alexvanhalendrums.com

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"[On having had any formal training on drums] None. Formal training to me seems like a strange word. Just because you pay somebody, does that mean it's formal training? I've hung around different drummers and they've said, "Hey, try this," or "You're doing this wrong," but as far as going to a school and doing X amount of hours of classwork a day and paying up the butt for it, no, I didn't do that. I gave up on the "formal" lessons after the piano." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 1998
After the departure of Sammy Hagar, Van Halen eventually resurfaced in 1998 with a new singer, Gary Cherone (from Extreme), and a new studio album simply titled 'Van Halen III'. For the tour, Alex collaborated for the first time with drum tech extraordinaire, John Douglas and put together a kit similar to the Ludwig maple kit and configuration used on the 'Balance' tour, with the curved rack system, except this kit was in yellow finish and included a pair of congas (in yellow as well) on the hi-hat side. The other notable difference is the rack toms are back to standard depths instead of the deeper power type of some previous kits. The rack toms are also on isolation mounts. The bass drums appear to be both either 14" or 16"x26" and it looks to have 'shock absorbers' installed over the anchor spurs, which was something he had done in a similar manner with the stainless steel kit back in 1979. Also a 6.5"x14" metal snare (either Supraphonic or Supersensitive) and all Paiste cymbals, mostly 2002's, with a 50" gong. The bass drum front head graphic designs were done by John Douglas. The designs themselves are actually the letters "V" and "H" in Hindi.

 

Alex Van Halen 1998
Alex's drum tech, John Douglas with this kit.


"The only reason I use two bass drums at all is because my right foot just isn’t fast enough for some of the stuff I like to do, especially some of the shuffles. When it comes down to what you really, really need when you’re playing, you use your hi-hat, snare, ride, and kick drum. Honestly, I think the more gear you have, the less creative you’ll be. Normally in the studio I use a snare, a kick, a hi-hat, and a cymbal–and maybe one tom. When you’re trying to be creative, I’ve found that a smaller setup–and varying it up–helps. Otherwise you fall into the same old patterns. And you can be distracted by too much stuff." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 2004

Alex Van Halen 2004 _Alex Van Halen 2004

After the 'Van Halen III' tour, Gary Cherone was out of the band and for the next few years Van Halen remained for the most part, inactive until they embarked on a 'reunion' tour with Sammy Hagar in 2004. Alex set up a Ludwig maple kit similar to the last one used on the 'Van Halen III' tour but with this one being in a clear lacquer finish and with an additional bass drum and snare on the left near the hi-hat. The main bass drums were 26" and the extra one was 24", which is stand alone (not 'connected' to any others) and with its own pedal. The depths appear to be all 16". The toms are 12"and 13" in standard depths and the floor toms are 16" and 18". This kit's bass drums also had 'shock absorbers' (all chrome, spring type) installed to go along with the regular anchor spurs. The kick pedals are all Iron Cobras with felt ended beaters. The main snare is a 6.5"x14" metal type (Supralite) and the other (near the octobans) looks to be a piccolo type. In place of the congas on the left side (from the last kit), Alex brought back the clear 8" octobans, however, Ddrum 4 electronic trigger pads were installed in place of the regular 8" heads. Two more Ddrum pads were also placed above the floor toms. CS Black dot batter heads for the bass drums with falam patches and distinctive coated front heads with dragon designs (done by drum tech John Douglas), Clear Emperors for the batter heads on the toms, clear pinstrips for the floor toms and ambassadors for the resonant heads. Snare head is a coated Emperor. The rack toms also had RIMS isolation mounts and is mounted on a DW (a favourite of John Douglas's) curved rack system with DW cymbal arms. All Paiste cymbals (mostly 2002's) along with a 50" gong.

 

Alex Van Halen 2004

Alex Van Halen 2004Alex Van Halen 2004

Alex Van Halen 2004

 


"Every night, when we hit the stage, the rush is still there. When you played well and it sounded well, it doesn’t really matter at times whether somebody else thought you did. But it’s almost inevitable that they’re going to go, “Yeah!” Even though most people are not musicians in the audience. My dad, again, all these words of wisdom, he said, “Don’t ever play for other musicians, because if you play better than them, they’ll probably be jealous. If you’re worse than them, they’ll probably laugh at you–and they all got in for free!” He says, “Look, 99% of the people are not musicians. They’re going to know if you suck, but, hopefully you can marry the two.” And that’s why I think bands like Zeppelin and Cream were in my mind, even Cactus with Carmine [Appice]. Those were really the marriage of great musicianship, song writing, sometimes plagiarizing, and also being able to portray that in a live situation." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 2007

After the 2004 tour with Sammy Hagar, Van Halen returned to public inactivity again for a couple of years until deciding to reunite for a tour with original singer, David Lee Roth in 2007. Bass player Michael Anthony was also at this time replaced with Edward Van Halen's son, Wolfgang. Alex assembled a new Ludwig kit for the tour in Teal Sparkle finish and with a new concept for joined bass drums. The two main 16"x26" bass drums each have a 'side port' drum 'fused' into it. The side port drums look to both be 16"x22" in size and resonate with the 26". The two pairs of 'fused' drums are supported by four drum spurs (a pair on each side). The side port drums also have metal 'fins' attached to them for visuals. There is another additional 16"x22" bass drum in the far right (in front of the larger floor tom) that serves its purpose for visuals only, as well as a hidden refrigerated cooler (see photos below). The clear acrylic shells for the five octobans (all with the Ddrum 4 pads) have a blue gradient tint on the upper sections. Alex also added a 4"x13" black beauty snare drum to the left of the hi-hat. The front bass drum designs were done by drum tech John Douglas. Alex again used a DW rack system and cymbal arms. A couple of chrome fire extinguishers top off the visuals for the kit.

 

Alex Van Halen 2007

Alex Van Halen 2007

Alex Van Halen 2007

Alex Van Halen 2007

Alex Van Halen 2007

Alex Van Halen 2007
The hidden cooler built into the extra bass drum. A cool idea! (pun intended)

 

Alex Van Halen 2007
Specs for this kit.

 

Alex Van Halen 2007
Around this time, Ludwig released a limited edition signature Alex Van Halen rosewood shell snare drum.

 

Alex Van Halen 2007
Alex's third appearance in the March 2008 issue of Modern Drummer magazine.

 

Alex Van Halen 2007

 


"Well actually I only started doing the rudiments seriously about five years ago [circa 2006]. It’s just that I think one of the great things about playing, about being in music is that there’s always room to grow and do different things. You know when we started out, the emphasis was sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. You do your tour–two hours on stage–and then get the hell out of there so you can get laid! I’m not going to practice tonight! That’s not to say that we didn’t take it seriously as far as the music. But there’s only 24 hours in a day. “Why should I spend two or three hours a day getting the finesse stuff together if it’s not going to be heard anyway?” In the studio, it did. But again, I always had been doing it. It’s just getting a little better I guess." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 2012

In February 2012 Van Halen released their first studio album since 1995's 'Balance' and their first full studio album with David Lee Roth since the '1984' album (released in 1983) as David Lee Roth actually returned in 1996 for two new studio songs recorded for the 'Best Of' album that was released in 1996. On January 5, 2012, just prior to the new album's release, the band did a special 'launch' show which was held at a small New York club called 'Cafe Wha?'. For that show Alex used what is either a scaled down four-piece version of the Ludwig maple kit he used on the 2004 reunion tour with Sammy Hagar (and he may have kept), or another maple kit altogether. The bass drum is either 14" or 16"x26", tom is 9"x13" and floor tom 16"x16". The snare appears to be a Ludwig Supralite 6.5"x14". A minimal set of all Paiste 2002 cymbals which included two crashes, a 24" ride and 15" Sound Edge hi-hats.

Alex Van Halen 2012

 


 

"[On Alex's higher drum tuning] Yeah. That’s the way I like to tune. I start off with the bottom head and get it to where it resonates the drum. And then, when I slap the second head on, I always tune it slightly higher than the bottom one. And you can hear when you’re in the range of the drum. The drums I use are somewhat small. But even with the larger drums, I think it’s–as Buddy Rich would say–all in the tensioning. you don’t tune a drum, you tension it. And on top of that, it’s a matter of taste. I know a lot of guys who just love that low thud, and you can’t distinguish anything really. Most of the people who I admired and looked up to were Keith Moon, John Bonham, and Ginger Baker. Their toms had a lot of tonality to them. They were easily distinguishable." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 2012

In February 2012, Van Halen set out on a tour of the USA, Canada and Japan in support of the 'A Different Kind Of Truth' album. The Ludwig maple drum kit Alex assembled for the tour featured gold hardware on the drums along with a reflective 'engine turned' wrap finish. Alex also went back to six bass drums but set up in a different way to some of his previous kits. The two main 16"x26" bass drums each have a shallower 14"x26" bass drum clamped directly in front of them, though it appears both drums have the batter and resonant heads still on. Two outer and smaller 18" bass drums were also added. Toms are 8"x12" and 9"x13" with 16"x16" and 16"x18" floor toms. Three octobans in black are on the far left side but it appears to be with no trigger pads this time. Hardware is mounted on a DW curved rack system (in chrome) and all Paiste 2002 cymbals with a 50" gong.

Alex Van Halen 2012

Alex Van Halen 2012

Alex Van Halen 2012

Alex Van Halen 2012
In the video for the single off the album, 'Tattoo', Alex is using a scaled down version of the kit with only one rack tom and without the outer smaller bass drums. Also standard cymbals stands were used instead of the curved rack system.

 


"My father played until the day he died. And I fully expect to do the same. This is not a job. It’s not a career. Quite honestly, when I was very young and people were dying by the time they were 30, I kind of felt that in the back of my mind, “Hey, I’ll probably be dead by then,” which was really stupid. Nowadays, people are being much more aware that you don’t need to be intoxicated, and by that I mean whether it’s heroin, whether it’s cocaine, whether it’s alcohol, whether its smoking a joint. But you know, you don’t do that anymore. It just doesn’t make sense. This is going to sound kind of philosophical, but music is about the truth really. Because it’s just you and your instrument and you are being emotional with your instrument. And that ’s why people remove themselves from it and take a little bit of this and a little bit of that, because they don’t want to expose themselves. In the long run, no, you’re not going to be around. It’s something that I felt for the last five years. So at least a lot more people are talking about it; it’s not taboo anymore." - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen 2015

In 2015 Van Halen set out on a summer tour of the USA and Canada and Alex assembled yet another amazing kit for the tour. This kit is essentialy the same set up as the previous 'Engine Turned' kit used on the 2012/13 tour, but with a chrome wrap finish and polished copper drum hardware. This kit also featured two timbales made with TAYE Drum Company shells.

Alex Van Halen 2015

Alex Van Halen 2015

Alex Van Halen 2015
The bass drums had external dampener pads clamped from the hoops as well as vertical felt strips.

 

Alex Van Halen 2015
Cymbal set up:
15" 2002 Sound Edge Hi-Hat
22" 2002 Crash
20" 2002 China
20" 2002 Crash
24" 2002 Big Ride
20" 2002 Medium
15" 2002 Sound Edge Hi-Hat
20" 2002 Medium
19" 2002 Crash
50" Symphonic Gong

 

Alex Van Halen 2015

Alex Van Halen 2015

Alex Van Halen 2015

Alex Van Halen 2015
The kit partly set up before a concert showing the double pedal set up for the right foot bass drum. For some reason, Alex had decided to not use the left one at all and was left purely for visuals. He also changed from red wooden beaters to felt ones.

 

Alex Van Halen 2015
Alex's Supralite snare drums used for the tour.

 


"You come to the planet with nothing and you leave with nothing, so you'd better do some good while you are here" - Alex Van Halen

 

Alex Van Halen Regal Tip

Alex Van Halen Regal Tip
Various types of personalized and signature drum sticks used by Alex (mostly Regal Tip).

 

Alex Van Halen Texxas Jam
Van Halen performed at the Texxas Jam on July 1, 1978 but due to problems getting their equipment there on time, they were forced to use rental equipment. As well as rental guitar amps, it seems Alex used two different rental Ludwig kits to make a full double bass set. It appears the whole kit is a combination of one in an oyster finish and the other a clear Vistalite.

 

Alex Van Halen
Alex warming up on a practice pad prior to a show on the 'World Invasion' tour in 1980.

 

Alex Van Halen Paiste
Paiste cymbals ad circa early 1980's featuring the B&W striped Vistalite kit.

 

Alex Van Halen Ludwig
Ludwig Drums ad circa 1984 with the '1984' kit

 

Alex Van Halen Ludwig
Ludwig Drums ad circa 2012 featuring the 'Engine Turned' kit.

 


Here is a rare photo of David Lee Roth fooling around behind the Ludwig Invasion kit circa 1980.

 

Alex and Edward Van Halen 1980
Alex (with Edward Van Halen) behind a woodgrain finish Rogers drum kit during the video for 'Loss Of Control' circa 1980.

 

Alex and Edward Van Halen 1981
It is rumoured this photo is from a supposed video shoot circa 1981 for a song off the 'Fair Warning' album (speculated to be 'Unchained') but it never got to see the light of day. Alex (pictured here with Edward Van Halen) is behind a simple Slingerland double bass kit with marching band drums used as toms, along with tape over the logos on the bass drum front heads.

 

Eddie Van Halen 5150
Edward Van Halen in the 5150 studio circa the mid 1980's with the Simmons kit (set up with Paiste cymbals and a wooden snare) in the background. This is possibly the kit Alex used to record the '5150' album. Nowadays the studio houses a Gretsch all maple kit.

 



In the 'Finish What You Started' promo video from 1988, Alex used a 5-piece REMO Master Touch kit in chrome wrap finish with chrome Remo heads.

 



In the 'Poundcake' promo video from 1991, Alex used a Ludwig 6-piece maple kit in black wrap and features three floor toms.

 



In the 'Runaround' promo video from 1991, Alex used a Ludwig 5-piece chrome wrap over maple kit with a metal snare.

 




On June 15, 1991 Alex was inducted into the Rock Walk Hall Of Fame in Hollywood, California along with Carmine Appice and Ginger Baker.

 


In 1993 Van Halen performed at the Whiskey A Go Go in West Hollywood, California for the first time since 1978. For this show Alex used a 7-piece Ludwig Maple in natural finish with a metal snare. 2 x 16"x26" bass drums, 10" & 12" power toms, 6.5"x14" snare, 16"x16" & 16"x18" floor toms. All drums but the snare have the internal mic system. Paiste 2002 & Signature cymbals and a 50" Symphonic gong.

 

Alex Van Halen
Part of one of Alex's kits, currently on display at a Hard Rock Cafe.

 

Alex Van Halen
Alex's 6.5"x14" 1977 Ludwig Supersensitive metal snare drum (used at least on the first couple of Van Halen albums and tour) along with a pair of personalized Regal Tip 3-S drum sticks, Simmons pad and SDSV brain from Donn Bennett's Drum Vault in LA, California.

 

Alex Van Halen Paiste

Alex Van Halen Paiste
In 2010, Paiste teamed up with Alex to produce his own signature 24" 2002 ride cymbal.

 

Alex Van Halen Ludwig

Alex Van Halen Ludwig
Alex also teamed up with Ludwig to produce his own signature Rosewood 6.5"x14" snare drum with die-cast rims and vintage style lugs. A newer AVH Signature Ludwig snare drum made its debut at NAMM 2017 (see further below). the new version is based on the Chrome & Copper kit and comes with its own custom flight case. This snare was initially limited to 100 to be built for worldwide, but due to its popularity, this was extended to 200. More info further below.

 

Van Halen Twister
In 1996 Van Halen released their last recording with Sammy Hagar before his departure titled 'Humans Being' for the 'Twister' movie soundtrack. In the still (photo above) of the video clip, Alex used a smallish Ludwig double bass drum set up with rototoms (first time seen pubically in one of his kits since 1983).

Alex Van Halen
Above is Alex with a Ludwig single bass drum kit in Black Sparkle that was used in Europe in 1993. Currently sourcing more info regarding this kit.


Alex Van Halen

Alex Van Halen
A drum storage room believed to be Alex's basement at the time, showing parts of the variouis kits he has used over the years. Some of these have since been sold or put publically on display or around the world.

 




In January 2017 at the NAMM show in Anaheim, California, Ludwig unveiled the new Alex Van Halen signature snare drum. This snare is a 6.5"x14" custom Supraphonic with a steel shell and copper hardware, complete with vintage style tube lugs, 42-strand snare wire and a custom AVH badge. It also comes with its own Anvil hard case, a commemorative VH tuning key, AVH poster and a certificate of authenticity signed by Alex and custom drum builder as well as Al's drum tech, John Douglas. The inside shell is also signed by Alex.

As they are a limited edition, only 100 of these snares were made available, but shortly after the release at NAMM, where all 100 snares sold out on the first day (mostly to dealers), another 100 were made available, making it now a limited total of 200 to be produced for worldwide.

 


“Alex is the greatest, most underrated friggin’ drummer on the planet. I can’t play with any other drummers, believe me. I’ve jammed with a lot of people and, well, Alex and I have this connection. He’s a musician, not just a timekeeper. He comes from the Baker-Bonham school, which is, ’Hey, this is my instrument and I’m not just up here to keep a beat,’ you know. Ninety percent of my inspiration comes from this guy.” - Edward Van Halen

 


The Ludwig 'Invasion' drum kit on display at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland.

 

 
Alex Van Halen drum solo Buenos Aires on the Ludwig 'Church Organ' kit in 1982.

 


Alex Van Halen 'Unchained' and drum solo on the Ludwig 'Lips & Mouth' Kit at the US Festival in 1983.  

 


Alex Van Halen 'Hot For Teacher' and drum solo on the Ludwig '1984' kit in 1984.

 


Alex Van Halen drum solo on the '5150' kit in 1986.

 


Alex in the promo video for 'Finish What You Started' on a 5-piece REMO Master Touch kit in chrome wrap finish in 1988.

 


Alex Van Halen on the enormous 'OU812' kit in 1989.  

 


'Poundcake' promo video from 1991 with Alex on a Ludwig 6-piece maple kit in black wrap which features three floor toms.

 


'Runaround' promo video from 1991 with Alex on a Ludwig 5-piece chrome wrap over maple kit.  


 
Alex Van Halen drum solo on the Ludwig Chrome Kit in 1992.

 


'Dreams' Live at the Whiskey A Go Go in West Hollywood, California with Alex on a Ludwig 7-pice Natural Maple kit in 1993.

 


Alex Van Halen drum solo on the Ludwig 'Balance' kit in 1995.

 


Alex Van Halen drum solo on the Ludwig Yellow Kit in 1998.

 


Alex Van Halen drum solo on the Ludwig 'Dragon' Maple kit in 2004.  

 


Alex Van Halen drum solo on the Ludwig Teal Sparkle kit in 2008.  

 


Alex Van Halen drum solo on the Ludwig 'Engine Turned' kit in 2012.

 


Alex Van Halen drum solo on the Ludwig Chrome & Copper kit in 2015.  

 


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