I never took guitar lessons. I took classical piano lessons from the age of six when we lived in Holland. And when we moved to America, it was just the typical thing except I was really good at it so was my brother.
I'm not a rock star. Sure I am, to a certain extent because of the situation, but when kids ask me how it feels to be a rock star, I say leave me alone, I'm not a rock star. I'm not in it for the fame, I'm in it because I like to play.
On 'Van Halen,' I was a young punk, and everything revolved around the fastest kid in town, gunslinger attitude. But I'd say that at the time of 'Fair Warning,' I started concentrating more on songwriting. But I guess in most people's minds I'm just a gunslinger.
I never dreamt of being a musician for my livelihood. I certainly never would have wanted to be in the business that I'm in, meaning the fame and the glory, the glitter, the rock star, the famous part.
Music is for people. The word 'pop' is simply short for popular. It means that people like it. I'm just a normal jerk who happens to make music. As long as my brain and fingers work, I'm cool.
When I'm home on a break, I lock myself in my room and play guitar. After two or three hours, I start getting into this total meditation. It's a feeling few people experience, and that's usually when I come up with weird stuff. It just flows. I can't force myself. I don't sit down and say I've got to practice.
You know, most people, they want to go to Hollywood. They want to be a star. They want to be a rock star. That thought never entered any of our minds, the Van Halen family.
If you want to be a rock star or just be famous, then run down the street naked, you'll make the news or something. But if you want music to be your livelihood, then play, play, play and play! And eventually you'll get to where you want to be.
It's funny, when bands or younger musicians ask me: 'So, what does it take to make it?' Well, first explain to me what you mean by 'making it': Do you want to be a rock star or do you want music to be your livelihood?
I mean it's funny, playing music, how of course you want it to do well, you want them to like it, but it's not competitive like an election, it's the Olympics, it's not a Formula 1 race. The Billboard charts are just to show you what people like.
David Lee Roth had the idea that if you covered a successful song, you were half way home. C'mon - Van Halen doing 'Dancing in the Streets'? It was stupid. I started feeling like I would rather bomb playing my own songs than be successful playing someone else's music.
'For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge' took a year to record that's why the playing on it might sound somewhat labored. 'Balance,' on the other hand, was written and recorded in only four months, so the whole process was quicker and more immediate.
I'm blessed with a good pair of ears. That's how I fooled my piano teacher. I'd watch his fingers and I'd listen to it, and I just kind of basically learned it by myself.
I went to the zoo one day and saw a chimp playing with a beat-up acoustic guitar in a way I had never seen before. Instead of using the pick the chimp was banging the neck and tapping it with its fingers. I knew the chimp was on to something so I practiced this new technique in my room for hours until I'd perfected it.
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