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Andy Johns on Van Halen

February 1, 2011
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“WORKING WITH EDDIE VAN HALEN WAS MAGIC,” SAYS JOHNS.

“I loved him, loved him, loved him, hated him. I would say three parts love, one part hate, because he can be a little difficult. For some reason, I don’t know why, I had been to more Van Halen gigs than any other band in the ’80s. I was at their gig where they got signed at the Santa Monica Civic. There’s this kid going widdly widdly, which is okay for the first song, but if he keeps doing that for 45 minutes, it wears you out a bit. Anyway, years later I’m working over at Omega Studios, and Eddie comes in and he’s a very eager, up, up, up guy. He wants me to come over to his studio, to check me out I guess. I said, ‘Look, it was my 40th birthday last night. I can’t come over today. I’m totally buggered. I’ll see you tomorrow, how about that?’ I think he liked that I turned him down. So I go up there to his studio and I’m a bit nervous because I’m quite aware of how they were rather powerful. I get there and I smelled bad and looked pretty nutty. I dropped a microphone on Alex’s head and he didn’t like that. Eddie was bitching and moaning about various things, but we ended up doing a whole record, which took nearly a year. We got a Grammy and we got an MTV Video Award and I made a lot of money and they made a lot of money.

“I’ll never forget, we were doing ‘Poundcake’ and I asked him to double track his guitar. I said, ‘I know you never double your guitar. Is that because you don’t think it’s a good idea?’ He said, ‘No, man. I don’t think I know how to do that.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about? As we sit here in this moment, there are about 500 people in this country double tracking themselves.’ He said, ‘Man, it’s too scary.’ I told him, ‘Just f***ing play along with yourself.’ He did and it matched up perfectly. Then I had this Rickenbacker 12-string with me and I said, ‘Now put the Ricky 12 on.’ We did two tracks of that, just to glisten it up. When he was done he said, ‘Hey Andy, I must be a genius!’ I said, ‘No, everyone does this all the time.’ Whenever Eddie picks up the guitar and just starts playing, it’s wonderful. The man is an absolutely fabulous rhythm guitarist.”

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