After a bumpy ride, Van Halen is finally jumping back out on the road. Just don't say the oft squabbling members are reuniting.
"This is not a reunion—this is a new band," original frontman David Lee Roth, rejoining the ranks for the first time in 22 years, proclaimed Monday at a press conference.
"I've done more rehearsal in the last four months than I've done in the past 20 summers," the high-kicking rocker said. "The whole sound is better than it has ever been...
"We decided to do everything you’d expect but make it high speed, low drag. Everything that got me fired from radio," he added, joking about his brief stint as Howard Stern's East Coast replacement after the shock jock left for satellite.
The recently minted Rock and Roll Hall of Famers kick off the North American leg of their comeback Sept. 27 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and will be touring in this hemisphere for the rest of the year, sticking largely to a set of greatest hits handpicked by Eddie Van Halen's son, Wolfgang. The 16-year-old will be replacing the ousted Michael Anthony on bass. Eddie's brother, Alex Van Halen, will, as usual, wield the drumsticks.
"It's the s--t, that's all I can say," Eddie said, when asked how it feels to be "back together" with Roth, after the two had shared a hug for the cameras. "It's better than it's ever been."
Roth hasn't performed with Van Halen since the group hit the road in support of 1984, which went on to sell more than 10 million copies and earn, in recording industry lingo, Diamond Award status. Tensions flared, to put it mildly, and Roth left the group in 1985.
Apparently, all that's behind them now. Despite the fact that they're touring without their original bassist, that is.
"Michael Anthony is part of this band's history...Meet us in the future, not the pasture," Roth said of Anthony's absence. "I'm shocked that any of us are still vertical" after all these years. But as for the band's current sound, he said, "it's young, it's skinny and it's f--king amazing."
The revamped quartet had originally planned to start touring earlier this summer, but all was put on hold when Eddie Van Halen entered rehab in March to be treated for alcohol abuse. His decision to get clean coincided with the band's induction into the Hall of Fame, so with Alex Van Halen choosing to stay on the West Coast with his bro and Roth opting not to show because he wasn't going to be able to sing, only Anthony and lead vocalist number two, Sammy Hagar, were on hand in New York to accept the honor.
Asked if sobriety had affected his guitar playing, Eddie said, "It's always changing…All I know is I'm playing my ass off."
Tickets for the upcoming tour go on sale Aug. 18.