Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Eddie Van Halen and KISS, circa 1982


March 19, 2014

It seems an old interview I did with Eddie Van Halen back in 1995 is making the rounds on the Internet, and since I’ve gotten some inquires about it, I’ll provide a little of the back story …

About three years ago, I posted the actual audio recordings of a bunch of my old newspaper interviews on YouTube, just for fun. Some of them are pretty cool, and I thought some people might enjoy listening to my conversations with people such as Billy Joel, David Bowie, Steven Tyler, Brian Johnson, Alice Cooper, Jon Bon Jovi, Ray Charles and a few others. They’re all still out there in YouTube land, including an interview I did with Eddie Van Halen. And at the very end that interview, from 1995, I asked Eddie about a passage that could be found in what was then a newly published book called “KISSTORY,” in which Gene Simmons talked about how Eddie, circa 1982, had once expressed an interest in joining KISS. Being a huge KISS fan (why else would I have just bought the $150 "KISSTORY" coffee table book?) and also a pretty big Van Halen fan, I figured I’d ask Eddie about it.

Well, that was almost 20 years ago, and though I’d pretty much forgotten about it, I guess the old “Eddie joining KISS” story has somehow found new life on the web, and thus my old interview recently found its way onto a few KISS and Van Halen fan sites, as well as Eddie Trunk's website and the Blabbermouth website. I’m cool with that. You put something on the web, you never know where it can wind up. And though I’ve tried to reply to everyone that has asked me about the interview, I think in order to save some time and make things perfectly clear, it’s best that I just share my response right here:


Hello, and thanks for writing,

I do clearly remember asking Eddie Van Halen about this. The “KISSTORY” book had literally just come out right around the time I did the interview. I was/am a big KISS fan and am also a Van Halen fan. And while I found the whole “Eddie joining KISS” story to be interesting, it really didn’t make any sense. In 1982, KISS was a band going through a strange time. They’d just come off the “Music From The Elder” concept album, which was a commercial failure. I’ve always really liked the record, but it was a new decade, the musical climate was changing, and KISS had briefly lost its way. Hard-rock was certainly alive and well in 1982 with AC/DC and Van Halen, and Rush was also huge, but KISS, with “The Elder,” took on a new challenge and it didn’t work. And that’s OK. Any band that’s been around for 40 years will hit a few bumps in the road, and that’s where KISS was at that time. This was also the exact same time that Ace Frehley was leaving the band, which put KISS in an even tougher place. Were they looking for a new guitarist around that time? Yes. But why would Eddie Van Halen, who had just come off the magnificent “Fair Warning” album, want to join KISS? This was only four years after Van Halen first arrived on the national music scene, but he was already nearing iconic status because of his innovative playing. Plus, he was in a band that had his name on it and a band that was still very much on the rise. I’m sure Roth was driving Eddie nuts, but not enough, at least at that point, to part ways.

Another reason this made no sense was because this would have happened a year before KISS “unmasked” for the “Lick It Up” album. The band still had that element of mystery to them, and now they were going to put a very recognizable superstar in the band? Sure, Gene had helped VH out in the beginning and had produced their early demos, and Eddie supposedly played on a few of Simmons' demos for KISS around the time of "Love Gun," so there was a friendship there. But Eddie joining KISS in 1982, or ever? Just can’t see it.

Again, I had literally just read “KISSTORY” when I did that interview, so I asked Eddie about it at the end of our conversation. I didn’t tell him it was “off the record,” as a post on the Van Halen fan site indicates. I did tell him that it wasn’t for the story, because I was writing a story about the “Balance” tour coming to Philly, and it just didn’t fit. It was really just for my own curiosity. And thus it was never included in the article that ran in the newspaper. If you listen to the interview, you can hear that the question was really just an afterthought. “KISSTORY” was a $150 coffee table book marketed just to the KISS diehards, not a New York Times best-seller, and the Van Halen story was about three sentences in the book, so I really didn’t see it as a big story.

The reason you hear me chuckling a little, which is noted on the Van Halen fan website, was simply because of Eddie’s reaction to the question, which was one of bewilderment. I certainly didn’t think Eddie was too good for KISS, or vice-versa. If the rumor/story had been just the opposite, and the story went that in 1978 Paul Stanley once considered quitting KISS to join the up-and-coming Van Halen, I also probably would have been chuckling if I had the chance to ask Paul about it, especially if he had the same reaction as Eddie. I am still a big fan of both bands and I do think that some sort of conversation probably happened bewteen Eddie and Gene, though both were also probably a bit foggy on the details in 1995, which was 13 years after the conversation took place. Gene is a very smart guy. When he put that story out there, he had to have known that at some point, somebody was going to ask Eddie about it, and I guess the only person that has ever done that is me, and it took almost 20 years for anyone to notice. If nothing about Eddie joining KISS was ever said, even jokingly, I don't think Gene would have put it in "KISSTORY." And Eddie admits he was really hitting the sauce at the time. All I know is that, for the record, I’d have been the first in line to buy any record that had Paul Stanley, Eddie Van Halen, Gene Simmons and Eric Carr playing on it.

Gotta love the internet. An interview I did almost 20 years ago still has life and can become a topic of discussion.

Rock on .... 



So that has been by standard reply to questions about my 1995 interview with Eddie Van Halen. He was, on the two occasions when I interviewed him, a pleasure to talk to. I am still a fan, and as my readers know, I am still an even bigger KISS fan and have been blogging about them quite a bit this month regarding the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you missed those blogs, they're linked here:

1. KISS and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Much Ado About Nothing:

2. KISS and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Who should give the speech?

3. A link to the three-hour radio special I hosted on KISS can also be found here:

Thanks, as always, for reading and listening.

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