Prior to the kickoff of his ongoing Las Vegas residency, VAN HALEN vocalist David Lee Roth spoke with "PodKats!", the weekly hang with the biggest names in entertainment, hosted by man-about-town columnist John "Kats" Katsilometes of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The full conversation can be streamed at this location. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On his Las Vegas residency:
David: "Las Vegas is the epicenter of modern show business today. What you're used to in the local theaters and drive-ins adjacent is 10-hour bus rides and people trying to accommodate soundchecks in drafty basketball halls in four hours. That's the best bands possible. You beat the hell out of your fingers; you beat the hell out of all your wind instruments and your dancers. It's like the NFL — everybody's playing hurt. Half of your crew is taking pain pills, and the other half actually have a prescription for those pain pills. I'm talking about everybody, from the country acts, the blues, urban, hip-hop, rock n' roll — you're playing games like doing the old Gene Krupa bands, 19 nights in a row...
"When I go to a show, I'm a crybaby, whiny-ass little bitch. I want everything perfect — I want it better than perfect. I want boom in the room. I want my ass getting bumped when the bass man thumps appropriately. I want visual. Bring me a new haircut, pair of shoes, and I'm going to grade unflinchingly, like a New York City film critic — hard, baby... Las Vegas delivers, delivers, delivers. I'm a [Lady] Gaga fan, I'm a Bruno Mars fan, I'm a METALLICA fan. I love JOURNEY. I'm going to go see AEROSMITH. I love the UFC. My whole life is mixed martial arts, and it's all really better there. I'm telling you as a complainy, crybaby, whiny-ass, you know — as a fan, I'm a fan, but the fans who are truly fans complain all the time. I'm a troll. Its keeps the bar nice and high."
On how he prepared for his return to the stage:
David: "If you can't bring it in a pair of jeans and a white t-shirt under one bulb on a string, then you can't bring it. If you can, then you've got a good, strong sturdy tree, and now we can bring the tinsel. Whatever 'it' is, whether you're spinning batons or juggling or whatever Cirque du So-Dave-style, 40 Shades of Dave... I started getting myself ready like a boxer or a ballerina or a tap dancer. I'm kind of a combination of all of it. I'm depending on my body completely, 100 percent. I started getting that ready around my birthday last October. That being the case, it's not all cupcakes, tinsel and glamour... VAN HALEN, we did our 10,000 hours before we made even our first record. We were the result of really unsmiling, unfriendly European music teachers. When we brought it together, we brought craft — thousands and thousands of hours, just working together as a team and working together as individuals. That's where our spirit and our drive, and maybe some of our arrogance, came from. We approached it like a South Pacific rugby team, or the way the American female soccer team did — we brought it, the way people at the MGM Grand Garden bring it when they go, [imitates boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer] 'Let's get ready...' That kind of an attitude comes into it.
"I put together a double-guitar, three-guitars approach, because we're not making any effort to replicate VAN HALEN live. That's guitar, bass, drums, Eddie [Van Halen] — wonderful. No, this is the album. We start the way the album sounds, and man, that's a high hurdle. It requires multiple guitars. This will change your haircut. I told the band, 'Let's not give the band a name. It's not the DAVID LEE ROTH BAND. This has its own sound. The sound is serious — give it a serious name. Why don't we call the sound HORSES OF GOD? Let's see if you fucking add up to that'... I take it very seriously when I get out there in the music department. This is not a tribute band; it's not a backup band. This has taken me about four years to really bring it around. Most acts take six, eight weeks to bring the full production together. We'll have put in eight months in preparation for the music in the same spirit that the original VAN HALEN was built. The average age in this band now is 25 years old, and they're ready to plug in."
On how playing arenas with VAN HALEN contrasts to the more intimate House of Blues at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas:
David: "When was the last time you went to a [Bruce] Springsteen gig and saw eyebrows? I went to a Springsteen gig — I've been to four or five of them at a stadium with my father. It turns out I was watching the wrong guy for two hours. I was watching the guitar tech. I didn't know it wasn't Bruce — they're all wearing black. You've got to watch the screen...
"The spirit of Elvis [Presley] is way bigger than the music. I don't know how many Elvis records I actually bought. It wasn't my generation, but the spirit, the attitude, the vibe, the cool of Elvis? Elvis had many phases, many stages. Depending on who you are and how old — are you military Elvis with the perfect complexion? Were you beginning Elvis when he upset everybody with [imitates Presley's voice]? Or were you end-stage Elvis, which frankly, I enjoy that as much. I like Keith Richards for all the same reasons. I dig end-stage Keith every bit as much, and I'm prepared to spend $1500 to go see him as well — and if he plays in Vegas, I'll spend another $1500, because I can see his eyebrows. If you can see somebody's eyebrows, then you have a connection, face-to-face. In most of the venues in Las Vegas, it is as simple of that. Whether it's Gaga, Bruno, me, we're expressive motherfuckers. When you talk about Garth Brooks, nobody has better-selling records. I think he has seven diamond[-selling] records — more than THE BEATLES. Why? Because of his personality, because of who he is, his character. From what I can tell, half of his show is him telling stories. What a better place to hear it than in one of those [Vegas] rooms."
On VAN HALEN:
David: "I just called Ed to find out who the guitar tech I need to talk to is and some of the gear I need. Everybody's fully aware [of the residency]. We live in small circles here. We have the same manager, everything. The stuff you sing along with, I wrote. I'm a part-owner. It's in the DNA. Whatever happens with VAN HALEN, it's not for me to guess. I wouldn't hold my breath."
Listen to the entire interview at this location.
Roth's Las Vegas residency kicked off on January 8 with a 15-song set that included 10 VAN HALEN classics and five songs from his solo career. Backing the 65-year-old singer at the House Of Blues were lead guitarist Al Estrada from the VAN HALEN tribute band ERUPTION, rhythm guitarist Frankie Lindri, bassist Ryan Wheeler, keyboardist Danny Wagner and drummer Mike Mussleman.
Roth will play six more Vegas shows in March, in addition to performing as the opening act for the upcoming North American legs of KISS's "End Of The Road" farewell tour starting on February 1 in Manchester, New Hampshire.
Roth's Vegas residency isn't be the first time he has set up shop in Sin City. Back in 1995, Roth completed a Las Vegas engagement at Bally's Hotel and Casino and another short run at MGM Grand.
VAN HALEN has been inactive since it finished its U.S. tour in October 2015 at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, California.