Wolfgang Van Halen on Life in the Spotlight
Growing up in one of rock’s preeminent musical families with a classical composer’s first name, Wolfgang Van Halen was probably destined to be a musician before he was big enough to pick up a bass — but as he pointed out during a recent interview, he says that was still able to find his own path.
The draw, he explained, was the power trio format. “I loved the idea that they had two lead singers, and the vocal harmonies they use. I also started playing drums first, and Travis Barker is amazing,” he enthused. “I would play along to all of the Blink-182 records. The other thing I loved about the band was that it was a trio like Muse or the Police. Three people getting it done. I love it.”
After switching from drums to guitar, Wolfgang joined a power trio of his own: Van Halen, which found itself without a lead singer after Sammy Hagar‘s second departure following their 2004 tour. “I switched to bass because it was the only position open in Van Halen,” he laughed. “I didn’t really get into the bass until we started messing around in the studio for about a year before the 2007 Van Halen tour. We rehearsed for a long time and at first it was just fun, and then when we got Dave [Lee Roth] involved, it got really serious.”
That tour ended up forging a musical bond that’s gone on to become an important part of his career outside Van Halen, too. “I’ve always been a huge Alter Bridge fan, and on the 2007 Van Halen tour we happened to be in the same city, so I went to go see them play and we met for the first time. We got along really well and kept in touch after that,” Wolfgang explained. And after guitarist Mark Tremonti found himself without bassist Brian Marshall for a tour in late 2012, he knew who to call.
“I was flattered that Mark thought of me for the gig, but he asked me out of nowhere,” Van Halen recalled. “I called my dad and asked him what he thought. He said, ‘F— yeah! It would be awesome.’ That’s all I needed to hear. So I called Mark back and told him I was in. My first show as a member of Tremonti was in New Jersey the day after I joined.”
Joining a band with a pre-existing fanbase can be tough for a musician, but it’s something Wolfgang is accustomed to. “At first they were all surprised, but they’ve been so nice to me on Twitter and Facebook,” he said when asked about how Tremonti’s fans have treated him. “There are always the haters, but that’s the way the Internet is anyway. I’m sure people will complain about our interview here. What can you do?”