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Gary Cherone on Being in Van Halen: ‘Sometimes It Was Great, Other Times It Was a Little Dysfunctional’

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Extreme‘s Gary Cherone isn’t bitter about his short stint as the third singer of Van Halen. In fact, he recalled his time with the group rather fondly in a recent chat with Rolling Stone. Since the members of Van Halen aren’t doing much press to promote ‘A Different Kind of Truth,’ their first new album in 14 years, Cherone is sort of like the next best thing.

He revealed that he hasn’t spoken to Eddie Van Halen since around 2000 and that he once resided in the guest house on EVH’s property.

Cherone, also currently fronting Hurtsmile, auditioned for Van Halen on a bit of a lark, since the bands shared a manager and Extreme were breaking up. Cherone admitted that when he agreed to audition, he said, “Yeah, sure. I’ll go out for the weekend, sing ‘Jump,’ come back and have a good story to tell.” But he was offered the gig his second day there.

Cherone was in the band when Van Halen appeared on the VMAs with David Lee Roth, hinting at a reunion. Awkward, right? Not for Cherone.

He said, “When I came down, they were putting out a greatest hits things and doing the VMAs. I remember one morning getting up to go to the studio and no one told me all this press was interviewing the Van Halen guys because of the VMAs and all this stuff. They told me, ‘Gary, no one knows you’re in the band.’ I remember bumping into a photographer from Japan and he knew me from Extreme. He goes, ‘What are you doing here?’ I go, “Nothing.”

That was par for the course during his tenure. It was touch and go the entire time. He revealed, “The three years I was in the band, every day I woke up not knowing what the day was going to bring. Sometimes it was great, other times it was a little dysfunctional – especially at the end. But as far as how those guys treated me, they treated me like brothers.”

Watch Van Halen’s ‘Without You’ Video

Cherone said Eddie was “lucid” during his three years in the band, but placed it in this context. “If he puts on his guitar, he can fluently talk to you,” Cherone said. “When he takes off the guitar, he can be a little ADD.” He also said that the Van Halen gears are greased by Eddie…and his moods. “During my period, I think the cue was Eddie. If Eddie is happy, then the camp is happy,” he said.

The singer also said he and EVH got along, but things eventually disintegrated. “I think Eddie started drinking a bit. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t going in the right direction,” he recalled. “Also, I wasn’t in a great place mentally. I had some things going on in my personal life that affected me. When we broke up, it was mutual.”

Cherone then addressed the insular nature of how the VH operation works, saying, “The Van Halen camp is a very small circle. Eddie’s the boy in the plastic bubble, and the brothers are very protective. So if you’re not in that circle, you’re not going to get information.”

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