A chat with Wolfgang Van Halen of Mammoth WVH.
Originally featured in the 2022 Welcome To Rockville Official Commemorative Guide.
SIGT: How are you doing today?
Wolf: I’m good. The daily stresses of getting ready for a tour are alive and well and that’s exciting.
SIGT: How has rehearsal been?
Wolf: We’re finally back to full strength after a couple of tours. We got Frank back and now we’re a five piece again.
SIGT: Who all is in your touring band currently?
Wolf: Frank Sidoris (guitars) who plays with Slash. Jon Jourdan (guitars) who has his own band called To Whom It May, and he’s also played live with Clint Lowry from Sevendust in his solo band. Garrett Whitlock (drums) who I played with in Tremonti. And Ronnie Ficarro (bass) who played in a band called I Am Ghost and Falling in Reverse. It’s a killer live band. They’re amazing.
SIGT: How does it feel to finally have your album out to the world?
Wolf: It’s exciting, man. There’s a whole lot of work going up to it, so to have a be finally out it’s a bit, I don’t know, like ripping my chest open with a knife because it’s literally just all me and it’s a very vulnerable position. It’s a really weird thing. But everybody has been so wonderful in response to the album. I never could have imagined it. It’s a really therapeutic thing for me, so it’s not something I ever half-ass, I put literally all of myself into it because I’m playing all the instruments, too.
SIGT: I’m sure putting out your first true solo album, there had to have been some insane pressure, especially with who your father is.
Wolf: Yeah, there are always pressures with my position, some positive, some negative. But I wouldn’t say it’s really a boon or a bane compared to anybody else’s experience, it’s just a different path. I think from a cynical distance, it looks like, “Oh, it’s really easy because he’s a kid and he just gets to do that.” Sure, the name may open doors for a second, but if you don’t have the goods, you’re not going to stay there. So you have to actually nut up or shut up. I think the band that we’ve assembled, we kill it live. I think the material stands on its own. My favorite compliments are ones where it’s like, “I had no idea who this was. And when I found out who it was, I was like, oh, shit!” Hell, there are new fans who are like, “I don’t even know what Van Halen is!”
SIGT: How did it feel to rip on the legendary Frankenstein guitar on “Feel”?
Wolf: It felt like I was holding glass. The funny thing was my dad pulled it out, he fiddled with it for a little bit, and then he tossed it on the couch, and everybody in the room gasped, but to him, it’s just this piece of junk he put together. But everybody else is the most famous instrument in the history of music.
SIGT: Do you have any recent favorite records you think we should know about?
Wolf: I’ve been really into this band called Intervals. They’re this instrumental progressive rock band. Their most recent album came out at the tail-end of 2020. It’s called ‘Circadian’. That is one of my favorite albums of all time. It is a phenomenal guitar playing record, and it has only inspired me to be a better guitar player. Animals As Leaders’ new album is insane as well.
SIGT: Watching the video for “Distance” with those home movies of your father and you growing up is such an emotional and personal thing.
Wolf: Yeah. I thought that was important to let people see that, because I think that people tend not to really add humanity into anything when it comes to the things they enjoy. And when it comes to music, it’s like people just saw dad as this “guitar guy” and that’s it. He was a person with emotions and he had a family he loved and that was more of who he was than anything else. So I think it was important to show that side.
SIGT: Do you have any advice for anyone who is struggling with a parent passing on to another place?
Wolf: Honestly, not really. I don’t know how to deal with it myself, and I hope it’s a thing that maybe gets a little easier in time, but it hasn’t at all and it’s been almost two years. That’s not really a happy answer, but some things just fucking suck and you have to sit with them. Family and music are really the only things that give me purpose anymore, so that’s what I do.
SIGT: Is there anything you would like to say to the RockVillains this year?
Wolf: I’m just excited to get there. It’s going to be my first Rockville and I’ve always wanted to play Rockville, so I’m very excited. I hope everybody has a good time.
SIGT: What’s next for Mammoth?
Wolf: I’m looking to get back in the studio before the end of the year to get this to get the second album going. You can always follow me or the band on all the socials for sure for updates and/or sarcasm.
Wolfgang Van Halen / Mammoth WVH Interview by Mitch Foster.
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