Eddie Van Halen: The Complete 1978 Interviews

Be Sociable, Share!

    On July 23, 1978, Van Halen and AC/DC opened the show for the Pat Travers Band, Foreigner, and Aerosmith at the Day on the Green concert at the Oakland Coliseum. Van Halen was midway through their first world tour, and this was their first northern California appearance. The band delivered a spectacular set. With Dave Lee Roth singing, they covered most of their debut album – “On Fire,” “I’m the One,” “Runnin’ With the Devil,” “Ain’t Talkin’ ’Bout Love,” “Atomic Punk,” “Feel Your Love Tonight,” and “You Really Got Me” – as well as “Bottoms Up” and “D.O.A.,” which would later show up on Van Halen II. Bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Alex Van Halen each took a solo turn, and then at the set’s climax Eddie Van Halen played “Eruption,” the earth-shaking guitar blitz that would, in essence, redefine the boundaries of hard-rock guitar. My introduction to Eddie came quite unexpectedly shortly after the band left the stage.

    The new assistant editor for Guitar Player magazine, I had been sent to the event to interview Pat Travers. When I showed up at his trailer, tape recorder and questions in hand, Travers looked up from his groupies and mirror just long enough to send me away with a petulant wave. I was not happy. To blow off steam, I began shooting baskets at a small court Bill Graham had set up backstage. A lean, wiry young guy about my age came over and said, “Hey, man, can I shoot with you?” After a spirited game of one-on-one, we sat in the shade at the court’s edge. “What band are you in?” he asked.

    “I’m not in a band.”

    “What are ya doin’ here?”

    “I’m an editor from Guitar Player magazine. I came here to interview Pat Travers, but he blew me off.”

    “Pat Travers blew you off? I can’t fucking believe that! Why don’t you interview me? Nobody has ever wanted to interview me.”

    “Who are you?”

    “Edward Van Halen.”

    I switched on my recorder, and Eddie gave me what he would later refer to as his “first major interview.” Here, for the first time ever, is a complete, unexpurgated transcription of our conversation from courtside.

    *          *          *          *

    You’ve just been nominated for Best Rock Guitarist in the Guitar Player Readers Poll.

    Are you kidding? [Laughs.] That’s a trip!

    Tell me about your guitar.

    My guitar? Which one? I got like three of them that are kind of tripped out. The first one is a copy of a Strat. It’s not a Fender. It’s a company called Charvel’s – they advertise in your magazine all the time. You know, I bought a body from them and a neck. A body for 50 bucks and a neck for 80, slapped them together, put an old Gibson pickup in it, and it’s my main guitar. Painted it up, you know, with stripes and stuff. I guess that’s my thing.

    Did you keep the original frets?

    Well, I usually do all that stuff myself. I put my own frets in.

    What kind do you use?

    Just large Gibson ones – the high ones.

    What are the electronics?

    One volume knob and one pickup [laughs] – that’s all there is to it. No fancy tone knobs over here! I see so many people that have these space-age guitars, you know, with all the phase switches and equalizers in their guitar and treble boosters, you know. When we were in Japan, some company wanted me to endorse their stuff. They hand me this guitar that’s got like twenty knobs on it – I couldn’t figure out how to work the thing! [Laughs.] I said, “Shit, give me mine. One knob.” That’s all it is. It’s simple and it sounds cool.

    What about your other two guitars?

    Okay, the other one is just an Ibanez which I slightly rearranged with a saw. It’s the one I use on “You Really Got Me.” I just cut a piece out of it, painted it up. It’s kind of like a cross between a [Flying] V and an Explorer. After we do this, I’ll show ’em to ya. They’re really tripped out. My other one I just put together over the couple days we had off. Yesterday I went down to Charvel’s, they gave me a body, and I just slapped a Danelectro neck on it, put an old Gibson pickup in it.

    Do you do all the work yourself?

    Yeah. Sure.

    What kind of strings are you using?

    Uh, Fenders. I don’t know the number – I think XL 150. The high E is a .009, the low one is a .040 or .042 – something like that. It’s a standard rock thing.

    And picks?

    Fenders – mediums or hards, whatever I can get.

    When did you first start playing?

    Um, let me see. I’ve been playing about eight to ten years. Me and Al both were born in Holland. My father used to be a professional musician there.

    What did he play?

    Saxophone and clarinet. Yeah, he used to play for radio shows because back then they used to have live radio shows instead of records. So he got us into music real early. We both started playing piano like at the age of six or seven.

    Did you take formal lessons?


    Learn to read?

    Oh, yeah! Definitely. I slightly know how to read for the guitar, because I know notes. But like if I see an A or an E, I don’t know which one it is in relation to the piano. But piano, yeah, I played for a long time. Got all my musical theory and stuff like that from playing piano. We used to have this old Russian teacher that was a super concert pianist, and that’s what our parents wanted us to be, was concert pianists. Started working, had a paper route. I bought myself a drum set.

    Is this in Holland?

    No, this was here. We moved over here about ten years ago – ’67, ’68, something like that – right around the Cream days. That’s when we came here. Because rock and roll, man, I wasn’t into it at all back there [in Holland]. There wasn’t much of a scene going on. We came here, and all of a sudden here’s Hendrix and Cream, around ’68, and I said, “Fuck the piano, man! I don’t want to sit down. I want to stand up and get crazy!” But before then, when we first came here, I started playing drums, and my brother was taking guitar lessons – flamenco, you know, nylon strings, stuff like that. While I was out doing my paper route so I could keep paying the payments for my drum set, he’d be playing my drums. And eventually he got better. I mean, he could play “Wipe Out,” and I couldn’t. [Laughs.] It was back in those days. So I said, “Keep the drums. I’ll play a guitar.” From there on, we’ve always played together. I’ve never played with another drummer.

    What kind of guitar did you start on?

    Teisco Del Rey – four pickups in a row. Cost 70, 80 bucks.

    Did you take lessons?

    Ah, no. Not for guitar. I’ve always been around music all my life, so I’ve kind of got an ear to pick up things pretty easy.

    What was your first professional gig?

    Well, what do you consider professional? Just making money or the first backyard parties? [Laughs.] We used to do some outrageous parties.

    When did you start playing parties?

    With this band [Van Halen], we used to play parties too.

    When did the band form?

    The way the band is right now, about three-and-a-half or four years ago.

    Who did you play with before that?

    It used to just be just me and Al and a different bass player. We used to be called Mammoth. I got tired of singing. I used to lead sing, you know, and I couldn’t stand that shit! I’d rather just play, concentrate on playing. So Dave was in another local band, and we used to rent his P.A. We said, “Fuck! It’s much cheaper if we just get him in the band!” So we got Dave in the band, and then we were playing this gig with Mike’s band, our bass player. A group called Snake – they opened for us. We were all tripped out, because he was lead singing for his band and fronting his own band. Dave was fronting his own band, and I was too at that time. Then we all just kind of got together.

    What city was this in?

    Pasadena, L.A., Arcadia. We all just kind of got stuck with each other, because by the time we graduated from high school, everyone had to go to school and be a lawyer or whatever.

    How did you get from there to playing coliseums in just four years?

    Oh, playing everywhere and anywhere. From backyard parties to places the size of your bathroom – you name it. Everything. And we did it all without a manager, without an agent, without a record company. I guess the main thing that really got us going was the Pasadena Civic. We used to print up flyers, with some local people helping us. But it was basically our own thing. We’d print up flyers with a picture on it and stuff like thousands of ’em in high school lockers. And the first time we played, I guess we drew maybe 900 people. The last time we did, which was almost a year ago, we drew 3,300 people at four or five bucks a head. And that was still without a record out or management or anything. It was about the only place where we could play our own music. We used to play Gazzaris and everywhere else, where you got to do the Top-40 grind, you know.

    How did you get your record contract?

    Ah, I was getting to that. We just kept playing, doing our Civic shows and clubs and stuff like that, and then we got into playing the Starwood and the Whiskey because Rodney Binginheimer, who’s a big wheel in the L.A.music scene, saw us. He said, “Shit, you guys are all right. Why don’t you play at the Starwood?” So we played there for maybe four or five months, and one day Marshall Berle, who’s now our manager, saw us. He’s Milton Berle’s nephew. He brought down – well, he didn’t tell us who was there. He just said, “Hey, there’s some people there to see you, so play good.” At that time he really had nothing to do with us. He was just working his way into having something to do with us. It ends up that we played a good set in front of no people, an empty house at the Starwood on a rainy Monday night. We got done with the set, and we’re all going, “Hey, it was a good set. All right, guys!” All of a sudden Marshall walks in with [producer] Ted Templeman and [Warner Bros. executive] Mo Austin. It was a heavy thing, man.

    Ted Templeman who produced the Doobie Brothers?

    Yeah. Well, he still produces them. He’s done them and whoever else. I mean, it was heavy because I remember talking to other bands, and they’ve always been trying to get Ted to produce their records, but he only works inside of Warner Brothers. He doesn’t produce other acts. And there he was. And he said, “Hey, it was great, man.” And within a week we were signed. It was right out of the movies, man, because really we never . . . . Well, we made a tape once with Gene Simmons from Kiss. We flew to New York with him, and nothing really ever came of it, because we didn’t know where in the hell to take our tape. So we had a bitchin’ sounding tape – the world’s most expensive demo tape, which he paid for. We didn’t know where to take it. We didn’t feel like walking around knocking on people’s doors, pushing ourselves on them, saying, “Hey, sign us, sign us!” We just kept playing everywhere, and eventually they came to us.

    How long ago was this?

    A year-and-a-half or so.

    How long did it take to cut the first album?

    Three weeks. The album is very live with no overdubs – that’s the magic of Ted Templeman. I’d say out of the ten songs on the record, I overdubbed the solo in two – “Runnin’ With the Devil” and “Ice Cream Man.” And “Jamie’s Cryin’” – three songs. All the rest are live! I used the same equipment I use live, the one guitar, soloed during the rhythm track, and Al just played one set of drums [laughs]. And Mike, you know. And Dave stood in the booth and sang a lot of lead vocals at the same time. The only thing we did overdub was the backing vocals, because you can’t play in the same room and sing with the amps – otherwise it will bleed onto the mikes. The music, I’d say, took a week, including “Jamie’s Cryin’,” which we wrote in the studio – I had the basic riffs to the song. And my guitar solo, “Eruption,” wasn’t really planned to be on the record. Me and Al were dickin’ around rehearsing for a show we had to do at the Whiskey, so I was warming up, you know, practicing my solo, and Ted walks in. He goes, “Hey, what’s that?” I go, “That’s a little solo thing I do live.” He goes, “Hey, it’s great. Put it on the record.” Same with “Jamie’s Cryin’.” So the music took a week, the singing took about two.

    What’s the difference between your studio and live playing?

    Well, between that record and the shows we’re doing now, I’d say none. [Laughs.] Because we were jumping around and drinking a beer and getting crazy in the studio too. There’s a vibe on the record, I think, to me, because a lot of bands, they keep hacking it out and doing so many overdubs and double-tracking and shit like that, it doesn’t sound real. And then a lot of bands can’t pull it off live because they overdubbed so much stuff in the studio that it either doesn’t sound the same, or they’re standing there pushing buttons to get their tape machines working right or something. So we kept it real live, and the next record will be very much the same.

    Have you already got plans for it?

    Oh, for the first record we went into the studio one day with Ted, and we all just played live and laid down like forty songs. And out of those forty we picked nine and wrote one in the studio for the record. So we got plenty of songs. As a matter of fact, I’m gonna get together with Ted on Wednesday and figure out which songs off that tape that we’re gonna do for the next one. But we’ve been writing, and we’ve got so many more songs since that tape, and we’ve got like thirty songs left just on that tape. I think we’re gonna use just that tape for the next album, because Ted seems pretty sure that he’s got some hit action or whatever just out of those songs. A little polish here and there, but the basic ideas are there.

    What kind of practicing do you do?

    I never really sit down and really practice, like shut myself in a little room and go, “All right, I’m serious now.” You know, I just sit around and whenever I get bored, I play my guitar.

    Do you compose with the guitar?

    Sure, sure. Sometimes I don’t. Mainly I’m always thinking music. I’m always trying to think of riffs, using my head. Like sometimes people think I’m spacing off, but I’m not really. I’m thinking about music.

    Can you remember it later?

    Sometimes yeah, sometimes no. Most of the time I’m so high, I forget. By the time I get to a guitar, I forget!

    What kind of equipment and effects do you use?

    Ah, I’ll tell ya, man, the stuff I used onstage today isn’t really my setup. See, we toured Japan, and on the way back over, all my good shit got ripped off. Got lost in air freight – by [shouts into microphone] Pan Am, ya fuckers! No, really. Some of it got lost – didn’t get put on the same plane, whatever. I used to have four very old Marshalls – like ’65 – and I had a guy named Jose, who’s in the San Fernando Valley somewhere, beef ’em up. He put bigger transformers in ’em. There’s a thing called bias in an amp, and you crank it all the way up and it really makes the tubes hot. I use these other things, which are called voltage generators – like a Variac? It’s a big box with a knob on it that controls voltage. Plug your amp into it, and it goes all the way from zero volts to like 140. The amp’s only supposed to take 100 volts, but you crank the thing above that like to 130, 140 volts, and the tubes really glow. So ya gotta keep a fan on ’em. Those amps used to blow like every other gig, and you have to retube them every other day, but they crank! They sound like nothing else to me, because they’re so overdriven. They usually don’t work for more than ten hours of playing – maybe even less, because usually every other gig they blow out. They drop like flies, you know.

    How many amps do you use?

    I had four good amps that I used to use all the time, but I don’t have them anymore. What I basically have is three different setups, three complete setups. I have three 100-watt tops of whatever make – right now I’m using Music Man, a couple of Laney amps, which are English, and a couple of new Marshalls. I’m just using everything right now because I lost those old amps. But I use like three 100-watt amps for the main set – what I call it – and then I do my guitar solo, and after that I change guitars and amps to setup number two. And setup number three is also again three amps, for backup.

    So you have each guitar plugged . . .

    Into a different setup. So if something is wrong with the first one, all I do is grab another guitar and it’s completely different amps, so I don’t have to worry about trying to fix the setup that I was using. With my guitars, I use one pickup in the back and the vibrato – that’s the sound I’m into right now. Who knows what will happen on the next record.

    What about effects?

    I use two Echoplexes. I use a flanger, just for little subtle touches. I don’t use it for any intros or anything, just notes here and there, like maybe I’ll hit a low note [makes growling sound] and hit the switch, just for little subtle effects. And I use a phase shifter, a Phase 90 – MXR, I think. It doesn’t really phase; it just kind of gives you treble boost, which I like. Cuts through for solos. That’s about it. I use a Univox echo box, and I had a different motor put in it so it will go real low and delay much slower. Like on the record, on “Eruption,” on the end of my solo [imitates the descending notes at the solo’s end], all that noise? That’s a Univox echo box, which I put in the bomb. Did you see that thing?

    That big torpedo you have onstage?

    Yeah, it’s a bomb, a practice bomb. They used to fill it with dirt and drop it on the beach for target practice or whatever. Yeah, I thought it looked cool. Usually it blows up.

    What’s your strategy for playing guitar within the band?

    I do whatever I want. [Laughs.] I don’t really think about it too much. I’d say that’s the beauty of being in this band, that everyone pretty much does what they want. I don’t know. It’s not that strict. Everyone just does what they want. They throw out ideas, and whatever happens, happens.

    Do you change songs for each set?

    What do you mean? Like, say, if we play tomorrow, would the set be exactly the same?

    Do you leave yourself room to do what you want onstage?

    Oh, yeah, definitely. Half the time I forget the solos I played on the record. Everything is pretty much spontaneous, you know. It’s not so set. We used to have a keyboard player, and I hated it, because you have to play everything exactly the same all the time with the guy. You couldn’t noodle. Like in between vocal lines, you couldn’t noodle because he’d be doing something to fill it up. And I didn’t dig it, because I play too much – sometimes I guess too much. But I like to play my guitar. I don’t want someone else filling where I want to fill it. [Laughs.] I’ve always liked to play three-piece, because I just play too much, I guess.

    What guitar players were you most influenced by?

    Uh, that’s a toughie, really. But I’d say the main one, believe it or not, was Eric Clapton. I mean, I know I don’t sound like him . . . .

    You’re more like Hendrix or Blackmore.

    Yeah, I know. I don’t know why, because Hendrix I like, but I was never into him like I was Clapton. And Clapton, man, I know every fuckin’ solo he ever played, note-for-note, still to this day.

    You memorized them?

    Oh, yeah! I used to sit down and learn that stuff note-for-note.

    Off the record?

    Yeah. The live stuff, like “Spoonful,” “I’m So Glad” live – all that stuff. But Hendrix too. Just like the whole band – none of us really have one main thing that we like. Like Dave our singer doesn’t even own a stereo. He listens to the radio, which is a good variety. That’s why we do have, like on the record, we got “Ice Cream Man,” which is a change from the slam-bang loud stuff. You know, we’re into melodies, melodic stuff. Most of our songs you can sing along with, even though it does have the peculiar guitar and end-of-the-world drums.

    What advice would you give a young guitarist who wants to follow the route you’ve gone?

    You just have to enjoy what you’re doing. I mean, you can’t pick up a guitar and say, “I want to be like him, I wanna be a rock star,” just because you wanna be a rock star. You know? You have to enjoy playing guitar. If you don’t enjoy playing guitar, then it’s useless. Because I know a lot of people who really want to be famous or whatever, but they don’t really practice guitar. They think all you do is grow your hair long and look freaky and jump around, and they neglect the actual musical end, which is tough. To learn music is like going to school to be a lawyer. But you have to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, then forget it.

    Does reading music help?

    [Tentatively] Uh, it would help in certain things. I don’t think it really helped me that much. It doesn’t help me in writing songs, you know. I can usually remember what I come up with, and I put it on tape. That’s all. Unless you read charts, unless you’re a studio musician, then you have to know how to read. That’s what I like about rock and roll – it’s more feeling than technical. That’s why I hate a lot of bands, because they’re so technical that there’s no life to it. I like loose rock and roll with good musicians.

    What’s your opinion of the recent state of rock and roll?

    I say it’s cool. I’ve never given up on rock and roll. I remember people used to say, “Ah, rock and roll is dead. It’s gone.” Bullshit. I don’t think so. It’s always been there. It’s still the main stadium sell-out thing.

    What are your plans for the future?

    Plans for the future, man, just to keep fuckin’ rockin’ out! You know, playing good guitar.

    Are you heading into any new areas with your guitar?

    Ah, sure. We got some acoustic tunes, which sound real nice.

    You use an acoustic guitar?

    I’ve never really owned one. I play it on electric, but I know it will sound much better on an acoustic, because it’s acoustic type of riffs. And I play keyboards. So does my brother. So don’t be surprised if you hear some piano or synthesizer or something on the next record or maybe the third one. I don’t think we’re gonna make any drastic changes for the next one. I think a lot of people make that mistake: They make too drastic of a change, and people go, “Ohh, I don’t like ’em anymore.”

    How long have you had your main striped Strat?

    A couple years. Before that I used to have an old gold-top Les Paul.

    What happened to it?

    I painted it up and ruined it. [Laughs.] Nobody taught me how to do guitar work. I learned by trial and error, and I fucked up a lot of good guitars that way. But now I know what I’m doing, so now I can do whatever I want with guitars to get them the way I want them, because I hate store-bought, off-the-rack guitars. They don’t do what I want them to do.

    Which is?

    Which is fuckin’ kick ass and scream! Like the vibrato setup – you gotta know how to set the thing up so it won’t go out of tune, which took me a long time to get down. I mean, no one ever told me. I used to talk to other guitarists who half-ass had it down, and they wouldn’t let me know how to do it. But I figured it out, and I can just twang the fuck out of that thing now, and it won’t go out of tune.

    I think that’s it.



    *          *          *          *

    When I returned to Guitar Player magazine after that Day on the Green, my editor Don Menn was delighted that I’d scored the interview with Eddie. We decided to run it as a feature article in the November 1978 Guitar Player, which had a Roy Clark cover story. While I was working on the article, Eddie and I spoke via telephone on August 20, 1978, to clear up some details.

    You mentioned having trouble with your vibrato system until you learned how to set it.


    How do you set it now?

    Uhhh. Well, that’s one thing I really don’t tell people.

    Oh, yeah?

    Yeah, because then, you know, you get everybody and their brother doing it too.


    Well, I’ll try to tell ya. Okay. It’s a combination of a lot of things. You know the little string retainers at the top of the neck? If those clamp down, like the way Fender Strats always come from the factory, if those things are tied real down, the strings will get caught up in there and go out of tune. The amount of springs that you use in the back affects it too.

    Do you change the tension of the springs themselves?

    Yeah. They’re Fender springs, but they’re a little looser.

    So you buy a different spring?

    Yeah. Really, though, it’s got a lot to do with the way you play it. Like you can’t just bring it down and not bring it back up. Because some people hit the bar and just let it go. You kind of have to pull it back up right. And then sometimes when you stretch a note too far when you’re fingering it with your left hand, it’ll go flat. Then you have to pull the bar back up to bring it back to normal.

    So it’s more a matter of technique.

    Yeah. It’s not really one thing, like it’s a big secret, but a lot of things are involved. And also the type of strings that you use. But I found that a gauged set, as opposed to making up your own string gauges, works better. Just a regular pack of gauged strings that you buy. See, what I used to do was always use heavier bottom strings and lighter top ones. But if the set’s not matched, then it won’t work very well with the vibrato either. So my Fender strings start with .009 and go to either a .040 or .042.

    Eddie, when were you born?

    Uh, January 26th, 1957.

    How did you meet Marshall Berle?

    How did we meet Marshall? He booked the Whiskey. You know, he’s been around. He used to manage Spirit, I think it was. So he’s always been in the business and stuff. What he did is he brought Mo Austin and Ted Templeman down to see us at the Starwood.

    Was this in ’77?

    Yeah, it was about a year-and-a-half ago, I guess. It was a year ago March. We weren’t signed with Marshall or anything then, but he brought ’em down. The record company asked, “Do you have a manager?” We go, “No.” So they said, “Well, how about Marshall?” We said, ‘Yeah.”

    What kind of a stage setup do you use for your amp tops?

    I’ve been through everything. [Laughs.] I used to have some old Marshalls that were pretty nice-sounding, but I lost those. So now I’ve got some new Marshalls. I have these English amps that are called Laneys. These are 100-watt and they’re very similar to a Marshall. I use Music Mans. What else do I have? I can’t even remember – I’ve got so many different heads! I just got to patch them all together and hope it sounds cool. It’s working out pretty good. The Music Mans sound alright.

    When your band writes a song, what usually comes first?

    Uh, the music.

    Who composes it? You?

    Yeah! I’m the only guitarist, so I usually come up with a riff, you know, and take it from there.

    Do you have ideas about what Mike and Al should do, or do they instinctively know?

    Oh, everyone works out their own part. We try to make it sound like a complete song, instead of everybody spacing off and doing their own little solo trip. We all work together, and we suggest things to each other, and it works out fine.

    Your main guitar with the Charvel body and neck – you have one pickup in it?

    Yeah, just one. It’s a rewound P.A.F., an original old Gibson pickup. I had the coil rewound to my specifications.

    Why do you use just one pickup?

    Well, it’s just basically the sound I like. You can get different tones out of it.

    Have you experimented with putting it in different places along the body?

    Yeah. And right about where it is is where I like it. I had another one just like it where I thought maybe if I routed out the body and put it really close to the bridge that it might sound good, but it sounded so trebley. And then you move it forward and you start getting the Johnny Winter tone, you know. It’s just a different tone, which doesn’t sound cool for rhythm.

    It’s less sharp?

    Yeah. It’s kind of like when you’re playing a Les Paul and you put the pickup switch in the middle – you’re getting the back and the front pickup, which is really kind of like the middle [laughs].

    So you prefer it a little bit towards the back.

    Yeah, yeah. Gives it more bite, you know. Crunches a little better.

    How have you modified the Ibanez?

    Really what I did was I took a chainsaw to it and cut a big hole out of it. Looks like teeth, you know. [Laughs.] It looks pretty trippy. It’s got two points, right? One points up in the back and one points down in the front. Right below the back point, the part behind the bridge, I cut out a section, making it sort of look like a V, but not really, because it’s not a clean cut. You know, it’s done with a chain saw, and I like the way it looked. It looked trippy – it looks like teeth.

    Does it have a standard neck?

    Yeah. It’s completely stock, really, except for the paint job and the electronics and stuff. It’s just an Explorer or Destroyer – whatever they call ’em.

    What about the third Charvel, the one you just put together?

    They are making Explorer bodies now too, and I just put that thing together in one afternoon, just like I did with the Strat that I play.

    The Strat?

    Well, yeah, the Charvel Strat. I guess it’s not really a Strat. The body style is a Strat, but the electronics and everything else really isn’t. I just bought another guitar, an old 1952 [Gibson Les Paul] gold-top. I was just playing it.

    How do you like it?


    Does it have the Bigsby tailpiece?

    No, no. It’s not completely original. But where the strap hooks up you can still see the part, the thing that used to hold the Bigsby. A regular stud tailpiece is in it now, with a Tune-o-matic bridge.

    Do you think you’ll start getting into the Les Paul sound?

    I don’t know. With my Strat, the Charvel thing I got, it doesn’t sound that much different than a Paul. I play a Paul all the time too.


    Sure. For the end of the set, because usually by the end of the set, my Strats are out of tune! [Laughs.] But I don’t know. I like Pauls too. The main reason I don’t like them is because everybody and their brother plays one.

    How about the sound as opposed to your Charvel?

    It might be taste fatter, but sometimes that fatness makes it garble up with everything else. Makes it so fat that it doesn’t really stand out.

    Do you modify your Pauls?

    No. Just the pickups. They’re P.A.F.’s also, rewound.

    You really like those P.A.F.’s.

    Oh, yeah! Like on the record, I like the way they sound. They really sound different. They’re not stock, though. Like this one right here, I just bought that gold-top because it’s got two original ones in it, but they don’t sound quite right, so I gotta get ’em rewound.

    Do you like life on the road now that you’re doing the big tour?

    Sure, it’s cool! Yeah, I like it. When we first started touring – I forget what band we were with – we were on the same plane with them, and they’re going, “Ah, you guys are going to get so sick of each other by the time you’re halfway through the tour.” We asked them, “How long you guys out for?” They go, “Oh, six weeks, man. That’s about all we can handle.” We told them that we were gonna be out till April or June. Right now we’ve been out since the third week of February and this is August, so it’s been about six months already.

    What’s the best part?

    Ah . . . . [Laughs.] You know, the chicks, partyin’, and playin’. You just gotta take it in stride. You can’t get too bombed out at night, and then you feel shitty the next day.

    Are you getting much writing done on the road?

    Lots of ideas, but not really completed songs.

    Where’s the best place for writing?

    It used to be our basement. See, we’re touring ’til the end of November, and then in December we’ll be doing our next record. Dave spoke to Ted a week ago, and I think he might fly out and stay with us a couple of days and talk about what we’re gonna do. See, we made that initial tape of about thirty-five or forty songs and took ten songs off for the first record, and he seems to think that we can get the next one out of that tape too.

    What do you think?

    Well, I’d kind of like to do some new stuff too, just for our own sake.

    Have you considered cutting live?

    Yeah. I don’t know. Why not? It’ll be fun. I like live albums. Our studio albums are pretty live in a way too, though.

    You mentioned you only overdubbed on three songs.

    Yeah. The thing is, it sounds more spontaneous that way. A lot of records sound so dull and lifeless because they sound too mechanical.

    And it’s great that Templeman puts your guitar way in front.

    Yeah, yeah. Yep.

    Well, that covers it. Thanks.

    All right, man. Thank you too.

    *          *          *          *

    For more on Eddie Van Halen:

    Eddie Van Halen: The Complete 1979 Interview

    Eddie Van Halen: The Dave Lee Roth Era

    Contact photographer Jon Sievert at jon@humblepress.com or visit his website’s photo gallery at Humble Press .

    Donations to help maintain this Archive are appreciated.

    © 2011 Jas Obrecht. All rights reserved. This interview may not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

    Be Sociable, Share!

      5 comments on “Eddie Van Halen: The Complete 1978 Interviews

      1. Stratoblogster on said:

        Yeah! All meat and not a speck of cereal!

      2. Brett Kingman on said:

        Fantastic read. Thanks for sharing!

      3. Thanks for the great read. This really takes me back to when they first started out. Eddie always makes it sound so simple and easy. He is so laid back in this interview, no attitude, and he’s really enjoying his time playing live.

        Thank you again for the great article!


      4. i still have a copy of this issue – i remember it like yesterdat

      5. Chris on said:

        Cool, I still have that issue from the day, great to read it unedited too, thanks man.

      Leave a Reply

      Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


      HTML tags are not allowed.