Study Hall

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In Memoriam: Edward Van Halen (January 26, 1955 to October 6, 2020) — “…and then one day I’m the FOH engineer for Van Halen!”

Memories of serving as a mix engineer for Van Halen in the 1990s.
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Eddie Van Halen performing in the late 1970s with his “Frankenstrat.” CREDIT: BY CARL LENDER - FLICKR: EDDIE VAN HALEN, CC BY 2.0

On A Roll

At this point I’d like to mention a few career nuggets that came about from being given this honor and having it for many years to come: After the VH tour was over, I heard from a friend that the band Extreme was looking for a FOH engineer for an upcoming tour.

I inquired and was asked to submit a “mix tape” – collection of recorded mixes from shows and bands I’d done recently. I ended up just sending them my favorite sounding board tape from a 1993 VH show. I honestly didn’t have a lot of other band recordings that I liked as much. I got a call almost immediately and was hired. All they needed to hear was that I’d mixed Van Halen. They loved them, and after listening to the tape, I got the gig.

During the 1995 VH “Balance” tour, in mid-September I was thrilled and proud to mix FOH for the first time in my hometown of Vancouver, BC. Friends and family were there, and it was absolutely a career moment. I thought about all the bars and clubs where I’d mixed in that area from 1981 to 1985, and now I was in the arena. (So cool!)

I’ve always been a huge golf enthusiast, and Eddie and I played together a time or two. He even gave me a set of King Cobra golf clubs because I left mine at home at the start of a tour. Several PGA professionals would visit our shows and we got to play some great golf courses in exchange.

John Cook was a regular, as was Mark O’Meara. Mark used to hang around with a pretty famous golfer named Tiger Woods, and finally they both came to see a show together in July 1998 in Atlanta. When they arrived backstage, Mark asked me if the band was there yet, and since they weren’t, we asked them if they’d like to hang out on our crew bus while they waited. My family was visiting that day too, so we all just chilled out with Mark and Tiger on our bus. (What a blessed life!)

The now FOH engineer flanked by pro golfers Tiger Woods (left) and Mark O’Meara.

They came out to FOH for sound check, and Tiger stood beside me while I mixed, and asked me to explain the console and what all the faders and buttons did. I just stood there incredulous thinking, “I’m teaching audio to Tiger Woods!”

End Of An Era

When the 1998 tour came to an end, I wasn’t sure when the next tour would be, but I certainly didn’t ever think it was the end of the road for me. However, I never went back to work with the band.

I’m not sure if it was just bad timing and other opportunities, but I didn’t have the opportunity to mix another Van Halen show. I dropped by the arena in Orlando many years later when they were playing in my new hometown. I still had some friends out on the tour and it was nice to visit. I got to say hello to Eddie for a few minutes, and Alex and I had quite a nice chat, but it was definitely different. The “Camelot” years had passed, and it felt like the end of an era.

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I still stay in touch with my friends from the various VH crews, and the first texts to hit me to let me know Eddie had passed were mostly from them. It was a very sad day for us all.

Again, you had to be there…

I’m grateful for the time I had in the presence of greatness, and for the hugs and kisses – on the lips – daily from one of the greatest guitar players of all time. Don’t ask… it was just his way of saying, “Good to see you.” Rest in peace, Eddie. I miss you and I miss hearing you play. You are loved by so many.

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