An occasional colum n in w hich an aw esom e b assist ta lk s about his or her new
album . This mouth: W olfgang Van Halen of Trem onti and Van Halen
Photography by Ashley Maile
olfgang Van Halen, best known of
course for playing bass in Van
Halen with his dad Eddie Van
Halen (Yipes! That's four 'Van
Halens' in one sentence) also plays
with Tremonti, the excellent rock
band fronted by Creed and Alter
Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti. Their new album,
is out as we speak and features serious fretwork
from VH Junior, who tells us about the new suite of songs
as follows.
“I used my usual set-up of a Fender Super Bassman
head and a Fender 8x10 PRO speaker cab. I also used a
EVH 5150-III head and EVH 5150-III 4x12 cab for the
'dirt'. I used my custom black with silver stripe 'Stealth-
finished Wolfgang four-string bass and my custom
'Wolfenstein' J-Bass, which is blue with white and black
Frankenstein graphic. I do not play a five- string or six-
string because I feel like I'm still trying to figure out how
to play four strings. Any more than that and it gets a bit
overwhelming. for me at least.
“Mostly Mark came to us with a [song] idea and we
would all jam and come up with what we thought we
should play, unless Mark had a specific idea of what he
wanted to hear for a certain part. If Mark already knew
what he wanted I would just put my own flavour on it.
“Van Halen and Tremonti are two very different bands.
VH is more rock-centric, whereas Tremonti is much more
metal-oriented. I love doing both. Tremonti requires a lot
more aggressive picking like triplets and syncopations. A
good example of what Tremonti requires from me would
be the song 'Radical Change'. That song is ridiculous!
Doubling what the guitar is doing is a pretty crazy thing
to do. With Van Halen it's all about the pocket and
grooving with my uncle [VH drummer Alex Van Halen]
and staying locked with the drums.
“A part that sticks out in my mind for Tremonti is the
slap section in the breakdown of 'Dark Trip'. It was really
fun to explore a different style of playing that I haven't
had the chance to before. I can slap but I don't really do it
much. I don't have much of an opportunity in either of the
bands that I'm playing with right now. If I do, it's usually
in the context of a jam. In Van Halen, a song I very much
enjoy playing is 'China Town' off of the
A Different Kind
Of Truth
album: a wicked uptempo song that's got a lot of
fun parts to play, especially the tapping intro that I need a
capo to do. The crazy tapping at the end with the bass wah
is another highlight. From a groove standpoint, the song
'She's The Woman', also from that record, comes to mind.
“I got started as a bass player when my dad asked if
I wanted to start jamming with him and my uncle in
2006. I had never really explored playing the bass that
much. I had already been playing drums for five years
and I'd been playing guitar for three years. It was a great
foundation to have in order to make the transition to bass.
For me, playing bass well is about staying in the pocket
and establishing a lock with the drums: that's the most
important thing you can do. After that, exploring and
contributing your melodic ideas for the benefit of the song
is important as well.
“My first bass was a vintage 1974 Sunburst Fender Jazz
that my dad owns. I dug that bass a lot. I played my first
song, 'On Fire', with my uncle and my dad on that bass. He
still has it. It's killer! I own many basses but my favourite
would have to be my black with silver stripe Stealth
Wolfgang bass. Its one of two that exists. The other one is
the black with yellow stripe, built for me in 2011 by Chip
Ellis at EVH/Fender. Chip is the master builder for all EVH
brand guitars. We're working on bringing my Wolfgang
bass to market. I'm really excited about that, because I
think if people could play it and know what I know about
how perfectly balanced and amazing-sounding it is, they
would embrace it big time. Even before Chip painted it,
he brought it to me unfinished but assembled to test, and
I fell in love with it at that very moment. I wouldn't let
him have it back for a few weeks because I didn't wanna
part with it. even for a paint job! I've never played a more
comfortable or better-sounding bass.
“My bass heroes are Les Claypool and Justin Chancellor.
I was probably about 14 years old when I discovered
Primus. Hearing the song 'Lacquer Head' with that
rhythmic thumping thing he does in the main riff, I
thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever heard on a
bass and said to myself 'I have to learn how to play that'.
Around the same time, I got heavily into Tool. They were
like one of the first bands that literally took over my life!
I was completely consumed by Justin's style: the way he
used effects and the fact that he played with a pick was
a big inspiration. He's such a melodic player. I love the
way Adam [Jones, Tool guitarist] holds it down and Justin
moves around him. The range of his dynamics is mind-
blowing. From the heaviest to the cleanest tone on the
record and everything in between, it's just badass! A good
example of his heavier tone would be when the guitar
drops out in the verse of 'Vicarious' and its just bass and
drums. That tone is enviable.
“There's also an Australian band called Karnivool.
The bass player, Jon Stockman, is very similar to Justin
Chancellor. Check out the song 'Simple Boy'. He's got
wicked tone, high skill and amazing musical sensibility. If
you haven't checked out Karnivool, I highly recommend
you do. They are one of my favourite bands. One of the
most incredible bass players that I've ever seen has got to
be Victor Wooten. I don't know where to even start. he's
just amazing!”
is out now. Info: www.marktremonti.com,
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