wasn't his thing. We went down to the Beverly Hills Hotel, sat and talked to him, and after an hour or so he said, 'Yeah, I'd love to shoot you,' so he shot the session."

    Why the poster?
    Roth smirks. "We put the poster in because it upsets people. It's disturbing. It's one of those beautiful things where there's actually nothing going on in the picture and you're forced to use your filthy little imagination, which is always gonna be better than any picture.

    "Helmut Newton is into creating tension, really, creating tension wherever he can. And that's what rock 'n' roll is all about. A lot of tension."

    "And its release," says Edward. And everybody laughs. I wonder why for a minute 'til it's obvious these guys are laughing at some kind of dirty joke (&#33 and I realize that they weren't kidding about this Beautiful Girls business.

    Roth looks over at Edward: "Hey, you got somethin' in your mouth?" Edward opens his mouth and shows Roth some kind of mint while someone else dirty jokes: "It's from last night!!" And the joke is: not only do these guys Love Beautiful Girls, they love 'em as often as possible.

    Okay, what do you guys think about critics and what they say about your music?
    "They have to compare it to something," Alex says, still grinning.

    "We love to read the reviews," says Roth. "The worse they hate us, the more colorful adjectives they have to use, the more scenes they have to paint to explain why. It makes great reading!"

    Yeah. The worst thing of all is getting no attention at all, don't you think?

    "Yeah," says Edward.

    "Hey, the worst thing in entertainment," says Roth, "is to be boring, and there's a whole lot of boring people out there, who have to come up with reasons why they don't like something.

    "England is great. We've been over there three or four times, we sell a lot of records over there and the kids go nuts."

    "And you should read the reviews over there," says Alex.

    "People go crazy," Roth says, "and the reviews are just horrible."

    "It's great, man," nods Edward. "They're collector's items..."

    "They are, man, Roth enthuses. "They should be framed."

    This is great, I say. What do you guys like best about 'em?

    "Oh, they describe the crowd as 'Neanderthal,'" says Roth. "This and that, screamin'. groupies..."

    "And that Mike is a Mack truck on bass," says Edward.

    "And that the ceiling fell in, and that it terrified the reviewer," says Roth. "All I got to say is: the reason why so many critics dislike Van Halen and like Elvis Costello so much is because they all look like Elvis Costello."

    This gets the biggest laugh of all. "It's true!!" he says.

    We talk a little more about the band's early days, how they used to pack in huge L.A. audiences before they were even signed to a record label. Back then, they did cover versions of other people's material until their natural momentum got them signed and, three LPs later, headlining Cobo Arena for two nights. Two of their best (or funniest, take your pick) tunes have always been ‘You Really Got Me’ and ‘You're No Good’, and I ask them if there was any conscious decision on their part not to include any non-original material on the new LP.

    "Nah," says Alex, "a song is a song is a song. 'You Really Got Me' goes back to the bar days. We used to play it then, we still play it now, and everybody likes it. We like it, the audience likes it, and everybody's happy. Even Ray Davies."

    A big Van Halen royalties laugh.

    You guys especially pleased with any cut on the new LP?
    "Nope," says Roth. "It all sounds the same to me." More big laughs.

    "It's really heavy metal, man," says Edward. "You know it all sounds the same..."

    "Hey, it's called 'Big Rock,' " says Roth. "Where we're coming from is 'Big Rock.' 'Heavy Metal' means that you play a jam that lasts 10 minutes and you have words about outer space and 'the eternal revolving circle of your love'."

    Right, I tell 'em. Suddenly I'm thinking of Rush...

    "You're thinking that," Roth says, laughing. "Print that. It's tough enough out there that we don't have to hassle other musicians. You can."

    Everyone's laughing now. Even me. Wait a minute though, I say, why don't you guys try to explain it to me. How come I have such a great time listening to you guys but hate bands like Rush and Journey?

    "We have a motto," says Alex, "that there's a little bit of Van Halen in everybody, and that we're just there to bring it out And you just proved it."

    "Wait a minute, though," says Roth. "'Heavy Metal' to me, as we keep saying the words, conjures up a specific image, a certain person. If you say 'a heavy metal person' I picture a person who looks a certain way, treats women a certain way, and looks a certain way onstage. They're looking at their feet. We call 'em 'coke stars.' That is heavy metal.

    "Van Halen is not that; Van Halen is entertainment. Van Halen is entertainment delivered at maximum impact, but it's entertainment."

    You bet.

    I've got a question for you guys, I tell 'em. Why don't you guys just cut off all that hair?
    Alex, the only Van Halen with short hair, speaks up:

    "First of all," he says, "let me say this. I don't care about the length of anybody's hair, but mine burned off." Much laughter. "Yeah, it's true. In one of those spontaneous moments, we all decided to torch the drum kit, and I was just torched with it..."

    And Roth, often referred to as what Sylvia Miles would look like were she a male, continues:

    "I had a terrible dream that one night I woke up and walked out of the dressing room and everybody said 'You can't go out there with your hair like that. You look like Robert Dandy or Jim Plant!!' So I ran back into the dressing room and cut off my hair, real short an' everything, and when I came out, they said 'Jesus Christ! Now ya look like Johnny Rotten!' So I went back there and colored it – what else could I do? – and I drew lines on my face and put on make-up. And what they said was 'Alice Cooper is dead!' And I woke up screaming.

    "You just do what you feel," says Roth. "Ya know? And if you do it honestly, people are gonna pick up on that. You fake it, and they're gonna find out. Sure ya can fool people for a little while, make a great record, put on a great show – but it won't last. And we're talkin' about something that's gonna be the decade here, ya know?"

    I'm about to leave, but a few necessary questions remain.

    I talk to Edward, who's just been voted Guitar Player of the Year by the readers of Guitar Player magazine. Eddie, I ask, do you ever run into people who tell you to cut the rock 'n' roll shit, get serious and do your own project?

    "What shit?" asks Edward. "This is serious business. People have said that, and I'm doing exactly what I want. They ask me if I wanna cut a solo album and I say what the fuck for? Playing with Van Halen is like doing a solo album. Complete freedom to do what I want."


    Hey, do you guys have any major plans for the future?
    "Nah," says Eddie. "We just do it as it comes up!"


    "Which," says David Lee Roth, "is a whole 'nother interview with a whole 'nother magazine, folks."


    I walk back over to Cobo Arena a little later, use a backstage pass, and decide to sit in front of the stage for the hour or so before the show starts. Roadies and security I guards buzz around, preparing for the massive throng of HM freaks who'll soon be smuggling their bottles in.

    While I sit, smoking cigarettes, taking a few scattered notes, I realize that people are gradually walking in. But something's weird: they're coming from behind the stage. And they're girls! I mean it, girls! Who can't be much older than 16 or 17! And they've all got backstage passes!

    Hey, I think, those guys weren't kidding around...

    And the girls sit in groups of two and three, planning after-show strategies. Who gets David Lee Roth? Who gets the Van Halen brothers? Who gets the bass player?

    I didn't think things still worked this way. And to top it off, Van Halen's road manager – a real nice guy, incidentally – walks by me and then turns around. He pulls out an extra backstage pass and hands it to me.

    "Here," he says. "In case you wanna press some pussy after the show..."

    And the show was great, of course, but I figured it would be. Didn't you?

    After the show I went home.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Everybody wants some ! I want some too !

  2. #2
    Guitar Technician
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    United States
    Thanks man, that might just put things into perspective for all those misguided, lost, souls in search of an answer. ROCK ON!
    Me Wise Magic

  3. #3
    Band Manager
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Thanks a lot, EVH. :184:
    Listening to "Damn Good" (Skyscraper) and reading to this fantastic interview.
    What else could I want? Oh, the original Classic Van Halen line-up playing once again. That would be great. No, more: fantastic!

  4. #4
    Band Manager
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Birmingham West midlands England
    Thanks evh, great read and a great job putting that together, must have took some time i'm sure, as it took me ages to read it. :lol:
    But seriously, im sure everyone will appreciate it. Thanks again. :184:

    Brum, the birth place and home of Heavy metal music, and the occasional twister.

    Al says 'Rules is rules and if there isn't any rules then where would we be? thats right; France!'
    Australian women, genetically bred for bar work! cheers.
    "Thats captain Jack sparrow"

  5. #5
    Mr Mod Extraordinare
    Join Date
    Apr 2001
    Chicago area
    Man, does this take me back to high school browsing the latest rock magazines!
    LIGHT 'EM UP!!
    Smoke 'em if you got 'em!

    siN / DDLR Moderator

  6. #6
    I am now banned because I acted like an idiot
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    I got Creem magazine during my youth sometimes which I thought was weird & not like other great rock mags at the time like Circus. This article is great because it puts Van Halen with Led Zeppelin & Aerosmith like it supposed to be instead of with Motley Crue & Bon Jovi which is ludicrous.

  7. #7
    Metal Up Your A$$!
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Far, far away
    Great job, EVH. Thanks for sharing it with us. :184:
    Wolfgang Van Halen - "I love being a bass player. It’s just me and Al — a groove section. Just boom, boom, boom, and we’re good". GW
    Edward Van Halen - "What is next for Wolf is the next record and the next tour. He’s no different than I am. Music is his life. If he goes back to school, I’ll probably go with him.” GC

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    columbus ohio
    very nice! thouroughly enjoyed readin that man I do dig most of the bands you bashed though especially Rush and Zep.
    Badass muthafuckin drumma

  9. #9
    redsun at large!
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    WOW, that was great, I enjoyed reading that........Makes me miss the band even more...
    Is there anything left in that bottle?

  10. #10
    Wow, a blast from the past. I had the mag, and remember the article.

    VH at their best right there. How many interviews are out there with the whole band ? Not many !!



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