Eddie and Alex Van Halen talk about their Indonesian mother’s influence

VH Interviews from Van Halen on Vimeo.

…and she was a Tiger Mom! I had no idea that the Van Halen’s were classically trained. Nor did I know they speak Dutch.

By the way, Eddie Van Halen isn’t the first musician who is unable to read music. Paul McCartney has the same issue.

(Thanks to Mojo from Alpha Asian for the clip.)

14 thoughts on “Eddie and Alex Van Halen talk about their Indonesian mother’s influence

  1. Funny what time does to aging rock veterans…No more long hair or spandex for Diamond Dave! And really, when you’re in your mid 50’s and losing your hair, you really shouldn’t be prancing around in spandex…

    But I think this is kind of cool that the Van Halen brothers talk about their mom and their Asian side of the family some. It had been mentioned before that their mom was Asian, but it was just a mention of it—no follow up. I had never heard Eddie or Alex talk much about their mom or their Asian side until this interview, so I think it’s pretty cool to hear this.

  2. this is cool. I usually get a better understanding of people when they start talking about their families, especially their moms.

  3. oh, I agree. Absolutely. I don’t know how much the Van Halen brothers identify with their mom’s side but I like hearing them talk about their mom and her influence on them because it IS an acknowledgement of their Asian side.

  4. Eddie and Alex have a look that is kind of typical of half-white, half-Indonesians, in that they don’t look especially “Asian” in the stereotypical sense. My cousins and I are similar to them in that sense.
    The hard rock scene has typically been less-than-friendly to non-white people, so I wonder if that gave them an advantage in terms of fan acceptance. Similarly, two other iconic hard rock guitarists, Slash (half-black/half-white) and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett (half-white/half-Filipina), are also not so conspicuous in their non-whiteness.

    By the way, I find it weird that the Van Halen brothers, with all their money, have never been to Indonesia. But anyway…

  5. I’d also surmise that the Van Halen brothers upbringing in southern California further suppressed their Asian side because in their time period, and maybe it still is today, it’s about the trends. It seems like the cultural trends begin in LA and NYC and then it spreads out and gets filtered down to the fly over states and more rural areas. And so the predominant culture prevailed for the Van Halens. But I also think it has to do with parental and family influences as well as far as how hapas or bi-racial kids identify. Maybe that might be a reason why they’ve never been to Indonesia, they don’t really feel a connection? As for Kirk Hammett, I’m not a big Metallica fan, so I don’t know if he’s ever talked about his own background much in interviews. I’m not so sure that the topic of their heritage ever really comes up….I dunno. But I’ve always found the issue of identity with hapas or other bi-racial kids interesting.

    As for hard rock crowds not being so welcoming to non-whites? Perhaps, I’ve never experienced anything bad but I tend not to see big major acts, preferring smaller indie type bands and nightclubs as opposed to arenas. But yeah, the audience seems to be 99% white. Funny, one of my fave artists took a 6 year hiatus and disappeared: no music, no live performances, no nothing. When he finally came back with a solo tour and a new CD, he said he ventured out to see who his fans were, if he had any left, because he was curious as to who was buying his stuff. Sure, it was mostly a white fanbase, but I saw a few other minorities at some of his concerts. Even better was getting a chance to meet him at his tour bus after the shows to get him to autograph some CD’s and I think he liked seeing that he had some fans of color.

  6. also, James Iha from Smashing Pumpkins seems to have been accepted by the white mainstream audience. I dunno if he’s experienced anything bad but I also have no idea if being an AA rocker has been hard for him in terms of acceptance.

  7. ^was just about to use James Iha as a clearly Asian looking individual that gets fairly ubiquitous mainstream acceptance.

    In regards to Hapas who benefit more from the white side, I would say correlation is not always causation.

    Mike Shinoda (along with DJ Han) of Linkin Park is Japanese on his dad’s side and Linkin Park during my college years was not only mainstream but also very much overplayed on the radio.

    And then there is Matt Heafy who is a very asian looking hapa who has quite a following in the super heavy metal crowd:


  8. Obviously I’ve never been in the hard rock scene so I’m just speculating here. But I think the case of James Iha is a bit different, as well as the case with Linkin Park.

    Iha’s group, Smashing Pumpkins, became popular in the early 90s as “grunge” was the new big thing. They appealed to more introspective fan base, in contrast to the more macho following of Van Halen and particularly Metallica.
    Linkin Park appeared in the very late 90s capitalizing on a rap-metal scene that had already made it acceptable to mix a very white musical genre (metal/hard rock) with non-white music (rap) and performers. Of course there have always been non-whites in the hard rock world, but generally it’s been a very white place.

  9. True—hard rock seems to generally be a white fan base. I did see some other people of color at the Van Halen concert, a few Asians, a few African American fans. But mostly white. But not typically “cock-rock” as you’d think. I admit I was surprised to see a lot more women in the audience than I had expected. They weren’t necessarily wives or girlfriends of the guys, they were fans too.

    A band like Metallica is getting into more into the metal genre and sub-culture and that is far different from Van Halen. Metal bands, now THAT tends to be more testosterone driven and you don’t see too many women in that scene. You’d probably see more women gravitate to the more “popular” metal bands, the “hair metal” bands of the 80’s, bands like Motley Crue, Poison, etc…

    But I wouldn’t think that even a full blooded Asian hard rocker would get too much bad crap thrown his/her way unless he/she were the front man/face of the band and not a support cast member. Afterall, it’s about the music. If it connects with someone, it connects. And music reviewers and journalists are more interested in the music, the songs, the band, than they are really about the ethnic heritage. The real problem you’d get is from the major record labels or promoters.

    That problem was evident among black hard rock acts that never were financially rewarded or accepted even though they were doing the same sort of music as everyone else. There was a great documentary done on this called “Electric Purgatory: The Fate of the Black Rocker”. Bands like Fishbone couldn’t get backing from the record label, being told their music wouldn’t sell after they’d just kicked ass at some festival and the crowd loved them. AND they were doing the same stuff as the Red Hot Chili Peppers were doing, if not better!


    I duno. Maybe there are hardships of acceptance for an all Asian hard rock band but I don’t know if it would be coming from the audience more so than the big labels and the industry.

  10. Eddie and Alex’ mom wasn’t Indonesian, she was Dutch-Indonesian. Although she was born in todays Indonesia, Indonesia then was Dutch-Indonesia. That’s a big difference, because the Dutch-Indonesians were seen in post-war Dutch-Indonesia as Dutch so they had to move out of Indonesia when the Dutch had to go after UN-interception. Back in The Netherlands the Dutch-Indonesians weren’t always accepted as real Dutch, so for the second time not really accepted. This could have been an important issue leaving The Netherlands to the USA (and success). By the way: Eddie like Alex was born in Amsterdam, not in Nijmegen.

  11. Why do journalists freak out about so and so famous musician who “can’t read music”!
    It is NOT an “issue”. Paul McCartney and the Van Halen brothers DO NOT HAVE ANY MUSICAL “ISSUES”

    Music is NOT meant to be READ!
    It is sound.
    Who cares about “reading music”!
    It has nothing to do with one’s skill as a musician and songwriter.

    Real musicians NEVER refer to a piece of paper as music.

    Music notation is useful for classical and studio musicians and it was the way music was recorded before sound recording.

    But is has NOTHING to do with one’s musical craft.

    In fact, if McCartney and Van Halen had wasted their youth learning how to read charts (again, pieces of paper are NOT MUSIC), then they would not have had time to learn how to write such great songs and inspiring music.

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