In a new interview with SPIN, Wolfgang Van Halen spoke about how he dealt with all the negativity he was subjected to online after it was announced he was stepping in for Michael Anthony on VAN HALEN‘s reunion tour with David Lee Roth. He said: “Looking cynically on paper, as a kid replacing a longtime member, it’s like…yeah, you should hate me. It’s a lot more nuanced than that. It’s not like my dad was like, ‘Fuck you, get out of here.’ My dad wasn’t going through a good time, and Mike was having a good time playing with Sammy,” Wolfgang explained, referring to his father’s public battle with addiction and erratic behavior. “Sam wasn’t in the band. Sure, it’s a little dicey and complicated, but he really wasn’t a part of it anymore. I completely understand that he wouldn’t want to be around my dad when he was like that. It was never like I went to my dad and said [in a cagey movie villain voice] ‘I should be playing bass.’ At that point, I just wanted to keep my dad alive.”
Wolfgang previously touched upon Anthony‘s removal from VAN HALEN during a November 2020 interview with Steve Baltin of Forbes. He said at the time about the hatred he received from some VH fans: “I don’t think it was a personal thing. I think it was their love for Michael Anthony; it had nothing to do with me as a person. It’s just that they would have much rather seen him without realizing the back story of how [the reunion] probably wouldn’t have happened without me because dad felt incredibly uninspired and, especially when he was sober, he had a monumental anxiety issue and having me there made him more comfortable and creative. Now that people are starting to learn the truth behind everything so many people understand and actually apologized directly to me on Twitter, like, ‘Hey, man, I hated you before, but I realize that I actually never really knew you. I just hated you for a reason outside of your control and I just wanted to apologize. I feel terrible.’ That’s a really big thing for people to do, especially on the Internet. So I’ve been really touched by how kind people have been that may have been rude to me in the past. It all rolled off my back anyways. But it takes a big person to admit when they’re wrong. And these people are certainly doing that in droves and I can’t believe it.”
After Baltin pointed out that Eddie Van Halen made it clear in a 2009 interview that the only way that tour was happening was because he was so happy to tour with his son, Wolfgang said: “Yeah, it was incredibly important to him and I don’t think people really took his words to heart, I don’t think they really believed it. They wanted to look to the negative. In this day and age it’s always about the cynical reaction and everything, so the true meaning behind what he was saying never really resonated.”
Last fall, Wolfgang revealed that his father had contemplated a “kitchen-sink” VAN HALEN tour that would have included Anthony, as well as vocal turns from both Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth. There was even talk about bringing back Gary Cherone, who sang with the band on one poorly received album, 1998’s “Van Halen III”.
In early 2019, a rumor surfaced that the classic VAN HALEN lineup would reunite that summer for a run of stadium shows. This would have been the first time that Michael, Eddie, David and Alex Van Halen performed together since 1984.
The rumors originally started with Roth, who hinted to Vulture that VAN HALEN would be playing stadiums with Anthony back in the lineup.
VAN HALEN and Anthony had not been on good terms for more than a decade, with Anthony not invited to join the reunion with Roth that began in 2007. The subsequent two tours and studio album, “A Different Kind Of Truth”, featured Wolfgang on bass.
Anthony took a pay cut and signed away all of his rights to the band name and logo in order to participate in VAN HALEN‘s 2004 tour, which featured Hagar.
Eddie died in October at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California.
Wolfgang played every instrument and sang each and every note on the debut album from his solo band MAMMOTH WVH, which is scheduled for release this month via Explorer1 Music Group/EX1 Records. The disc’s first single, “Distance”, came out in November. Wolfgang wrote the song while his late father battled cancer, “imagining what my life would be without him, and how terribly I’d miss him,” as Wolfgang explained in a statement.