Extreme singer Gary Cherone reminisces on what it was like being in Van Halen with Eddie Van Halen
With the very sad news that guitar legend Eddie Van Halen passed away yesterday, former Van Halen and current Extreme frontman Gary Cherone granted an interview to RollingStone where he went over his time in Van Halen and specifically working with the late great Eddie Van Halen.
In terms of when he first met Eddie, Cherone indicated: “The times Van Halen was on the road and Extreme were on the road, I never met him. I met Michael Anthony and the other guys in the band, but I didn’t get the chance to meet Eddie until my audition. That was the summer of ’96. I remember there were rumors Dave was coming back [laughs]. Our manager managed Van Halen and Extreme at the same time and he called me up and said, “Do you want to audition?” I thought he was joking.
I will always hold it close to my heart that Eddie and I hit it off on Day One. He made me feel comfortable, and he went out of his way to make me feel comfortable. As the years went on, I saw him do that to everyone else. He knew people were meeting Van Halen and Eddie; he knew who he was and how people could get funny around the king. So I remember on my first day how he extended himself to me, and how he was just a regular guy. We ended up being kindred spirits.
I thought I was just gonna spend the weekend with Van Halen and go home to Boston and tell my friends, “I sang ‘Jump’!” and that would be it. Little did I know that I would be there for the next three years.”
With respect to when he knew that he was in Van Halen, Cherone revealed: “It was the second day he told me I’d be in the band. I was like, “Maybe you should ask the other guys, too.” The first day, we wrote music together and just hit it off. I pretty much lived at his guest house and we became very close.”
In regard to writing songs with Eddie, Cherone stated: “There are a couple of things that were new for both of us. We come from different camps and he had another way of writing with different guys in the band, whether it was Sammy or Dave. One of the things that I did with Extreme that he never did with Van Halen, is I’d have a lyric written. So when I handed Eddie a lyric, that was the first time he wrote to the lyric. With the other guys, he’d generally write the music. I didn’t give the lyrics to him, but he’d go, “What’s that?” And take it from me and sit at the piano and work on it.
Maybe to a fault, there was a freedom that we had on Van Halen III that was maybe too eclectic for the Van Halen fans. When he sat down at the piano and played, I would sit there in awe. I encouraged that. I think he enjoyed that freedom. Some people critique it as an Eddie Van Halen solo record. I don’t think that’s fair. I think Eddie found a new freedom in his writing.”
You can read the rest of the comprehensive interview with Gary Cherone at RollingStone‘s website.
Van Halen‘s “Without You” video: