Steve Lukather: Eddie Van Halen ‘Misinterpreted’ by Guitarists
The Toto founder argued that a “healthy” pursuit of personal expression in the years before Van Halen became famous was replaced by a spirit based on competition.
“These were the times when guitar players were trying to show what they had,” Lukather recently told Guitar.com about the ‘70s. “Each guy had something and they wanted to show it off! It was healthy - no one was trying to one-up anybody else. That came a little later in the '80s with all the intense uber-shredding that started. … Ed was sitting there going, 'I created a monster, fuck!' They misinterpreted what his musical intent was and turned guitar into more of a sport. I know that always bothered him.”
Asked what advice he’d give to guitarists who are just starting out, Lukather said: “I see a lot of people spending a lot of time perfecting their linear technique, speed and scales and emulating their heroes. We all did that when we were kids … it’s a lot easier now that you can see the guy on YouTube! We had to work harder to try and slow down the record and figure out what Eric Clapton or Jimmy Page were doing.”
He added that he was “astonished by the dexterity” he saw in younger players. “However, it’s become like a magic trick," Lukather noted. "When everyone knows how to do it, it’s not magic anymore. It’s amazing, flawlessly executed – but where are the tunes? … You go on YouTube and there’s some seven-year-old girl ripping everyone a new asshole. These people have got all these chops and they’ve got no songs.”
Still, the guitarist explained, "I’m an old man from the old-school, so, you know, throw darts at me. I can’t compete with that. At one point I tried, at the height of it, and it was miserable. Now I just think, ‘Let me be me, the most honest me I can.’”