He wrote the song while his late father, Eddie Van Halen, battled cancer, “imagining what my life would be without him, and how terribly I’d miss him,” as Wolfgang explained in a statement. (Read our in-depth new interview with Wolfgang Van Halen.) Wolfgang, recording under the name Mammoth WVH, plays all instruments and sings lead, but it feels like an actual, hard-hitting band, albeit in a style closer to mid-2000s active-rock than classic Van Halen. “I don’t think I’ll ever move on,” Wolfgang sings. new interview with Wolfgang Van Halen.)
The video, compiled entirely from old home movies — some shot by Wolfgang’s mom, Valerie Bertinelli — showcases Eddie as an adoring dad, with footage of him bottle-feeding baby Wolfie and showing him guitars and pianos before he could talk. It concludes with a heart-wrenching voicemail: “I’m just so happy to have you as my son, man. I’m so proud of you. I love you so much. Call me if you get a chance. I just want to hear your voice.”
The song is the first single from Wolfgang’s long-in-the-works solo album, which will be out next year. He told Howard Stern that the album could’ve been released as early as 2018, but he delayed it in order to spend time with his ailing dad. (The Mammoth WVH band name is a nod to family history — Eddie and Alex Van Halen’s band was called Mammoth when David Lee Roth first joined it in 1974.) Wolfgang joined his dad’s band as bass player, replacing Michael Anthony, beginning with the band’s 2008 reunion tour with David Lee Roth. He stayed in the band until what turned out to be its final tour in 2015.
Eddie Van Halen died of cancer on October 6th. Wolfgang is giving all of his proceeds from “Distance” to his father’s favorite charity, the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which donates instruments to underfunded school music programs.