Wolfgang Van Halen has weighed in on the proposed all-star VAN HALEN tribute project, saying it "was already not happening" by the time Jason Newsted first publicly discussed it three months ago.
No progress has been reported on a possible VAN HALEN tribute concert since April when the former METALLICA bassist revealed to The Palm Beach Post that he was approached by VAN HALEN drummer Alex Van Halen about six months earlier about playing bass for the project. Newsted told the Florida newspaper that he agreed to go to California to jam with Alex and legendary guitarist Joe Satriani and see if it felt right, but he eventually realized that it would be impossible to do justice to VAN HALEN's legacy. "How could you?" Jason said. "There's nobody that can top it, so how do you show it honor? I didn't want it to be viewed as a money grab. And then it kind of just all fizzled."
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Wolfgang was asked to elaborate on what happened to cause plans for the tribute concert to fall apart. He said: "What I can say is that there was an attempt at doing something. But, you know, I don't like to speak negatively about people, but there are some people that make it very difficult to do anything when it comes to VAN HALEN. After being in VAN HALEN for a long time, I really have strived to have an environment where there is no walking on eggshells and there is no personality that you have to deal with. It's just guys having fun making music and just having a good time. But, you know, from my time in VAN HALEN, there was always some stuff that gets in the way from just making music and having a good time. And, I think, that's what happened.
"I would love to just sit here and say everything and say the truth," he continued. "There are plenty of interviews my dad did, where he straight up just said everything. And people hated him for it and thought he was lying. So I could just say shit, but people have already decided how they feel about things, facts or not. So I can say the facts. But that may not align with how certain people feel. I know how VAN HALEN fans get. They are very motivated by which specific people they like in the band. And it's just not worth it. Just, we made an attempt, and some people can be hard to work with, and made it not happen."
Regarding his involvement in the proposed tribute concert, Wolfgang said: "When it comes to VAN HALEN, and decision-making overall and what VAN HALEN does, it's Al, and then I'm there and supportive. You know, I basically help make the decisions that dad would be there to make, because I'm in there in his stead."
Wolfgang went on to say that he "would really like to do something" for his father, but that the tribute concert idea "never even got off the ground."
"Look at anything that's happened with VAN HALEN," he said. "And look how things have fallen apart. You know? The fact that in my tenure, in VAN HALEN, we managed to do three tours, put an album of original material and a live album out is a fucking miracle.
"People love to pin every decision VAN HALEN has ever made on Dad," he continued. "But Al's the brain. Al has been the guy forever. He's the dude. When it comes to VAN HALEN, Dad just wanted to play guitar. But, you know, Al's mentality, and it's the mentality that VAN HALEN took for the entirety of its band, is that there's nothing worth talking about unless it's happening. So the reason that nothing has been talked about from VAN HALEN, the official channels, is because nothing's happened. And I know how that will stir people up and piss them off. But that's how the operation is run."
Asked what he would say if someone were to assume that the main problem was a certain singer with three initials — referring to David Lee Roth — Wolfgang replied: "I would say 'Do your research on the history of VAN HALEN, and come to your conclusions.'"
Earlier this month, SiriusXM radio personality Eddie Trunk said that Roth is the main reason the proposed all-star VAN HALEN tribute project has yet to move forward. Citing "a very, very, very reliable source" close to VAN HALEN, Trunk said that the hold-up on the VAN HALEN-anything happening is a lot of it falling on David Lee Roth, that David Lee Roth — to no surprise; it shouldn't be a surprise to anybody — is a difficult guy to wrangle, a difficult guy to get an answer on, a difficult guy to get focused on anything, a difficult guy to get to sign off on anything. He is all over the map, as you would expect and have seen throughout history, and that the big hold-up in anything happening with VAN HALEN is not Alex, who wants to do it and is trying; it's actually Roth who needs to sign off and be involved. Also, contrary to any reports of anything different, Alex and [former VAN HALEN bassist] Michael Anthony are totally cool and there's no issue there at all. And the stumbling block is trying to get Alex and Dave on the same page and Dave wanting to do this and how they're gonna do it. And that's really one of the big stumbling issues."
A month ago, Anthony confirmed to Trunk that he was involved in some of the early conversations about the VAN HALEN tribute.
"I haven't spoken to him in a little while, but I have spoken with Alex on occasion," Michael said. "And for the most part, we don't even speak that much about music — more about just family, how we're doing and stuff like that. I know it still pains him a lot as far as Eddie goes and will probably for the rest of his life. But I spoke with him and Dave last year about a possible something, but Dave just starts going [talking really fast] And I'm, like, 'Okay.' And we basically just had kind of a conference call about having a conference call to discuss it, and then that other call didn't happen for whatever reason on their end. I told them that I'd obviously be interested. And it would be more like a celebration of the music rather than putting together something and calling it VAN HALEN because that just wouldn't be right at this point."
Anthony went on to say that he hadn't been aware Newsted was involved in the discussions until Jason disclosed it in The Palm Beach Post interview. "That's the first that I'd even heard about anything like that," Michael said. "And it was kind of interesting because he said he spoke to [Dave and Alex] about a year ago, and that's about the time I was speaking with them. So I don't know. I'm gonna have to call Jason and ask him. [Laughs]"
When Trunk noted that Roth said in his comment about the VAN HALEN tribute that "two of us" would be required "for every position" in the project's lineup, possibly suggesting that more than one guitarist and more than one bassist would be involved in the show, Anthony said: "I was kind of thinking along those lines also, but then one thing made me kind of change my mind and make me think, 'Well, Dave's just kind of being Dave,' and maybe he's just saying that it would take at least two people to be able to duplicate what one person in this band did, and the reason I thought of that was all of a sudden he brought up the name Pink. He was saying that Pink would have to be one of the David Lee Roth characters, or singers, and I'm, like, 'Huh.' That just sounded a little too 'Dave' to me.
"But I don't know," Anthony quickly clarified. "At this point, I've gotta tell you, I don't know if anything will ever happen. 'Cause Alex is — he's really hurting. Him and Edward were so close on all levels — musical levels and personally and whatever. It just seems to me like it might be really hard for Alex to even enter into something to bring back all those memories. I don't know. I could be wrong. I'm the guy that always says, 'Never say never.'"
According to Anthony, the proposed VAN HALEN tribute would likely take the form of a single concert rather than a full-fledged tour.
"What was being talked about was not actually doing a tour," he said. "You take something like this on tour and people are gonna think it's a cashgrab. I'd rather have something, like a memorial-type thing, done at a venue. And there were actually a couple of venues discussed. But do it that way instead of taking it on the road. And make it just a real celebration of the music…
"I actually would not be up for doing a tour right off the bat," Michael continued. "I think holding a celebration of Eddie and the music and the whole VAN HALEN legacy is great. And let's face it — none of us need the money. I don't need the money. I'd rather take the money and throw it in a charity."
Michael once again reiterated that he has no concrete idea whether any VAN HALEN tribute concert will take place. "I think it all really hinges upon Alex," he said. "And he's gotta be the person, really, that wants to do this and give his blessing to the whole thing for it to move forward. And like I said, when we speak, we really don't even speak about doing anything like that at this point. He's still healing. And if it gets to that point, I'm sure Alex will be the first one that'll wanna do something like that."
Asked whether there has been any bad blood between him and Alex and Dave in recent years, Anthony said: "Not at all. I only spoke to Dave that one conversation we had last year and I couldn't hardly get a word in edgewise, which is… that's typical Dave. But I have spoken to Alex on occasion, and it's great. We'll speak for, like, 45 minutes, an hour. And probably about the first 20 minutes is Alex, sometimes he'll vent to me a bit about all the circumstances around how everything happened with Eddie. But we basically just talk about family and we actually bring up some of the old times on the road, to lighten things up a bit."
In June 2021, Wolfgang, who joined his father in VAN HALEN for the band's 2007 reunion tour with Roth, replacing Anthony, told SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk" it would be "great" to eventually organize an Eddie Van Halen tribute show. "It's not in the immediate plans, 'cause that's a lot of moving parts that you've gotta corral to get that to happen. But I definitely think it should happen. Absolutely," he said.
Asked how he envisions the tribute concert taking place in terms of which musicians should be involved, Wolfgang said: "I have no idea. All I know is that the focus should a hundred percent be on Pop. While it could be a celebration of VAN HALEN and the band's history, I think more than anything, it should be focused on him… It's a tall ask and a big thing to figure out. But I do think it should happen at some point."
In November 2020, Wolfgang told Entertainment Tonight that proceeds from any tribute show in honor of his father will go toward Eddie's favorite charity, Mr. Holland's Opus, which helps underprivileged students access musical instruments. Proceeds from the debut solo single from Wolfgang's solo band MAMMOTH WVH, "Distance", are also benefiting Mr. Holland's Opus.
In February 2021, former VAN HALEN singer Sammy Hagar told Kyle Meredith that he will make every effort to take part in the Eddie Van Halen tribute concert.
"I have nothing to do with the [Eddie Van Halen] legacy," he said. "That's their business — that's Wolfie, Alex Van Halen; they're family members. Whoever wants to call me up and say, 'Here's the date,' I will be there. I don't care where I am. I'll cancel a [solo] show [if I need to]. [Laughs] [That's] something VAN HALEN would never do. I always make that joke — canceling a show was [out of the question with] VAN HALEN. I went out sick without being able to sing, Eddie went out with a crutch, Alex went out with a fucking neck brace — we wouldn't cancel shows. But I will cancel my show for a tribute to Eddieany day."
Eddie died in October 2020 at the age of 65. The legendary VAN HALEN guitarist passed away at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California.
Eddie was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2000 and had tongue surgery. He later battled lung cancer and had been receiving radiation treatment in Germany. Things took a turn for the worse in early 2019 when Eddie got in a motorcycle accident. He was subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumor, and received gamma knife radiosurgery to treat the illness.