Wolfgang Van Helen says, “I’ve never seen such an outpouring of positivity that treated fans of Crank van Halen online. Using the band name Mammoth WVH, he made his first solo single and video on Monday,” “Distance”, paying tribute to his late father, Eddie van Halen – and fans almost universally responded with admiration and gratitude. Wolfgang, who plays all the instruments and sings all the vocals on the song, next Called with a full year album Rolling stone Mammoth to talk about WVH, his time as Van Halen’s bassist, and more.
You are 29 years old. Do you find that Van Halen fans treat you as if you are younger?
I think they feel such ownership over me. I think because they followed my father forever, they think I am their son. But yes, I am 29 years old, very much a man.
So why do all the instruments play themselves?
I just wanted to see if I could do it. I knew I could play every instrument, but I was like, “You know what?” It’s great to see if it can work. “And it did.
You already have a touring band for this project. With Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl started playing everything by himself, but it evolved into a band. Can this happen to you?
Never say never, but I would expect to do the album on my own. Because it’s just such a fun process that it’s not like I’m looking for people to make it easy. I enjoy going into the trenches and just recording.
I am thinking of your uncle Alex Van Halen. He played with your father, not practically anyone else, and they played together since he was a child. How is he doing
As you would expect. We talk every day, ever since Dad passed. Just checking on each other. “I love you. Call me if you want anything.” Some days are better than all others. He just has to go through it.
What does that do to your music?
He is proud of it. Just like Dad.
Using the word Mammoth in his band’s name is based on some deep family history. What about you
Oh man, growing up, whenever my father would tell me the story you know, [Van Halen was once] Called Mammoth … It was a three-piece, and Dad was singing. He had a bass player, Mark Stone, who unfortunately passed away a week or two before Dad’s arrival. He was a wonderful person. And I thought it was so good that, one, Dad was singing. And two, it was a terrible band name. So growing up I was like, whenever I have my own band, I want to call it Mammoth.
Did your father know that you were going to use the name?
Yes, I was nervous, I asked his permission. Gosh, it was around 2014. I was like, “Hey Dad, I got a question: Would it be good if I called it a band?” And he was like, “Yes, why would you worry about this?” He was really stunned.
How far are your relationships with David Lee Roth going?
Not too much. We are cordial. But it was very business related. You know, we were always quiet, but we never really saw each other on stage.
You told Howard Stern that you and your Dad discussed a “kitchen-sink tour” with Sammy Hagar and maybe Gary Charone with Dave Trading vocals. Do you think you can get Dave to do this? I know Sammy must have come down to it, but I just don’t know about Dave.
I would love to see this happen. Unfortunately, we will never know the answer. I think at a certain point you just have to get everyone in a room and be like, “Come on, how terrible would that be?”
You also talked about Michael Anthony being part of that tour. This means that you were personally ready to retire from that band some time ago.
Too much, except maybe jumping onstage for a song or two, because Dad would like, “You came on stage at least a couple of times.” He kept trying to pull me back. It was not that I did not want to go there. Playing with my father was the best thing for me. This was my favorite job.
You obviously had a certain birthright to be in Van Helen, but at the same time, the place you took was that of Michael Anthony. Have you ever had a personal conversation about him?
There was never much opportunity. That should have been the case throughout the tour. And then it was never ruled out. I was really looking forward to speaking with him, and it hasn’t happened yet. I look forward to the opportunity that I have in the future to speak with him.
You want to make sure there are no hard feelings?
I mean, I don’t think there are. I have seen what he said. He has always been a wonderful boy.
When did you start writing songs?
I actually started trying to write my own music after the 2012 Van Halen tour. When I got home, I taught myself how to use logic [recording software], And I made the first opening demo for some songs, which actually ended on the album. When I was like, “Hey, I’m doing music, maybe try and see if I can write my stuff.”
How many songs do you already have in your personal collection?
Oh friend. For this, I had 28 songs. Then there are some other ideas made partially. “Distance was one of those ideas that I decided to finish really quickly after everything happened.
How did you get your own music style?
It just happens over time. I mean, it took me a very long time to record everything. It awaited the process of developing that original sound to show me myself. There are many flavors on the album.
You can actually play a lot of equipment, but you are very restrained at “distance”. You are serving the song.
My whole talk like this is with Mammath WVH. It is always for the song. There are some songs that have guitar solos, some are songs that are not. It calls for the song whatever it is. It’s not like a wank-off celebration just for the opportunity to play crazy.
Ever enter this sort of thing just for fun, though?
I have never thought of myself as a shredder, but the album has a song that has a fun breakdown, where there are guitar and bass solos and then a drum solo.
If you are too much into a classic Van Halen vein, what do you do? Do you toss it
It’s so beautiful, “Do I like this idea or not?” I think that was actually an idea, or at least a melodious part on a song where [producer Michael “Elvis” Baskette] Said, “You know, that sounds so Van Halen-y.” I was like, “Yes, you’re right.” I think I can’t avoid it. It is in my blood.
Your last recording experience was playing bass in Van Halen in 2012 A different truth. What was the reality of that experience?
Yes, it took some time. Some of the first tracks we did were screened in just 5150. [Studios], Were in 2009. The album ‘Till 2012’ did not come out. The first three tracks were a song called “Bullheaded,” “She’s a Woman,” and “Let’s Get Rockin ‘”, which would eventually be called “Outta”. Space “on the album. Those were the first three songs we did, like “Hey, I think we can really do something new here, that would be really cool.” And from there, it evolved. It just took finding the proper producer who wanted to work with Dave and making sure everyone was happy. Three years later, we were there. At Van Halen Camp it was not very easy to get anything. Everyone is very special. So I was really happy that we actually made the album.
What were the biggest things you learned about music from your dad and playing in Van Helen?
One of the good pieces of advice that he always gave me was that his Dad always gave him, “If you ever make a mistake, do it twice so that people think you mean to do it.” [Laughs.] Playing with Van Helen, there was really nothing that I felt I learned. It was like this in my blood type. It felt right to play with Al and Dad. The three of us just kind of melted away with music in a way that I would never experience for the rest of my life.
Where do you see your mother in yourself and where do you see your father?
My dad clearly, ensures the musical side of my life. I think everyone else is my mother. That is the kind of person I am today. He has really done everything.
You always thought that this old soul maturity for you. As a young teenager, you helped your father properly go to rehab when you were first to reunite with Roth in 2007.
I mean, so I was in the band in the first place. This was for Dad’s health and his well being. Obviously I wanted him to be as healthy as possible, so when the opportunity came, he was actually okay with leaving. He was like, “Fuck yeah, whatever we got.” … I actually experienced life very fast. I think this may be one of the reasons that you can get my vibes older than your years, because I had to mature very quickly to handle everything. Everything that was being thrown at me early in my life.
What do you think about standing on stage as a frontman? You haven’t done anything like this yet.
I am still working through the same, as it is not the center of my style. But I’m ready to step into the plate, because even though I don’t trust myself, my father had faith in me, and that’s enough.
You said that you have no immediate plans to go through the collections of your father and his band for future releases. Is it possible that Alex can take that on by himself, though?
This is something we will probably do together. Yes, I know it will happen at some point. I promise, I promise you. not now!
You were set to release this album in 2018, but you turned it down so that you could spend time with your dad when his illness took a turn, right?
I was rehearsing with [touring] Band and everything. My father was watching us.
Were you able to do something necessary?
As awful as a situation was, I think it could not have gone any easier. I was able to spend every single moment with him. I kept holding his hand the whole time. For the worst moment of my entire life it was such a dazzling, peaceful one.
Does it all help to know that you have been mourned by millions of other people, even if they don’t really know it?
It is a double-edged sword. Somebody I really have a high affinity for is Jeba Williams, the daughter of Robin Williams. we talked. He reached me She was amazing, because we are unfortunately now part of a very exclusive club. But she put her thoughts into words that were actually helpful on Robin’s death anniversary. She was like, while love and support is amazing, you start to feel like a roadside memorial. Sure, flowers are good, but a ton of flowers still weighs a ton. It is a lot to carry. So while it is amazing, it is difficult.
When Van Halen came out with his first film, rock was at the center of culture. Now, it is not. How does it affect you?
Rock is just what I am passionate about. I don’t think it matters what is at the forefront. What matters in my heart, what do I want to do.
If you’ve learned anything from Roth, now you have to say, “And I’m fucking going to save it.”
[Laughs.] Okay! I’m fucking trying and saving it.