Who is Greg and how did he get the idea to write 'Van Halen Rising'?
I'm a historian and writer. I was born in 1969 in the Bronx, NYC. I then grew up in NJ as a huge rock and metal fan. I became a VH fan after hearing jump on the radio in 1984 and then saw the 1984 tour. After that I was a VH fan for life. Went on through school and got a PHD in History. I was still very much a VH fan and just believed that the band's early history had not been as well documented as it should and set out to write this book, which is absolutely true, once you read the book.
Where did you start with the info gathering?
I started off just trying to find out a bit more about the band's beginnings. I contacted a few people through FB who started telling me their stories of growing up with the band, hiring them to play in bars they owned or to play backyard parties in Pasadena. It just snowballed from there.
There are quite a few people you got in, the details are remarkable precise.
I knew I needed to do a lot of interviews if I was going to get this story right. For instance, for some of the backyard parties I discussed I interviewed some twenty or so people who attended them. When you talk to that many people you get a good sense of what happened and then you have plenty of texture for the story.
Wasn't it hard to put the pieced together after 40+ years? I can imagine that recollections could be different compared to each other.
Well, in the cases of the three backyard parties I discuss in detail, I spoke to the hosts of the parties. That was a good starting point. Plus when you talk to enough people, the facts start to match up, and you figure out what went down. That's the job of a historian and then you know for sure that things actually happened the way they did.
What was the most surprising things you found out?
One thing was how many record executives didn't see anything special about VH, even in 1976 when the band was about to be signed by Warner Bros. Bill Aucoin (former manager of KISS – WA) is the most famous case, but even Bob Ezrin (producer - WA) was being told to check out this band Van Halen and he couldn't be bothered to give them a serious look.
Have you read Paul Stanley's book? Paul tells all, also about Aucoin. It adds up with the things you mention. I was kinda struck by the dissing of Roth at first.
I have read parts of it. Aucoin didn't like Roth's singing, but also didn't love the rest of the band much either. A huge mistake, obviously. Roth got much better as a vocalist in 1977, and also had the benefit of having Ted Templeman coach him up.
I agree but the way he sang on the last couple of tours was under heavy debate. I saw them in 2012 in MSG NY. What an experience, even with DLR singing like that.
I think he's been up and down the last tour especially. But there's almost no vocalists from the 70s that we couldn't point to and say your voice has declined. Dio was a freak in that sense.
And Jon Anderson but that's a different league, haha.
Yes, good one!
Back to VH; did you contact the band/management for your book research?
I did ask Ed for an interview through his publicist. I got a no back very quickly. Roth too turned me down as well.
Too bad, I bet they would have liked to talk about them wild years.
I can't speak for why they declined, but I interviewed many, many of their friends from the early days who were eyewitnesses to VH's rise.
OK greg, thanks for this chat, appreciated!
Thank you so much for your enthusiasm about the book and thank you for helping to spread the word!
My pleasure, thank you for taking the time, we'll be in touch!
Cheers, talk soon!