It's been nine years since Wolfgang Van Halen stepped into the band that bears his family's name, a surprising replacement for original bassist Michael Anthony.
At this juncture there's no doubting the son of guitarist Eddie Van Halen and actress Valerie Bertinelli's valid place in the group, especially after he helped steer Van Halen back to some of its original demos for 2012's "A Different Kind of Truth" and takes lead role in assembling the band's nightly set lists -- which this year include rarities such as "Light Up the Sky," "Drop Dead Legs," "Dirty Movies" and "In a Simple Rhyme." But the youngest Van Halen acknowledges that respect from the fans has been hard-won.
"There's a lot of hate out there that I try not to acknowledge,"
Van Halen, 24, says by phone. "At first it's definitely intimidated as a 16-year-old to have the world hating on you. "But I just do my own thing 'cause I know what I can do it, and when people tell me I can't when I know I'm doing it, it almost makes me feel better.
"And when people think I'm not doing it, that in their eyes what I'm doing is too good for me to actually be doing, I take that as a compliment -- because I AM doing it."
Van Halen, whose high school graduation in 2010 was delayed a bit by his touring commitments with the band, says certainly had the backing of his father and uncle, drummer Alex Van Halen, as well as frontman David Lee Roth. "Dave is always teaching me stuff -- so much I can't really think of anything (specific)," Van Halen notes. "And my dad definitely has some quirky lines he gives me that help me out. He once told me, in terms of playing music, 'If you ever make a mistake, do it twice so the audience thinks you meant to do it.'"
The Van Halen band isn't Van Halen's only musical concern. He's also a member of Tremonti, led by Creed/Alter Bridge guitarist Mark Tremonti; Van Halen did play on the group's new album, "Cauterize," but had to skip its tour because of Van Halen's road schedule. Nevertheless being in another band and having the endorsement of another veteran musician.
"It's just good to be around people like Mark, who are really supportive," Van Halen says. Tremonti, meanwhile, adds that Van Halen "is more talented than people realized. Just being able to get up with a huge band like (Van Halen) as a teenager, that should be enough to convince most people. But he plays a lot of instruments really well, sings great, writes great songs. He's the real deal."
Van Halen, in fact, also plays drums (his first instrument), keyboards and guitar -- which he says might allow him to do something on his own down the road.
"I'd love to do that," he says. "I've always loved the whole Dave Grohl story of how he started Foo Fighters and just did a whole demo album by himself. Whenever I have a guitar or bass or anything and I come up with something cool, I'll throw my phone down and put it on voice recorder and put down an idea.
"I have, like, hundreds of things on my phone, just a bunch of riff ideas and things I think are cool. I really don't have an outlet for it yet, but as soon as I have a chance when I can record stuff, I'm sure it'll flourish a little more."
Van Halen and the Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4.
DTE Energy Music Theatre, Sashabaw Road east of I-75, Independence Township.
Tickets are $59.50-$149.50 pavilion, $30 lawn.
Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.
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