With its inspired, massive and refreshing rock ‘n’ roll, Mammoth WVH’s Qobuzissime-winning debut album turned a lot of heads. The band are back with the galvanising ‘Mammoth II’, bringing together the 70′s rock, grunge, AOR and pop inspirations of frontman Wolfgang Van Halen. Eddie’s son is making a name for himself and seems determined to take over the biggest arenas on his own.

Many have heard of you before, you’ve toured with Van Halen, Tremonti, not to mention you opened for Metallica with just one album under your belt. Not many have done that.

Wolfgang Van Halen: Would you believe me if I told you I was nervous? (laughs) Especially as they don’t have a common set design, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It was an honour to open for these guys. To know that they see merit in what I do is incredible.

You took several years to make the first album, whereas Mammoth II was completed in a few months, between tours and so on...

I think going on tour and seeing how people and my peers react to my music has lifted a weight off my shoulders. I start with a simple premise: music is my whole life. It’s amazing to be able to do what I do. I don’t want to waste any more time asking myself questions.

Mammoth WVH: Epiphany (Official Video)

Mammoth WVH

Did you envisage making this album with your touring band? Did you plan to do it as a group effort?

Absolutely not (smiles). I just have my producer and a sound engineer, plus a few people who help me out. I recorded everything myself again. My producer, Elvis (editor’s note: Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette), is like a brother. He knows me better than anyone, he knows what I’m looking for and he’s able to guide me.

He had already worked on the first album, yet he manages to outdo himself on this second album. Your sound is pretty crazy on Mammoth II.

Elvis is the best, full stop. He never tries to take me in one direction or another, he’ll put himself at the service of the song and get involved just as much as I do to make it shine. It’s a relationship based on extreme trust. I couldn’t see myself working with anyone else.

There’s a sense of coherence throughout the record.

The first one was more scattered. This time I was recording a lot more quickly. On the first album, you could say that there were three years of recording behind it. This time around, we did it all in about two months. I think Mammoth II is more cohesive than its predecessor, but it’s also a much less ‘anxious’ album. I couldn’t have done “Better Than You” on the first one, for example.

It’s quite a track indeed, almost seven minutes long.

It was one of those moments when I wanted to let myself go and write, without thinking about anything else. I think the solo lasts a minute and a half, something like that (laughs). It influenced everything else in the song, but the burst of inspiration I put into it was worth it. I don’t ask myself any more if it’s too short or too long, I had fun, that’s the main thing (smiles).

Mammoth WVH - I'm Alright (Official Music Video)

Mammoth WVH

Even the vocals are very different from your other songs.

I’ve always written about relationships between people, and I wanted “Better Than You” to be an emotional reaction to the way people are able to communicate with each other. I write in reaction to what I see, experience and witness.

When you write, do you find yourself going off in unexpected directions or do you always stay close to your influences? For example, the riff on “Like A Pastime is very 80s. The Cure could have come up with something like that, albeit differently, but still!

Yes, I know what you mean. I love the riff on that song, it was one of the catalysts that allowed me to decide that I didn’t have to set any limits for myself. It just happened and it worked. There were other tracks that had a rather different vibe, like “Like A Pastime”, which I had to leave aside.

Lack of time?

Exactly, but I intend to come back to them. I’ve still got them stuck in my head, so that’s a good sign, isn’t it? (smiles) It’s better than a lack of inspiration.

The aggressive side of “Right?” is also very surprising.

I like the idea of having to create a melody within a resolutely aggressive structure. It turns out that I needed to have tracks that let my heavy influences shine through. I didn’t want to do that at the expense of melody, and the melody on “Right?” is particularly strong. I think you have to know how to make these two aspects co-exist. You can be heavy without denigrating the rest.

Do you listen to music when you’re composing and recording?

To a certain extent yes, but it’s not the usual rigour of listening. I think that when you’re in a period of ‘work’, you have to concentrate solely on that. The pause should be a breath, not an extension.

Do you discipline yourself during these periods? Like, “from such and such a time to such and such a time I do this, from such and such a time to such and such a time I do that”?

(smiles) I have too much of a tendency to do that, yes. If I feel a creative impulse, I’ll lock myself in with Elvis Baskette and believe me, that can last a long time. I can’t force these impulses, but I can’t really contain them either.

Are there any tracks on Mammoth II that date back to the first album?

I think I wrote “Optimist” on the same day as “Resolve” (editor’s note: single from the first album). It’s funny, actually, because they don’t have much in common. It took me several years to figure out how to use that song and give it substance. I really like my pile of unused songs and I’m always going to do everything I can to empty it, whether it takes me a long time or not.

“Optimist” is one of your more aggressive tracks.

I had to find a certain balance for the lyrics because the structure of the song is a bit more specific. There’s a progression, an increase in power. It was quite destabilising at the time of the first album, I needed to gain confidence perhaps.

Mammoth WVH - Another Celebration at the End of the World (Official Music Video)

Mammoth WVH

You explained earlier that you gained confidence from the reactions of the public and your peers during your first tours. Do you think you needed that?

It’s hard to say, because I try not to ask myself a thousand questions in general. I know that in 2023, apart from quality, you also need a bit of luck to make it work. There’s so much music everywhere. I’m concentrating on what I love, which is playing. Playing music makes me happy, I wouldn’t do it for anything else in the world. If my joy allows other people to be happy, that will be the coolest reward of all.

Are there any people or groups that you look to as examples? People who make you say “I wish Mammoth WVH could get there”?

Dave Grohl with the Foo Fighters, without hesitation. From the start, I’ve tried to draw inspiration from that spirit to help the band grow, and I’m going to continue to do so.

You were present at the two Taylor Hawkins tribute concerts in London and Los Angeles. You played with Dave Grohl, but also with Justin Hawkins from The Darkness and especially Josh Freese, who was recently inducted as the new Foo Fighters drummer. You paid tribute to Taylor by playing some of your father’s songs.

It was quite an achievement. And an honour! I insist. I was on stage with these guys who have been part of my life, part of my musical education. Taylor was an incredible drummer, an inspiration, as is Josh. Playing for Taylor, and for my father, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I find it hard to put into words what happened. Let me just say Josh Freese is going to be amazing with Foo Fighters, he’s one of the best in the world, they’re lucky to have him.

Any last words Wolfgang?

I love what I’m doing today, being able to play what I want and having a good time with my music. It’s really incredible. I hope my artistic expression continues to speak to people.