Whatever you were doing when you were 16, it is highly unlikely to top what Wolfgang Van Halen was doing. That’s the age that US guitarist and Mammoth leader Wolfgang was when he walked onstage at the Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 2007 to play his first public gig as bassist with the reunited Van Halen, his dad Eddie’s band. Speaking to Classic Rock for a feature in the new issue, out now, he describes as a moment akin to “being fired out of the cannon”.
Having to deal with the miffed reaction of sections of the band’s fanbase, who were disproportionately livid at the idea that he’d taken the place of original Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, was tough, he tells Classic Rock’s Dave Everley. “I was there to support my dad, but I was aware that I’d become the biggest enemy of every forty-to fifty-year-old man out there in the world. It was something I didn’t know how to handle. That did a lot of damage to me.”
It’s in stark contrast to his relationship with former bassist Anthony today. “Mike and I are very cordial,” he reveals. “He’s a wonderful fucking guy. We talk and it’s great.”
Despite the hurdles, though, Wolfgang knew he was ready. “It was a lot of pressure, but we had rehearsed constantly, to the point where those songs were in my bones,” he says. “And luckily nobody was staring at me– they were staring at Eddie Van Halen and David Lee Roth on the stage together – so I got to lay back and do my part.”
To read the full feature, where Wolfgang talks about how his appearance at last September’s Taylor Hawkins tribute concert was also a tribute to his late dad, his new record Mammoth II and more, order a copy of the new Classic Rock here.