I Live My Life Like There's No Tomorrow
June 25, 2015 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Chuck Klosterman with a wide-ranging Billboard article and interview with Eddie Van Halen.
posted by Chrysostom (33 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
“Every note Mike ever played, I had to show him how to play,” Van Halen claims. “Before we’d go on tour, he’d come over with a video camera and I’d have to show him how to play all the parts.” He doesn’t even credit Anthony for his harmonic backing vocals, which fans classify as an integral part of the group’s signature. “Mike’s voice is like a piccolo trumpet. But he’s not a singer. He just has a range from hell,” he says. “Mike was just born with a very high voice. I have more soul as a singer than he does. And you know, people always talk about Mike’s voice on Van Halen songs, but that’s a blend of Mike’s voice and my voice. It’s not just him.” (Anthony’s rebuttal to these accusations is diplomatic: “I am proud to say that my bass playing and vocals helped create our sound. I’ve always chosen to take the high road and stay out of the never-ending mudslinging, because I believe that it ultimately ends up hurting the Van Halen fans.”)
When I read that, I feel like Keith Richards must have when Chuck Berry punched him in the face.
posted by The World Famous at 9:47 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Alcohol and cocaine were private things to me. I would use them for work. The blow keeps you awake and the alcohol lowers your inhibitions. I’m sure there were musical things I would not have attempted were I not in that mental state.

Like the dreck with Sammy Hagar.
posted by Nevin at 9:56 PM on June 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


He's almost like a cipher.
posted by Nevin at 10:04 PM on June 25, 2015


Yeesh. This reads as a compendium of ridiculous lies musicians love to tell about themselves in order to seem mysterious. Chuck sure loves that stuff, eh?
posted by koeselitz at 10:18 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


Here we find Eddie in a loquacious mood, untrustworthy and dissembling.
posted by anazgnos at 10:19 PM on June 25, 2015 [9 favorites]


For unlikable celebrity knowledge.
posted by item at 10:21 PM on June 25, 2015 [28 favorites]


Roth may be the brashest, and Hagar may be the most crass, but Eddie is surely the most insufferable of the three assholes. And that's saying something.
posted by chimaera at 10:35 PM on June 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


There has to be some kind of counter-truism to Betteridge's Law of Headlines for when people say, "does that make me an asshole?"
posted by rhizome at 11:58 PM on June 25, 2015 [7 favorites]


“I started drinking and smoking when I was 12. I got drunk before I’d show up to high school.

But he insists that his oral cancer was caused by metal picks and electromagnetic radiation. This guy obviously needs to have his own radio talk show.
posted by three blind mice at 12:55 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sammy Hagar in defense of Mike.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:40 AM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Good for Hagar, but he left a zero off that "one of the top 5" rock bass players.
posted by thelonius at 4:11 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I mean, you'd have to put him above Jack Casady, Jack Bruce, John Paul Jones, John Entwistle, or John Wetton and we aren't even out of the 'J's yet
posted by thelonius at 4:12 AM on June 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Is he vaping in 2 seperate photos here? Eddie may not listen to music but he's really Uptodate on contemporary douchery.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:44 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


"You make music for people."

He's a people person.
posted by surplus at 5:15 AM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I love the classic era albums, but watching Roth perform now is difficult. It's nothing but struttin' and grinnin' and half-assed karaoke.
posted by davebush at 5:25 AM on June 26, 2015


Was Eddie a self-important dick before he hoovered up mountains of cocaine, or did he just wreck his brain with cocaethylene? The idea that one can be both "classically-trained" and unable to read music suggests the latter.

I've never really wanted to emulate Eddie's playing, having come of age more than a few years too late for that, but his sense of melody inside of rhythm playing is pretty impeccable. Insufferable crank or not, dude feels music.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:33 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


both "classically-trained" and unable to read music

People say that all the time, when they mean "I took some piano lessons", not "I studied theory, performance, and composition at a conservatory level". Phillip Glass talked about preparing for lessons with Nadia Boulanger were he had to learn a Bach chorale and be able to sing any one part of it while playing the other three. That's "clasically trained".
posted by thelonius at 5:46 AM on June 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Every time I read anything about Eddie Van Halen I start liking Sammy Hagar a little bit more.

“Before we’d go on tour, he’d come over with a video camera and I’d have to show him how to play all the parts.”

Yes, because a video camera was something you could own in the 1970s. It's ok to just say you don't like the guy, Eddie, you don't have to make things up.

I love Eddie's guitar work. I've never really been into the soloing or the tapping but I'm a big fan of his rhythm playing. He certainly is a genius, but he's just one more insufferable asshole genius.
posted by bondcliff at 6:24 AM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Roth may be the brashest, and Hagar may be the most crass, but Eddie is surely the most insufferable of the three assholes. And that's saying something.

Every time EVH opens his mouth I have to put in my earbuds and listen to some Montrose. Sammy gets a lot of hate but he isn't half the dick Eddie is. Good lord, what a bitter old man.
posted by MikeMc at 6:26 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have to put in my earbuds and listen to some Montrose

Chest hair must really miss the 70s.
posted by echocollate at 6:31 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


People say that all the time, when they mean "I took some piano lessons"

Yeah, but ... how do you take piano lessons without being able to read music, at least a little bit? Plus, Eddie did have some formal music education (at community college, but still). Also I come from a place where every third grader learns to read the treble clef, at least, and I would think that anybody who continued music as a career would at least expand that skill a little bit, but I also guess that when you have the brain for music that Eddie does, it's not really so important.

(Also it just now occurred to me that I learned to read music from my grandmother, who played piano somewhat fluently, but had only two lessons in her life--because that's all her family could afford. So it's possible that I come from a family of at least mild musical savantism. See also: the "Cracking the Code" post from a few weeks back.)
posted by uncleozzy at 6:40 AM on June 26, 2015


how do you take piano lessons without being able to read music, at least a little bit?

Hear the teacher playing the assigned pieces and pick them up by ear. Sooner or later though, it'll become clear that you can't read, though, yeah. Some piano teachers are probably jaded enough that they have quit caring about students whose reading is terrible, as long as the checks clear, though.
posted by thelonius at 6:52 AM on June 26, 2015


"We’re not in our 20s anymore. We’re in our 60s. Act like you’re 60. I stopped coloring my hair, because I know I’m not going to be young again."
I wish EVH weren't such a dick, because this is a sentiment that needs to be trumpeted by someone of his musical–celebrity stature. I cannot count the number of aged rock stars who need to be told this. And EVH in Billboard—as opposed to, say, by Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes—is exactly where it could be said meaningfully. Buuuut it's overshadowed by a bunch of whinging about former bandmates.

I'm a big fan of his rhythm playing.

Agreed. EVH and Nuno Bettencourt were both amazing rhythm players who were hugely underrated in that respect due to their soloing chops.
"I didn’t drink to party,” he says now, sober since 2008. “Alcohol and cocaine were private things to me. I would use them for work. The blow keeps you awake and the alcohol lowers your inhibitions. I’m sure there were musical things I would not have attempted were I not in that mental state. You just play by yourself with a tape running, and after about an hour, your mind goes to a place where you’re not thinking about anything."
Some kid is going to die because of that paragraph.
posted by cribcage at 6:57 AM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Depending on your tolerance for that sort of thing, watching interviews with David Lee Roth and the two brothers is highly entertaining. The interviews start out well enough, but Roth quickly takes over, leaving Eddie and Alex with thin smiles in the background.

Roth is definitely more interesting than Edddie Van Halen. But even his recent interviews remind me of some stoner friends of mine from university who, 25 years on, haven't graduated, attend a few classes, and work in the university cafeteria.
posted by Nevin at 7:18 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think that one of the comments to the article has it right: Eddie is just brain-damaged, because he's contradicting things that he's said in previous interviews in previous decades. Sometimes people who lose parts of their memory will make things up to cover the gaps. And David Lee Roth may be more "interesting", but he's also an egomaniac. I remember a Rolling Stone article on the band back in the eighties, right before DLR left for his solo career, in which Roth said that the solo that Eddie played for "Beat It" was the same thing that he played on all of Van Halen's records, which is bullshit. (The same article also had a quote from Pete Townshend to the effect that he loved Eddie's playing and loved watching him play, and that it would be perfect except for the asshole jumping around in front of him.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:57 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The VH brothers, Roth, and Hagar are all obnoxious egomaniac bullshit artist. Read Hagar's autobiography if you don't believe me. They all deserve each other. I will resist the temptation to trash their music. As a Rush fan, I have no right t...... Aw fuck it. They stink. They have always stunk. Never has a band milked one guitar solo for so much. I hate them. I fucking hate them!
posted by Beholder at 8:27 AM on June 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Never has a band milked one guitar solo for so much.

Oh come on. You just need to listen to Diver Down or OU812.
posted by Nevin at 9:04 AM on June 26, 2015


"The VH brothers, Roth, and Hagar are all obnoxious egomaniac bullshit artist."

Still, I'm on the Sammy/Mike side. Everything Van Halen has put out post-Hagar has tanked (Gary Cherone? Really?!) and now they're basically a touring nostalgia act with a vocalist whose voice is completely cashed. OTOH Sammy and Mike seem to be doing pretty decent with Chickenfoot and The Circle, touring, putting out new albums and apparently having fun. Someone said on a different site that bass players and vocalists were a dime a dozen, well, you can say the same about axe slingers and drummers. Take Van Hagar, replace the VH brothers with Joe Satriani and Chad Smith - Boom! Chickenfoot.
posted by MikeMc at 9:21 AM on June 26, 2015


cribcage: "Some kid is going to die because of that paragraph."

I'm not sure a lot of kids are reading Billboard.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:23 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


how do you take piano lessons without being able to read music, at least a little bit?

As was said above, you trick the teacher into playing the piece for you once and then play it by ear. You'll eventually get caught, like I did. But you can trick them for years, like I did.

Phillip Glass talked about preparing for lessons with Nadia Boulanger were he had to learn a Bach chorale and be able to sing any one part of it while playing the other three. That's "clasically trained".

After playing by ear and faking the music reading for years, I did eventually learn to read music. My junior year of high school, I took a first-year college-level music theory class that included part writing Bach chorales and being able to sing any one part of them while playing the other three. I was pretty good at it and did well in the class, even though I'm really a guitar player more than anything else. I had bought a copy of the Real Book a few months earlier (back when it was still black or grey market) and wanted to learn to really read and play jazz from it.

Anyway, a friend of mine was in that class with me, and when we finished high school, he went on to get a BA in piano performance from a top school and then a Masters and a Ph.D. from Juilliard and Manhattan School of Music. He's a tenured university music professor now. By my second year of college, I was back to not being able to read music to save my life - muscles not exercised do go right back to their original weak state, it turns out. I've continued to play guitar constantly, to write and produce music, and have had the good fortune to make some music I'm quite proud of. And I'm not a bad guitar player.

My friend with the three advanced degrees in classical piano performance and pedagogy is "classically trained." I'm just a guitar player who took piano lessons when I was a kid a college-level music theory class one time in 1989. Eddie Van Halen is not classically trained by any stretch of the imagination, any more than I am.

(And I bet Philip Glass would tell you that part writing Bach chorales is entry-level music theory stuff, too.)
posted by The World Famous at 3:04 PM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


that was an EXAMPLE, introduced to make a POINT.
posted by thelonius at 3:40 AM on June 27, 2015


Excellent example. Excellent point.
posted by The World Famous at 1:46 PM on June 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I just pretend everyone died of Rock and Roll!1! after making 1984 and that, plus the existence of Fair Warning, is all the Van Halen I need to make me sloppy happy for the rest if my life. They're all jackholes to be sure, but the early albums are transcendent crunky rock and my life would be much poorer without being able to blast Hot for Teacher on hot summer days.
posted by Queen of Robots at 6:43 PM on June 27, 2015


« Older Allow me, now, to introduce a theory:   |   At last! The fruit cutting championships! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments