Rock Icons: Eddie Van Halen by DragonForce's Herman Li

Eddie Van Halen in 1982
(Image credit: Larry Marano\/Getty Images)

With all the finger-tapping stuff he did on the first Van Halen album [self-titled, 1978], Edward Van Halen changed the face of rock music. Everyone knows that. But Van Halen were never just a band for musos. I first got into them through hearing songs from their 5150 album [1986] on Capital Radio. Probably my favourite album of theirs was For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge [1991], with 5150 just behind. I was a late starter when it came to playing guitair, but when friends recommended that I should listen to more Van Halen, I also went out and bought the David Lee Roth stuff as well.

I used to sit in my room and try and play like him – the key word being ‘try’. The oddest thing is now I have the ability to play solos like that with DragonForce, I don’t feel the need to do so any more. That’s because the thing that impressed me most was the fact that Van Halen had good guitar playing and good songwriting: with most bands, it was one or the other.

In the long run, his influence wasn’t always a good thing. Kids tried to move their fingers faster and faster on the fretboard, but they ended up forgetting about the songs. With Edward, he even wrote on a piano. If you listen to Jump (from 1984], one of their biggest hits, the lead instrument was a keyboard. I appreciate the amount of effort it takes. He’s done so many albums that it’s almost scary. To musicians like me, Edward’s long career is inspiring.

DragonForce’s best-of collection Killer Elite is out now.

Van Halen Quiz