Van Halen ended up doing “most expensive demo tape” w/ Gene Simmons but did not end up using it
Louder Sound via Classic Rock has posted a “long lost” interview with Eddie Van Halen where the Van Halen guitarist speaks about how the band got discovered including why they decided to do a demo with Gene Simmons. The interview appears to have been conduced in between the albums Van Halen (1978) and Van Halen II (1979).
In terms of how they promoted Van Halen in the early days, Eddie advised: “A lot of bands make a demo tape, and we did that also. We went to New York with Gene Simmons from Kiss, I’d say about two years ago. He saw us in a club and asked us: “Are you guys on a label or anything? Do you have a manager?” And we said no. So he said: “Wow, you guys are a hot band. I’d like to work with you guys.” And we’re going: “What do you mean?” And what it boiled down to was he wanted to take a shot at producing a rock band. So we said: “Sure.” Because he was payin’ for it all.”
Eddie continued: “We didn’t have any money, and I guess basically that’s why we did the tape. But then again we went to New York, made the world’s most expensive demo tape and never ended up using it. On top of not having a tape, we didn’t know where in the hell to take it. We didn’t know anyone. Bands take it to a record company, and there will be some clown sittin’ on a couch, smokin’ a joint, listens to your tape, and nothing will ever happen that way.”
With respect to what they did, Eddie advised: “What we basically did is we just kept playing the LA area everywhere. We used to put on our own shows at the Pasadena Civic, our home town, and draw like three thousand people on a four-dollar ticket. This was way before [the deal with] Warner Brothers. So we just developed such a following that a sister of a friend at the record company heard about us and the word got around about the band.”
In regard to how the band got discovered by Warner Brothers, Eddie indicated: “Finally, Ted Templeman and [Warner Bros president] Mo Ostin came down to the Starwood in Hollywood, which was really always just kind of a bad place for us because we weren’t a Hollywood band. Pasadena is really where we’re from, and that’s like San Bernardino – that’s like Bumfuck, Iowa. That’s what people are like out in Hollywood.”
In terms of whether he knew that Templeman and Ostin were in the audience, Eddie stated: “It really tripped me out, because when we were playin’ and Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman walked in, we really didn’t know. Somebody just said: “There’s somebody real important out there so play good.” There were no people there; it was some rainy Monday night without any people at all. And still they came backstage and they loved it. They said: “If you don’t negotiate with anyone else, you’ve got what you want right here.” We were happy, we tripped out. Warner Brothers, man. That was always the company I wanted to be with. On top of that, we got Ted Templeman to produce the record. I talked to a lot of people and they said: “Wow, man, we’re trying to get Ted Templeman to produce our record.” He’s in demand, and here we are – we get picked up by him.”