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It's not easy to carry on the name of a legend, but with a new album even better than its predecessor, Wolfgang Van Halen proves in the best possible way that he is a musician in his own right...
STRUCK - 28.07.2023 -
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We met a humble and sympathetic but reserved artist, visibly scalded by his previous exchanges with journalists for whom the name Van Halen can only be summed up as Eddie. It's not easy to carry on the name of a legend, but little by little - thanks to a debut album under the name Mammoth WVH, and prestigious tours with Alter Bridge, Metallica... - Wolfgang Van Halen has managed to make a name for himself in the industry, and to prove to malicious tongues that he is a musician in his own right, as his new "Mammoth II" confirms in the most beautiful of ways...

What's the one question you've been asked too many times that you're sick of answering?

Wolfgang Van Halen: (Silence) I'd probably answer anything to do with Eddie (Laughs)!

You've just opened for Metallica at the Stade de France (May 19), so obviously the first question we want to ask you is: tell us about the experience!

Man, it was incredible, the crowd was phenomenal, they were clapping their hands to the rhythm of all our notes...

And did you expect such a warm welcome?

No, I wasn't. Generally speaking, when you open for a band, and even more so when it's Metallica, you have to know how to capture the audience's attention. It's a huge honor to be part of this tour, but you don't expect to get a great reception from the public. It was very exciting to play in Paris, it was a great honor and an incredible concert...

Your latest release is "Mammoth II", due out in August, which is even better than the already excellent "Mammoth I". You seem to be more liberated, more confident in your abilities on this album. Is that true?

Yes, that's the biggest difference with the first album. In fact, on the first album, I wondered whether I was capable of making such an album. Having made this album and having toured over the last two years has given me confidence in myself and in the process of this new album, and you can feel that: as a guitarist, I do more soli on this new album; as a singer, I have more confidence in my ability to sing on stage and therefore on album too; and finally, I also have more confidence in my writing, which translates into experimenting with longer songs on this new album. But in fact, the thing that has changed the most and had the biggest impact on this album is confidence!

You say you experimented with longer songs on the new album. Can we expect a progressive album on the third one?

Yes, the next album will consist of a single 50-minute track (Laughs)!

As on your first album, you did everything yourself and played all the instruments to record this new album. Is this a kind of challenge for you, a desire to master everything down to the last detail, or just a way of having fun and being free?

It's fun! Even if I don't think I'll be playing drums as much in the future (Smiles), it's a wonderful opportunity to have fun playing drums in the studio...
Generally speaking, today, that's what comes out of my creative expression in Mammoth, but there's nothing better than playing everything from an artistic point of view...

You tour with a band. Wouldn't you like Mammoth to be a band on studio recordings too?

On stage, I have an incredible band, but the question is, do I see these musicians contributing to a future album? Of course... But when it comes to putting the album together, and given the way I see a Mammoth album, it's something I play first and foremost!

It's quite impressive how much mastery you've acquired from one album to the next, especially vocally. Have you worked a lot on your voice since "Mammoth I", or did you just let your hair down on "Mammoth II"?

I think the experience I gained from the first album to this one is purely due to touring... We toured for two years without stopping and sang every night: the more you do, the better you get!
When the time came to make the second album, I felt more confident about the work I'd done, so I was able to do things I couldn't do on the first. I'd say it's a question of time, after all!

As on "Mammoth I", certain tracks on "Mammoth II" show just how much of a child of '90s rock you are. This is particularly evident on 'Erase Me' and 'Waiting'. If you had to name one album from those years that had the greatest impact on you, which would it be?

Blink-182's "Enema of the State", an album that stayed with me throughout my youth...

It's funny that you should mention this band, because that's what my next question is about. Tracks like 'Another Celebration At The End Of The World' and 'Miles Above Me' have almost punk influences, while others like 'Optimist' or 'I'm Alright' sound clearly modern hard rock. When you're composing, do you know in advance what musical direction a track is going to take?

No, I don't! When I write for Mammoth, I follow what interests and excites me, and in the end, what happens is what happens! It just happens that suddenly I say to myself: "Well, what if I did this!" (Smiles)...

So how do you manage to keep this album and your last one together?

I think it's just luck (Laughs)!

You can't answer that...

(Laughs)! No, but everything comes from me, all the songs are connected to each other because they come from my brain, which is the connectivity factor (Laughs)!

Your greatest strength is to have succeeded in asserting yourself as an artist, freeing yourself from your father's musical influence. I suppose that, despite your love and admiration for him, it hasn't always been easy to deal with. Where did you find the strength to face up to the criticism of haters and fools who can't resist making comparisons?

Music is my life, so it's important to be true to myself, and that's what I'm doing with Mammoth! Mammoth is who I am musically, and whether people accept me or not, it's not going to change who I am! But it's really amazing to see people respecting me for who I am and enjoying what I have to offer...

But have you noticed any change, especially in those who criticize you without knowing what you're doing?

Those people will always exist, but as time goes by, people realize that I'm a musician and a person in my own right....

But as time goes by, there are fewer and fewer of them, especially in the face of your ever-growing fan base...

Exactly, and it's crazy: really!

On your first album, we could hear influences from Alice In Chains, Queens Of The Stone Age and above all Foo Fighters on tracks like 'Mr Ed' and 'Horribly Right', but also Tremonti, Alter Bridge and Biffy Clyro on 'Better than You'... Are these influences you're proud of?

Absolutely! It's true that the Foo Fighters are the main inspiration behind Mammoth, and that's really what inspires me the most...

Considering your lineage, it's clearly not the influence one would have thought of before listening to your music. How do you explain this?

I'd say it's perhaps simply that people take my name at face value without understanding what I grew up with and who makes me who I am as a musician...

We've mentioned all your influences, but the most important thing is that you've already created your own personality and style. Are you aware of this?

Yes, and that's what I'm trying to get across with Mammoth, which is that I'm simply myself, and it shows (Laughs)!

The cover is in the same vein as the previous album. What is the significance of each of your album illustrations? In the first, there's a giant crab destroying cars, and now a skeleton watching TV and fireworks?

The covers are by an artist who had already done these paintings. I'm a big fan of his ideas...

And were you able to acquire the paintings for these covers?

No, I don't have the original paintings... But I'm a big fan of his work, which resonates emotionally with me, and these two paintings resonated so much that I thought they'd be perfect to illustrate these albums...

So there's no particular significance in this?

No, because I don't think there's one definitive meaning, you just have to find your own meaning. On the first album, I loved the idea of seeing the name Mammoth displayed above this crab, taking control of it in a way.

So there's no metaphor for what your father went through, and ultimately that you yourself would take control of this crab representing cancer?

No, not really (Smiles)!
And the cover of this second album really represents my mind and everything I've been through both personally and artistically over the last two years... Artistically, this painting really represents what's been going on in my head: lots of good things have happened to me, but at the same time, I've had to recover from bad things...

And finally, do you realize what a feat it was to assert yourself as a genuine songwriter by being the son of an icon?

Yes, but at the same time, being a person in my own right is very important to me: to see that people take note of that and respect me for being an artist in my own right is a huge honor, because that's all I'm trying to do!

Was your father afraid for you and your musical career, knowing the importance he himself had in the rock world? How did he encourage you to make the music you love?

He was just proud of me. His pride was the driving force behind everything I did and continue to do today! He was just proud to be my father...

On the track 'On Distance' from your previous album, you sing "I'm so happy you've found a place". We assume you're talking about your father, but do you think you've found your place?

I think I'm starting to... I think you can hear it on this album, as you said yourself, finding that confidence that I'm trying to follow to find that place where I'd have even more confidence in myself...

You've said you love Meshuggah. And overall, "Mammoth II" sounds heavier than "Mammoth I". Could you make a clearly metal album in the future?

Maybe, but I think the way the music comes when I compose for Mammoth is what it is... I can't really force a change! On the whole, Mammoth contains aggressive heavy elements, but melody is always present and very important!

So could we be talking about featurings?

Yes, maybe, because once again, it's all a question of pleasure in the end, but it wouldn't be on a Mammoth album, perhaps a separate project...

But what if Fredrik Thordendal were to read this interview and ask you to play on the next Meshuggah album?

(Laughs) Of course I'd accept!

And what other band would you be willing to appear with?

Oh man, to play with Foo Fighters would be a dream! But when it comes to featurings, I don't feel ready yet. I think I've still got a lot of things to improve artistically on the vocal side...

But to be honest, I wasn't thinking of a vocal featuring on Messhuggah, but rather a guitar solo...


Do you feel any pressure when it comes to your solos?

I challenge myself a little more...

... "A little more", does that mean that this wasn't the case in the past?

On the first album, I wrote things that sounded good and I did them well, so in the end they sounded good... On the new album, I wanted to challenge myself a little more, and I think you can hear that in the solos, in my vocals, in everything...

Have you been working on any new compositions for your third album?

Not yet... I'd say most things are written, but we're still a long way from recording and what follows... But first of all, we still have a lot of work to do to promote this album and tour...

Speaking of which, you've done some great support acts like Metallica... but are you planning a headline tour?

I know, I know, we're trying to find headline dates... We're working on it, I'm not 100% sure if we'll be headlining or not, but I'm sure the public will be happy (Smiles)!

A few months ago, rumors circulated that your uncle Alex and Joe Satriani were getting together for an Eddie tribute tour. Were you involved in the project, and where does it stand?

It was a long time ago, but I don't think it went any further... I think that when it came to getting down to the nitty-gritty, there were too many things to put in place to start putting anything together... Alex had a good grasp of the subject, but he quickly realized that it couldn't be done...

Looking back, do you think it's a blessing or a curse for a young artist to be called Van Halen?

From my point of view, I'd say it's more of a curse than a blessing, because people have a lot of preconceived ideas.

Do you feel you had more to prove than someone else?

That's right, you have to prove a lot more... A name can open doors for you, which is clearly a blessing from that point of view, but at the same time, if I wasn't capable of doing what I do, those opportunities wouldn't exist... In those conditions, yes, in the end, it's perhaps more of a curse than a blessing!

And finally, what are your expectations for this new album?

Oh man, I don't think about that, I really don't have any expectations... I just write music that inspires and excites me, and if people enjoy listening to it, that's a huge bonus...

But you're still doing this promotional day, especially here in France. Does that mean you or your management have expectations?

The idea is to be able to tour as much as possible and play in front of as many people as possible... But honestly, I'm very lucky to be able to do what I do, I'm just happy to be here (Smiles)...

So, what's next for Mammoth?

Again, to keep touring and growing. I'm doing everything I can to keep playing...

But aren't you afraid you've hit a glass ceiling by opening for Metallica so quickly?

(Smiles) No, I like to play anywhere... As long as the hall is full of people excited to listen to music, I'm happy: it doesn't matter how big the hall is...

We talked about this recently with Dominic Miller, who told me he was more impressed by playing in a club than a stadium. What about you?

It's pretty much the same, except that the big difference is that Metallica have a single stage (Laughs). So it's a different experience trying to play on a stage like that... But then again, generally speaking, I'm happy to play anywhere...

We began this interview with the question you've been asked all too often: what's the one you'd like me to ask you, or the one you'd dream of answering?

Dude, I'd say you've covered just about everything... I'm really excited for people to discover my new album...

Did you expect the same kind of reception for your first album as you did for this new one?

No, I wasn't!

Thank you so much!

Merci beaucoup!

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