And finally, here are the final highlights from the April 1980 Guitar Player cover interview of Edward Van Halen.
Is [having a lot of Marshall heads live] to refine the sound?
It’s to make a good tone even louder. Some people get a sound like an amplified AM radio. I like it to be like a nice home stereo amplified – you now, the difference between tone and no tone. I have some other tricky stuff in my amps which I don’t even want to talk about because if someone reads it in the magazine they are going to hit up Jose, an old guy from Argentina who knows a lot of tricks and does stuff for me. He doesn’t want people to know who he is because he’s getting mobbed. He also puts little things inside my MXR stuff, like permanent gain controls that boost when I kick them on. I don’t even know what they’re called. They reduce noise and boost the signals. [Hmm. So this is how Ed gained volume with the phaser and made his flanger sound so huge….]
How loud do you play in the studio?
Very loud. I use four 100-watt Marshalls, which are cranked up to close to 600 watts with the Variac. I like to feel it, you know, make my arm hairs move. If you stand in front of a big PA you vibrate. It’s the way I get off. I don’t wear earplugs, either, so I’m surprised I’m not deaf yet. We used to get kicked out of clubs because I refused to turn down. It’s the only way I could get a sound – crank it all the way up. [Unlike many other guit-slingers, no small Fender amps for Ed in the studio!]
How far can you reach on the fingerboard?
On the high E string I can reach from the 5th fret to the 12th. From the 12th fret I can hit any note on the fingerboard above. That’s how I get weird noises. [Not so much tone-related, but wow!]
Do you feel that your playing is constantly progressing?
I don’t think it’s ever progressed – it just gets weirder all the time. How much can you progress? I’m as fast as I can possibly get. I can’t picture myself being too much faster. I mean, you can only hear so much. What I’m trying to do is be weirder and different.
How did you get that scratchy sound in “Atomic Punk”?
A phase shifter was on, and I rubbed the strings by the bridge with the heel of my hand — I’ve got calluses on it. I do the same thing on “Everybody Wants Some” (Women and Children First). I just love doing weird things.
Did you double-track the harmonic intro to “Women In Love?”
Yeah, I played it twice. It sounds like a Harmonizer, and live I get the same effect using the Harmonizer. I like that chime, clock-like sound
What is the strange effect at the beginning of “And the Cradle Will Rock”? It resembles the sound of a prop plane starting up.
I pinged my strings above the nut and asked Ted to play it backwards so the attack comes at the end of the note. In conjunction with this, I scraped the springs in the back of my guitar. I also took my vibrato bar all the way down so that the strings were limp and then with my left thumb I flapped the low E string around the 3rd fret. Sounds great. I love it.
Do you experiment with open tunings?
No, because that’s kind of a rule too that’s been done. I don’t care that much about things that have been done, where most players have only done what’s been done. They look at the guitar as if that’s all it’s for. They don’t even go beyond to think. Like they don’t know how I get some of the weird noises I make, but it’s just the guitar. Just do anything to it! I could drop a guitar and get a noise out of it. The guitar is not designed for one purpose. You can do anything with it. I’ll do my damnedest to squeeze every noise out of this thing I can.
Since it’s been 30 years since that interview, here’s a pertinent question asked back then:
What do you picture yourself doing in 30 years?
Same thing we’re doing now. That’s what I want. I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future – maybe somebody else in the band will get egoed out and quit or something – but I’d love Van Halen to be forever. And if not, I know I can always make it playing guitar somewhere, because I’m getting hit up left and right now: “Will you play on my record, will you do this, will you do that?” And I go, “No, Van Halen is my family. I’m not gonna wash your dishes. I’ll wash dishes for Van Halen alone.”
Since everyone doesn’t read every post, appending posts with this for a bit. C’mon fellas!
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Sites That Link to this Post
- WoodyTone! - EVH, Frampton and Jose-Modded Amps | April 29, 2011