Mammoth WVH, the band spearheaded by the talented Wolfgang Van Halen, released their debut album last month. It was a highly-anticipated release, as Wolfgang is one of rock’s most promising rising stars. The self-titled set delivers with a collection of imaginative rock songs that would make Wolfgang’s father, the late Eddie Van Halen, proud.
Wolfgang joined Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio to discuss Mammoth WVH’s long-awaited debut, why he’s excited to tour with Guns N’ Roses last this year, memories of his father, and more. Read the Wolfgang Van Halen interview below, listen via the YouTube player and hear it via the Audio Ink Radio show on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.
Anne Erickson: Congratulations on your new record with Mammoth WVH, your self-titled debut. People have been waiting for this record for a long time. How does it feel to be in the home stretch finally?
Wolfgang Van Halen: It’s very exciting. It’s been such a long time coming, and to finally be this close; it’s crazy.
One thing that really caught my attention is the success of the lead single, “Distance.” It went to No. 1 on rock radio back in March, and “Don’t Back Down” is also climbing the charts. What do you think it is about “Distance” that really struck a chord with people?
I certainly couldn’t have seen it coming. That really surprised me. I think maybe “Distance” just kind of gave people an outlet in terms of how awful the past year has been. But, for “Don’t Back Down,” I really don’t know. Everybody’s been so receptive. It’s really surprised me in a good way, of course.
“Distance” is such a personal track. It’s about your father, the late Eddie Van Halen, who everyone loves. Was it difficult to open up in your music, or were you fearless about it?
Considering that this is all me, I guess I just kind of went all in and just put my entire self into it. So, I think that’s why the personal vibe really kind of comes out, because it’s truly me, 100%.
What’s the writing process like when you’re writing lyrics?
That was the toughest thing for me to figure out; usually, it starts with a melody that I get comfortable with, and kind of the tone of the song is what carries me into writing the lyrics. So, the music always dictates everything first for me. But, I do like to put the lyrics in a perspective that anyone can take their own meaning from it. So, it’s not so personal that you can’t really relate.
Did your father encourage you to make music? Some parents in the arts don’t want their kids to go into it, but others really encourage it.
He was super encouraging and not in like a forcing-me-to-do-it way. He just saw that I had an affinity for it and encouraged it.
Was there a moment when you felt like your dad was loving what you were doing musically? Like, “Yes! I finally impressed him!”
I mean, he was a very impressed father. He cheered me on in everything, from me playing soccer to, gosh, this one time where I threw a pumpkin at a teacher who was mean to me in kindergarten. He told me not to miss the next time! (Laughs) It was one of those little pumpkins. It wasn’t a big one. But he just cheered me on in literally everything, and he couldn’t have been happier with the music. He was the only other person who had all the ideas on his phone, other than me. He even had stuff that kind of hit the cutting room floor that’ll probably show up on another album or something. So, he was definitely the proudest parent.
He would be so proud of what you’re doing right now with the new music.
Oh, thank you. Yeah. I wish he was here to see everything.
It’s so awesome that you’re going to be opening on Guns N’ Roses’ upcoming tour. What are you most excited about?
It’s insane. Like, I can’t believe- it’s the highest honor that they thought of us and want to take us out. I can’t believe it. I mean, I was excited, in general, just to go on tour, but to take part in this, it’s a whole other thing. I’m blown away.
Do you know the guys of Guns N’ Roses personally at all?
Yeah. I’m on buds with Slash, and I’ve met Duff (McKagan) on occasion. I’ve heard nothing but great things. So, I’m very excited.
How did you find out that you had the gig?
Management had kind of said that it was a possibility because they were interested, and of course, it just seemed like way too pie-in-the-sky. So, I was just like, “Okay, I’m just going to let my hopes down early because there’s no way it will happen.” And then, they called me and were like, “Hey, it looks like it’s going to happen.” I still can’t believe it.
That’s amazing. Have you seen Guns N’ Roses perform live before?
I haven’t! I’ve seen Slash, because I’m good friends with Myles, and Frank is in my band, too. But I’ve yet to see Guns, So; I’m very excited just as a fan to be able to see them.
Do you have a favorite Guns N’ Roses song?
Oh, man! That’s a tall ask. I think just “Appetite (for Destruction),” just front to back, is one of the best.
You can’t go wrong with “Appetite.” You’ve already done a ton of cool things with your press run, including Howard Stern and network TV. What’s been your favorite experience so far, aside from, of course, appearing on the Audio Ink Radio show!
At the risk of sucking up and saying this (laughs), I think it was really fun to do “Kimmel” because the last time I played it was with my father, and we did it on Hollywood Boulevard, and it was a really crazy memory for me. So, to return and kind of play, a song for him felt really nice. It’s really special for me.
Do you have a favorite track off the new record- one that you can’t wait to perform live?
It’s tough because it’s like picking kids, but I’m really excited for people to hear “Stone.”
Read more here.
Story by Anne Erickson,
Photo by Travis Shinn