Why ‘A Different Kind of Truth’ Will Be Van Halen’s Last Album: Exclusive Interview
Van Halen’s 12th studio album, 2012’s A Different Kind of Truth, was an event that many fans never thought would come to pass. Indeed, according to Wolfgang Van Halen, their first with David Lee Roth since 1984 was a “long process” to bring to fruition.
The band’s 2007 reunion tour with Roth in itself was quite a revelation. There had been a couple of songs recorded in 1996 for their first greatest hits compilation, the renewed union between the charismatic frontman and the other members of Van Halen quickly fizzled after an appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards that same year didn't go well.
A decade later, Eddie Van Halen was sober and in better spirits. “I hadn’t seen him that happy in a while,” Wolfgang later told the Washington Post, “and being fresh sober, he was like an alien to the world again, trying to figure out who he was.”
Eddie began jamming with Wolfgang on bass, with Alex Van Halen in his usual place behind the kit. They ran through old classics from Van Halen’s catalog and eventually lit the fuse, bringing Roth back into the mix to rehearse with the trio.
“It was really special. I just remember being in the studio with the four of us,” Wolfgang tells UCR in an exclusive new interview. “You felt like you were doing something really special. It was really something to be a part of.”
The successful reunion trek that followed found Van Halen playing more than 75 shows in 2007-08, and the ideas for recording new music began to take shape.
“It was a long process. It started mostly with just Al, Dad and I in the studio, as early as, gosh, like 2009,” Van Halen says. “I think the first demos we did were for ‘She’s the Woman,’ ‘Bullethead’ and ‘Let’s Get Rockin,’ which became ‘Outta Space.’”
Watch the Video for 'She's the Woman'
The younger Van Halen originally suggested going back to older material that was in the vaults. “I had the idea of looking at older ideas that kind of never made it,” Wolfgang says, “because my dad wrote music differently at the time.”
Eddie said he “was amazed how fresh some of the songs sounded,” during a 2012 interview with Guitar World. “I was going, ‘Did I really write that way back then?’ The biggest trip is that I wrote some of those songs when I was still in high school, and even junior high. A good idea is a good idea, no matter when you do it.”
Working on those initial songs energized the trio. “It was those three songs that kind of started the process where we were like, ‘Fuck, this is really fun,’” Wolfgang says now.
Eddie felt similarly excited, and began writing new songs as well. “It felt like a comfortable old pair of shoes. Working with Dave again was like we had never left each other,” he told Guitar World. “It was that comfortable. We’ve known each other since high school. When you have old friends. Five or six years can go by when you don’t see each other, but you just pick up where you left off.”
Wolfgang says he “thought it would be a fun look to look at the ideas where he was in the headspace of writing things like ‘Panama’ and ‘Dance the Night Away’ and stuff like that. It was really fun to go through.”
But as Van Halen points out today, there were plenty of newer ideas. He specifically cites “China Town” and “The Trouble With Never” as two original examples, with “As Is” being another one that “came together late.”
Listen to 'You and Your Blues'
“You and Your Blues,” the sassy rocker which found Roth issuing a lyrical kiss-off to an outgoing love, points to the spontaneity that surrounded these sessions. “It was an idea that I think Dad had in the 2000s. We almost didn’t do it, but we just had a lot of fun,” Van Halen says. “That’s one that came from jamming in the studio while the recording of the album was happening. It wasn’t an idea we fully brought in. It was one we worked out in the studio.”
Eddie told Guitar World that the group ultimately sketched out demos for 35 prospective songs. In terms of finished material, however, Wolfgang says there was nothing left on the cutting-room floor.
“There’s a rumor I saw on Twitter where Van Halen fans are like, ‘Well, yeah, I want to hear the 20 songs they didn’t put on the album,” Wolfgang says. “It’s like, ‘What? Me too! I’d like to hear those too! Because that didn’t happen!’”
He says “there was only one idea that we came up with in the studio that didn’t come together. I jokingly called it ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Panama,’ because it had a vibe of both of those songs, but it just kind of never kind of came to be. So really, what was on the album and that one idea that never happened, was all there was.”
In that way, A Different Kind of Truth will always remain both a joyous homecoming, and final farewell. “It was really fun just being able to work every day with Dad and Al,” Wolfgang adds. “When we finally got in the studio and Dave was doing his thing, it was all really great.”
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