1979 Interview: EVH on Van Halen II

October 8, 2009 | By | 1 Reply More
The man in '79.

The man in '79.

For tone-heads, cheap video and the Internet came a few decades too late. So instead of having loads of video on pioneering rock bands who had real talent and real tone, we have only a few interviews, some of which might be gone and forgotten.

Luckily someone at the MetroAmp forum (I think…might have been a different forum) at some point posted an interview with Edward Van Halen that ran in the April 1979 edition of Record Review Magazine, now defunct. Here are highlights from that interview, which took place soon after Van Halen’s last gig supporting Van Halen I (after 10 months on the road opening for Journey and Montrose, then on their own, then opening for Black Sabbath) and less than a week after Van Halen II was recorded.

All quotes are Ed’s.

> “Ted [Templeman, producer]…said when we were rehearsing, he couldn’t believe how tight we were compared to the first record.”

> ‘Somebody Get Me a Doctor’ was written “around the same time as ‘Runnin’ With the Devil.’ It was an old favorite of ours and [of] people who used to follow us around before we ever had a record cut. We sift through the songs with Ted and pick out the ones we want to do…. So [Somebody Get Me a Doctor] didn’t make the first album. Somebody in the band said why don’t we save that one for the next album. There were a couple of other [old] songs too. One was called ‘Big Trouble’ [which you can hear below]. We were going to put it on this album, but we thought, Nah, we might as well save it. It’s a neat song as has good singing in it.”

> Another tune that didn’t make Van Halen II was “Angel Eyes” [also below], written by David Lee Roth. Ed said: “There’s one song that we still might do which is an acoustic song called ‘Angel Eyes.’ It’s a realy neat song that Dave wrote. He wrote the melody and the chord changes because he plays acoustic guitar, somewhat. I think the reason we might not put ‘Angel Eyes’ on [VH II] is because it’s too much of a change. It’s a total acoustic song…. Later on when we’re doing different things, it will fit better.”

‘Women In Love’ Intro: A Strat, But…

“There are some harmonies I do on the intro which I really like…. It sort of sounds like what a [Eventide] Harmonizer does. It sounds like I used a Harmonizer, but I didn’t. All I did was double it. I used a regular Strat [he does not mean a Fender! See the next paragraph] on that and it sounds real neat. That’s the only guitar I used, besides my main guitar.” [Maybe not. Van Halen’s now-defunct The Inside magazine says that Ed used the Ibanez Destroyer (Shark) on Dance The Night Away, Outta Love Again and Women In Love (not the intro).]

“I put it together myself, and it has a Tele pickup in the back and a Fat Strat pickup and something else. I just had a junk body laying around and I threw it together in a day. I had a Denelectro neck I put on it. I used it for that one part because my other guitar [Frankie] is too ballsy-sounding to play quiet.”

‘Bottoms Up:’ Hates Soloing on Boogies?

Bottoms Up “is a proven song because in the 10 months that we toured [promoting Van Halen I], at least six of the months we played it every night for our encore. And everywhere from Japan to Texas they loved it.

“That’s a boogie and I did a good solo in that, which I like. Personally I hate soloing to boogies because it doesn’t really fit my style. I like to noodle out of the rhythm as opposed to playing in the beat. So I was pretty happy with it because it did have feeling to it.”

‘Light Up the Sky:’ His Favorite

“Light Up the Sky is my favorite. I wrote the music for that song…right after our first record was recorded. When we came back off the tour, we played all our new riffs and songs for Ted and he really liked that one…. I was totally surprised because it’s a little more progressive – the changes are a little more ‘bent’ than the commercial stuff.”

He said he “had the riffs” for that tune, but the band had never played it before: “It was pretty much written in the studio.”

His Tone and Playing: Better than VHI?

> On whether he was happy with his guitar-playing on the album: “Definitely. There are a lot of guitar tricks on it, but some of them are more subtle than the last record. I like doing tricks where people trip when they find out it’s a guitar.”

> On his guitar’s tone: “It sounded better this time than on the first album. It sounds different. The majority of the album [Van Halen II] is played with everything just stacked up and blazing away. On the overdubs, I just used one cabinet as opposed to five or six. [Wow!]

Recording VHII in the studio (click to make it bigger).

Recording VHII in the studio (click to make it bigger).

> “This album to me sounds heavier than the first. The overall sound is so much fuller. I mean, songs may not be based on riffs as much as the first, but in my mind I still consider it harder – but smoother too. It’s not as rough. It’s got more tone and more confidence in the playing, and it just feels more sure.”

> “We never do more than three or four takes on any song because you lose the vibe, you lose the feeling. You lose that pocket, that thing where everyone is really together.”

> “I find that I work best the first three hours [of recording]. The first half hour I’m kind of nervous and have to loosen up, and then near the tail end of the first hour I’m cooking along. And for the next couple of hours too. But after that, my head is a vegetable. I can play, but I can’t be creative….”

> He said usually his first-take solos are the best, “but then sometimes the song itself isn’t as good” [meaning there are a lot of blowing solos out there we haven’t heard yet!]. He also said he didn’t pre-plan a single solo on Van Halen II – possibly to be taken with a grain of salt.

More Tidbits

> Apparently on You’re No Good, Ed never listened to the original — just went from memory about what the changes were, which is why the song isn’t true to the original. But Ed has said things like this a lot that may or may not be true.

> Sounds like the intro to You’re No Good was actually a longer bass solo which Ed said at the time “really makes a vibe. It sets a mood. When you hear it, you think of something as opposed to thinking, Oh, he’s a good bass player. It sounds like animals or something. It will probably be the intro to “You’re No Good,” just like my solo [Eruption] was an intro to “You Really Got Me.”

> “I change the strings before a gig and I play for a half an hour, an hour, breaking in the strings and loosening up the fingers.”

Big Trouble

Angel Eyes

Category: Edward Van Halen

Comments (1)

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  1. AVH says:

    Great stuff. Thanks for posting!~

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