It feels like it's been a long wait for Wolfgang Van Halen's debut album, but it's very much worth it. It's not just an incredible showcase of his multi-instrumental prowess, but vocally and as a songwriter he's forging a strong identity. Of course that doesn't mean there can't be nods to the father who inspired and supported him so much.
Not only is Wolfgang's solo project Mammoth WVH name a reference to Eddie and Alex Van Halen's early name for VH, there's a few Easter egg references to Eddie on the album. Moreover, Wolfgang actually used the most iconic of all his dad's guitars in the recording sessions; the original Frankenstein.
"I played the original Frankenstein on the solo on Mammoth and on Feel," he tells Total Guitar magazine (opens in new tab) as part of their latest issue's cover story.
"You feel the history," adds Wolfgang. "It’s kind of terrifying holding it, just because arguably it is the most famous guitar in musical history. It’s definitely quite the thing to hold it. When we were pulling it out of its safe, Dad picked it up and he was just noodling with it for a second. He’s like “Yeah, feels about the same” and he tossed it onto the couch. Everyone just gasped when he did that.
"To Dad it’s just a little piece of junk that he built himself, but to us it’s the most famous thing in the world."
Elsewhere in the interview, Wolfgang talks how he started as a guitarist – and that it's not his first instrument, and neither is bass.
"I’ve always been a drummer first," he reveals but [guitar] wasn’t until I was about 12 because I wanted to play [Van Halen instrumental] 316 for my sixth grade talent show. That was the very first thing I learned, and then Dad taught me how to do powerchords (opens in new tab). I just kind of took it from there. People always comment “Well, he had a good teacher!” But Dad wasn’t a very good teacher.
Indeed, Wolfgang explains he's pretty much self taught. "He just showed me how to do powerchords and I learned from listening to whatever I like and maybe you know guitar tabs here and there, just kind of figuring out how to play. That’s why I feel more like a stronger rhythm player than a lead player. I mean, I can play lead but I’m more comfortable in the rhythm space.
Also I really don’t want to try and be Dad. That’s not me. I’ll be the dude playing everything else, but not the shreddy guy. Sure there’s tapping and stuff like [album track] Mr Ed, but it’s because the song called for it."
Wolfgang Van Halen's Mammoth WVH's self-titled debut album Mammoth WVH is released on 11 June. For more info visit mammothwvh (opens in new tab). Total Guitar's June 2021 issue is out now – buy it at magazinesdirect.com (opens in new tab)