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  1. beentheredonethatagain
    Eddie Van Halen: My Father Encouraged Me to Drink Before Performances
    Eddie Van Halen says he struggled with alcoholism in the past in part because his father encouraged him to drink before performances.
    Speaking with Esquire magazine, a now sober Van Halen says, “I don’t mean to blame my dad, but when I started playing in front of people, I’d get so damn nervous. I asked him, ‘Dad, how do you do it?’ That’s when he handed me the cigarette and the drink. And I go, Oh, this is good! It works!”

    Van Halen, 57, reveals that he has been battling cancer, and has had pieces of his tongue removed as part of the treatment. He now smokes electronic cigarettes.

    It has been a long road for the lead-guitarist. He tells Esquire that in 2006, after stints in rehab, he wanted to stop drinking and switched to Klonopin. That became a problem for him as well and recounted that for about one year he was “catatonic.” “All I wanted to do was stop drinking. But instead I literally could not communicate. Yeah, I was gone. I don’t know what dimension I went to, but I was not here.” He sat on the couch and watched episodes of “Law & Order.”

    He also recalls enlisting his son, Wolfgang, into his band as a 15-year-old — a moment he says didn’t sit well with Wolfgang’s mom, ex-wife Valerie Bertinelli. He says, “Yeah, I pulled him out of school. She’s like, ‘You’re not doing that.’ I’m like, ‘Jodie Foster, she went to school later and she’s okay. Trigonometry doesn’t apply to music anyhow.’”

    By ABC News

    Apr 18, 2012 1:19pm


  1. beentheredonethatagain

    Edward Van Halen Is Alive

    He started playing, and millions of teenage boys started banging their heads against the wall. Thirty-five hard years later, he's got a new album, a new tour, and his kid Wolfgang is in the band. What would you give to play Eddie's guitar backstage at the Garden?

    A few days earlier, I was at the band's sound check in an empty Madison Square Garden. There's Ed, his brother, Alex, who is just sunglasses behind the shiny rack of drums in front of him, sticks flailing. And there's Wolfgang Van Halen, who is now twenty-one, on bass.

    David Lee Roth isn't around, he doesn't do sound check, and that's all right with the Van Halens. Lots of eye rolling happens when the subject of Roth comes up. I'm not saying the lead vocal detracts, but in general the first thing people focus on is the vocal. But vocals aside, there's a lot of shit going on that you're missing. You know what I mean? [Hums opening notes of Beethoven's Fifth.] You can't be singing to that — you'd ruin it, right? What the hell could you sing to that?

    Between songs Wolfgang is belting out orders. "Let's try that again after the solo. Dad, you keep forgetting that part... Okay, I'd like to run through 'Full Bug' and then go into 'Girl Gone Bad.' " It's just the music and background vocals, and it's really tight. With the old songs it was bass player Michael Anthony's ultrahigh harmonies that really gave Van Halen its signature sound, and Wolfie doesn't miss a note. He's actually a great singer. Occasionally he'll sing Roth's lines just to fill in the sound, maybe to cue his dad to the song's musical changes. After the sound check, I'm sitting in Ed's dressing room and Wolfgang pops in. He's a tall guy, stocky with a boyish face. He looks more like his mom, Valerie Bertinelli, than he does his father.

    Introductions are made and he looks me right in the eye with a firm handshake. He takes after me, Ed says. Wolf grabs a seat and starts talking about the set list. Hey, whatever you want to do, Wolf, just make sure everyone gets the list, so we know what the hell we're doing tonight. Wolfgang joined the band when he was just fifteen, and in addition to playing bass, he has also become the field marshal who makes all of this work.

    For the new album, his first album ever, the band pulled songs from demos they'd made back before they'd been signed to a record deal, way before Wolfgang was born. But it was the kid who picked the songs that would work on the album, and the band went for it.
    He was fifteen when he joined the band. It wasn't easy to convince his mother. Oh, that was hell. Look, I'm tellin' you, she's like my mom. Yeah, I pulled him out of school. She's like, "You're not doing that." I'm like, "Jodie Foster, she went to school later and she's okay.

    Trigonometry doesn't apply to music anyhow." Ed recalls when he bought Wolf his first drum set, the drums sat in a room upstairs for months and months, collecting dust. Then one day, he heard unbelievable footwork with the bass pedal coming from upstairs.

    All of a sudden, he's doing stuff with one foot that I can't as a drummer do with two feet. So I ran down to the bedroom where his mom was and I said, "Do you hear that?" She goes, "Yeah. Yeah." Right then and there, she knows. That was it. Ed says that he was really concerned when Wolfgang was born because Bertinelli's father had no rhythm whatsoever, You know, kind of like Navin Johnson in The Jerk.Thank God almighty, thank God, Wolfgang had rhythm.

    When Wolfgang was twelve years old, Alex and Ed were working together in the studio. Ed had hung a rug up over the studio window so his brother couldn't see who was playing bass with him. Wolf came along and his father quietly told him to pick up the bass and play along with him. And he did, flawlessly. When the song was through, Alex, knowing his brother obviously wasn't playing both guitars, said, "Who was that?" A little voice comes over the console. "Hi, Uncle Al. It's me, Wolfie."

    I mean, it's kind of like learning how to ride a bicycle, I guess. You kind of coach him and before you know it, he's on his own. We were sitting there, and we're like, "We need a bass player. You feel like playing bass?" And before you know it, he's in the band. I didn't really give him — I didn't really ask him, What do you want to do in life? You know? Just like my father didn't, either. I just said, "Why don't you play bass?" "Well, okay." "Hey, Wolf, you wanna go on tour with us?" "Yeah, sure, why not?" He blows my fuckin' mind, man. We never knew where it would end up.

    When Van Halen reunited with Roth in 2007 for a North American tour, Wolfgang was on bass. He was sixteen and getting a shit ton of flack from fans for replacing Michael Anthony.

    I mean, what a crazy situation to put a sixteen-year-old through — talk about hit the ground running. But without Wolfgang, the 2007 reunion wouldn't have happened. The new album and 2012 tour wouldn't have happened. I ask Ed what his father would have made of Wolfgang, and the question throws him a little, his voice shakes and his eyes go moist. Oh, God, don't make me cry... Sometimes I think Wolfie's him, reincarnated. He would have been so proud.
    I never meant to hurt anyone, you know?

    Everything's changed now, everything. He even has to find a new place to write, because the classic studio where Ed has made many of the Van Halen records since his sound first hit the earth like a meteor — 5150 they called it — brings back all the bad memories of drugs and booze. It's not a sanctuary like it used to be. I still love it as a recording studio, it's a great sounding room, but I need a place where I can go that's not so full of the past.

    Some things never change, though: Thirty-five years in, Ed's nerves won't leave him alone. For the new record, A Different Kind of Truth, Ed recorded at Henson Studios in Hollywood. I play a solo, and afterward I was literally shaking. Everyone's going, "Are you all right?" And I go, "I'm fucking nervous." "Yeah, but you're Eddie Van Halen," they say. And I go, "I know who I am, but I'm still nervous."

    Back in the dressing room, Ed takes a couple of long draws from his electronic cigarette and blows out a huge cloud of vapor. You'd swear it was real smoke, but he had to quit that, too. In 2000, he felt a callus on his tongue, a patch of dead skin caused, he figured, by the way he chewed his food or some shit. When it was discovered to be cancer, Ed concocted elaborate theories — it was from the metal in his titanium hip, or from chewing on his custom copper pick while standing in a studio filled with electromagnetic waves.

    The four hundred packs of cigarettes a day, the booze and cocaine, had nothing to do with it. The doctors had him drink an experimental radioactive rinse, then they cut out a piece of his tongue shaped like the end of his pick. And he was cancer-free until last year, when he got hit twice. I haven't talked about this, because I don't talk about this. Last spring, doctors found cancer cells in his throat and took a scalpel to them. Last fall, the cancer came back and they took another chunk of his tongue. Every few months, he opens his mouth and doctors poke at him.

    And I have to say, he is the healthiest fifty-seven-year-old I've ever seen. He looks young and vital and happy, lean and muscled, and his playing has never been better. So the news he's just broken of the recent revenge of the cancer makes no sense to me, and at the same time makes his appearance, this tour, this band, all the more miraculous.

    Then Ed hands me the guitar and I cradle it like a newborn. I just stare at it for a long time, before gingerly beginning to play. He's calling out chord changes to me so I can use it the way he intended. I'm not religious, dammit, I'm not. But I'm starting to believe.

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