Back in 2013 — fresh from playing bass on what would turn out to be one of Van Halen’s final tours — Wolfgang Van Halen turned his attention to his own music, demoing a song he called “Mammoth,” a nod to one of the early names of his father’s band. “It was the first time I felt like, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to do this,'” Van Halen recalls.
Seven years later, that song is finally coming out on the self-titled debut from Mammoth WVH, his one-man-band. It drops on June 11th.
The album will include 13 tracks, plus a bonus song, “Distance,” the first Mammoth WVH release, which saw viral success late last year with a moving video filled with home-movie footage of Wolfgang’s late dad, Eddie Van Halen. The younger Van Halen played every instrument on the album, creating a highly convincing full-band sound, but put together a touring line-up for live shows, which will debut on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Thursday.
“I just get in there and play,” Van Halen says. “What my dad always said is the reason the rhythm section is so tight is, it’s me. Normally with a great rhythm section, they’re really tight because they know exactly what each other are doing. When it comes to drums, and bass, I know exactly what I did with each part so I can kind of react with it, and it goes hand in hand.”
The album opens with a track called “Mr. Ed,” another nod to Wolfgang’s dad. “That was just the demo title,” Wolfgang says, “because I open it with a harmonic tap and I tap in the solo, and it reminded me of dad, so I jokingly called it that.”
The album’s poppiest track, “Think It Over,” which draws on Wolfgang’s fondness for Jimmy Eat World, was Eddie Van Halen’s favorite. “It’s just a straight-up pop-rock song,” Van Halen says. “But dad just loved the energy of the song. It made him happy.”
Another standout, “Don’t Back Down,” has a heavy, glam-tinged, stadium-rock groove that lands somewhere between a now-unmentionable artist’s “Beautiful People” and the also-disgraced Gary Glitter, but Van Halen originally had a specific influence in mind: “The demo title for that one was ‘Sabbath.’ The whole vibe of the song was just ‘sports arena.’ Just hands in the air fucking yelling for your team, going nuts.”
For the most part, Van Halen emphasized the songs, not his multi-instrumental prowess, but he lets loose on one track, “Feel.” “There’s kind of a drum solo-y thing on there, and the bass goes pretty crazy,” he says.
On that track and a couple of others, Van Halen played one of the most valuable guitars in the world: his father’s original, self-modified Frankenstein. “My dad was there when we took it out,” he says. “That guitar is obviously priceless. Ed picks it up and starts playing it, says ‘It feels about what I remember.’ And he kind of tossed it onto the couch. And all of us in the room were like, ‘Ooooh.’ To him, it’s just like this piece of trash he put together for a couple of hundred bucks, but to everyone else, it’s the most iconic guitar in the history of music. So to see him do that was such a funny thing.”
Mammoth WVH Tracklist
1. Mr. Ed
2. Horribly Right
4. Don’t Back Down
6. You’ll Be the One
9. The Big Picture
10. Think It Over
11. You’re To Blame
14. Distance (Bonus Track)