Eddie Van Halen says he struggled with alcoholism in the past in part because his father encouraged him to drink before performances.
Speaking with Esquire magazine, a now sober Van Halen says, “I don’t mean to blame my dad, but when I started playing in front of people, I’d get so damn nervous. I asked him, ‘Dad, how do you do it?’ That’s when he handed me the cigarette and the drink. And I go, Oh, this is good! It works!”
Van Halen, 57, reveals that he has been battling cancer, and has had pieces of his tongue removed as part of the treatment. He now smokes electronic cigarettes.
It has been a long road for the lead-guitarist. He tells Esquire that in 2006, after stints in rehab, he wanted to stop drinking and switched to Klonopin. That became a problem for him as well and recounted that for about one year he was “catatonic.” “All I wanted to do was stop drinking. But instead I literally could not communicate. Yeah, I was gone. I don’t know what dimension I went to, but I was not here.” He sat on the couch and watched episodes of “Law & Order.”
He also recalls enlisting his son, Wolfgang, into his band as a 15-year-old — a moment he says didn’t sit well with Wolfgang’s mom, ex-wife Valerie Bertinelli. He says, “Yeah, I pulled him out of school. She’s like, ‘You’re not doing that.’ I’m like, ‘Jodie Foster, she went to school later and she’s okay. Trigonometry doesn’t apply to music anyhow.’”