David Lee Roth Articles

HIT PARADER SEPTEMBER 1982

 
Wild & Wonderful
Electric Company Takes It To The Limit.
By Ellot Sekuler

     David Lee Roth hunched over a drawing table in a corner of one of Van Halen's Boulevard offices. With a surgeon's care, he picked up a tinker-toy peg, and, holding it between his fingers, launched enthusiastically into an explanation of the group's new stage design. A model of it sat on the table in a state of semi-completion. When built full-scale, the stage setup requires 70 technicians and roadies to carry it from arena to arena across the country.
     For Roth, the model represented not only a future stomping ground, but the realization of another one of his fantasies. "That's one of the beautiful parts of this Job," he reflected, turning away from the table and strolling through the band's plush headquarters' suite to  another office lined with gold and platinum records. "You can sit around daydreaming and actually watch your dream become a reality; you just watch it grow in front of you.And I mean big, expensive, heavyweight things. And when you're watching it grow, anyone else's opinion --the audience's, your management's, your parents' -- becomes secondary, because you built it all. I grew it myseff and I'll smoke it; you're invited, but if you don't want to take part, that s OK too." Roth, Eddie and Alex Van Halen and Michael Anthony can afford to be cocky. In defiance of a music business slump that has driven many of their former rivals off the road, Van Halen's concert and record sales have grown to staggering proportions. As Roth relaxed on an office couch, his record company is counting the cash from the group's latest album, Diver Down, While the first Oh Pretty woman, has become most successful Van Halen 45 to date.
"The music that's coming from Van Halen this year is, more than ever before, a reaction to things we see around us," Roth said. "Personally, I'm sick of Judas Priest clones bashing out the same false thunder, the same macho pretense in every note. Of course, I have a great amount of macho pretense myself-- and I'm proud of our music does not reek of it every moment. "If you listen closely to our music, there are some different aspects there; it's not all one-dimensional. There are some songs that don't fall into that stereotypical mold. I'm tired -- and so is the rest of the band -- of heavy metal clones who all sound the same. We view ourselves as three-dimensional."

Roth, in describing Van Halen as the "world's greatest bar band," explained he and his colleagues' roots are not strictly in heavy rock, but rather a mix of that and the rhythm and blues cover songs Van Halen performed constantly in earlier days.
     "People come over to me and say, Hey that scream of yours -- Deep Purple used to do that' Look, when I started screaming, I was stealing from James Brown and the Ohio Players, and that's a vastly different point of origin. We used to play It's Your Thing by the Isley Brothers when we were trying to get enough money in Our pockets to perform original material."
     Roth's mane of blond hair has become a familiar sight in such LA. blues and rock clubs as the Cathay De Grande and the O.N. Klub, and on several occasions he has joined in impromptu Jams with West Coast blues shouter Top Jimmy of the the Rhythm Pigs.
     "I used to play the blues alone in all the local joints," he explained. 'The only thing that I can really play on guitar to this day is the blues. I heard Doc Watson and his son playing 15 years ago, and from there I got into Leadbelly and John Lee Hooker. Right around then I went out and bought my first $100 Vox guitar, the same one I used to record an album many years later."

"Were already indulged in every possible vice that
can be encountered on the road."

     "At first, I tried to sing llke those oldguys, and then, as I got older, the hormones started to run and pretty soon I started to sound like those guys naturally."
"There's a trend towards reviving the old Motown sound now," Roth observed. "I'm hearing a lot more saxophones on the radio, and that's fine with me. Junior Walker came a long way before Mick what's-his- name from Foreigner and before David Lee Roth. A good song remains a good song and I always think of that sound as something special."
     In order for Van Halen's sound to remain special, Roth declared that careful planning is essential. Though preparations for the tour were under way, Van Halen's schedule is now far more leisurely than might have been possible just two years ago. "We have more off- road time now," Roth happily admitted. 'The constant touring becomes a wife after a while. You feel married to the audience. And like any marriage, you must pace yourself so both parties keep interested. It can get boring.
     "Van Halen never really stoppedand said, 'Wow, we've made it.' We've never really congratulated ourselves; we've just always continued." Despite his appreciation for the shortened tour schedule, Roth genuinely enjoys travelling in his spare time. "I recently bought an apartment here in LA., but didn't go there for a long time because I was spending so much time traveling, going to different parts of everywhere. What really attracts me are cities; I love the night time, then noise, the smell, the clanging sound of subways. I like people and places that are too loud; the sound of breaking glass raises my blood pressure.
"At the same time, I enjoy the reverse of that; I like to balance everything by taking off for places where there is absolutely nothing." Few rock stars enjoy the role of sex symbol more than David Lee Roth, and the singer is far from

Van Halen, from left: Alex, Eddie, Michael, David Lee

 

Eddie Van Halen, who, according to David Lee Roth, "hasn't danced a lick in his life," waltzing with his wife actress Valerie Bertinelli.
modest in discussing that subject. "No matter where I go, I see some of the best women in the world," he said, laughing a little at his own assertion. "They seem to appear when I show up."
     Roth's off-stage exploits and the band's backstage rituals have been well-publicized, reflecting what David sees as a natural extension of what Van Halen does on stage and on records. Roth has always been quick to point out that, for Van Halen, rock and roll isn't purely an act and that the group's image is no mere invention.
     "I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm tired of fake bands. I've seen some rock bands performing who can't even fit into their Spandex pants, and there they are, trying to put across these sex- drenched lyrics while their wives -- who they've been married to for 14 years -- wait backstage. For me, rock and roll has always been real.
     "The classic rock bands were the way they appeared to be on stage. They may have exaggerated their personalities somewhat, but their act was based on something real. That's what Van Halen is dealing in -personality. What I say on stage is no more calculated than what I say at a party or at the local cantina,"Roth added.
     Among the few concessions that David has made to the requirements of stardom is the hiring of a bodyguard who accompanies him on numerous forays. Whether to such far-off places'as the South Sea Islands or to less exotic locales, his bodyguard is with him. "People can get crazy," he admitted, "and if you stick your head above the crowd-no matter what you do for a living- somebody will throw a rock at it. I determined long ago that my career won't affect the way I live my life.

"No matter where I go, I see some of the best women in the world," he
said, laughing a little at his own assertion. "They seem to appear when I show up."

     I'm not going to hide out: I refuse to become an insulated rock idiot I'm in a better position now than I've ever been In my whole life to check everything out, and I intend to do that. I want to check it all out twice." Too many rock bands, Roth said allow themselves to become isolated and Introspective, which affects their music. "After a while, their songs revolve all around themselves, about the hotel, the airline, how lonely they are on the road. I think self-conscious rock is drivel. How can the average guy on the street relate to being on the road?" he asked. "If you want anyone to watch and listen to you you'd better sing about something better than the motif of the Holiday Inn." Although Roth writes or co-writes most of Van Halen's material, he's quick to admit that his interests lie more in performing than recording. 'It overlaps, but we all have our own pet projects in this band. I'm more likely to be working on the show while Eddie usually concentrates on the studio sound. I'll tap dance my way through your hearts and your homes, while Eddie hasn't danced a lick in his life. So I pick out his ties, and he tells me whether I'm singing off key," David laughed.
The arrangement is amenable to all concerned. When, for example, the recording of Diver Down was completed, Eddie Van Halen remained in the studio to help mix down the tracks while Roth took a trip to the Bahamas. Designing the new stage show, however, was Roth's project while Eddie went on vacation.
     David admitted that his cavalier attitude toward the studio process is occasionally responsible for less- than-perfect recordings. "If you listen to Oh Pretty Woman with a keen ear, you'll find that there's a whole part missing from the orginal version. This is not because we are providing you with a new arrangement for your hard-earned dollar; it's just because I never really bothered to learn all the lyrics.
     "When we rehearsed the song, Eddie and I were in the middle of an argument. He asked me if I'd learned the lyrics yet, and I said, 'Yeah.' I asked him if he'd learned the music yet, and he said, 'Yeah.' But we got so caught up in our argument that neither of us noticed the missing part."
      Those imperfections, however, may be the essence of Van Halen's rough-hewn charm. "Our music is always a little out of kilter," boasted Roth. "There's always too much echo, too much resonance. It's not something we devise; it just works out that way."
     With Van Halen at the peak of popularity, Roth firmly believes that the band will play together "for years and years. Van Halen is evolving - I'd hesitate to use the word 'maturing' -- and we've already indulged In every possible vice that can be encountered on the road. I've picked out two or three of my favorite vices and just concentrate on those all the time. Eddie and Alex' folks and Michael's folks are professional musicians, and those guys grew up knowing all about the pitfalls that have to be faced in this kind of career, not that we've done anything to avoid them.
     "I sure can see myself enjoying another ten years of this; no problem."

"The constant touring becomes a wife after a while. You feel married to the audience. It can get boring."


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