David Lee Roth

Posted: January 9th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

One Break Coming Up, Or How Diamond Dave Saved Summer

Background note: Apparently I once interviewed David Lee Roth. At a time when he was still on the outs with the Van Halens and touring with Sammy Hagar. Probably for Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. And he did not disappoint. Quite awesome.

David Lee Roth laughs uproariously at his own ingenuity. In mid March, while the rock world waited patiently for Van Halen to do the right thing and welcome the singer back into the fold, Diamond Dave was busy doing what he does best–thinking outside the box while practicing those whirling kicks. Word was that Roth and Sammy Hagar–who replaced Roth in 1985, then quit Van Halen himself in 1996–couldn’t stand each other. Who would believe they could ever share a stage? Why, Diamond Dave, of course.

“I wanted to create something that wasn’t predicted, yet when you saw it, it was patently obvious,” he says of his co-headlining tour with the Red Rocker. “It’s kind of like the wheel. I didn’t think of that either, but when I saw it I said, ‘But of course–no corners!’”

Roth stops to laugh uproariously again, as he does after almost every sentence. At 48, the human exclamation point is enjoying the life that fans would wish upon him. He trains in martial arts 20 hours a week; hangs out with his girlfriend Margaret, a Cleveland native; stocks his virtual Noah’s ark of a music collection (“You like Pakistani retro disco? I’ve got some of that. I got it from the place I eat shish kebab. No shit.”)–all while remaining on “heightened alert” in the event of a terrorist attack.

“‘Give peace a chance’ is the mantra of several generations of rock and rollers,” he explains. “But I’m a trigger hippie. My chant is, ‘YOU give peace a chance, and if it doesn’t work out, I got you covered.’”

Now this summer he’ll be sharing his highwire life with fans once again when the “Sans Halen Tour,” as critics have dubbed it, deflowers Blossom on May 29.

“I think people come to a rock show to see themselves reflected in the singer’s eyes,” he says. “The vicarious experience: That’s probably what I’m huckstering more than any other single commodity.”

And he doesn’t need much to do it. Like Keith Richards once said of Mick Jagger, Roth could work a coffee table and entertain people…

“…and you should be able to do it in a pair of jeans with one white lightbulb,” he adds. “And the guy working the light should fuck it up every now and then. No, all I need is an empty wooden floor, a power trio, and some moves I’ve been working on since I was 12.”

In my opinion, the Van Hagar years and Sammy’s solo stuff is unlistenable. Is the extra box office really worth having to hear that music night after night?

It’s way more than that. This tour goes beyond the Elton John and Billy Joel sort of potpourri of hits. We have that–there’s a hundred million record sales between us–but there’s also an uneasiness like at a NASCAR race: “What’s going to happen?” There’s a rivalry, and there’s a comparison value that most bands don’t have. There ain’t no other leader singer from Creedence Clearwater Revival. Led Zeppelin didn’t even try to replace John Bonham. People will listen to both acts and make those inevitable comparisons. That’s a human thing.

But have you ever met anyone who actually prefers Van Hagar to the original line-up?

Yes, I have!


Well, I’m as stunned as you are, and I’m David Lee Roth! [Laughs.] Hence, you have that interaction in the audience: “Are they friends or enemies?” Obviously, we are colleagues. Any kind of friction between us is football quality at worst. He owns a tequila company, for chrissakes!

Can’t be all bad, then.

No–he’s the thirteenth step. [Laughs.]

You’ll be dusting off some Van Halen material for the tour. Are the famed buttless leather trousers coming out of mothballs, too?

I have something better than buttless leather trousers planned; I’ll be wearing my best combat spandex. I’m thoroughly Modern Marvin here. As far as the Van Halen stuff? We’ll play almost all of it, if not all of it. People will be turning to one another going, “Jesus, I forgot this one; this one’s my favorite. Oh my god, I was arrested to that! I met your mom to this!” And these songs transcend generational value.

In Cleveland those albums are issued at birth.

Well, it’s verb music. Pick just about any infinitive you want, and it just sort of fits. You can switch on the television without the sound and play any song that I’ve ever sung, and it all seems to go together–football, a revival meeting, porno.

So what are some of your more difficult-to-fill backstage rider requests these days?

I have three filthy answers to that question, and if I deliver them, it might actually mitigate the process of filling the requests. [Laughs.] I ain’t saying nothing–and I’m sticking to it. Nothing’s changed backstage.

Has there been any word from the Van Halen brothers regarding the tour?

No. I’m sure the two key words up at 5150 studios right now are “uh oh.”

It’s sad, you’d think a brush with mortality would bring people together [Eddie Van Halen recently battled mouth cancer].

Yes. And part of me is still in the peanut gallery watching this unfold, and the moves don’t make any sense, there’s no overall plan. I’ve been watching this chess game like you have for some time now, and I’m beginning to think they’re just pushing the pieces around. They’re just sort of reacting, and that’s not a chess game; that ain’t living large. It causes me to think there’s more at work than just hard-to-get-along-with-ism. There are probably some spiritual difficulties. And you’ll note that I’m slowing down here, because I only want to make fun of people who can deliver it back. I’m an antagonist, but I’m not a bully.

On a lighter note, heard any good jokes lately?

What’s the difference between bigamy and monogamy? Well, with bigamy, you have at least one wife too many. And monogamy? Same thing.

Your girlfriend must have a great sense of humor.

She don’t read. [Laughs uproariously.]



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