Having spent 14 years playing alongside his legendary father Eddie in Van Halen, Wolfgang Van Halen has spent recent years building a mightily impressive legacy of his own. We spoke to the man himself to find out, in his own words, which songs helped make him the artist he is today.
"I figured I'd start with a song from my own band, Mammoth WVH, Distance. It’s special to me, not only because it’s for my father, but it’s the first song we ever released. It marked a huge turning point in my life, being my own artist. There’s a lot looming over me in terms of what people expect, so finding my own voice was the thing I wanted to accomplish most.
“Foo Fighters are one of the biggest inspirations for the project, and Stacked Actors is probably my favourite track of theirs. It’s got these relaxing verses, but it’s simultaneously one of their heavier songs. During the rehearsals for the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert, I ended up sitting on the drum kit in the studio and playing this song with the band. It was amazing, playing a track I love with musicians that I’ve looked up to my whole life.
“Intervals' Aaron Marshall is one of my favourite guitar players alive. Currently, he’s one of my biggest inspirations. 5-HTP is a song I think I’ve played more than anything, to the point where my fiancée now hums it all the time. It’s become a part of our relationship in terms of the melody. I wish I’d wrote it. Attempting to play Tool has also helped me become an infinitely better musician. When I learned Ænema on drums, I noticed an immediate change in my skills once I started trying to mimic Danny Carey."
“Meshuggah are my favourite band, and when I first heard Born In Dissonance, I was obsessed. I was blasting it in the car once trying to teach my fiancée about polyrhythms, and she was getting so frustrated. So I ended up taking her to the studio, and it led to me writing my song Like A Pastime. She understands what polyrhythms are now...to a point.
The Middle may be one of Jimmy Eat World's biggest songs, but I don’t think people appreciate how great that guitar solo is. I performed it for my 12th grade arts fair, and it was the first time I had ever publicly performed. Growing up and being a little emo teenager, the lyrics really spoke to me. During that time, System Of A Down also had a huge impact. Me and my friend Ethan would sit in math class, and we would sort of jam Suite-Pee, pretending to play the instruments. Teachers would move us further apart, but we’d still lock eyes and jam out across the classroom.
“It’s a bit of a left turn, but Peter Gabriel’s Red Rain will forever make me think of my father. One night he pulled me to the side and put these big headphones on my tiny seven- year-old head. Then he just blasted this song, and it was one of the most powerful music experiences I’ve ever had. Just sitting there on the floor, Peter Gabriel blasting in my ears ’til it hurt. My dad also played me a track on a trip to the Grand Canyon. Him and my mum took me out of school for a week and I just remember we were pulled over, my mom had gotten out the car, and my dad goes, “Hey, listen to this...” And he put on the song Big Balls by AC/DC. It made me laugh so hard. It made me fall in love with Bon Scott and his tone.
“Nine Inch Nails are another of my main inspirations. With Teeth is one of my favourite albums by them, and The Collector in particular I love. My father usually wasn’t always super into music I’d show him, but when I showed him this song, he was all about it. It’s a very raw, aggressive rock song, which is pretty rare to hear from Nine Inch Nails. They’re usually really about the electronic dissonance. But it was always great when my dad’s ears would perk up... It was nice to be able to do that sort of thing in return, you know?”