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Eddie Van Halen 1982 Interview, Part 2
The Diver Down transcription continues...
This audio link is the same as the one for Part 1. It’s been duplicated here for those who want to listen along as they read the transcript.
I’ve got a few more song questions for you.
Your “Secrets” chord progression was more up-tempo than usual. Did you flatpick that or fingerpick it?
I don’t understand. Speak two-year-old language.
Did you use a pick or your fingers?
Oh, a pick. For “Secrets”? Yeah. I use a double-neck 12-string and 6-string on the bottom.
A Gibson. You know, the Jimmy Page model. Except that’s not what I’m using anymore, because when we went on tour, everyone started saying, “Hey, you look just like Jimmy Page!” You know Floyd Rose?
Yeah, I know Floyd.
Him and I are both endorsing and working with Kramer guitars. And we got this vibrato with a fine-tune thing in it so you don’t have to unclamp the nut to tune the guitar. And they’re gonna call it the Eddie Van Halen whatever tremolo unit, and you know Floyd and I are working together with Kramer. And they built me a double-neck that’s great. I used it tonight for the first time and it really sounded good.
You’re really picking up the guitars.
What do you mean?
You’re getting a lot of guitars.
Yeah, well, shit. I love playing, I love ripping them apart and fuckin’ them up. [Laughs.]
Do you still use your first one on stage a lot?
My original black and white one? That’s my main axe. That is the only guitar that I use to record, except for “Cathedral” I used the regular Stratocaster, to get a little more amazing type of sound or whatever.
Did you say you played the synthesizer on “Dancing in the Street”?
Yeah, at the very beginning [sings the riff] – it’s a Mini-Moog.
Was that solo a first take?
Ummm… I remember I did three of ’em. I forget which one we picked. I think it might’ve been first, yeah, because I did the solo to “Secrets” and “Dancing in the Street” right after each other. I know “Secrets” was first take.
Yeah, you kind of laid back on that. It sounded great.
Well, it fit the song. You know, just feedback from some people – they go, “There weren’t enough guitar solos!” But what people don’t realize that a song like “Secrets” doesn’t call for a fucking craziness solo. You have to do a solo that fits the song.
What about “Hang ’Em High,” the solo there?
That was crazy. It was just loose, fun, craziness. I mean, I play it better every night live than I did on record, but who gives a fuck? It has feeling.
That had kind of a chord melody in it?
What do you mean?
A melody played with chords.
Well, kind of… [Sings a few notes.]
Did you write the bass part?
[Plays on 12-string.] That part you mean? And then the first part goes [plays chords and flatpicked lines]. That part, you mean? Actually, that was a really old song.
Whatever happened to that song you showed me a couple years ago – I think it was called “The Red Ledge” or “Along the Edge”?
Oh, God... Seriously, I come up with so much stuff. Just last night Alex asked me, he goes, “Hey, what was that riff you were playing during sound check yesterday?” And I’m going, “Fuck, I don’t remember.” So I just told him, “Goddamn it, next time you hear something that I play that you like would you tell me so I’ll remember it?!” Because I constantly play, and sometimes I pop up with things that just kind of pass me by. Because I really don’t consciously sit down to write. Things just kind of pop out.
Do you seem to do most of your creating after you’ve been playing for a while?
Oh, definitely. I don’t know if I told you this before, but in order for me to come up with anything different – a tune or whatever – I gotta sit totally in silence by myself playing my guitar for about two, three hours. It’s almost like meditating. I get in a state of mind where I’m not consciously thinking of writing.
Do you record it then?
Oh, yeah. Can I play you something? I’ve been getting into synthesizers a lot. Can I play you something? Hold on a second. I don’t know if you’re going to be able to hear this. [Puts tape into tape player.] It’s just at home with a little cassette machine with a rhythm box. Am I taking too much time?
No, not at all.
Are you sure?
I don’t wanna bore the shit out of you. [Begins playing demo.] This is something I did last night, just for the hell of it. [Song plays.] I was just fucking around.
Was that a synthesizer?
No, that was a guitar.
That was just last night – oh, actually the night before.
Have you been messing with guitar synthesizers?
No, I don’t like ’em. I can play keyboards. And it seems, like, uh…
It’s keyboard technology, still.
It’s keyboard technology applied to a fucking guitar. And you have to play their guitar. It just seems like why not just goddamn play a keyboard?
[Inserts new tape.] Here we go, here’s the synthesizer thing. [Begins playing.] Can you hear it at all?
Yeah, I can hear it good.
[During this demo Eddie segues into the opening of “Jump,” and then the 3:20 demo ends with the opening notes of the “Jump” solo; this song would not be released on record for another 17 months.] It just goes on and on…
I like the way the notes decay.
Yeah! It’s just echo, you know.
Working all the time, huh?
Yeah. I love doin’ it. It’s my fuckin’ life, you know?
I’ve got one more song question.
On “Where Have All the Good Times Gone,” do you have an Echo-Plex in the beginning?
Actually, that’s about the only effect that I ever really use. I probably did.
It sounded like your solos were more sounds than lines – that was good.
At one point, you had real high squeaks.
In the solo of “Good Times”?
Was that string noises?
Yeah, all I’m doing is taking the pick and taking it all the way up and down the neck. I was just going like this [demonstrates] – like that.
Are you touring as much as you used to?
I didn’t think we were gonna, but… [laughs]. You know, we started – oh, God, when did we start? July 9th I think we left. And we’ll back late August, for this leg. And then we’ll take a week or so off, and then go back out again for another six weeks. And then go back out again up until early December and take the holidays off. And then I think in January we’re going to Europe, and then we’re going to Japan, Australia, and maybe South America.
When are you gonna cut your next album?
Actually, I’d like to fucking take some time off. I’m building a studio at home, just 16-track.
You still living in L.A.?
Yeah – well, Studio City. It is L.A. But Donn Landee, our engineer…. You can’t print this, but have you heard “Valley Girls”?
Moon Zappa sang it. And I met Frank Zappa right before he left for a European tour. He’s got a 12-year-old kid who plays guitar. And he called me up from Europe and asked me if I wanted to produce a single for him, for his kid. So Moon sang on it and Dweezil, is the kid’s name, plays guitar and Donn Landee and I produced it. And it cooks! It smokes. It’s called “My Mother is a Space Cadet.” And the flip side is called “Crunchy Water,” which is a real sicko song in the true Zappa tradition. But it’s funny because the guitar parts really sound like me, like I played it. But the only thing that I did play on “Space Cadet” was the intro.
Is that the first thing you’ve done outside the band since Nicolette? [Nicolette Larson’s “Can’t Get Away From You.”]
Oh, yeah. That’s the only – I mean, you know, this was a production thing. I spent about month doing it.
Hey, the whole band was fucking 12 years old! They couldn’t play for shit! You know? But when you hear it, it’ll blow you away. Man, his guitar solo was a composite of about nine different takes after we sifted out the other 80 takes. It took like three days of five hours a day trying to get him to get his solo together.
Yeah, too much. Hey, I’ve seen you’ve been making National Enquirer.
Well, it’s depressing, man.
Ah, man, it’s a crock of shit.
I saw that in the grocery store and went, “Oh, my God.”
You’re talking about just a while ago.
Yeah, I saw it maybe about six weeks, two months, three months.
Yeah, and it had a picture of the band and stuff and how, uh…
Your partying lifestyle.
Yeah. God, what a bunch of bullshit, man! There were things in there that Valerie and I were at a posh Hollywood restaurant called Le Dome, arguing and raising our voices and shouting obscenities at each other. We’ve never even been there!
Even if you had, big deal.
Yeah, but that makes it even more ridiculous, man. It bugs the shit out of me. We’ve never even been there!
Yeah. They just pay people off to say what they want to hear.
Yeah. Well, I don’t even see why they have to pay people off – they can just make it up.
A lot of people say that’s exactly what they do.
Uh-huh. Well, they get a lot of lawsuits against them, but I don’t feel like wasting my money on that garbage. Takes you fuckin’ ten years by the time it comes to court.
You’ve got better things to do.
You ever come down to L.A.?
You gonna be there, maybe late August or so?
You gotta check out the studio I’m building. It’s great. I’m having a whole building built. It’s 40 feet long, 18 feet wide, and 18 feet high. It’s a really high roof, so I can put different ceilings in it for different sounds. And I bought a 16-track, uh – oh, fuck, goddamn, I forget what name it is – but everything I bought is exactly what we did our first album on. I’m gonna be doing all kinds of weird stuff. I’ve been jamming with different people. I’ve been jamming with – you know Jeff Berlin?
Sure, I know Jeff.
Yeah, he played with me when I played with Allan Holdsworth at the Roxy.
Berlin’s working for us. He’s writing a column.
Oh, yeah? Alright! I just spoke to him night before last.
And Zappa’s writing one for us.
Oh, yeah? What about?
It’s gonna be “Shut Up and Play Your Guitar” or something like that.
Just him talking about how he plays?
It’s more like giving people advice on technique and stuff. We sent a guy [Guitar Player editor Tom Mulhern] down to his house and he spent a day with him. He talked to him for a few hours, and they sent him a transcription of the tape. Frank read it over and changed everything he wanted to, and we’re going to print it in different parts.
Right. What do you think of Frank’s playing?
It doesn’t move me.
It’s a little too, uh…
Too eccentric or something.
It’s too spasmatic, typewriterish. I’m not trying to knock the guy, but he doesn’t have any, uh, I don’t know.
The guy whose playing that I like now is Andy Summers from the Police.
Oh, yeah. Well, he plays, but he does nothing but chord stuff. I love it, too.
Yeah, yeah. It’s so funny for me to sit here and, I guess, criticize other guitar players, because what I was just about to say is that Andy Summers sounds like all he uses is a phaser and a flanger all the time and plays chords, which sounds nice. But when you hear a whole album of that same sound it drives me up the wall. But at the same time I get the same sound for every fuckin’ record too, so who am I to talk?
Are you still using your Marshalls in the studio?
Same thing I’ve always used.
Well, if you’ve got something that works, don’t mess with it.
Yeah. What I just said about Andy Summers, maybe other people say the same thing about me. You know, “Everything he does sounds the same.” But what the hell, I’m having a good time, and he probably is too.
That’s all that counts, really. You’ve made your mark.
Who knows what’ll happen in the future?
I really want to get into keyboards.
Well, I mean I started out playing piano. Actually, half the songs on Fair Warning I wrote on piano, like “Unchained,” “Hear About It Later.” What else? At least two or three songs on it.
Did you write any of Diver Down on keyboards?
Umm, let me think. No.
I’ve heard you broke a world’s record. Warner Brothers called and said it was the first time a band ever went platinum with their first five albums.
Yeah, I don’t think anyone’s ever done that before.
No, it’s a world’s record if I’m not mistaken.
You mean every album going platinum.
Noel [manager Noel Monk] should know.
Well, we’ve been going through shit with Warner Brothers because they fucked us royally. Don’t say anything about this, but we were at 11. We were like number 3 for like four weeks in Billboard. Then we went to #6, and then we went to #11. And all the sudden we jumped to 40! And our sales were more than when we were 11. They’re just teaching us a lesson, you know, like, “Hey, don’t tell us our business.” ’Cause we went there and had a meeting with Mo Ostin, the chairman of the board, and told him, “We want a see little more this and that,” like the video that we did. I don’t know – I could write a book about the things that go down. They never even wanted us to record “Pretty Woman.” They didn’t want nothing to do with it. They didn’t want nothin’ to do with our video, so we forked out the bucks to do it all ourselves. And they, all they did was equal the money that we put out. You know, we got independent promoters, promotion people that service the stations to play it. And we just said, “Fuck this shit,” you know. Us and Rod Stewart and Al Jarreau are about the only three people from Warner Brothers that go platinum, and they treat us like shit. When we went from 11 to 40, man, we got pissed.
How can they do that – by giving out the wrong figures?
They’re just fuckin’ with us. I’m telling you, man. I don’t want to get into it, but I could tell you stories back from day one. And what the whole thing boils down to is that nobody in the company can claim they had anything to do with our success. And that’s why they don’t like us. They like the money that we make for them, but nobody in that company’s helped us. We came off tour in the first year after touring for 11 fucking months, and we came home owing Warner Brothers $240,000. You know?
No support. No nothing. So we had to go out there and tour. You know, there’s nothing wrong with that. But we were platinum three weeks ago with this album. What the fuck are we doing out here? They already got their million albums. You know? ’Cause that’s all they expect out of us. That’s what one of their executives told me when we first got signed: “Uh, Van Halen’s the type of band that’ll sell a million every time, but that’s about the extent of your career.” You know, they just don’t, uh… I don’t know. Don’t say anything that I’m telling ya. I’m just raggin’.
I can dig it.
You know, and that’s funny too – what you just said. That that’s a world’s record. They don’t treat us like we’re anything special. We sold a lot of goddamn records for that fuckin’ company.
Yeah, one of the most popular bands in America.
Shit, I know. Anyway – any more questions?
No. Hey, thanks a million, Ed.
I still love your music.
Thank you, man. What do you think of our new album?
I like it a lot. The sense of humor in it appeals to me the most.
I think the sense of humor and just – it’s different.
There’s so many styles of music –
– I just went, “Right on. This is sophisticated!”
That’s what I love about it, man. You know, like “Secrets” to me is the first ever real mellow thing we’ve ever done. That’s why I like it so much, because it’s still Van Halen. It’s not like Journey, purposefully doing fuckin’ tear-jerking pop tunes to make money.
Ah, don’t even mention them guys to me.
Well, you know what I mean.
I know, I know.
They’re just fuckin’ out for the bucks, period.
[Sings] “Who’s crying now?”
Yeah, yeah. You know all we did was put on that record what we wanted on it. And fuck anybody who says that we did anything purposely. That’s the one thing that nobody understands about us, that we have a sense of humor. I think other people take us more serious than we take ourselves. You can quote me on that because it’s true. You know, most reviewers and critics, man, they take us so seriously that they totally even miss the sense of humor. We don’t even take ourselves serious as they think we do.
Yeah. How can you hear “Happy Trails” and not completely understand what’s going on?
I don’t know, I think a lot of critics have their own problems working.
Oh, yeah. That’s why they’re critics.
Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Hey, thanks a million, Eddie.
Good talkin’ to you again. I got your home phone number now. So when I get a week or two off at home I’ll give you call or call Guitar Player and find out where you are and maybe you can drop by.
Hey, is Neil still touring with you?
Yeah, he’s out with us till Sunday, I think.
Would you mind telling him that I could use a few prints from this tour for the article?
Okay? Hey, hey, do me a favor.
Write something in there that I am endorsing Kramer products. Just because so many people think that I endorsed Charvel and everybody’s using my name. But Kramer’s actually the first and only company that I think is better than Gibson and Fender put together. And their stuff is affordable. It’s very cheap.
Are they gonna come out with an Eddie Van Halen model?
No. All I’m really endorsing is the tremolo unit. But their guitars are great. They really are.
I’ll get that in there.
Yeah, just throw it in there, you know.
Are you still getting the magazine?
I haven’t gotten one in I don’t know how long.
Shoot, man, I can send you a stack if you want.
Fuck, that’d be great.
Especially the ones where you’re mentioned. A lot of people talk about you.
When do you think this [article] will be in?
This’ll be in probably the November or December issue.
Uh-huh. Well, send me some.
Have fun on your tour.
Say hello to the rest of the gang at the magazine. Okay?
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