The editors of Guitar World magazine collected their interviews with Eddie Van Halen from 1981 to 2016 to give us an in-depth look at “The Mozart Of Rock Guitar” in his own words.
Eddie Van Halen talks about his father, who was a jazz musician, recognizing his talent at an early age - “My Father has been a professional musician all his life, and he said, ‘Kid, you’ve got it,’ Some people have got it and some people don’t. Even people who don’t have it can practice long enough to get it down to a point. But there’s always a difference between a person who has the feel and those who don’t. The difference is in the amount of emotion expressed in your playing...”
When asked about college - “If I couldn’t play guitar, I’d be pumping gas. I mean, I got a low IQ. When everybody graduated, all the rich guys going, ‘Hey, which college are you going to?’ and I’m going ‘College?!? I just went straight back home, locked myself in my room, played guitar, wrote songs, and hoped to God I got somewhere.’”
Eddie Van Halen also spoke about the recording studio he built, 5150, and how his recording process might have caused some problems in the band. - “The way we did  is basically how I would have liked to have done all the previous records. And I think that’s another thing that maybe drove Dave away. Because for 1984, I built the studio and I started wanting to do things a little more my way, and I guess I turned some people off; I created a little friction. Not meaning to. I built the (effing) story for the benefit of all of us, for the family, for the band.”
The “Diver Down” album has several cover songs on it. Eddie wasn’t happy about that - “The ‘half cover tunes’ [Diver Down] pisses me off, ‘cause at the time I had enough music of my own. You know that Mini-Moog riff that opens Dancing in the Street? I’d written that for my own song, but everybody wanted it for Dancing in the Street. I said, ‘What?’ So that’s why I built my own studio. “Put it this way: I’d rather bomb with my own songs than make it with someone else’s. I don’t buy the philosophy of ‘If you redo a proven hit, you’re halfway there.’ That way, you’re not there. I’ve played enough cover tunes.”
“Eruption” is considered one of the greatest guitar solos ever, but Eddie Van Halen said he could’ve played it better! He tells the story of how it just happened to be recorded - “The whole story behind Eruption is unusual. It wasn’t even supposed to be on the album. I showed up at the recording studio early one day and started to warm up because I had a gig on the weekend and I wanted to practice my solo guitar spot. Our promoter, Ted Templeman, happened to walk by and he asked, ‘What’s that? Let’s put it on tape!’ So I took one pass at it, and they put it on the record. I didn’t even play it right. To this day, whenever I hear it, I think, ‘Man, I could’ve played it better.’”
Those are just some excerpts from the editors at Guitar World. Click the link to read much more.
-- Doug O’Brien