Named after the original moniker of his late father’s band, Wolfgang Van Halen’s band Mammoth WVH continues the legacy of the legendary Eddie Van Halen with the release of their hard-hitting second album, Mammoth II.
Over the course of the Summer, prior to the release of the second album, the band worked their way across Europe, playing most of the major European rock festivals as well as playing off-date shows supporting the likes of Metallica.
In our latest Cover Story, and just before the group performed their set at Resurrection Fest in Spain, V13 got on the phone with Wolfgang to chat about the new record and how he feels the band has changed over the last three years.
So, the new record is coming out in August. In terms of material, I believe there are a lot of ideas left over from the previous record. What was the thought process behind that?
Wolfgang Van Halen: “I think every time we just record as much as possible. Whatever makes the album, makes the album. Whatever doesn’t is left to be improved upon later, and to see if it makes it onto the next one.”
Around the time of the last record, you went through a huge personal life-changing experience in the passing of your father. How much of that material was inspired by what you went through?
“None of it. That album was finished in 2018 before that. Now, I think everything that I’ve been working through during the last few years is showing up on this album.”
Could you talk us through some of the themes on the new record, then?
“I think this album ended up being a bit more aggressive, and lyrically a lot more darker and introspective. I think, in comparison to the first one where I think was a bit more outward.”
That being the case, what did you get out of writing the songs on this album? For example, on the last record, you talked about the song “Justice” being a coping strategy.
“Music, in general, is a very therapeutic thing for me. I really do pour all of myself into, into my work and into songwriting. I think it really, does just help me therapeutically, I guess, when it comes to writing and performing music.”
In terms of the fans then, what do you hope they get out of listening to this record and reading your lyrics?
“There’s a lot of people who say that, you know, the music has helped get them through hard times. That’s the highest of honours I think when anybody can take anything positive or anything, any help from the music that you create. So yeah, it’s certainly been a surprising honour to have people saying that.”
Considering how personal some of the experiences have been that you’ve written about, how much does it help that there are people on the other side of the world who have shared similar experiences?
“It helps. Just as much as it may help somebody else feeling like you’re not alone. It makes me feel the same way.”
On the new record, I believe a lot of material was written while you were on the road. Is that is that the case?
“Sort of a mix. There were there was some that I wrote when the world shut down, and then then after, throughout touring, I wrote ideas here and there. It wasn’t really until the middle of last year that I really sat down and wrote like the other half of what would show up on this new album.”
Did you have a vision for what you wanted the record to be like?
“No, but I knew that I wanted to record it way quicker. You know, the first album was done over the course of three years. Granted, I was finding what the project was and who I was throughout that process. I think, knowing that, going into this, it allowed me to be a bit more confident and to experiment more. I think that’s why the album ended up being a bit more aggressive. I think it feels almost like an evolution. There’s certain moments that are almost progressive in the sense of songs like “Take a Bow” and “Better Than You”.
On the subject of evolving. You talked about the three-year period you spent on the last record. Prior to this record, you’ve toured with the likes of Metallica and Alter Bridge, how do you think you’ve evolved as a band?
“As time goes by you get better at something the more you put time into it. So, with the guys performing live like we have, the more time we put into it and the more crazy positions that we’re put in, like opening for Metallica or opening, you know, or Alter Bridge or Guns and Roses, it just makes us stronger and makes our bond stronger.”
You’ve talked about the record being quite an aggressive record and quite dark. Even though you wrote some of it on the road, which is obviously not the calmest of lifestyles, do you think that took you away from the personal situations that were going on at home?
“Did it help my dealing with that situation easier? Yeah, I think the busier you are, the less time you have to sit and let your thoughts destroy you. So, yeah, being busy has certainly been a helpful thing for me for sure.”
“There’s a lot of people who say that, you know, the music has helped get them through hard times. That’s the highest of honours I think when anybody can take anything positive or anything, any help from the music that you create.”
As an artist, you’ve learned from the best in your dad. Now you’ve been on tour with the likes of James Hetfield, Slash, Axl Rose, and Joe Elliot, what have you learned from being around those guys?
“As a musician, really, it’s not so much directly, but I think you learn a lot just by seeing how a band operates on tour and the way they treat their crew and, and, and the way they operate. It’s always very interesting to see. I think you can you can learn what to do and what not to do from every situation that you’re a part of. Luckily, we’ve been blessed to be working with incredibly kind people who have wonderful, wonderful people. So, so far, it’s been absolutely wonderful with every band we’ve been playing with.”
There must have been a favourite though. I mean I could happily watch Metallica every night…
“Oh, yeah. The guys are so stoked that we get to have a free Metallica concert every night that we’re a part of that. That’s pretty crazy.”
“Did it help my dealing with that situation easier? I think the busier you are, the less time you have to sit and let your thoughts destroy you.”
That’s a good payback for the hard work. Looking ahead then, you’re going to be hitting the road to tour once the album’s out. What are your plans?
“It’s so funny because we’re touring so much right now and the album is not even out. By the time the album comes out, we’ll be touring even more. I know we have a lot planned once the album’s out into next year. It’s very exciting.”
So far, you’ve ticked off Guns ’n’ Roses, Alter Bridge, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Metallica, is there anyone else on your bucketlist to tour with?
“It feels crazy to even think about that, considering what we’ve been doing already. If I had to pick I mean, AC/DC or Foo Fighters, I think would be on that bucket list definitely. To be a part of that would be that would be insane.”
You grew up learning from your father who was an incredible musician. How do you follow that? I mean, what are your ambitions as a musician?
“Just to keep being myself, you know? I think that’s all I’m really trying to do with the band is to be my own musician, and my own songwriter and just explore that. I just want to be able to establish my own thing.”
Obviously, something we touched on earlier about people connecting to your lyrics. When they hear the new record, what’s the takeaway from it?
“I’m just excited for people to hear it because I think it’s an evolution of the first one. I think it’s better than the first album. So, if anything, maybe it has a more broader appeal? It’s always cool when people decide to check it out and just realise that I’m my own person and my own musician.”
Just to wrap up. What do you think your dad would say if he was listening to Mammoth II now?
“Oh, he’d be stoked. So happy. He had heard some of the demos for certain ideas. Man, he’d be so stoked with this record.”
Mammoth WVH released Mammoth II on August 4th and you can order your copy here.