Edward Van Halen settles down -- With the release of "Balance," the notoriously wild rocker has found his groove

By Tom Beaujour
Updated February 03, 1995 at 05:00 AM EST

In the decade since Sammy ”I Can’t Believe I Got This Gig” Hagar replaced David Lee ”I Can’t Believe I Left That Gig” Roth as Van Halen’s frontman, Edward Van Halen has settled into a mellower groove. Once the hard rockin’ guitar god to real-life Bill and Teds, the 40-year-old husband to actress Valerie Bertinelli has become more of a team player in the national pop-radio league. ”In the old days,” says Van Halen, ”I’d want to fill all the space. I’d go, ‘F—, this part’s too long. I want to solo. I want to blow some licks!’ That got old really quick. Now I really try to make the guitar solos serve the song.”

With the release of Van Halen’s 10th studio album, Balance, the follow-up to 1991’s multiplatinum For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, you’ll notice some other changes. Along with Eddie’s trendy new crew cut and facial hair comes a darker sound, thanks in part to producer Bruce Fairbairn, a reputed studio disciplinarian whose most recent credits include two Aerosmith megasellers, Pump and Get a Grip. The producer may have tried to reform the band’s oft- dissipated work habits (Van Halen admits guzzling up to 15 beers a day & during previous stints in the studio), but Fairbairn treated the trademark guitar pyrotechnics with kid gloves: ”Bruce would show up every day with a briefcase and say, ‘Work, mothers.’ But he didn’t tell me what guitar to play or try to screw around with my sound.”

<p. Critics of the band's latter-day penchant for radio-friendly anthems (like the ubiquitous ''Right Now,'' the theme for the now-failed Crystal Pepsi campaign) might find comfort in Balance‘s nearly ominous drone, but Van Halen denies, as he has in the past, that this more brooding direction was intentional. ”I don’t do anything consciously, really,” he maintains. ”Dweezil Zappa interviewed me for some Japanese magazine the other day, and he asked me, ‘So what were you thinkin’?’ I don’t think, man, I really don’t.”