Bring Back Glam! recently spoke with rock writer Ian Christe about his new book Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga. During the Interview, Christe explains his love for Van Halen, his opinion of the upcoming reunion tour and future book projects. Transcription follows.
Bring Back Glam!: What sparked your interest in telling the history of Van Halen?
Ian Christe: That's easy -- Van Halen is just plain interesting. Not a lot of rock bands span so many decades, cover so much geography, and reinvent the wheel so many times. I liked the challenge of turning that excitement into something portable and readable. The inspiration probably goes back about six years. When I was interviewing the great death metal guitarist Trey Azagthoth of Morbid Angel for my last book, Sound of the Beast, he raved about Eddie Van Halen for hours. Plus it's a thrill to unleash a biography of a band that, in it's heyday, never got the book it deserved because its fans were probably considered illiterate boobs.
BBG: Were the ladies of Van Halen (wives, ex-wives, mothers) especially helpful in your research?
Ian:You mean why did I dedicate the book to our mothers? Valerie Bertinelli was a last-minute addition, by virtue of being Wolfgang's mom. Come on, these are the first women in Van Halen's lives, the ones who unleashed all this heathen male aggression on the world!
BBG: How long did it take for you to complete the project?
Ian: I spent about a year gathering newspapers, DVDs, live bootlegs, videotapes, interviews of all types, court records, and contacts with people who knew how everything went down. Then I sat down and wrote everything down from start to finish several times until it made my captive audience of close personal mental cases laugh aloud all the way through. I could have finished sooner, but by the end I was playing guitar at least four hours a day and drinking too much.
BBG: Did you try to make contact with the Van Halen brothers? Did they give you the brush-off, or were they supportive?
Ian: Good question. I did not ultimately interview Eddie or Alex, but I didn't start the book until I had about 1,000 interviews on hand ranging from 1976 to 2006. Navigating the politics and handlers of the dysfunctional Van Halen machine did not turn out to be a productive way to spend time. I mean, I wanted Eddie, Alex, Michael, Dave, Sammy, and Gary all or nothing. And while I was working they were in no shape to give a clear picture of recent events, let along the distant past. I hope they're supportive of Everybody Wants Some -- I think they'll be more surprised than anyone, reading the story of their own band thus far.
BBG: What is your opinion of the upcoming "reunion" tour?
Ian: Well, this is giving away the last part of the book, but I think the original four-man Van Halen is what the world wants. It would be great if Wolfie were part of that, or part of a future Van Halen, but everybody wants a little piece of 1977 first. And Wolfgang could learn a lot from watching the team in action. Of course it's Eddie's decision, and this is a great gift he's giving his son. We will all know before the end of the year whether father knows best. I'll be there watching, early and often.
BBG: What was the most interesting thing you learned about the band through your research?
Ian: Damn, it's too tough to call after filling hundreds of pages with good stories. I think the Van Halen brothers' struggle to adjust to life in America after leaving Holland, Roth's different lifelong attempts to jump outside his public onstage persona, and Hagar's harrowing childhood are all pretty fascinating. It adds a lot when you see these guys on stage to know what they went through.
BBG: Did you find yourself having to edit for space, or did you tell the whole story as you dreamed?
Ian: Nah, I didn't edit for space, but I left out stories that were too raw to print without absolute proof, and overall I tried to keep the book light-spirited and fast-paced like a prime Van Halen song. It's jam-packed with emotion and information, but you can take a sick day and read it with a six-pack if the spirit moves you.
BBG: Will you be doing a book tour?
Ian: If Barnes and Noble agrees to let me travel from town to town playing "Eruption" in the music section through a Marshall practice amp, I'll let you know!
BBG: Are you currently working on another book?
Ian: Yep, I'm writing a novel about some heavy metal kids who are caught up in a suburban devil worship scare during the 80s. I also just started a publishing company, and I'll be releasing a couple books in 2008 by other authors. First is the autobiography of guitarist Andy McCoy of Hanoi Rocks, the band that inspired Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, and half the hair bands on Sunset Strip during the 80s. The second will be a total scouring history of Swedish Death Metal by the bassist of Insision. Both are great, so better add some bolts to your bookshelf.
BBG: Hagar or Roth?
Ian: Aw, what about Cherone? I'd probably rather be stranded in Tahiti with an all-girl marching band and Hagar, because he's a good bro and at least he knows how to cook. But Roth started it all, and those first six Van Halen albums are just untouchable. I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of characters than this band.
For a review of the book, please click "Everybody (Still) Wants Some" to the left of this page.