MAMMOTH HAS BEEN MY CREATIVE ENDEAVOUR
A CONVERSATION WITH WOLFGANG VAN HALEN
Standing among the most impressive up and coming rock artists is Wolfgang Van Halen, the mastermind behind Mammoth WVH. The band has spent the year supporting Alter Bridge throughout North America and Europe, along with a string of dates opening for Metallica. To top it all off, Van Halen has released his sophomore album through Mammoth WVH, Mammoth II, on August 4th of this year.
Mammoth II is a strong collection of ten songs that builds upon Van Halen’s 2021 debut. Tracks like the opening “Right?”, “Like A Pastime”, “Take A Bow”, “The Optimist”, and “Better Than You” stand strong as excellent examples of modern rock. Most impressively, however, is the fact that Van Halen recorded the album entirely by himself, joining the likes of Dave Grohl, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, and Paul McCartney. Humbly, Van Halen adds, “it’s an honour to be a part of that club, absolutely.” Despite assuming the role of lead vocalist and guitarist live, Van Halen’s favourite instrument to play are the drums. As he tells it, “I started on the drums when I was a kid. I see everything rhythmically, through the eyes of a drummer… I only every get to play the drums in the studio now which is why it’s my favourite part of recording. I love the drums.” Furthermore, Van Halen writes everything himself, but credits his producer, Michael “Elvis” Baskette, as being a “necessary guide” during the songwriting process. Speaking on the solo nature of this project, Van Halen states, “Mammoth has been my creative endeavour from the start, and I’ve always wanted to see if I could pull it off. I think that’s why the first record took so long, because I was finding who I was – it was a much easier thing the second time around.”
Through Mammoth II, Van Halen further established himself as a powerhouse of musicality. Recorded to tape – “I’ve been tracking to tape my whole life – you get that crispiness you can’t otherwise get” he says – the making of Mammoth II was a significantly different experience than Mammoth WVH. Van Halen reflects, “for the first one, I had all the time in the world, and for this one, I had about two months. I was trying to cram everything I was used to doing into the shortest amount of time possible… We were in the middle of touring and had to fit the sessions in before heading to Europe. It took me about a month to finish all the music, and these a second month to finish everything up. I think we pulled it off, but next time around, I’d like to spread it out more.” He adds, “I was trying to avoid the sophomore slump, that second album curse. That really was all that was on my mind.”
Mammoth WVH is currently on tour in support of Mammoth II. Excitedly, Van Halen tells me, “we’ve done headline shows, but this is our first full headline tour. We have Nita Strauss with us – it’s gonna be a great tour.” This is no small feat of course; however, the band has cut their teeth on the road alongside some of the biggest rock bands. As Van Halen tells it, “our third show ever was opening for Guns N’ Roses”. He sounds as astounded by this statement as anyone else would be. Reflecting on spending much of the summer with Metallica, he reflects, “performing on that stage – that hilariously giant stage, the centre in the round – was so crazy, That Metallica experience was amazing. It was such an honour to tour with that band and crew.”
With the Mammoth II tour in full effect, Van Halen continues to look to the future. Already, his 2024 calendar is filling up. Between January and April, he will be supporting Slash, Myles Kennedy, and The Conspirators throughout South America, Japan, and Europe. Much to Wolfgang’s excitement, he will then spend the summer sharing the stage with the Foo Fighters, stating, “the bucket list band for me was Foo Fighters, but now we’re opening for them next year… If I had to pick one band, one bucket list band, it would be AC/DC.” With the classic rock titans recently making their live return at the inaugural Power Trip festival last month, anything seems possible. Ultimately, between his proficiency in the studio and on stage, Wolfgang Van Halen has both the talent and the relentless drive to back it up. Emerging as a leading figure in modern rock, you’d be remiss to discount Mammoth WVH.