The Slow Death of Van Halen?
2/20/2013 9:00:00 AM
What haven’t you done in over 20 years? You would think one of the great rock bands of our time, with some of the world’s best musicians, would be writing songs, well, at least some of the time right? Nope.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the often outspoken frontman of Van Halen Mr. David Lee Roth opened up about the current state of production within the group.
"I would certainly look forward to working with Ed on some new material, but we have yet to do that," states Roth. "Almost all of the music that you hear on our most recent album was written and demoed before the first album. And I would certainly look forward to writing a whole list of songs with Ed, but we haven't found the time to do that (laughs). You hear the tone. I'm not sure what's in Ed's mind at this point. I'm gonna guess that his plans are to write with his son, and I'm not sure where that actually leads. But truth be told, Edward and I haven't written a new song in 20 years."
In other words, Van Halen regurgitated up a bunch of old demo material from the early days to put out on the new album - A Different Kind of Truth. This is probably why old school VH fans liked a couple of the songs. I know I did.
What happens when a band fails to create new material?
They become a novelty act living off their glory days in the pathetic attempt to keep the bank account filled and endorsement opportunities satisfied. In other words, it’s a dead end, a slow painful dead end, all be it with a great sound track.
Look, I’m not saying Van Halen is dead, nothing of the sort. I love Van Halen, both with David and without. (Don’t tell Dave). But I do feel a great deal of disappointment in a band that fails to write new material.
So what’s the problem?
Well, it’s not our boy Dave. He’s been working on new material without the band.
"And in the interim I've written and recorded an entire album of material with a fellow named John 5. It's called Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bar & Grill, and it was designed as a jukebox musical after seeing what the South Park fellows did. Those fellows are ardent Van Halen fans -- they're been to Vegas and L.A. variously on the last tour. I saw the play [Book Of Mormon] and went home and we started putting together what I guess is called a jukebox musical, but it's not particular to Van Halen. Indeed we can create Van Halen material as the interstitials, but we have 15 songs ready to go, and it's my story. Indiana kid goes to the big city, sells his soul to the devil. Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets Dave. It's knockout stuff."
Leave it to Roth to work in the word – interstitials.
So, Dave is writing new material and feeling creative, and Eddie.. well.. I guess not. Bummer.
Fans of old school Van Halen like myself probably also felt a great deal of disappointment with the way they abandoned Michael Anthony from the reunion. A musician who I feel is as essential to the Van Halen sound as that guitar Eddie so excellently wields. For me, this is a tough point to make because I do respect Van Halens music and musicianship, however they lost an incredible amount of respect from me with the way that they have treated Michael. I’m just being honest. It was not cool.
"But Ed has his own vision, I'm assuming. We haven't really been able to speak about it and it's a disappointment, just as not having a chance for a reunion of the original band. Clearly, vocals are every bit as much a component of success as a rhythm section or a guitar solo, and there's an old expression saying, "They don't go home singing the lighting show, they don't go home singing the production." You're right, they sing my words and my melodies. And what we have at our fingertips is arguably one of the greatest high tenor voices ever -- that was in Michael Anthony. In our tiny little corner of the universe, that voice is as identifiable as the high voice in Earth, Wind & Fire, as identifiable as the high voice in the Beach Boys. Van Halen is an indelicate house blend of both -- that's intentionally. So I would always look forward to that reunion, and I would always look forward to writing a whole variety of material. I've offered the fellows, come on out here to the land of the gods. And if you don't want to make it that far we'll make it halfway -- Konishiki [his friend and former champion sumo wrestler] has said he'll lend me his house in Hawaii, Let's go woodshed. But so far there hasn't been any response, so hope and faith are not actual tactics and strategies -- they're strippers from Albuquerque."
As many have speculated, the distasteful removal of bassist and all around cool dude Michael Anthony was not due to the ego of the David. In fact, he welcomes the opportunity to work with the man again. Cool.
So, there it is my friends. Will Van Halen ever write new material again? Probably not the way it should be done, with Eddie and David working together on great tunes. Sure, maybe Wolfy and his Dad will pen some tunage, and that’s great and all, but that’s not Van Halen.
Is this the end of Van Halen? Probably not. Fans like myself love them, new tunes or not, and I will plan on seeing their shows, even if it’s just a bunch of old tunes, old tunes I dearly love to see played live.
But hey, there is also a musical being produced by David Lee Roth and John5. O boy. A musical. Great.