Wolfgang Van Halen spoke to Lou Brutus of HardDrive Radio about "Distance", the first single from his solo band MAMMOTH WVH. Wolfgang wrote the song while his late father, legendary VAN HALEN guitarist 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.
Asked how his family members reacted to hearing "Distance" for the first time after it was released, Wolfgang said (hear audio below): "Well, all the close people in my life had already heard it [well before that], because the idea on its own was in existence for a while; it just hadn't been fully finished and then mixed. The last 10 percent of the work is what we had to do in order to get it out there and get it mastered and all that. But, yeah, it moved everyone I showed it to. I remember when I showed it to dad for the first time, maybe it was out of pride or also just the song in general, he cried when he heard it. And I don't think he was aware of the significance of it for me; he just understood it as a song about loss."
Wolfgang went on to say that he was a bit surprised by the overwhelmingly positive response to "Distance". "I think it allowed a sense of closure for many people, in a way, which was something I wasn't expecting," he said. "It was just kind of a thing for me to put out there and be, like, 'Hey, this is for dad.' But to see not only such a huge amount of people get closure for my father's life, in a way, but to have so many people relate to it in general with a loss of their own, because this year has just been so awful.
"I tend to write my lyrics from a perspective where it's, like, I may be drawing from a personal experience, but I like to write it in a way where somebody can derive their own meaning from it," he explained. "And it was nice to see that happen to a certain extent, because I think anybody can relate to a monumental loss in their life."
According to Wolfgang, it was his father's unwavering support that helped give him the impetus to complete the debut album from MAMMOTH WVH and embark on a solo career.
"His pride is what keeps me going to this day," he said. "In a way, it's almost like I don't care what anybody else says about me, because my dad believed in me more than any other."
"Distance" is an open letter to Wolfgang's father, declaring "no matter what the distance is, I will be with you." The video for the song is created from a collection of family home movies through the years and offers an inside look in to one of music's most notable personalities. Chronicling the family through the years, the video ends with a touching voicemail left from Eddie to his son.
Wolfgang played every instrument and sang each and every note on the MAMMOTH WVH LP, which is tentatively due this spring via Explorer1 Music Group/EX1 Records. The group's touring lineup will feature Wolfgang on guitar and lead vocals, Frank Sidoris (SLASH FEATURING MYLES KENNEDY AND THE CONSPIRATORS) on guitar, Garrett Whitlock (TREMONTI) on drums, and Ronnie Ficarro on bass.
Last November, Wolfgang confirmed that he asked his father for permission to use the MAMMOTH WVH band name for his solo project. MAMMOTH WVH is a nod to family history — Eddie and Alex Van Halen's band was called MAMMOTH when singer David Lee Roth first joined it in 1974.
Photo credit: Travis Shinn