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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

One of the biggest stars in rock history begat Mammoth WVH, which makes its Spokane debut at the Knitting Factory

Before there was Van Halen, there was Mammoth. The former, the surname of legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen and his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen, became the moniker of one of the most iconic bands in rock history.

And now there is Mammoth WVH after the death of Eddie Van Halen, who died in 2020. The group, which released its debut album, Mammoth WVH, in 2021, is fronted by Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen.

Ever since Wolfgang Van Halen, 32, was a child, he was enamored with his father’s former band name and said if he ever formed a group that “Mammoth” would be its moniker.

Van Halen was impacted by his father’s work ethic and attention to detail, but his sonic influences were primarily from recording artists, who made their mark during the 1990s.

“One of the first bands that had a huge effect on me was Blink-182,” Van Halen said while calling from Los Angeles. “I love their harmonies and Travis Barker’s drumming. I’m also a huge fan of the underappreciated Jimmy Eat World. I love their melodies.

“I’m also a big fan of Nine Inch Nails and Alice In Chains and their dissonant harmonies. The Foo Fighters are also a huge influence.”

The Foo Fighters’ first album had a massive impact on Van Halen, who noticed that Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl played all of the instruments on that eponymous release.

“Dave Grohl is my biggest inspiration,” Van Halen said. “What Dave did on that first album has inspired me to do it myself.”

Van Halen played every instrument on Mammoth WVH and Mammoth “2,” which was released in August.

“It’s just something I enjoy doing,” Van Halen said. “I love playing all of those instruments. Give me the guitar, bass, drums and piano. I enjoy the challenge.”

When the initial Mammoth album dropped, fans thought the album was inspired by the loss of Van Halen’s father.

“That’s people reading into it and it just isn’t accurate,” Van Halen said. “I wrote and recorded the material from the first album from 2015 to 2018. You know the line, ‘You have your whole life to write your first album.’ Well, my first album took years.

“I dealt with the loss of my father while writing the songs for the second Mammoth album.”

That’s the reason the “Mammoth 2” is darker and more aggressive sonically than the initial Mammoth release.

“I put my heart and soul into writing the lyrics for each album,” Van Halen said. “I put everything I have on the table. Sometimes you go to places that aren’t easy to go to. That’s what I did on the second album in particular.

“You have to go to those places sometimes to pull stuff out that’s painful. Sometimes you have to suffer for your art a little bit.”

While recording the second Mammoth album, Van Halen agreed to appear in the Foo Fighters’ tribute concerts for the late Taylor Hawkins in London and Los Angeles in September 2022.

Van Halen played guitar along with Grohl on bass, the Foo Fighters’ Josh Freese on drums and Darkness vocalist Justin Hawkins, while delivering such Van Halen classics as “Hot for Teacher” and “Panama.”

Van Halen believes that will be the last time he performs his father’s music in public.

“I would rather fail with my music than succeed with someone else’s music,” Van Halen said. “What I did for Taylor was right for that moment. However, that’s as far as it goes.”

So, forget about the rumored Van Halen reunion with guitar hero Joe Satriani.

“I don’t see anything like that happening,” Van Halen said. “It’s an unfortunate fact of life that things end and there are new beginnings. It’s impossible to have Van Halen without my dad.”

Fortunately, Van Halen still has his mother, actress Valerie Bertinelli, who is a staunch supporter of his music.

“My mom is our No. 1 fan and she’s awesome,” Van Halen said. “My mom was a little nervous when it became evident that I would become a musician. She said, ‘Oh no, not another one!’ ”

Van Halen toyed with becoming a video game designer, but genetics are undeniable. It was no surprise for music fans that Van Halen would follow in the footsteps of his performer parents.

“When I decided that I would just rather play video games rather than make them and become a musician, my parents championed me,” Van Halen said. “Even though they disagreed about many things, they supported me in every way. It wasn’t easy when they divorced. Their divorce was traumatizing, but they always gave me what I needed.”

Bertinelli was fine with her son joining Van Halen as the group’s teenage bass player.

“I was young (16), but it worked out and I was with the band for (14) years,” Van Halen said. “Those were great times and I’m glad I had that experience. I miss my dad, but now it’s time to move ahead with new material.”

Seven songs didn’t make the latest Mammoth album. Expect the next Mammoth project to be recorded in 2024.

Will Mammoth, which performs Saturday at the Knitting Factory, continue to release albums with a number in the title?

“If I continue doing that, does that mean I’m ripping off Led Zeppelin or Van Halen?” Van Halen said. “I hope not. I’m just trying to be me when I’m in the studio and onstage.”