I laugh when people tell me that I'm riding my father's coattails

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May 29, 2021 at 11:33 am Quote #64109

ron
(10577)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/artists/wolfgang-van-haleni-laugh-people-tell-riding-fathers-coattails/

Wolfgang Van Halen: ‘I laugh when people tell me that I’m riding my father’s coattails’

The son of prodigious guitarist Eddie Van Halen talks growing up in the spotlight, his father’s demons, grief, and forging his own path
By Matt Mills 29 May 2021 – 12:00pm

How hard must it be to build your own legacy as a rock star when you’re called “Wolfgang Van Halen”? Sharing a first name with the greatest classical composer of all time would be bad enough by itself. But then there’s that surname.

Yet, the only son of guitar god Eddie Van Halen and actress Valerie Bertinelli, Wolfgang has never been one to let his lineage do the work for him. His decision to play bass for his dad and uncle Alex’s band, Van Halen, at just 15 years old reignited the aging virtuosos. It was also Wolfgang who returned Seventies-era megastar David Lee Roth to the fold. The lineup extended Van Halen’s livelihood for more than a decade, only stopping when their guitarist lost his life to cancer in October 2020.

Now, to both honour his father and forge his own path, the youngest Van Halen is embarking upon a solo career under the moniker of Mammoth WVH. The pseudonym isn’t a play for anonymity, rather a subtle continuation of the Van Halen legacy (Mammoth was a band name Eddie, Alex and singer Roth briefly used in 1974). However, the project’s self-titled debut album, which lands this week, could not be further from the vigour and exuberance that defined the now-inactive family band.

A gritty hard rock collection, Mammoth WVH was shaped more by Nineties icons like the Foo Fighters and Nine Inch Nails than early genre pioneers; an anthem like Horribly Right, which screeches to life before launching into a down-tuned groove heavy enough for Load-era Metallica, makes that abundantly clear. Similarly, the tapping lick of Mammoth sounds like the best guitar part Dave Grohl never wrote, while levity comes in the album’s plethora of hoarse choruses, each of which could soundtrack an open-top road-trip down the Pacific Coast Highway. “I laugh when people tell me that I’m riding my father’s coattails,” Van Halen quips while thinking about his new music, “because, if I was, I’d be doing a really bad job!”

Due to Mammoth WVH’s abrasive melodies, the 30-year-old has remarked on Instagram that he’s “fully prepared for a wave of hate when [his] music releases”. “That’s just because it’s not Van Halen,” he elaborates. “I think that, in this age of social media, people can be really simpleminded. They can’t comprehend that the spawn of Eddie Van Halen doesn’t tread the exact same ground to a tee. That said, I think that, if I were just retreading Van Halen, [the online backlash] would be a lot worse.”

The Nineties rock comparisons don’t begin and end at the music, either. Like the Foo Fighters before him, Van Halen plays every instrument on the album himself, making it a solo venture in the most literal sense.

“It was never an intentional thing; I just wanted to see if I could do it,” he explains. “Maybe subconsciously I feel I have to prove myself. People who really hate me have said I wasn’t even playing bass in Van Halen. They like to make up that we were piping the bass sound in [and] I was just mining along, which is so funny to me. Over the years, I’ve taken that as the biggest compliment. That means it’s good enough that they didn’t believe I was actually doing it! But, I’m playing everything here, so they can’t really argue with that.”

Social media hate — and the immense detriment it can have on one’s mental health — is a recurring topic as Van Halen talks via video call. Critiquing it seems to be a cornerstone of his ongoing goal to “dispel the rock star myth”; he may be the son of two famous entertainers, but he wants onlookers to understand that “we’re all just people with different jobs.”

“My childhood was never lavish; it was just normal, and family-oriented,” he elaborates. “My mum was very good at giving me a grounded childhood. She didn’t raise me like a Kardashian is probably being raised right now.”

Bertinelli, who became an American celebrity after starring as a smart-arse teen in sitcom One Day at a Time, effectively gave up acting to raise her son. “I shunned the spotlight in favor of a normal life, driving carpools, volunteering in my son’s classroom [and] making dinner,” she wrote in her autobiography. Dad Eddie, meanwhile, was less present, travelling the world as a touring rock star.

“Growing up, he certainly was the secondary parent,” Van Halen admits. “But, still, any time he was home, we bonded just as much as any son and father. When we eventually played together, that’s when [our relationship] was the best, because we got to see each other every day.”

Despite the extended periods apart, the two were close to the point that Van Halen considers his fondest memory as being when his dad took the family on a road trip. “My parents pulled me out of school for a week to rent a Winnebago and drive to the Grand Canyon. My dad pulled it into the house and tried to turn it around like that scene in Austin Powers,” he laughs. “He kept going, ‘I’ll do it! I’ll do it!’ It was a very ‘dad’ thing to do.”

It was on that trip that Eddie introduced young Wolfgang to AC/DC, and the rock ‘n’ roll education never stopped from that moment on. As one would expect, the guitar hero tried to teach his son how to play the instrument — however, he’d prove a disastrous mentor.

“It’s like when you find out that Albert Einstein couldn’t tie his shoes,” Van Halen smiles. “Someone is just so talented that imparting that knowledge is such a challenge for them. He tried, but then he would just proceed to be Eddie Van Halen. It’s like, ‘You need to give me more than just A to B!’”

He continues: “I picked up the drums instead; that was the result of Dad being a successful teacher. He put magazines on a table and he pretended one was a high-hat. Another one was a snare; if you can put a kick in between those then that’s a straight-up Highway to Hell, AC/DC drumbeat. When he saw I could do it, he went, ‘Happy birthday!’ on my ninth birthday and gave me a drum kit.”

Clearly, Van Halen still idolises his dad, with words like “loving” and “supportive” being used incredibly frequently. However — again humanising the seemingly untouchable rock star archetype — he also paints him as a fragile and complex person. Behind the extroverted performer was a sensitive soul who fought anxiety and, in the early 2000s, a battle with tongue cancer. Drug and alcohol abuse plagued him until he entered rehab in 2007 — the same year that he and Bertinelli divorced, following six years of separation.

“I think I was forced to mature way earlier than people are normally asked to,” Wolfgang reflects. “As wonderful a father as he was, he had a lot of demons. They would come out every now and then. It’s why my parents split.”

Staying by Eddie’s side as he rebuilt his life was Wolfgang’s primary motive for joining Van Halen as their bassist. The then-teenager initially picked up the instrument so that he could jam on what he mistakenly thought would be an easier version of the guitar, alongside his dad.

“My reason for doing what I was doing was just to be with my dad and support him,” he remembers. “His anxiety was always so bad. We were just there to support each other in this new phase of his life.

“The way it started, it was just for fun,” he continues. “Dad, [Alex] and I, for months, would play together just because we enjoyed it. It wasn’t until a couple of months in that we were like, ‘There’s something really special here.’ That’s when I called David [Lee Roth]‘s manager as a 15-year-old kid.”

Van Halen returned to the stage in September 2007, fronted by Roth for the first time in more than 22 years. The band created what would be their swan song, A Different Kind of Truth, at the behest of Wolfgang, who scoured old demos for ideas to reincorporate into their long-awaited comeback.

However, by 2017, Eddie’s health was once again failing. “He was diagnosed with [stage four] lung cancer,” explains Van Halen. “We got some good, liveable years, but that was the beginning [of the end], I would say.

“It really didn’t take a turn for the worst until the end of 2019,” he adds. “There were still positive moments in between, but that’s when it took a nosedive. So many different health issues stacked on top of each other. He just buckled under the weight of it all.

“When you grow up you always know, ‘One day I’ll have to take care of the parent,’ but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. While it was happening I was like, ‘OK, it’ll happen later,’ but little did I know I was already in the middle of it.”

Eddie passed away on 6 October, 2020. Five weeks later, Van Halen debuted his Mammoth WVH venture, releasing moving epitaph Distance. “I’m so happy you’ve found a place that’s better for you than this rock we’re living on,” the ballad hums, later repeating: “No matter what the distance is, I’ll be with you.”

Despite emerging in the wake of Eddie’s death, Mammoth WVH was a project that had long been gestating. Van Halen first entered the studio in January 2015, working on and off for more than six years to make his full-length debut a reality.

“I was kind of figuring out who I was as my own artist; that’s why it took so long,” he explains. “We finished around June or July 2018. By that point we shelved everything so I could be with my dad. It was, ‘Do you wanna go on tour for however long, or stay at home with your dad?’ I made the right choice.”

During recording, Eddie and Wolfgang laid the groundwork for Van Halen’s comeback tour, jokingly calling it ‘The Kitchen Sink Tour’. The plan was for Mammoth WVH to open for a Van Halen that had reunited with classic bassist Michael Anthony, as well as both Roth and Sammy Hagar on vocals. Similar rumours persisted even after Eddie’s death, with fake news spreading that the band would return with Wolfgang on guitar. “It was insensitive,” lambasts Wolfgang, “and very on-brand for social media and the whole sense of entitlement the anonymity bestows upon people. People just think everything belongs to them and they deserve it.”

The next time Van Halen hits the road, it will be with Mammoth WVH, now armed with a full touring lineup and 14 heavy rock anthems. The quartet have already made their debut performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, setting a strong precedent for a career to come. And, even in spite of social media toxicity and worldwide delusions about the intangible rock star, Van Halen has every intention of persisting for as long as he can.

“I feel like making music is all I’m good at,” he summarises. “The spotlight is a part of it that you have to deal with, but it’s certainly not why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I love making music and it makes me happy.”

Mammoth WVH is out June 11 via EX1 Records. See http://www.mammothwvh.com


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May 30, 2021 at 6:22 pm Quote #64110

ModelCitizen
(308)

He needs to learn to ignore the trolls on social media. He’s never going to change any of their hearts and minds.

He’s very talented and he should have a great career. But he spends a lot of energy arguing with those clowns.


…Zero Discipline


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May 31, 2021 at 12:39 am Quote #64111

unchainedheart
(1711)

ModelCitizen: He needs to learn to ignore the trolls on social media. He’s never going to change any of their hearts and minds.

He’s very talented and he should have a great career. But he spends a lot of energy arguing with those clowns.

so true ,


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June 1, 2021 at 1:51 am Quote #64118

jorge
(396)

Completely agree with you here. He’s smashing almost every question or remark he doesn’t like. I can totally understand it if someone talks shit about his family but it goes far beyond that and reveals even slight signs of arrogance in my opinion. He should be very careful here, sometimes less is more. It might get better once the album is out, however it might also turn for worse because of the public response to the album, who knows?
Time to get his show out on the road so he’ll spend less time on social media.

ModelCitizen: He needs to learn to ignore the trolls on social media. He’s never going to change any of their hearts and minds.
He’s very talented and he should have a great career. But he spends a lot of energy arguing with those clowns.


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September 6, 2021 at 9:00 am Quote #64531

ron
(10577)


Wolf Van Halen
@WolfVanHalen
Thank you @ChibsonUSA, for the newest and hottest piece of @mammothwvh merch.

I won’t ride them, but now YOU can!

Pick up your 100% Genuine VH Coat Tails at http://thisisjustajokeandnotactuallyreal.com and piss everyone off now!


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September 6, 2021 at 10:39 am Quote #64532

vhrob
(1613)

hahaha thats awesome I love Wolfies humor on this and his resonce…

such an awesome kid

Rob


vhtrading member since 2000


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