Joe Satriani has confirmed that he has been in discussions with Alex Van Halen and David Lee Roth about taking part in an all-star VAN HALEN tribute project.
The 65-year-old guitarist addressed the rumor just days after former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted revealed to The Palm Beach Post that he was approached by the VAN HALEN drummer about six months ago about playing bass for the project. Newsted told the Florida newspaper that he agreed to go to California to jam with Alex and Joe and see if it felt right, but he eventually realized that it would be impossible to do justice to VAN HALEN‘s legacy. “How could you?” Jason said. “There’s nobody that can top it, so how do you show it honor? I didn’t want it to be viewed as a money grab. And then it kind of just all fizzled.”
Satriani, who is promoting his newly released solo album “The Elephants Of Mars”, was asked about Newsted‘s comments in a new interview with the “Rock Of Nations With Dave Kinchen” classic rock show.
Joe said (as transcribed by SOUNDERGROUND.NET): “I’ve been talking with Alex and Dave for about a year about doing something — a tour, something like that — that was gonna be a true tribute to [late VAN HALEN guitarist] Eddie [Van Halen] and the VAN HALEN legacy.
“For me, it was a terrifying prospect of doing something like that, but I realized that it was something that would be a real labor of love for me. I was just so honored to take on the challenge.
“It’s very complicated,” Satriani continued. “And all I can really say about it is that if it does happen, I know we’ll make it the greatest thing ever for the fans and we’ll all celebrate together not only the great Eddie Van Halen but the legacy that that band created, the amazing amount of music and the goodwill and good vibes they created as a band.”
Satriani said that he was surprised to learn that Jason had revealed the project’s existence before everything was finalized and an official announcement was made.
“These things are always happening in the music industry, and you’re supposed to keep very quiet about it [laughs], because sometimes they don’t work out,” he said. “There’s usually about 10 crazy ideas that float around and musicians are always, like, ‘Okay, I won’t say anything about this ’cause it may not work out. I don’t wanna hurt this person’s feelings or disrupt any other business plans.’ So, yeah, we were all pretty shocked that Jason wanted to go public with it ’cause we were all sworn to silence. [Laughs]”
Satriani also talked about what it has been like to be in regular contact with Alex while putting together all the pieces for a possible VAN HALEN tour.
“I have to say that just getting to know Alex has been really wonderful,” Joe said. “He’s a great human being, and, obviously, I can’t imagine losing a brother that way, so soon. And they were really close; their relationship was really quite unique.” As for Roth, the guitarist said: “I don’t know Dave that well. I think I’ve only met him once — maybe when Steve [Vai] invited us to see the David Lee Roth tour. I was in Australia with Mick Jagger at the time, so we all went; it was quite an experience. But, yeah, I’ve only spoken to Dave on the phone a number of times over the last — I don’t know — 25 years or so. But he’s David Lee Roth; they’re VAN HALEN. It’s a big deal.
“Like I said before, if it ever does happen, it will be a great honor and a terrifying challenge,” Satriani said. “Eddie, you can’t reproduce what he did — you can’t. You can learn the notes and you can be taught all the fingerings and get the gear and everything, but there was only one Eddie and he was the epitome of an original genius. But if it does happen, I know that Alex will make sure that it’s the right way to do it.”
Satriani went on to compare the experience of playing classic VAN HALEN songs to the challenge of performing in the band CHICKENFOOT in which he is joined by former VAN HALEN singer Sammy Hagar, ex-VAN HALEN bassist Michael Anthony and RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS drummer Chad Smith.
“I looked at it from a musical point of view,” he said. “I spent most of my life trying to memorize my own catalog — there are a lot of notes to memorize and to pull off a show and to stay focused on it. So every time something like this comes up, like CHICKENFOOT, it’s, like, ‘Okay, I’ve gotta make space in my brain for a whole other way of playing.’ The great thing is when you get together with the guys in CHICKENFOOT, their personalities are so huge and they bring so much talent that you don’t really have to be so big; you just be a part of something.
“But the thought of representing all the eras of VAN HALEN, that’s pretty daunting; that’s a lot of stuff,” he admitted. “And just from a guitar player’s point of view, Eddie progressed remarkably as a player and as an inventor, and those two things, they kind of went together from ‘Van Halen I’ all the way to the last album. And when you sit down to actually learn it and pull it off, you go, ‘Wow! Not only do I need talent but I need [to use specific] gear,’ ’cause certain things won’t work unless you’ve got this amp and it’s doing that. So that’s also another thing.”
Last June, Eddie Van Halen‘s son Wolfgang Van Halen, who joined his father in VAN HALEN for the band’s 2007 reunion tour with Roth, replacing Anthony, told SiriusXM‘s “Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk” it would be “great” to eventually organize an Eddie Van Halen tribute show. “It’s not in the immediate plans, ’cause that’s a lot of moving parts that you’ve gotta corral to get that to happen. But I definitely think it should happen. Absolutely,” he said.
Asked how he envisions the tribute concert taking place in terms of which musicians should be involved, Wolfgang said: “I have no idea. All I know is that the focus should a hundred percent be on Pop. While it could be a celebration of VAN HALEN and the band’s history, I think more than anything, it should be focused on him… It’s a tall ask and a big thing to figure out. But I do think it should happen at some point.”
In November 2020, Wolfgang told Entertainment Tonight that proceeds from any tribute show in honor of his father will go toward Eddie‘s favorite charity, Mr. Holland’s Opus, which helps underprivileged students access musical instruments. Proceeds from the debut solo single from Wolfgang‘s solo band MAMMOTH WVH, “Distance”, are also benefiting Mr. Holland’s Opus.
In February 2021, Hagar told Kyle Meredith that he will make every effort to take part in the Eddie Van Halen tribute concert.
“I have nothing to do with the [Eddie Van Halen] legacy,” he said. “That’s their business — that’s Wolfie, Alex Van Halen; they’re family members. Whoever wants to call me up and say, ‘Here’s the date,’ I will be there. I don’t care where I am. I’ll cancel a [solo] show [if I need to]. [Laughs] [That’s] something VAN HALEN would never do. I always make that joke — canceling a show was [out of the question with] VAN HALEN. I went out sick without being able to sing, Eddie went out with a crutch, Alex went out with a fucking neck brace — we wouldn’t cancel shows. But I will cancel my show for a tribute to Eddie any day.”
Eddie died in October 2020 at the age of 65. The legendary VAN HALEN guitarist passed away at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California.
Eddie was diagnosed with mouth cancer in 2000 and had tongue surgery. He later battled lung cancer and had been receiving radiation treatment in Germany. Things took a turn for the worse in early 2019 when Eddie got in a motorcycle accident. He was subsequently diagnosed with a brain tumor, and received gamma knife radiosurgery to treat the illness.
Joe Satriani photo credit: Eduardo Peña Dolhun