Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen (born January 26, 1955), is a Dutch guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter and producer most famous for being the lead guitarist and co-founder of the rock band Van Halen.
However, playing the piano did not prove sufficiently engaging — he once said in an interview, "Who wants to sit in front of the piano? That's boring." Consequently, while Alex began playing the guitar, Eddie bought a drum kit and began practicing drumming. After Eddie heard Alex's performance of the The Surfaris' drum solo in the song "Wipe Out", he grew annoyed that his brother had overtaken his ability and decided to switch and begin learning how to play the electric guitar.
He has stated that he would often walk around at home with his guitar strapped on and unplugged, practicing. It's said that he would sit in his room for hours with the door locked, as a teen practicing the guitar. He once claimed that he had learned almost all of Eric Clapton's solos in the band Cream "note for note" by age 14; in later interviews he stated he could never play the solos precisely, instead he would modify them slightly to suit his style.
In April 1996, in an interview with Guitar World, when asked about how he went from playing his first open A chord to playing "Eruption", Eddie replied:
Practice. I used to sit on the edge of my bed with a six-pack of Schlitz Malt talls. My brother would go out at 7pm to party and get laid, and when he'd come back at 3am, I would still be sitting in the same place, playing guitar. I did that for years — I still do that.
Eddie has many influences, most notably Eric Clapton. He has also acknowledged the influence of Queen guitarist Brian May and fusion guitarist Allan Holdsworth, as well as the likes of Montrose guitarist Ronnie Montrose.
In 1977 Gene Simmons saw one of Van Halen's shows at Gazzari's in Hollywood,and subsequently financed their first demo tape, flying the band to Electric Lady Studios in New York to record "House of Pain" and "Runnin' With the Devil". Eddie disliked his playing on the demo, because he wasn't using his own equipment, and had to overdub guitar parts (which he had never done before.)
In 1977, Van Halen was offered a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records. Later that year, they recorded their first album, "Van Halen", which was released on February 10, 1978. Eddie claims that their first single, "You Really Got Me", a cover of the original Kinks song, was not his first choice. The band was forced to release the song before other bands (notably L.A. rival "Angel") who heard Van Halen's rendition and were trying to beat them to the punch.
Simmons persuaded Eddie to return to Van Halen, and shortly afterwards the band released the album 1984; which yielded the band's first #1 hit, "Jump". Other singles released from the album also sold well, particularly "Hot for Teacher", the video for which featured a skimpily dressed model playing the part of elementary-school teacher and school-age boys portraying younger versions of the band members. The album peaked at #2 on the Billboard charts, behind Thriller by Michael Jackson, to which he contributed a guitar solo in the hit song Beat It.
With the arrival of former Montrose singer Sammy Hagar, the band's sound changed somewhat, as Eddie's keyboard playing became a permanent fixture, heard in songs such as "Dreams" and "Love Walks In". The change in sound prompted many fans, both positively and negatively, to refer to the band as "Van Hagar." However, tensions within the band again rose, and Hagar departed in 1996.
Following Hagar's departure, the group briefly reunited with original singer David Lee Roth and released Best of Volume I, a greatest hits package, in 1996. Two new songs were recorded for the album, with the single "Me Wise Magic" reaching #1 on the mainstream rock chart ("Can't Get This Stuff No More" was the other new single). However, previous disagreements resurfaced and the reunion did not last.
The band auditioned many prospective replacements for Hagar, finally settling on Gary Cherone, former frontman for Extreme, a band also represented by Van Halen's manager. Cherone predicted that the new line-up would last 'ten years', however the Van Halen III album was received poorly. Cherone soon had an amicable departure, and without a lead singer, Van Halen went into hiatus.
The band toured the US, covering 80 cities. Despite taking $55 million dollars, it was revealed in Rolling Stone that the promoters had actually lost money on the tour. The final date on the tour appeared to bring tensions between Eddie Van Halen and Sammy Hagar to the surface, culminating in Eddie violently smashing his guitar before leaving the stage on the last date.
Reviews of the tour differed - some reviews were enthusiastic, whereas many stated the band had poor musicianship and the concerts contained apparently drunken behaviour. Michael Anthony stated that Eddie regularly performed in an alcoholic stupor:
I hate to talk smack about anyone in the band or whatever, but, y'know, Eddie, you know, he's still doing a bit of drinking and everything. There were nights where it was kind of like a roller[-]coaster, up or down, and myself, I would have liked to have seen him totally clean up if we were gonna take this further.
I'm telling Dave 'Dude get your ass up here and sing, bitch! Come on!' As it stands right now, the ball is in Dave's court. Whether he wants to rise to the occasion is entirely up to him, but we're ready to go.
Regarding the news that Van Halen's then 15-year old son Wolfgang was to play bass in Van Halen in the fall (replacing Michael Anthony), Van Halen claimed his son's presence would have a positive effect on the band:
Wolfgang breathes life into what we're doing. He brings youthfulness to something that's inherently youthful. He's only been playing bass for 3 months, but it's spooky. He's locked tight and puts an incredible spin on our shit. The kid is kicking my ass! He's spanking me now, even though I never spanked him. To have my son follow in my footsteps on his own, without me pushing him into it, is the greatest feeling in the world.
Van Halen also stated in a Howard Stern interview that although Roth was a "loose cannon," he was willing to deal with that. David Lee Roth had previously stated that reuniting with the band was "inevitable":
I see (the reunion) absolutely as an inevitability. There's contact between the two camps, and they have legitimate management. To me, it's not rocket surgery. It's very simple to put together. And, as far as hurt feelings and water under the dam... so what? It's showbiz! So I definitely see it happening.
Since the 2004 tour, Eddie Van Halen has largely disappeared from the public eye, with the exception of occasional appearances such as the 14th annual Elton John Academy Awards party, and a performance at a Kenny Chesney concert.
In December 2004 at Dimebag Darrell's funeral, Eddie donated his famous black and yellow guitar from the Van Halen II album inlay, stating that Dimebag had always said that was his all time favorite guitar. The guitar was put in Darrell's Kiss Kasket, and he was buried with it.
On December 5, 2005, Eddie's wife, Valerie Bertinelli filed for divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court. The Complaint for Divorce revealed that the couple separated on October 15, 2001. In an interview on Howard Stern's radio show on September 8, 2006, Eddie stated that he and Valerie share custody of their son, and that he sees him every day. Van Halen's divorce became final on December 20, 2007.
On March 8, 2007, Van Halen announced on their website that Eddie was entering rehab for unspecified reasons. However, both Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony have made statements indicating that Ed's personality had changed due to alcohol abuse. Hagar, Anthony and David Lee Roth have repeatedly stated their support and well wishes towards Ed's recovery since the announcement. Hagar stated at the 2007 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, "I hope he gets through this and we can have our buddy back" with Anthony visibly agreeing in the background.
Van Halen emerged from rehab and appeared publicly as an honorary official during the April 21, 2007 NASCAR event at Phoenix International Raceway. He also unveiled a new Fender Stratocaster with a paintjob made for the NASCAR races before the ceremony.
On October 6, 2008, it was reported that Eddie Van Halen proposed to his longtime girlfriend Janie Liszwski, an actress and stuntwoman who became Van Halen's publicist in 2007. He proposed to her while vacationing in Hawaii. They are currently engaged and are said to be married in June 2009.
Eddie also revealed that he stopped the cancer via an illegal method (the nature of which he declined to specify) in conjunction with a pharmaceutical lab with which he's affiliated in New York State. He said a portion of his tongue was removed and experimented on, and then the technique was performed on him. He said he has lost one third of his tongue, though his speech is virtually unaffected. Despite his battles with oral cancer, Eddie has been photographed in public as recently as June 2006 smoking cigarettes. After coming out of rehab, he appeared on the cover of Guitar World magazine, which did a comparison with a cover that had been shot before he entered rehab.
Although Van Halen popularized tapping, he did not, despite popular belief, invent the tapping technique. The tapping technique in Blues and Rock was being picked up by various guitarists in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Steve Hackett from the group Genesis used a tapping technique as early as 1971 on the album Nursery Cryme Duane Allman from the The Allman Brothers Band and Frank Zappa tapped with a pick in the early 1970s. Brian May of Queen also used the tapping technique, which he picked up in America in the early 1970s, on songs such as It's Late from the News Of The World album. From a Brian May Guitar Player Jan 1983 interview about tapping "I stole it from a guy who said that he stole it from Billy Gibbons in ZZ Top"
Ritchie Blackmore has said in an interview that he and Jimi Hendrix saw Harvey Mandel tap at a nightclub in the late 1960s. From a Feb 1991 Guitar World Ritchie Blackmore interview "The first person I saw doing that hammer-on stuff was Harvey Mandel, at the Whisky A Go-Go in '68" The tapping technique was also known by Jazz guitarists in the 1950s and 1960s. Jazz guitarist Barney Kessel taps a few notes at the 2 minute 50 second mark of this video from 1964
Early EVH stage photographs , and demo and bootleg recordings from 1976 and before do not indicate EVH using any tapping techniques. In a Ace Frehley January 2005 Guitar World interview, Ace Frehley says that EVH probably started tapping in late 1976/1977 after seeing him tap using a pick with Kiss just before the Gene Simmons Van Halen demo tapes were made but Eddie's first exposure to the tapping technique might have come from his childhood friend Terry Kilgore who took lessons from Harvey Mandel in the 1970s. Ace Frehley had been tapping with a pick (similar to Frank Zappa) from at least 1973 as early Kiss television appearances show such as Kiss performing She on The Midnight Special television show in 1975
A 1976 live performance has Eddie Van Halen performing Eruption (or what would later be called Eruption) without using any tapping techniques . The Eruption version on the first Van Halen album from 1978 does feature tapping, indicating that EVH started using the tapping technique in Van Halen songs sometime in late 1976 or early 1977.
EVH's comments about how he came across the tapping technique vary from interview to interview. This is one interview excerpt.
I think I got the idea of tapping watching Jimmy Page do his "Heartbreaker" solo back in 1971. He was doing a pull-off to an open string, and I thought wait a minute, open string ... pull off. I can do that, but what if I use my finger as the nut and move it around ?" ... I just kind of took it and ran with it.
EVH also employs tapping harmonics. He holds the pick between his thumb and middle finger, which leaves his index finger free for tapping and also makes for easy transitions between picking and tapping. In support of his two-handed tapping techniques, Van Halen also holds a patent for a flip-out support device which attaches to the rear of the electric guitar. This device enables the user to play the guitar in a manner similar to the piano by orienting the face of the guitar upward instead of forward.
The now famous single pickup, single volume knob guitar configuration was arrived at due to Van Halen's lack of knowledge in electronic circuitry and his failure to find a decent bridge and neck pick-up combination. Upon installing the humbucking pickup, he did not know how to wire it into the circuit, so he wired the simplest working circuit to get it to function. His later guitars include various Kramer models from his period of endorsing that company (most notably the Kramer "5150", from which Kramer in its Gibson-owned days based their Kramer 1984 design, an unofficial artist signature model) and three signature models: the Ernie Ball/ Music Man Edward Van Halen Model (Which continues as the Ernie Ball Axis), the Peavey EVH Wolfgang (which has been succeeded by a similar guitar called the HP Special), and the Charvel EVH Art Series, on which Eddie does the striping before they are painted by Charvel.
In an interview he gave to Guitar World magazine in July, 1985, Van Halen states that his "brown sound" is "basically a tone, a feeling that I'm always working at...It comes from the person." He continues, "If the person doesn't even know what that type of tone I'm talking about is, they can't really work towards it, can they?"
Van Halen developed a technique of flattening his B string slightly so that the interval between the open G and B reaches a justly intonated, beatless third. This consonant third was almost unheard of in distorted-guitar rock and allowed Van Halen to use major chords in a way that mixed classic hard rock power with "happy" pop. The effect is pronounced on songs such as "Runnin' With the Devil", "Unchained", and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?".
With the B string flattened the correct amount, chords in some positions on the guitar have more justly intonated thirds, but in other positions the flat B string creates out-of-tune intervals. As Eddie once remarked to Guitar Player:
A guitar is just theoretically built wrong. Each string is an interval of fourths, and then the B string is off. Theoretically, that's not right. If you tune an open A chord in the first position and it's perfectly in tune, and then you hit a barre chord an octave higher, it's out of tune. The B string is always a motherfucker to keep in tune all the time! So I have to retune for certain songs. And when I use the Floyd onstage, I have to unclamp it and do it real quick. But with a standard-vibrato guitar, I can tune it while I'm playing.''
Eddie used a volume technique in the instrumental "Cathedral". He hammered notes on the fretboard with one hand while rolling the volume knob with the other. This altered the attack and decay of the notes so they mimicked the sound of keyboards. This "volume swells" sound was originally popularized by 70's progressive rock bands like Yes and Rush, but was usually performed with a volume pedal, at a slower pace. "Cathedral" also employs an electronic delay, with the delay set at 400 milliseconds (ms) and the delayed note set at the same amplitude as the original note. Most of the composition's notes come from hammering on the notes of a major 5th string barre chord (ascending and then descending) and replicating this pattern up and down the neck of the guitar. The end result of this technique made the composition sound as if it is being played on a church/cathedral organ.
Eddie Van Halen built his guitar (Black and White) by hand, using an imperfect body and a used neck picked up at Wayne Charvel's guitar shop. The body and neck were constructed by Lynn Ellsworth of Boogie Bodies guitars, who was working for Wayne at the time. In his guitar he wanted to get a Gibson sound with the Fender feel. In 1979, Eddie began to play a black, rear loaded Charvel with yellow stripes. This was later replicated by Charvel along with the black and white striped model and the red white and black model (EVH Art Series Guitars). He also used a stock unmodified Ibanez Destroyer on a lot of the tracks on Van Halens first album such as You Really Got Me and Runnin' With the Devil and a modified Ibanez Destroyer on some tracks on Van Halens second album and a borrowed unmodified Ibanez Destroyer on some tracks on the Women and Children First album.
Also, in 1979 Eddie's original guitar was repainted with Frankenstein artwork. Eddie also changed the neck, removed part of the scratchplate and eventually installed a Floyd Rose vibrato unit. The guitar itself is known both as a "Frankenstrat" and as THE "Frankenstrat." Fender reissued the guitar in relic form in 2007, the limited run selling at $25,000 a guitar. However, a "new" (non-reliced) Frankenstrat is currently available through the Charvel company for significantly less, the first time Van Halen has consented to the commercial release of a guitar with his signature graphics on it.
In 1983, Eddie began to use a brand new Kramer guitar with artwork similar to its predecessor and with a hockey-stick or "banana" headstock, which came to be known as the "5150." This guitar was rear-loaded (no scratchplate), had a Floyd Rose vibrato unit and a neck that was later electronically mapped in order for it to be copied on the later Music Man and Peavey signature models. This guitar was last used on the track "Judgment Day" on the For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge album. Various versions of it can be seen in the music videos for "Panama", "Hot for Teacher", "When It's Love", "Feels So Good" and the concert video, Live Without a Net. The guitar itself was a variant of a Kramer Pacer, although not a model that was technically available at the time.
It was painted with Krylon paints by Van Halen himself and used through the OU812 tour, after which it was "retired." However, Edward did break out the guitar for use on the 2004 reunion tour, although the neck had finally given out and had apparently been replaced. A copy of this guitar is available today (although not with Van Halen's permission) through the current manufacturer of Kramer's, Music Yo, a subsidiary of the Gibson company. However, the commercially available copy does NOT feature the custom graphics, as the "Frankenstein" graphics are trademarked by Edward Van Halen.
In the mid 1990s, Ernie Ball produced an EVH signature "Music Man" guitar, and Eddie used this on For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and Balance albums. This guitar is still commercially available under the "Axis" name, and retains all of the original features of the Edward Van Halen model. Edward was allegedly upset that Ernie Ball could not produce enough of this guitar to meet demand, and subsequently moved his endorsement to the Peavey Electronics corporation.
Eddie named his line of signature Wolfgang Guitars after his son, Wolfgang. The guitar itself was similar to the previous Axis line, but with a slightly altered shape and many additional options available in Peavey's much larger custom shop. These guitars included a device called a "D-Tuna" which enabled a guitarist to tune the low E string down to D with a slight turn of a knob attached to the end of the bridge. In 2003, at the NAMM show, the relationship between Peavey and Eddie began to strain. Peavey constructed Eddie a glass enclosed stage to play for VIP's at 2PM. Eddie arrived late, shocking fans there with his disheveled appearance, as he immediately went upstairs and initially refused to play. After an hour of negotiations, Eddie came down while fans, who had lined up for hours prior to the appearance, roared with approval. Eddie ended up spending his short time on stage, talking about Wolfgang guitar production and his promise to take a keen interest in quality control.
Eddie left, having only played a few notes and small riffs, much to the dissatisfaction of the fans and Peavey. The end came in 2004, when Peavey company parted ways with Van Halen, reportedly because Eddie launched an on-line sale of hand patterned (by Edward) Charvel guitars, sold by the name of the "EVH Art Series Guitars", while he was still contractually obliged to Peavey. The guitars sold for large sums on eBay, and were essentially replicas of his famous "Frankenstrat" guitars, played by Van Halen mainly during the David Lee Roth era of the band. Eddie also launched Frankenstein replicas as noted above, which are the only Van Halen guitars currently endorsed by Eddie.
Most recently Eddie has collaborated with Fender guitars to produce a replica of the Frankenstrat. Eddie and Chip Ellis of the Fender Custom Shop teamed up to produce a guitar priced at $25,000 each. Also, Eddie has collaborated with Fender to launch his own EVH brand of guitars, amps, and musical instrument equipment, starting with his new EVH Brand 5150 III amplifier. Eddie now uses prototypes of his new EVH Brand Wolfgang, which is an updated version Eddie's Peavey Wolfgangs but with new pickups, knobs, a thinner but very elaborate quilted maple top to allow the basswood the dominant tone, providing more tonal resonance but with a balanced high sustain. Also, the new Wolfgang is equipped with an Original Floyd Rose. In addition, the new guitar has a slightly altered headstock. This is because this was Ed and Hartley Peavey's original design for the headstock, which Eddie had patented without the scoop on final version of the Peavey Wolfgang. He has been seen with 3 new Wolfgang guitars, first a sunburst one, then a black one which he stated he liked less than the sunburst one and now he uses a white one, the best sounding one out of the three prototypes according to Ed.
A single basic tube amplifier has to usually be run at high volumes to produce a overdriven tone but with re-amping the first amplifier can be made to produce an overdriven tone and it's line level output can then be fed into a second amplifier which can then control the volume level of the first amplifiers overdriven tone which results in a volume controlled overdriven tone. Re-amping with the first amplifier having a Jose master volume modification and the second amplifier being stock was most likely used to record Van Halen I. A variac set at 90 volts was also used on the first amplifier which was Ed's main 100 watt Marshall. Pictures from the Van Halen II recording sessions show Ed's main 100 watt amplifier with what appears to be the Jose master volume modification to the amplifiers back panel and re-amping does not seem to have been used for Van Halen II.
Between 1993 and 2004 Eddie was sponsored by Peavey Electronics to use their 5150 Amplifiers, which he had a part in designing. Following the ending of this relationship, Peavey renamed the amplifier as the 'Peavey 6505', with slightly updated styling but original circuitry. Eddie is now sponsored by Fender and has debuted his new amp called the 5150 III. The 5150 III features 3 channels with their own independent controls, a 4-button foot-switch and his famous striped design on the head.
A crucial component of Van Halen's personal style is his use of the Floyd Rose fulcrum vibrato for electric guitars. Developed in the mid-20th century, early versions of this device allowed the guitarist to impart a vibrato to a chord or single string via movement of the bar with the picking hand. Van Halen went on to collaborate with Floyd Rose on improvements to Rose's device.
Van Halen also pioneered the mainstream use of the Trans-Trem system on the Steinberger line of guitars on "5150", most notably on the songs "Summer Nights" and on "Me Wise Magic" off of "Best of Volume I" where the song goes through several key changes while retaining the same chord voicings. The Trans-Trem system allows for the effect of an instant "capo", increasing the pitch of all strings by up to a minor third or lowering the pitch by as much as a perfect fourth.