DAVID LEE ROTH Talks New VAN HALEN Music, Band Dynamic

Australia's Faster Louder recently conducted an interview with VAN HALEN lead singer David Lee Roth. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Faster Louder: You've had such a long career, you must have a few regrets.

Roth: My biggest regrets has nothing to do with the fights, the health practices, it has nothing to do with the money. I'm still getting raped and stolen from in terms of my record royalties, or whatever. I have no complaints. I've no real regrets in terms of deciding not to jump off that stage or whatever so my left knee would still work. No, my biggest regret is when I was growing up I didn't have a computer. I didn't have YouTube, I didn't have search engines, and I didn't have the Internet … We used to have to wait 'till we got to New York City with two cassette playing stereos which you would have to position in the window of the hotel, so you could tape the radio station, because there's radio stations in New York City that played music you couldn't get anywhere else in the country. If you really wanted to dance to downtown jazz, you had to wait til you got to Manhattan, man. That was all the way up until the '90s. If you wanted house mix, rap, that kind of thing, in the '70s and '80s, you had to come to New York and tape it off the radio. If you dig country and western, and I mean the stuff with the flavour, where the DJ had the same accent, you had to wait til you got to the greater Dallas-Fort Worth area. You would have to get a hotel room where the windows open and you would have to set up your stereo, and tape-record it onto cassette, onto a 20-minute tape deck. And you had to go and shop, just in the same way I learned chess, by forearm. You'd pile up all the cassette tapes onto a table with the middle of your forearm and scoop them into a garbage bag. It would take as long for the guy at the cash register to ring them up as it took you to actually select them … I would just shop until I couldn't carry any more, and we would use special duffle bags for hockey gear, the duffle bags used by the goalies, because the goalies have the biggest kneepads and stuff like that, and those are the biggest duffle bags. And I'd carry around two of those full of hundreds of pounds of cassette tapes for years. Well, that kind of goes by the wayside these days. We have a little tablet now, a little wafer or something, my iPhone buckle pad thing.

Faster Louder: Are there any plans for new VAN HALEN recorded material?

Roth: Yes. I was just on the phone with the fellas … We are going to be getting together, not this month, at the end of June to start preparing for some new recording and some new songs, but we're touring a little bit this year. That's kind of a surprise. We're in Australia, we're doing a Japan tour for a couple of weeks, and we're doing some American stuff. That comes as a bit of a surprise. VAN HALEN projects are a bit like James Bond movies. They come around about once every three-and-a-half years. Any sooner and it's like, "Weren't you just here?" It's like that third Johnny Depp pirate movie ["Pirates Of The Caribbean"]. Weren't you guys just here? Oh, that's a rough one right. Leave before the sun sets, quit just before the party begins to disintegrate, don't be the first one back in next week. We've been around for so long that that is a deft kind of a tactic. And there's politics. So with that in mind I imagine we'll be doing extensive touring and travelling outside the United States after this upcoming tour. We plan ahead by about two-and-a-half years in advance, which sounds extravagant … [But] from the time you go, "Let's start to write some songs," until all of the machines of production and humanity kick in, things move achingly slow. Achingly slow. Especially if you are art-centric, if you want something to last, it's going to take a long time to put it all together. Quick up is quick down. We know about one hit wonders and we know about fast, but it's about three years, it takes about three years.

Faster Louder: Tell me about the dynamic of the band now, especially with a 20-year-old in the band [bassist Wolfgang Van Halen], compared to all of those years ago, onstage and off?

Roth: Back then the goals were a little bit different, but the energies were a little displaced, I think the band is more focused now, on all of the details of what we do. So things like the website, show up a little more colourfully, as opposed to hiring it out to other folks. As you're learning and new moving along, you have to subdivide, you have to have somebody else do your video, you're gonna have to have somebody else working on your stage design, because those are languages you don't know. We speak those languages now. And the band is, if nothing else, a bit more thankful for the privilege of the job that we have, compared to a lot of the other jobs that we've had … I think the Van Halens have the same perspective. Having someone who's 20 years old in the band? Well you're gonna have to keep up with us. The brothers and I are still skinny and full of victory. "Gonna Fly Now" and all those great theme songs. [laughs] It's pretty rare that somebody our age just signs up for the first stop time and can just keep up, but there's a thrill of competition, the band ensemble competing with the world, then individually we still compete with each other, and it's not really soured notes in the symphony. It's volition, it's sparks, and I think you'll find that with any good team. And I find Wolfgang fits right in. Now that the three guys look the same, and I'm the one that's different, I feel like Sammy Davis Jr. I've got a better sense of how he felt in the Rat Pack. [laughs]

Read the entire interview from Faster Louder.

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