People ask if I can fill Dave’s and Sammy’s shoes,” says Van Halen’s Gary Cherone, ”but I don’t know what size they are.” Since size does matter in rock, EW takes the measure of the new frontman.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First things first. Are you going to wear buttless spandex and ride around the stage straddling a giant, inflatable microphone?
Gary Cherone: [Laughing] None of the above. The difference between me and those guys is, I don’t need extracurricular sexual devices.
EW: How did you land this gig?
GC: I got a call [from Van Halen and Extreme manager Ray Danniels]: ”Go to L.A. and spend a weekend with Van Halen.” It was like winning a contest. I never met those guys and thought it’d be great to sing some old stuff and maybe write a song, then go home and play basketball with the boys and say I met Van Halen. But we hit it off. Forty-five minutes after we met, we wrote ”Without You.” Then it was on to the next song. There was never any blood ceremony.
EW: Have you heard any good death threats from fans dreaming of the Return of Roth?
GC: There’s some vicious stuff on the Internet: ”Die, you gravy-sucking pig!” But it’s usually two guys who haven’t bought a record since 1984…. Hey, if Dave wants to come on stage any night and do his songs, I’d welcome it. I’ll go have a drink or hang out with [drummer] Alex [Van Halen] behind the kit.
EW: There are rumors of friction in the band and that the album was delayed because Warner Bros. didn’t like it….
GC: Every time I go home to Boston to visit my family, there’s a new rumor that I’ve been kicked out of the band. On day one, we decided we were going to record an album and not counter rumors from any camp. But the vacuum gets filled if you don’t fill it…. There were delays; we pulled one song off the record – ”That’s Why I Love You.” Warner Bros. liked the album, but when they went to that song, that was a red flag for us. Rather than have a tug-of-war, we replaced it.
EW: Aren’t you living on Eddie’s estate?
GC: Yes, I am a proud resident of the guesthouse. I am Kato. And yes, Valerie [Bertinelli, Eddie’s wife] hears bumps in the night, but she doesn’t question them. It was very convenient to make the record. Sometimes too convenient. Eddie’d call at 3 a.m. with an idea, and I’d go, ”I can’t even open my eyes and you want me to sing?”
EW: If this VH gig doesn’t work out, have you thought about touring with Roth and Hagar as the Three Tenors?
GC: That’d be awesome! Dave would be the baritone, I’d be the tenor, and Sam would be the soprano. I’d see that show.