Eddie Van Halen: "The Brown Sound Wasn't My Tone—It Was Alex's"


For years now we’ve heard that Eddie Van Halen refers to his guitar tone as his “brown sound.”

It turns out that Ed wasn’t talking about his guitar tone. He was referring to his brother Alex’s snare drum sound.

In his new cover story interview in Billboard, the legendary guitarist undoes three decades’ worth of confusion by setting the matter straight with interviewer Chuck Klosterman.

Klosterman starts out by asking Ed if he has synesthesia, a condition in which stimulation of one sense produces a response in another sense or part of the body. It’s been theorized that Ed sees the color brown in relation to his guitar tone, which could be an indication of synesthesia.

Van Halen says while he’s not sure if he has synesthesia, he’s absolutely certain everyone has had their facts wrong for all these years.

“I was never talking about my guitar tone,” he says. “I was talking about Alex’s snare drum. I’ve always thought Alex’s snare drum sounds like he’s beating on a log.”

When Klosterman presses him that this is a “weird way” to describe sound, Ed simply replies, “It’s an organic sound. Brown is an organic color.”

End of story? Read the interview segment here and decide for yourself. You can find the entire interview at Billboard.