David Lee Roth spoke to Richard Bienstock of Variety about his recent decision to launch The Roth Project, a new online comic narrated by the legendary VAN HALEN singer, with music from John 5 on guitar and bass, Greg Bissonette on drums, Brett Tuggle on keyboards, and Luis Conte on percussion. The 17-chapter comic also includes five songs Roth co-wrote with John 5 and recorded several years ago at Henson Recording Studios in Hollywood, California: "Giddy Up", "Somewhere Over The Rainbow Bar And Grill", "Alligator Pants", "Lo-Rez Sunset" and "Manda Bala".
"My intention was to release the rest of the songs Drake-style, single by single," Roth said. "That affords a great focus on the individualized tracks, most of which get lost in the shuffle when you release an album. Doesn't matter if you're Paul McCartney or METALLICA; put out 12, 14 songs and we're just engineered as primates to go, 'I like this one and that one… now what's for dinner?'"
Roth also confirmed that "Somewhere Over The Rainbow Bar And Grill", which was made available as a standalone single in late October, serves as something of a tribute to legendary VAN HALEN guitarist Eddie Van Halen and their shared history.
"I don't usually write autobiographically," he said, "but this was a specific effort to replicate a time and a place."
Pointing to the lyric about the "smell of fresh sawdust" on the floor of the venues that hosted VAN HALEN gigs in the band's early days, Roth explained how the song relates to his late bandmate. "There are two kinds of burials in show business," he said. "One's very quiet, behind the scenes, nobody attends. And then there's a 'show biz' approach, where you have a solemn ceremony and it's followed by a reception where everybody gets up and tells stories. They can be off-color, they can be tear-jerkers, they can be of any nature. When my dad passed, the reception was at a Mexican restaurant around the corner. Everybody was eating and drinking and then the speeches become more colorful and much more energetic. Sometimes that's the most heartfelt, heartbreaking, best material ever. And so I thought, if that occurred for Ed — which it did not — and everybody was going to get up and tell a story, when it got to my turn I would start with, 'The smell of fresh sawdust on the floor…' And go from there."
He continued: "That's the beginning of the story, at least for me. Because that was everywhere we played — the smell of fresh sawdust on the floor. And we were famous for breaking drinking records. Still are! And solo, too!"
Last year, Roth was asked by Meltdown of the Detroit radio station WRIF if his LP with John 5 will be made available at some point. He responded: "It will. There's been a revision of things, and I can start making real plans and start marching into the future. And, of course, you'll start hearing that material. This is material that we wrote variously for me solo and for VAN HALEN, and it's quite a bank of stuff."
This past March, Roth postponed the final six shows of his Las Vegas residency due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Roth performed as the opening act for the February/March North American leg of KISS's "End Of The Road" farewell tour. The remaining dates of that trek have been pushed back to 2021.