This site is dedicated to the classic rock era; hard rock and heavy metal from the 70´s and the 80´s. Here you´ll find music, news, concerts, trivia, stories and much more.
Check back for daily updates!
recently, Shanks produced Van Halen’s "A
Different Kind Of Truth".
As a lifelong fan of their work, he describes the experience as “a
talk about your work with Van Halen on "A
Different Kind Of Truth".
Were you involved in pre-production?
had a lot of the tracks already. I went to Eddie’s house and there
was some pre-production, but they were ready. The discipline of the
way they play - it’s not like they had to get up to speed in the
studio. They’d been working toward this for a while, so the band
was smoking! And it was comforting. I walked in and it was, “Let’s
go!” Their work ethic is phenomenal on a daily basis. When you
think you’ve done this, trust me, they’ve already been up for
three hours and rehearsed. They rehearsed every day. They were always
practicing and always working. Another thing I’m really happy about
with this record is that the lyrics are printed, because the lyrics
a musician, producer and songwriter, can you share some observations
about their writing and recording processes?
use “Hot For Teacher” as an example of why Dave is great, because
until people really get to know the new album, it’s hard to explain
his magic. Think about “Hot For Teacher.” You have the big
hammer-on intro, then you have the guitar part, then down to the John
Lee Hooker kind of guitar part. Now, I’m guessing here that when
Eddie came up with that, he probably assumed that’s where the verse
would start. Most singers, when they hear that, would have started
singing right there. Not Dave. What Dave does is, “What do you
think the teacher’s going to look like this year,” and then it
goes into another section and he starts the vocal. Again, most
writers would have written that as the B section. Dave sees that as
the verse. Dave goes over barre lines and looks at things completely
originally, more than most songwriters.
way I correlate Dave - there’s a similarity almost to the way
Stevie Nicks writes. Stevie writes over barre lines and her verses
continue over where you think they would go to this section, but they
don’t. She’s like a poet. Stevie writes poems, and Dave writes in
a very similar way, where he’s going over sections of songs so it’s
not cookie-cutter. Analytically, when you break it down as a
songwriter, the way Dave writes sometimes is outside the box, or as
he says, it’s “off book.” He has these parameters, and he bends
and morphs them to accommodate his ideas, not only melodically but
lyrically as well. That’s hard to do, especially in a context of
the material he’s working off of. It’s more beat poetry or jazz;
it’s more that kind of thing. It’s more R&B.
thinks outside of the box. To see that process was to see what he
goes through to create that. He goes through his process trying to
find melodies and counterpoints. What I came away with was the
brilliance of Dave, which is like the brilliance of Eddie, but in a
completely different way, but they complement each other, and then
the brilliance of Alex and Wolf. You’ve got to give Wolf credit to
walk in there and be the new guy in the band. I’m really proud of
Wolf. He’s a badass and he’s a great player. He’s a
musicologist and he’s a historian in regards to the band, too,
suggesting, “We should play this song,” We should play that
song,” “The fans want to hear that.” He’s really amazing. And
Alex is an unbelievable drummer.
were times when we were tracking when I would watch - Eddie and
Wolf play in the control room, so I’m sitting between the two of
them, and through the glass we’re all watching Alex. They’re so
locked in, there’s synchronicity, and you have Wolf now, so there’s
this blood connection. There were definitely a couple of times when
they were playing and they’re so in the zone and listening to each
other so intensely that you get emotional because it’s so real. It
was truly a thing to watch, to be a witness to, and to be part of.
I’m grateful for that. And then adding Dave, it’s like the pieces
of a puzzle that just fit together.
is an artist. He’s like any great artist in the sense that when the
motor is running and he’s in his zone, it’s pretty wild. He’s
not the same person he was on 1984 or
on his solo records. He walks in with these journals of writing. He
has a plethora of lyrics that he filters down into their essence in
order to put them on the song. This record showcases Eddie, Wolf and
Alex, but it really showcases Dave in a different way than when he
was younger. He’s in a different place in his life, so it’s a
collective of what works for the way he sings now and the way he
writes now. He’s bringing his life experiences to this. It’s a
different time in his life, and his sarcasm and double entendres and
wry sense of humor really come across on this record. It did in the
past, but [for example] that “1-800 tell me, baby” [“The
Trouble With Never”] was an ad-lib in the moment. It’s like an
actor doing the same scene over and over, and every time, a great
actor will tweak it and take it to the next level. Dave, when he’s
in that place, will do that. It was wild to watch. Even in “Tattoo,”
there’s that cool little ad lib before the last chorus, and the way
he hits it was definitely in the moment and spontaneous. It wasn’t
pre-planned. It was someone who’s on his game, present and working
off the moment, and boom, that happens. He’s feeling the music.
Some of those ad-libs and lyrical hooks he might have in his bag of
tricks, but the way he applies them is what makes Dave “Diamond
Dave.” It’s wild to see when he’s in his zone.
did you hear the finished album for the first time?
was in a room and I heard part of it, and then when I got it, I just
wanted to listen to it by myself. I still have it in my car and I
listen to it every few days because it’s a deep record. Every song - there’s a lot work and a lot of information and it takes a
little bit because everyone listens differently, so it takes a minute
for it to marinate with people. When it does, you start to understand
the richness. It’s like you’re on this little roller coaster ride
and you notice things differently the more you listen to it, even for
me. I listen to it and I relive it … and some of it, I’m reliving
“Tattoo” was released, with the wonderful and very unique
black-and-white video, it immediately stirred up a reaction. Many of
us absolutely loved it straight out of the box, and others … not so
much. Any theories as to why there was such a split response?
think the video was intentional. They shot it at the Roxy, they kept
it lean and mean, it’s not a big budget at all. I think it was OK
for it to be the first single. I think it’s fine. I think “She’s
The Woman” is the next single, and that’s even more classic Van
Halen and I think it will do really well. But people need to shut the fuck up. It is what it is. Relax. It’s fun, it’s playful, it’s
got the big backgrounds and everyone needs to not worry so much. Let
it be. It’s not as light as some of their other stuff or as heavy.
It’s a good calling card, and I think the follow-up is the right
choice; from what I understand, it is the follow-up. Everyone should
just enjoy the ride a little bit. At some point in your life you’ve
got to realize that it’s a time capsule, it is what it is, it’s
Van Halen, it got done, it came out, they’re back and that’s it.
At the end of the day, it’s Eddie, Dave, Alex and Wolf - and it’s
producer/songwriter/guitarist John Shanks clearly recalls the first
time he heard Van Halen.
was 12 years old, doing my homework, and I put their first album on,”
he says. “All of a sudden, ‘Eruption’ comes on and you’re
like, ‘What?’ No one had ever heard that. It freaked us all out.
To me, it was Hendrix, Beck, Page, Gilmour and Clapton. That was it - the big five. And of course The Beatles. And then, one day, Van
did you become involved with the Van Halen album?
was working in my room, Studio C, and David Lee Roth was across the
hall working on solo stuff. He stays in the studio. He’s always in
there doing something. It’s like a boxer - he’s always
training. He’s always writing and trying stuff and experimenting.
He’s always creating. It’s just staying ready. So he comes in the
studio and he’s working on a project. I don’t know what it was
specifically. I introduced myself one day and we chatted a bit and
became social. He’s very bright and communicative, and we would
talk about his dogs, photography, songs, and the current state of pop
met Eddie a couple of times [through a mutual colleague]. I got a
call, I’m sure through Dave talking to Eddie, because I think
collectively they come up with, “Let’s try this guy,” or “Let’s
have a conversation with John.” I know they talked to a couple of
other people too. Anyway, Eddie called. I went up to the house and
met with Alex, Dave, Eddie and Wolf, and they talked about scheduling
and what they wanted to do. Somehow we worked it out so we recorded
felt comfortable at Henson, I certainly knew the room, I think Eddie
wanted to try it, and collectively, that’s what we ended up doing.
That’s how it started. Eddie wanted to mix it at his house and work
on it there [with engineer Ross Hogarth]. I’m sure they worked on
it up there a bit more, but they have their process and you respect
their process and doing whatever they need to do to get it there.
was the tracking schedule?
12 to 12, five days a week. We’d work on the music during the day
and Dave would come in and sing at night. They were long hours.
can you tell us about the gear that was used to make the record?
Eddie used you can buy at Guitar Center. The guitar he used
predominantly on the record is the guitar he’s playing live. He
used a Ripley guitar on one song [“Blood and Fire”]. On vocals I
used a Neumann 49. Dave really likes that mic from when he was doing
his stuff. He’s comfortable with it and felt good about it, and I
tried to support anything they felt comfortable with.
an engineer. He understands the board and the chain and what he likes
on his delay and reverb. They’re very knowledgeable and he’s very
influential. Eddie is a master of the studio. He understands it. All
I can say is that everyone has their process and everyone’s process
is different, so I try to be respectful of their process. When you’re
dealing with somebody this experienced and this far down the road as
far as record-making, they know.