Wolfgang Van Halen was Mark Tremonti's first choice to play bass in the band that plays on his first solo album, 2012's "All I Was." But he certainly understood when Van Halen had to go on tour with his other band -- Van Halen.
"It's not like you can compete with that," Tremonti says with a laugh.
But when Brian Marshall, who also plays with Tremonti in the bands Creed and Alter Bridge, couldn't tour with the Tremonti band for personal reasons, the guitarist's first call was a no-brainer.
"I happened to be in New Jersey with Morgan Rose from Sevendust, just kind of hanging out and recording random stuff," recalls Van Halen, 21, the son of guitarist Eddie Van Halen and actress Valerie Bertinelli. "We heard Tremonti was having a gig in New York and we really wanted to go, and about three days before Mark gave me a call and asked if I wanted to be part of it.
"So within an hour I had put all my stuff in a pickup truck and we were rehearsing. We ran through the whole set once and had the show the next day, and it's just gone from there."
The Tremonti gig is an big move for Van Halen, whose position in his father's band has been viewed with a degree of skepticism since he joined in 2007, replacing popular original bassist Michael Anthony. Van Halen tries to take it all in stride -- "There's definitely a lot of hate out there I try not to acknowledge," he says -- but working in another band certainly bolsters his credibility.
"He's an amazing musician," Tremonti says. "He doesn't have that Van Halen gig just because his last name is Van Halen. He's an amazing bass player. He's also an amazing drummer and guitar player -- he's definitely got a lot of his dad's genes in him. And he's got a real sharp mind when it comes to memorizing and learning."
Van Halen -- who started out playing drums when he was nine years old -- is now considered a full-fledged member of the Tremonti band, which has been writing material for a follow up to "All I Was." He also remains part of Van Halen, which will play three shows during June in Japan and is reported to be working on a new album. "There's plenty of ideas lying around and some new stuff that we've been working on, too," Van Halen reports. "You never know what'll happen."
And Van Halen isn't limiting his ambition to just these two bands. With singing songwriting and keyboard skills as well, he could certainly make his own album and notes that, "I've always loved the whole Dave Grohl story of how he started Foo Fighters as just a whole demo album by himself. I'd love to do that." Mostly, however, Van Halen is confident he can be as busy as he wants in any number of musical directions.
"Honestly, this has all just kind of flowed into each other," he says. "I really don't have time to think about what I want to do. Stuff just kinda happens, which is great. It's all just doing what I love; as long as I'm playing music and having a good time, that's all I really need."
Tremonti and My Black Heart perform Thursday, Feb. 21, at the Crofoot Ballroom, 1 S. Saginaw St., Pontiac. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 day of show. Call (248) 858-9333 or visit www.thecrofoot.com.
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