Van Halen released their groundbreaking self-titled debut in 1978, and by the time Guns N’ Roses formed in 1985, one can easily argue that Van Halen were the biggest hard-rock band on the planet — until GN’R took that title with their own masterful debut, Appetite for Destruction.
We recently caught up with Slash to discuss the new Guns N’ Roses pinball machines, as well as his new custom collection with Gibson Guitars. While speaking with the GN’R axeman, we asked him for his thoughts on Eddie Van Halen, specifically what it was about the Van Halen legend’s playing that made him such an iconic guitarist.
Slash graciously provided his take on what made Eddie so unique among his fellow rock guitarists, offering the following response:
“The thing about Eddie is that he was such a gifted musician. Any instrument he had chosen to play would have been phenomenal, because he just had that pure musical talent. And he chose guitar, because that’s what turned him on. And for somebody with that kind of musical talent to get turned on to rock ‘n’ roll guitar was sort of unique unto itself, because most of us guitar players are a ragged bunch of rock ‘n’ rollers who don’t have too much technical ability or schooling. We just sort of go for this raw thing. And he had that, but he also had this musical, sort of classical gift.
Then, on top of that, just being somebody sort of like Les Paul, who hears something in his head or has an idea and creates it. So it made him a triple threat. He was a great guitar player, but he was also this amazing musician, so it just made his guitar playing that much greater. And then he was an innovator on top of it, creating new things with whatever his imagination came up with. So he was just an amazing artist, period.
And he was just a really, really sweet, humble guy, too. So, I was really shocked. I was actually in Chicago working on the release of the [Guns N’ Roses] pinball machine when I got a text from Duff [McKagan] saying that [Eddie had passed away]. And it was just a shock. I was stunned. And so I just miss him a lot, but the world is definitely a changed place since 1978, when [the debut album] Van Halen came out.”
Recently, Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang, revealed that his father wanted Van Halen to embark on a “kitchen sink” farewell tour that would have seen the return of bassist Michael Anthony and featured all three of the band’s singers: David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, and Gary Cherone. Sadly, the tour never came to be, with Eddie sidelined by his cancer battle in the years leading up to his passing.
Slash, along with his bandmates in Velvet Revolver, actually had the honor of inducting Van Halen into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. Velvet Revolver also performed a Van Halen set at the ceremony after Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony were the only ones to show up to accept the induction. Watch below.