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Wolfgang Van Halen / ‘I’ve proved to myself that I can do it’

The future is very bright for Wolfgang Van Halen and Mammoth WVH. Having just closed the Alter Bridge Pawns And Kings European Tour in London’s O2 Arena, they have certainly been riding a wave. MetalTalk spoke with Wolfgang before his epic performance. We spoke about the new album, touring, and how when “people enjoy me for me instead of what my last name is, it is a really gratifying thing.”

Wolfgang Van Halen at The O2

Interview: Dany Jones

Photography: Steve Ritchie

Wolfgang Van Halen - Mammoth WVH
Wolfgang Van Halen Mammoth WVH Photo Steve RitchieMetalTalk

It seems inevitable to acknowledge the immense talent of Wolfgang Van Halen, who has solely composed, played every instrument on it, and recorded the self-titled debut album. His voice is fresh, and his delivery is charged with emotion, while his guitar playing is intricately flawless.

The trip around Europe is something Wolfgang has enjoyed. “It’s been amazing,” he says. “It’s been very exciting to be able to travel with people I’ve known for so long, like one big happy travelling musical family.”

Mammoth WVH - London O2 Arena – 12 December 2022
Mammoth WVH London O2 Arena 12 December 2022 Photo Steve RitchieMetalTalk

After Monday’s performance, the plan is to travel home for the seasonal break, and then they have already been scheduled to embark on a ‘mammoth’ world tour as the elected opener for none other than the mighty Metallica.

“By the end of the tour, you get a little homesick,” Wolfgang says, “so I’m excited to go home. But it’s weird. You miss home when you’re on tour, but when you’re home, you miss the tours, so it’s sort of that duality.”

The Mammoth WVH debut album was wonderfully received and the result of a project that Wolfgang set for himself. “Initially, it was to see if I could,” Wolfgang says. “I knew I could play the instruments, but I didn’t know if I’d be able to create something cohesive as its own project. So it was really a personal challenge at first. But now that I’ve proved to myself that I can do it, I think that’s what, in the studio at least, the project is.

“I’ve been in bands before, where it’s like a collective experience, and this is something that’s separate from that. It’s something that’s fully my own, and it’s very exciting to be able to have that sort of creative outlet.”

Mammoth WVH - London O2 Arena – 12 December 2022
Mammoth WVH London O2 Arena 12 December 2022 Photo Steve RitchieMetalTalk

The second album is very much underway, and Wolfgang says this should be finished by January 2023. “I’m probably about halfway through it, recorded. I got a bunch of stuff recorded before we started on this tour, and then once I go home, I have a little holiday break. But then in January, I’m going to finish it. So it’ll be ready to be released sometime next year.”

While he has a band for touring, in the studio, it is different. “In the studio, I do everything,” Wolfgang says. “Nine Inch Nails is its own thing in the studio and then live, it’s separate. I think I’ve found a comfortable way how I record albums now, so I’m having a good time doing that.”

But live, Mammoth WVH are a great band to see. “I’ve known these guys forever, so it was sort of a no-brainer,” Wolfgang says of the live lineup. “I’ve always wanted to be able to play with these guys. I played with Garrett [Whitlock – Drums] for the longest time when I was a part of Mark Tremonti’s solo band. I’ve been friends with Frank [Sidoris – Guitar].

“I met Ronnie [Ficarro – Bass] through a mutual friend, and then I met Jon [Jourdan – Guitar] through my friendship with Clint Lowery. He was in his solo band. I discovered Jon’s band where he’s the singer called To Whom It May, and I was really impressed with that. And so we’re now one big happy live band family. It’s nice. They’re just amazing dudes.”

Mammoth WVH - London O2 Arena – 12 December 2022
Mammoth WVH London O2 Arena 12 December 2022 Photo Steve RitchieMetalTalk

Wolfgang wrote the incredibly touching song Distance after his father’s passing. “It’s tough every time I play it,” he says. “But you have to separate yourself from that because it’s somebody’s first time seeing it every night. So you want to make sure that you do it as best as you can. Sometimes it’s more difficult than others. But overall, I think it’s always going to be a thing that I need to prepare for before I do it well.”

The song has touched so many souls, and people relate to it on a very personal level. “It’s an honour when I see comments about how much the music or that song means to them. It’s tough to wrap your head around that something you made is helping somebody. It’s a very crazy feeling. I’m very, very thankful for even being around that sort of vibe.”

Mammoth WVH - London O2 Arena – 12 December 2022
Mammoth WVH London O2 Arena 12 December 2022 Photo Steve RitchieMetalTalk

Wolfgang was engaged this year. Is there a date for the wedding? “Not yet,” he says, “but next year is gonna be pretty busy for touring, so I’m gonna need to find the right time at some point next year, hopefully.”

His schedule is already looking tough to find a slot in. “I’m grateful to be touring in any capacity,” he says. “Recently, we announced that we’re going to be opening for Metallica next year and the year after, which is really crazy. So I’m just honoured to be out there and that people are willing to come to see us and from the bands have us open for them. I am very grateful for the opportunity.”

For now, it’s about the music. “Music is one of the most important things in my life,” Wolfgang says. “It’s tough to imagine [a life with music]. I have no idea. I’d have no purpose.”

As his late father said, bless his soul, you just got to keep playing, right?

“I think it will always be there,” Wolfgang says about EVH, “but I’ll never stop being my own person, and it’s nice to see people respond to it. To have people enjoy me for me instead of what my last name is is a really gratifying thing.”

Mammoth WVH - London O2 Arena – 12 December 2022
Mammoth WVH London O2 Arena 12 December 2022 Photo Steve RitchieMetalTalk

MetalTalk’s Alter Bridge Pawns & Kings Tour coverage features interviews with Scott Phillips, Arejay Hale (Halestorm) and Wolfgang Van Halen (Mammoth WVH). Plus, full coverage of all three band’s performances.

To read all this, visit https://www.metaltalk.net/tag/pawns-and-kings-tour.

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