Alex Van Halen listed his requirements for a good live performance, and argued that dramatic changes in the music industry have shifted the focus back to artists’ on-stage product.
In a newly-published interview with Modern Drummer, which took place before the death of Eddie Van Halen, Alex said he’d always regarded Van Halen as a live band.
“After we honed our skills, you learn the connection between the people and the music,” he explained. “Playing live, there should be no dead space. Never turn your back on the audience and never insult them. They are equal to you. That line that separates the audience from the stage, that’s not a line. That’s just to keep them from puking on your shit! You’re there to make the audience feel good.”
He went on to claim that modern technology had been misused to destroy the world of recording. “There’s nothing left in the music business,” he said. “It’s a bunch of ones and zeroes. In the old days you’d get a dollar a record, and now you get 50 cents for 275,000 streams. It’s insane. It’s wrong. Now the only thing you have is playing live, which is ironic, because that’s how it all started.”
Alex pointed out that, up until their 1984 era, Van Halen and their tour crew had all traveled on the same bus, and the experience had strengthened their onstage presence. “Leonardo da Vinci said, ‘Large rooms distract the mind; small rooms focus the mind’,” he quoted. “When you’re all tight in close quarters, it focuses your energies and you learn how to deal with issues and problems. If you’re in a large space, you never even have to say ‘hello’ to the other guys. What’s that all about?”
“I’d rather have someone wake up in the morning and say, ‘Hey, fuck you!’ as opposed to not saying anything at all,” Alex continued. “I’m serious. Give me some emotion! That’s what this is about. Music is a celebration of being human. With the drums at the forefront!”