Recently, Wolfgang Van Halen was spotted playing a semi-hollow version of the EVH Wolfgang - the body shape Eddie Van Halen named after him - for a cover of Alice in Chains’ Them Bones. The performance began speculation as to what the guitar was. Wolfgang has clarified things, confirming that the guitar’s model name pays tribute to Eddie Van Halen during the latest episode of Foo Fighters guitarist, Chris Shifflett’s Walking The Floor podcast.
During the interview, he tells Shiflett about his beginnings as a musician, leaving school to tour the world with Van Halen and dealing with the backlash he receives from Van Halen fans as well as his current project Mammoth WVH.
The conversation turns to gear when Shiflett asks about whether he plays more shred-friendly guitars as well as his go-to Gibson ES-335, and Wolfgang responded by detailing his love for semi-hollow guitars, how he broke Eddie’s vintage Gibson ES-335 and lifting the lid on his forthcoming signature model.
“I do play a Wolfgang every now and then, people love to throw that in my face and say that I’m dishonouring…or whatever. But the main thing with Mammoth is that I wanted to establish my own identity and my own sound.
"When we started recording it, the first guitar that was like ‘Wow, this is starting to become its own thing’, was when I pulled out my dad’s ’59 ES-335. It was so old that when I tried to tune it - I believe the tuning pegs are like, ivory or something.
"It just crumbled in my finger, it turned into cinnamon. But when we recorded, it sounded amazing. That’s when I got the bug for that hollow-body sort of sound.”
Before continuing, Wolfgang checks with Shiflett when the interview (which took place before the guitar made its stage debut) will air. “In about a month” Shiflett confirms.
“Oh good. People will see that…there are so many people who are like “Why don’t you develop your own guitar, what are you doing? This is disrespectful” and it’s like [they’ll see], I’ve been doing that this whole time.
“I’ve been developing my own hollow-body at EVH, and hopefully people will dig it. We’re developing a guitar that I’m very excited about. I’m excited for people to see it because I think people will finally be like, ‘Oh, ok, that’s good’. They won’t have much to say other than saying the don’t like the design.”
Shiflett then probes Wolfgang further, asking if the guitar will be based on an ES-335, at which point Wolfgang reveals that the model name is Eddie’s birthday, and the F-hole shape also pays tribute to his late father.
“Ish, I guess. It’s certainly modified. There’ll be pictures of me playing it by the time [this is out] but it just feels so weird to talk about it because I haven’t, with anyone.
"I’m calling it the SA-126, dad’s birthday is January 26th, and he named the song 316 after my birthday. SA - semi acoustic. So that’s been the kind of codename, and the more I’ve sat with it the more I really like it.
"It has one F-hole, but we’ve kind of modified it so it’s an E-hole, E, for dad. But yeah, I’m really stoked about it.”
However, we might be waiting a little while longer before we can get our hands on the signature model, as Wolfgang is following Eddie Van Halen’s stringent process of crash-testing gear to satisfaction before it is released, citing the same story Eddie told us about how he put the 5150 III through its paces by leaving it feeding-back for days inside the live room at the 5150 studio.
“Whenever dad would test a product…it’s a process we call crash-testing where basically we just run it into the ground and test it in every aspect that we can.
"So that’s kind of what this next year of touring will be. Getting the idea of it out there and seeing people’s response to it while simultaeneously beating the crap out of it on the road.”