before hitting it big, Chris Holmes -- the 6 foot 6 lead
guitarist of the band W.A.S.P. -- was just a kid from
Pasadena with a guitar and a dream. Along the way, he
befriended Eddie Van Halen, and later earned a page in the
annals of Van Halen history when Eddie borrowed his Ibanez Destroyer to record parts of the Women and Children First
We recently caught up with Chris during W.A.S.P.'s tour stop
in West Warwick, RI, March 8, and asked him about his
involvement with our favorite guitarist.
The Inside: So how did Eddie Van Halen come about
borrowing your guitar for the Women and Children First
Chris Holmes: I got into a motorcycle accident in
1980. I had broken my back and I was in the hospital. I
couldn't play. I was in traction and he just came into the
hospital. He just got off the road. He asked if he could
borrow the guitar and I said yes.
The Inside: What kind of guitar was it?
CH: It was an Ibanez Destroyer, a certain kind that I
had bought. Honestly, I got one because he got one. He was
just somebody I really envied when I grew up playing and he
was cool. I always wanted to play like him, but you've got
to do your own thing. I bought one because he got one that
had a cool shape. It was made out of a certain kind of wood
that they didn't make very many out of -- crayna, I think.
He cut his out and changed the sound, but he couldn't fix it
back. So he said, 'Hey, can I use your guitar?' I said
'Sure, man.' And he used it on the album.
Correction From Ed Roman
Chris is actually talking about Korina
Wood, which in fact everyone thought the Ibanez Destroyer
Explorer copy was made from, In reality it was made from ash
and stained to look a little like Korina. Very few
companies build guitars with Korina, Hamer did for a
short period but I don't think Ibanez ever made anything
from Korina (Korina is also known as Limba)
Ed Roman Guitars has built well over 1000 guitars
Korina Wood or Limba Wood
The Inside: Did he return it to you in one piece?
CH: It was funny; when I got it back, the bridge was
turned around backwards and all that intonation... it was
just backwards to the way I would have had it. I just don't
see how he played it that way, but he did. It's funny, I've
been to a few Van Halen shows and I put on Ed's guitar and
it's just the complete opposite of the way I set up mine.
The Inside: different strokes for different folks.
CH: Yeah, he'd have the strings about a mile off the
fret board. He likes his whammy bar so loose that he super
glues the nut on the back so it spins around. I don't use a
whammy bar, but everybody has their own way of playing.
The Inside: How long have you known Eddie?
CH: I've known him since I was 13 (1974).
The Inside: Did you grow up in the same neighborhood?
CH: Yeah, Pasadena. We didn't go to the same High
School. He had Mammoth when I started playing guitar. He was
somebody I looked up to and watched play backyard parties.
I'd have a really shitty band, he'd have a good backyard
garage band. Things got better, they'd play clubs and he'd
use some of my equipment.
The Inside: Kind of like a next door neighbor
borrowing a cup of sugar.
CH: Yeah. I'd go to the clubs when I was 16 and just
learned a lot going down to sound check. I remember when
Gene Simmons took them to New York to record. It was cool.
Once they got their record deal, they took off on the road
and everybody hated them in Pasadena.
The Inside: How come?
CH: Just jealousy. A lot of other bands were just
jealous and shit. It was cool. I'm not saying I helped them;
I was just around and got to see them go from a garage band
to where they ended up. I always felt good about that. Still
to this day we're friends.
The Inside: So what was that whole musical vibe like
CH: Well, every band had their rivals and back then,
Quiet Riot was Van Halen's. They were about the same age.
The San Fernando people were Quiet Riot fans and San Gabriel
people were Van Halen fans. I just never liked Quiet Riot. I
used to make fun of them because they wore polka-dots and
bow ties, and Van Halen was like a drunk party band all the
time. I didn't like Randy Rhoads either. I don't want to say
anything bad about the guy, but there's always rivals.
The Inside: Did you know the guys in Van Halen?
CH: Ed, Al and Mike, they're good guys. Dave's just
the way he is. I'm not knocking him as a person, just his
personality. But they wouldn't have gotten half as big as
they did without him in the band. They would have gone
nowhere. Ed and Al would still be playing backyard parties
in Pasadena if it wasn't for that guy.
The Inside: But Eddie can play that guitar.
CH: Oh yeah, but it's not just the guitar; it takes
talent to get there.
The Inside: Do you have any preference as to who you
think should be the new lead singer of Van Halen?
CH: I would say... as much as I don't like Dave Roth
personally, I think they should get him. But I like Hagar,
too. I don't know. I mean, who is going to tell Ed what to
do? You can't. His wife could, I guess (laughs). She'd tell
him what to do.