Fresh from speaking up for his father’s legacy after the Grammys’ solemn but brief Eddie Van Halen tribute, Wolfgang Van Halen is moving on with his own musical career, releasing two new songs and a video. The heavy, fuzzed-out riff-rocker “Don’t Back Down” (which had the working title “Sabbath”) and the more melodic “Think It Over” are the latest tracks from the self-titled debut of his one-man-band, Mammoth WVH.
“With ‘Don’t Back Down,’ I really leaned into a fight-song mentality,” Wolfgang tells Rolling Stone. “The kind of thing you hear when you’re at a sports game and you want your team to really fuck up the other team. ‘Think It Over’ is super-poppy, the most Jimmy Eat World-ish song I’ve got. It’s one of my favorite songs, and it was my dad’s favorite song.”
The “Don’t Back Down” video offers an amusingly literal take on the one-man-band idea, with multiple Wolfgangs interacting with each other in real-time, playing all the instruments, and also serving as producer and engineer. “I always thought it would be a fun thing to do a series of videos, maybe not just this one, where it’s just a whole bunch of Wolfs putting it together,” says Wolfgang, who shot the video in two days at his dad’s 5150 Studios.
After revealing in a tweet earlier this month that he declined to play “Eruption” at the Grammys, Wolfgang elaborated on his decision. “It just seemed like kind of a tone-deaf ask. It just didn’t feel right. And I think some people are like, ‘Well, you should have just fucking done it anyway.’ And I don’t think they were really thinking about the emotional attachment to it. And just the fact that it isn’t the right thing to do and something I’m not comfortable with.”
“I’ll always be here to champion my father and to further his legacy to the ends of the earth,” he continues. “I’m a little biased, but I think you cannot argue the impact that three guitar players had on the history of the instrument. And that’s Les Paul, Jimi Hendrix, and my dad. And so when something like this happens, you think he would be deserving of a bit more time.”
A representative for the Grammys declined to comment.
Mammoth WVH’s touring lineup made its debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last month, but Wolfgang hasn’t booked any tour dates yet, even for next year. “I’m a germaphobe, myself,” he says. “So I want to make sure that whenever we do it, we can do it right and safely. We’re all just waiting at the starting line waiting to hear that that pistol go off. I definitely don’t want to be the first ones out there. Because you never know if it could just be a huge clusterfuck at the start.”