Considering the history of the band, a new revelation by David Lee Roth shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise. Still it’s hard not to take note of his wording,
In an interview with Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast, the famously loud-mouthed, and formerly lion-maned, frontman let it slip that he’s never sent Christmas cards to the Van Halen brothers—Eddie and Alex. The guitarist and drummer, meanwhile, aren’t ones to phone and wish Roth a happy birthday.
The reason for that? That would be because the two parties outright hate each other.
“We have always hated each other,” Roth said during the interview, “right up until the last phone call.”
This would explain why the Roth-led Van Halen imploded spectacularly after the album 1984, and singles like “Jump”, made the band one of the biggest on the planet. And why the singer remained estranged from the Van Halen brothers (who continued on with Sammy Hagar on vocals) until rejoining the group in 2007.
And why, despite there being big bucks for the taking with Roth back on the mike, Van Halen has only managed to do around 150 shows, the last of them when the band hit the road in 2015.
"We were at each other all throughout the tour," Roth explained. "You've got to be mature enough to understand."
He added: “The most common refrain during intra-Van Halen fighting is ‘What the f--k are you thinking?' And it's constant. And then you assign yourself to the producer who will either take Eddie's side or my side; you're either a Dave guy or an Eddie guy. You're all mature enough to understand that we're all pirates here. Of course you're gonna betray me."
He went on to suggest he’d rather have a donkey-shit smoothie than sit down at a restaurant with Eddie and Alex Van Halen.
"Nope. Not even close,” Roth replied when asked if they could share the same table. “Not even close. This is not a golf club. This is a little closer to The Wild Bunch. There is a fury and an antagonism, and what comes out of that is, when it's good—oh, man."
Read between the soundbites and you’ll realize that Roth’s partly being a showman in the interview, well-aware his job is to entertain. And although he’s taken numerous potshots at the Van Halens over the years, what he suggests is that friction is not only good for creativity when you’re in a band, but that it’s sometimes what makes good groups great.
That might bode well for the future of Van Halen, which, rumours have hinted, would reunite with original bassist Michael Anthony for a 2019 tour. (That would have at least given Roth a band ally; Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen has held down bass duties since Anthony got his walking papers.)
Roth revealed in the interview that he’ll be meeting with the Van Halens in the coming weeks to talk about plans for the band. Among the fond memories they might discuss will be Roth pissing off the brothers with his mike-hogging at the 1996 MTV VMAs. (That performance is credited with making the two parties remember, instantly, why they hated each other.) And how their last tour had them riding on separate buses with their dressing rooms at opposite ends of arenas so they didn’t have to see each other.