With a 42-city tour kicking off June 11 and a brand new album, "The Best of Both Worlds" set to hit stores on July 20, VAN HALEN guitarist Eddie Van Halen is a busy man. In a true world exclusive and his first major interview in five years, the rock and roll god talks exclusively to Guitar World about his battle with cancer and the triumphant return of his band.
Here are some excerpts from his revealing interview in Guitar World:
On the last six years out of the spotlight: "Well, a lot happened to me. I had hip-replacement surgery, I beat cancer and my marriage ended. Those were all important and difficult events, and I needed time to deal with them. There was nothing really mysterious about any of it, but all three of those things were extremely personal, and I didn't feel the need to share them with the public. But I never stopped making music. I worked through them, and I discovered there was a light at the end of the tunnel. And it wasn't an oncoming train. It changed my life forever. I'm back, I'm black and I'm chasing young white meat! [laughs] There is nothing that can keep me down. Whatever stands before me I will deal with."
On beating cancer: "I kicked the shit out of cancer. It never occurred to me that I would die. I figured whatever comes in can also get the fuck out. And it did. I'm not in remission-the cancer is gone."
On VAN HALEN, the band: "There is a huge misconception about this band and that is without my brother, Alex Van Halen, who is the key, [the band] would not be. He is and has been there for me since before I was born…Without me, there also is no VAN HALEN, because it starts with me. We are not a rock band. We are a rock and roll band."
On what brought Sammy Hagar back to the band: "He called, we had a couple of good conversations and he was back in. It was as simple as that. Usually when bands break up and get back together, things are never quite the same. But I think there's a chance that this will work out because we're communicating a lot better. For example, there was some tension a few days ago. Sam said a few things I didn't like, but we ended up talking about it and cleared it up. That's the way it's supposed to work. I gave him a hug and kiss today and told him that I loved him."
On growing up Van Halen: "The whole time I was growing up, my mom used to call me a 'nothing nut, just like your father.' When you grow up that way, it's not conducive for self-esteem."
On disciplining his 13-year-old son: "I don't believe in punishment. I rarely tell him, 'Don't do this.' I'd rather try to make him think about the consequences of his actions and allow him to make his own decisions. For example, if he talks back to me, I'll tell him, 'If you treat someone else the way you're treating me, you'll get your ass kicked.' He once asked, 'What’s that like?' And I responded, 'You’ll see.' That's how you learn. Either listen or learn the hard way, but you will learn."
On power: "I've been in therapy for over 13 years, and my therapist keeps telling me, 'Focus on yourself, focus on yourself, focus on yourself.' Now, when I go onstage, if people start chanting, 'Eddie, Eddie, Eddie,' like they have in the past, I'm not going to try to silence them because the lead singer doesn't dig it. Instead I'm going to say, 'Thank you.' That's called owning your power — it's not abusing it."
On recording the forthcoming "The Best of Both Worlds": "Throughout my career, I've relied on someone else to record my sound, and I can't say that I've ever been really happy with the end result. I never really understood why no one could capture the sounds I make on tape, but I never complained because professional engineers always intimidated me. Now I'm doing it myself, and I think I'm getting pretty close."
When asked what his choices would be for a VAN HALEN greatest-hits album: "I don't know, because I feel the best is yet to come. The new songs are just an ice cube not even the tip of an iceberg of what is to come."