Wolfgang Van Halen is Excited to Come Back to Toad’s Place

Wolfgang Van Halen (Photo: Travis Shinn)


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When it comes to the world of rock & roll, the phrase “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is fitting with Wolfgang Van Halen and his legendary father Eddie. Every music fan knows about the excellence Eddie Van Halen exhibited on guitar while being part of the band that shared his last name, and Wolfgang was even part of the same band on bass until his dad’s passing in 2020. These days, Wolfgang is carrying on his father’s legacy with his solo project “Mammoth WVH” while utilizing his multi-instrumental talents. With a touring band consisting of Frank Sidoris on rhythm & lead guitar, Jon Jourdan on rhythm guitar, Ronnie Ficarro on bass and Garrett Whitlock on drums, Wolfgang is going to be singing and bringing some riffs of his own to Toad’s Place in New Haven on March 5. Nita Strauss, who is currently the touring guitarist for both Demi Lovato and Alice Cooper, will be opening up the show at 8pm. 

Wolfgang and I recently had a conversation about his unique approach to recording, how his father gently got him into becoming a musician, coming back to Toad’s Place after playing there a couple years ago and doing a lot of touring for the majority of 2024. 

RD: With your solo project “Mammoth WVH,” you’ve done all of the instrumentation for the self-titled debut album that came out in 2021 and the sophomore release titled “Mammoth II” that came out last year. What or who inspired you to take on this approach when it comes to your studio recordings?

WVH: Dave Grohl. He’s the one, it’s his fault. (laughs) I think that first Foo Fighters album is what really inspired me. Since I could generally play drums, bass, guitar and sing, there was a desire to sort of challenge myself to see what it would be like if I were to record an album all on my own and to see if it would be coherent enough as an artistic statement. That’s what really drove me to start doing this on my own. 

RD: Do you have any preference between guitar, bass, keyboard, piano, drums and percussion? Is there one out of those that you consider to be your first love?

WVH: I started on drums when I was nine. I think that I feel the most comfortable on the drums and I have the most fun recording the drums, for sure.  

RD: Has your uncle Alex ever given you any guidance when it comes to playing the drums?

WVH: No, actually my dad was the one who taught me initially. He taught me how to play “Highway To Hell” [by AC/DC] when I was nine, then he got me an electric drum kit from there and that was followed by an acoustic drum kit on my 10th birthday. He was the one who gently pushed me into that space and from there I started listening to anything from AC/DC to Van Halen to Blink-182 to Tool while beginning to play. 

RD: Did you do anything differently while making “Mammoth II” in terms of technique or vision than what you did during the making of your debut album?

WVH: With the first album, it came out in 2021 but I finished recording it mid-2018. By the time it was time to get back into the studio and record again, it had been so long. The big thing with the first album was that I wanted to see if I could do it while trying to figure out if there was any merit for what I had to offer as an artist. I took a long time with that over the course of three years, but with “Mammoth II” it was only two and a half months. I think that was the big difference, we were recording with a deadline while trying to figure out how to get it all done in time. I introduced a bit of a heavier element to the songs as well, it was fun and it was kind of a whirlwind to get the second album done but I was really proud with how it all came together. 

RD: I think it came out great. Did you feel rushed at all while making your second album due to the limited amount of time? 

WVH: Yeah. We first had to put the actual studio together and fix a bunch of things that we had been meaning to fix for a while, so that took around a month out of the process. Had we had that month and we started right away, we probably could have recorded at least five more songs and had some in the bank, some ideas that could have been ready to go or it could have been a 12 song album, who knows? Certainly, I could have had a few more ideas recorded but I’m happy to have gotten it done in the way it did. 

RD: Toad’s Place is a legendary venue and when you go in there you see all these names on the walls of the bands and musicians who have played there. There’s The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Parliament-Funkadelic and so many others, and it’s also going to be your first time playing there since “Mammoth WVH” played at Toad’s back in 2022. Does playing Toad’s Place feel different for you at all with all the history the venue has had over the past 50 years or so?

WVH: It’s funny, that’s how it is with so many venues where unless it’s brought to your attention, you don’t realize how many bands and how many people have been in these rooms. It’s an incredible thing and I love playing at a venue that’s really proud of their legacy while really making you aware of who’s been in the building. I think that’s something really important to never lose and that’s why I’m so excited to come back. Our first time at Toad’s was such a great time and I heard that we just sold it out which is just ridiculous to me, I can’t believe it. I’m very, very excited and I can’t wait. 

RD: It sounds like it’s going to be a blast. After this headlining run you have with “Mammoth WVH,” you’re going to be playing a bunch of shows, which includes opening for the likes of the Foo Fighters, Slash and Metallica. Do you plan on having this year primarily focus on touring or will you eventually head back into the studio to make a third album? 

WVH: I’m definitely looking forward to the future and what a potential “Mammoth III” would offer, but given the schedule we have set out for us in terms of touring, this is definitely going to be a big touring year. On off time or on off days, I have been doing my best to look at ideas and get a bit creative, but I certainly don’t think a new album will be coming out until the middle of next year or so, so I got time. 

Who: Wolfgang Van Halen

When: March 5, 2024 at 8 p.m.

Where: Toad’s Place, 300 York St, New Haven, CT 06511

Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of the Connecticut Examiner, he also writes for DigBoston, The Aquarian Weekly, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, Worcester Magazine, New Noise Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.