David Lee Roth thinks that Van Halen’s music transcends genres and is timeless
Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth was recently interviewed by Vogue as he promoted his new tattoo skin-care line.
Roth was asked how he considers Van Halen‘s legacy to which he replied: “Our music is timeless and can be played by Filipino bar bands at Hasidic weddings flawlessly. As soon as you hear [he singsongs the opening riff of “Dance the Night Away”], every female wrist grabs every male wrist and goes, “Get up—you’re dancing.” Our music transcends genre. The hard rock guys think we’re pussies for playing pop, and the pop stars say we’re too rough.”
In terms of his heroes growing up, Roth advised: “For starters, they all wore suits to work. They didn’t have much to do with the frontman in Led Zeppelin, much as you might expect—they had more to do with Miles Davis, [Akira] Kurosawa, and P.T. Barnum. Let’s start there—that’s a power trio!
My mom was the critical vote in my family, always was—not Dad. All of the tough, the feisty, the scrappy, and the moxie comes from Mom. My day started with standing at attention and waiting for her to spin her finger—she wanted to see the back, and she’s gonna look down—you literally had to pull up your pant legs to show her your socks and your boots, and if they didn’t match your shit, she was liable to throw her grilled cheese sandwich at you.
This crucial element was an undercurrent to Van Halen. There’s a discipline to it and a seriousness that’s squired away a lot at times, but we came from a fiery, competitive background that has nothing to do with Woodstock or a hippie kind of element. And I love hippie, believe me. But we come from big-band cutting contests; Benny Goodman versus Chick Webb, tonight at Roseland: We’re going to play the same five songs—you white boys are going to play your arrangements of ’em, and then we’re going to kick your white ass right in front of your audience.
Early on, having gone to music school and learned everything from theory to orchestration—the Van Halens [brothers Eddie Van Halen, guitarist, and Alex Van Halen, drummer] did that as well—there was always an undercurrent of doing your homework, even if it was freestyle rock ’n’ roll that was a colorful combination of many communities. Think of “Jamie’s Cryin’ ” [he beatboxes the song’s opening descending drum riff]: I sold a Ricky Ricardo rhumba to the heavy metal nation!”
You can read the rest of the interview with Roth at Vogue.