Steve Lukather Says Eddie Van Halen Was ‘Humble Little Guy’
Steve Lukather recalled his four-decade friendship with Eddie Van Halen and praised the late guitarist’s “adventure mentality.”
Toto and Van Halen toured together in 1979, and after their first encounter, Lukather felt like he’d known Eddie Van Halen his “whole life,” as he explained in a recent interview with Guitar World.
“He was just a humble little guy who just loved to mess with shit and do things different,” he said. "The worst thing that could have happened to Eddie Van Halen would have been guitar lessons. When it came down to details about equipment and how he liked to do things, he always had an 'adventure' mentality. He knew what he wanted. And he wanted really weird shit.”
Lukather cited the example of the song “Twist the Knife,” which the pair cowrote and recorded for his 1989’s solo debut, Lukather. “I got to get inside his head for a minute,” he recalled. “He gave me a guitar and he said, ‘Tune it up a whole step and take an A bass string and tune it to B.’ And I go, ‘What? The neck’s gonna bend in half. What the fuck?’ He goes, ‘Trust me.’ I did it and I got a good take out of it, and that’s the record.”
He went on to recount a conversation they had about Van Halen’s trademark tapping technique. “I remember him telling me, ‘Look, man, I never meant to turn it into this parlor-trick thing – it’s just the way I play,'" he said. "He found a new way to fill out the sound. He created a whole orchestra on the instrument. ... You have to look at things pre-Van Halen and post-Van Halen when it comes to guitar.”
Lukather, who was already working on Michael Jackson’s Thriller album when Van Halen was invited to record a solo for “Beat It,” recalled how his friend caused some problems for producer Quincy Jones as the track came together via analog production means. “They did a version of ‘Beat It,’ and they sent it to Eddie to do the solo," the guitarist recalled. "But he cut the tape because he wanted to play over a different section. So Quincy called me … and said, ‘I need you guys to fix this record for me because Eddie cut the tape!’ Ed, he didn’t give a fuck. It’s like, ‘We’re in my studio, we do things my way’.”