“It's more about songwriting when it comes to Mammoth”: Wolfgang Van Halen doesn't want to sound like his dad – but holds one soloing lesson from him to heart

Wolfgang (left) and Eddie Van Halen performing onstage
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When you’re the son of Eddie Van Halen, try as you might, you’re always going to fall under his shadow at times. 

It’s a burden that Wolfgang Van Halen has learned to live with, and in a recent interview with MusicRadar, he detailed how he’s molded his approach to his guitar playing to help veer away from direct associations with his old man. 

“I approach guitar playing more as a producer and more as a drummer than a guitar player,” he explains. “Rhythm is always the first thing for me and melody is the second. 

“It's more about songwriting when it comes to Mammoth,” he continues. “Not every song needs a solo.” 

When a guitar solo does feel warranted, his mindset is a far cry from his dad’s dazzling acrobatics. He cites a very different influence instead, one that harmonizes with something his father taught him that he still holds dear today. 

Mammoth WVH: Don't Back Down (Official Video) - YouTube Mammoth WVH: Don't Back Down (Official Video) - YouTube
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“You can play a solo that's one note that can be way more impressive than a solo that's 2000 notes,” he believes. “It's not really the speed at which you play.

“A really core thing for me that my dad always instilled is that a solo should be melodically memorable. I think a good example – and I can never shut up about how much I love this guitar player – is Aaron Marshall from Intervals. 

“We toured with them lately and he's such a great example of what my dad and I love about solos, where he's very melodic,” he continues. “He's basically a singer as a guitar player. But he has those moments where he does these impressive, awesome shreddy runs. You can have those fun little moments.

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“Everybody needs to listen to intervals,” he enthuses. “Their music is very special and important to me. Incredibly influential. Check out 5-HTP from [Circadian], it's one of my favorite songs ever.” 

Marshall, bestowed with a signature Schecter in 2022, said in a Guitar World interview that same year that he likes “leaving a little extra gas in the tank,” with his lead playing, believing it “is much more musical and interesting overall.

“There is certainly a time and place to come in guns blazing if that is the desired vibe, but the concept of dynamic and contrast is crucial to music in general.” 

Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to ProgGuitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.