Alex Van Halen
Drummer Alex Van Halen is celebrating his birthday today, and this is a good opportunity to get to know him a little better.
(Photo: Paul Natkin)
1. He was born in Amsterdam on May 8, 1953, as Alexander Arthur van Halen.
2. He's the older brother of guitarist Eddie Van Halen.
3. He entered the world of music inspired by his father who was a jazz artist who played clarinet, saxophone, and piano.
4. In 1962 his family emigrated to the United States and lived in Pasadena California.
5. At a very young age he began to learn to play the piano.
6. Later Alex started learning to play the guitar, while his brother Eddie Van Halen started learning to play the drums.
7. When Eddie would leave the house Alex used to sneak into his room and play his drums. One day Eddie came home and saw Alex playing the drum solo of "The Surfaris" on the song "Wipe Out". He immediately realized he was not as good as Alex and decided to switch to guitar, while Alex switched to drums.
8. One of the first musical influences on him as a drummer was that of Ray Phillips, drummer "Budgie". However, he also mentioned Billy Cobham, Ginger Baker, Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Buddy Rich as influencing his playing.
9. Alex and Eddie formed their first band "The Broken Combs" when Eddie was in fourth grade and Alex was in sixth grade.
10. In 1971, Alex graduated from Pasadena High School. And began taking lessons in music theory, scoring, composition, and arranging at Pasadena City College, where he met Michael Anthony and David Lee Roth.
11. In 1972 Alex and Eddie formed "Genesis", the band that would become "Van Halen". They later changed its name to "Mammoth" and in 1974 they changed it again to "Van Halen".
(Photo: Fin Costello)
12. They began to gain an appreciation and an audience in the Los Angeles pub scene, when in 1976 Gene Simmons discovered them and decided to produce a demo tape for them.
13. Simmons passed the tape with a recommendation to Kiss' record company, but they foolishly replied that the band had no chance of succeeding.
14. By the way, Alex and Eddie played in the demo of the song "Christine Sixteen" from the album "Love Gun" by "Kiss".
15. Eventually in 1977 "Warner Bros." decided to sign them up on a recording contract and the debut album "Van Halen" was released in 1978.
16. Alex and Eddie's father plays the clarinet in the song "Big Bad Bill" from Van Halen's album "Diver Down", which was released in 1982.
17. Alex is a wild animal on stage. He gave a crazy performance at the band's shows and used to light his drumsticks and drums on fire during his drum solo.
18. He was also wild off-stage. The name Alex Van Halen appeared quite a bit in the damage reports issued by hotels to the band's management. Among the damages were lamps on which he drummed until they broke, shattered mirrors, bathroom doors removed from their hinges, toilet seats found in the parking lot, and more ...
19. His wild character took a toll on him, when in 1995 he was forced to do much of the 1995 “Balance” tour with a huge neck brace, after hurting three vertebrae in his neck.
20. His drum kits grew more and more as the years went by, to the point where Eddie finally complained that he could no longer see him during concerts.
21. He was loyal to one lineup that also included his younger brother, Eddie, for all his musical life. Except for a few appearances as a replacement drummer in his father's "wedding band", he never played with other artists outside of "Van Halen".
22. He played keyboards in the instrumental section "Respect the Wind", which he co-wrote with Eddie for the soundtrack of the movie "Twister".
23. In addition, Eddie and Alex co-wrote the song "Humans Being" with Sami Hagar for the soundtrack of the aforementioned film.
24. One of his iconic pieces is the short drum solo in the song "Hot for Teacher" from the album "1984".
25. The term "Brown Sound" coined by Eddie Van Halen and describing Eddie's unique guitar sound, actually refers to Alex's snare drum sound, which Eddie said was "hot and big".
26. In 2002, Alex and "Paiste" developed special 24-inch ride cymbals.