Wolfgang Van Halen Says Taylor Hawkins Tribute Performance Was His ‘Van Halen Tribute’ – ‘That Was It for Me’
While there has been talk of ways to honor Eddie Van Halen with a tribute concert, so far nothing has come to fruition, and Eddie's son Wolfgang Van Halen has stated in a new interview that he feels he's already given his Van Halen tribute while appearing at two Taylor Hawkins tribute shows last fall.
Wolfgang addressed the constant tribute discussions while speaking with The Messenger, stating that he understands why it remains a constant topic being bandied about. "It's out of love and how many people my father's writing and playing touched around the world," explained the Mammoth WVH leader. "But life isn't written to have a happy ending — some things just suck. And if I have to figure out how to have a life without my father in it, I think people can figure out how to live without Van Halen, because it can't happen. Dad's not here, Van Halen doesn't exist anymore as far as I'm concerned. The music and the legacy are there, and I'll be here to push that forth, through things like dad's guitar and amp company, and help in every single way."
He went on to add, "The unfortunate thing in comparison to what Dave Grohl was able to pull off with the Taylor Hawkins tribute, is that the Foo Fighters have a very friendly thing going on. There wasn't a lot of animosity between members to get it done and Van Halen is quite the opposite. I don't know, maybe it's just '80s bands — there's something about '80s bands where it was the cool thing to be dicks. But some things just don't work out and it seems like this is one of them."
In the U.K., Wolfgang joined The Darkness' Justin Hawkins, Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and drummer Josh Freese for covers of Van Halen's "On Fire" and "Hot for Teacher" at the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert last fall. For the U.S. date, the same foursome pulled off "Panama" and "Hot for Teacher."
Van Halen says of those performances, "Luckily, I feel like I was able to get that feeling from the Taylor thing, which is why I played Van Halen songs and that's not something I take lightly. It felt like the right thing to do, knowing how impossible it would be to do it as a separate thing. I took that as my opportunity obviously to pay tribute to Taylor, but at the same time pay tribute to my father. And that was it for me and it's over — that was me having that moment and being able to do it myself, outside of all the bullshit that the Van Halen duff gets muddled in with. I think I was able to put that to rest and not say goodbye, because I hate to ever speak in absolutes, but for the foreseeable future, Van Halen is not what I'm focused on in any way."
Earlier this year, Van Halen recalled the experience, stating to 93X Radio, “It was – I’ll never forget it. At the same time, it went by so fast [that] I can’t even remember it. It was just all energy [laughs]. It was really, really crazy. It was one of the most special things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do.”
He added, "[It was] more difficult, just emotionally. I don’t think people realize how much I don’t listen to Van Halen anymore, especially. It’s not something – you know, I don’t know. It’s a tough thing. It’s a tough subject, but it felt like the right thing to do in the moment. Taylor would’ve been like, “Damn!” He would’ve been really, really stoked. From the one time I met him – he came to a Van Halen show in 2012 – he was just the coolest, most friendly guy. He left such a huge impression on me. . . . Dave texted me and I thought it was – I didn’t believe that it was him. I had to hit up Chris Shiflett ‘cause I’d just done his podcast. I was like, “Hey, is somebody punking me or this Dave?” He said, “Yeah, that’s Dave. You should hit him back [laughs]."
That said, while Wolfgang admits that most conversations about his father are meant with love and respect, it's not something that's easy to consistently have to answer to. "It's emotionally difficult for me to hear about it every day. But that's the position I'm in unfortunately, and there's nothing I can do about it," says the musician. "I think Zelda Williams, Robin's daughter, put it in such a beautiful way — on one of the anniversaries of his passing, she said that even a truckload of roses weighs a ton."
"I understand that it's all rooted in positivity, but it gets very jarring, and it wears you out," he adds. "I can't go online or do anything without somebody reminding me 'Hey, knock, knock, your dad's dead. Do you miss him?' I feel like unless you're in this position, nobody really understands it. You can empathize with it, but it's very tough to relate to."
While there may likely always be Van Halen questions, Wolfgang has been building more of his own story in recent years, and that story gets a new chapter this week with the release of Mammoth WVH's Mammoth II album, which arrives tomorrow (Aug. 4) and is available here. Mammoth WVH are currently out on the road in support of the record with dates scheduled into 2024 and they just released the new single "I'm Alright" earlier this week.