TESTAMENT's Alex Skolnick spoke to André Cholmondeley, tour manager and guitar tech to the stars, about how he was influenced by Eddie Van Halen, the legendary VAN HALEN guitarist who died on October 6 after a long battle with cancer.
Alex said (see video below): "I started playing guitar in 1980. 'Cause this movie came out — a terrible film, but incredible music — called 'American Hot Wax'. Chuck Berry played himself and just blew everybody away. And he wasn't exactly fresh and new at that time. Between him and then discovering KISS, who were like the 'Avengers' and 'X-Men' in the same band, that made me wanna play guitar. But for a couple of years, I didn't know what kind of guitarist I wanted to be. Do I wanna be like a Chuck Berry and do early rock and roll? I was really leaning towards that. Do I wanna be like a singer-songwriter, more of a John Lennon or even a Paul Stanley? I didn't really care that much about lead guitar. The closest thing I cared about lead guitar[-wise] was Chuck Berry — all those intros. And then, I guess that'd be '82, some friends at school said, 'Oh, you play guitar. You have to hear VAN HALEN.'"
He continued: "I'm far from the only person that has this story, but hearing 'Eruption' for the first time… I mean, the whole record, but when 'Eruption' played, and it got to the second track on the first VAN HALEN record… They were already on their fourth record, so I was discovering them for the first time, but I'm old enough to appreciate it. I suddenly knew what kind of guitarist I wanted to be. Like, okay, I'm not doing early rock and roll. I'm not gonna be a singer-songwriter necessarily. I'm gonna play hard rock and roll, and I wanna be a lead guitarist. And it was entirely because of Eddie Van Halen.
"Eddie was one of the few people that I've always gone back to this whole time," Skolnick added. "I never outgrew the music. I always kept it as a benchmark — what would Eddie do right here? And there are so few people you can say that about."
Eddie died at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California at the age of 65. His wife, Janie, was by his side, along with his son, Wolfgang, and Alex, Eddie's brother and VAN HALEN drummer.
The iconic VAN HALEN axeman died from complications due to cancer, his son confirmed.
VAN HALEN was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2007.
Rolling Stone magazine ranked Eddie Van Halen No. 8 in its list of the 100 greatest guitarists.