David Lee Roth Blames Grunge For the Downslide of His Career

Van Halen frontman says Kurt Cobain was the reason for his audience diminishing in the '90s.

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Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth probably went through the most successful stage of his career in the '80s, releasing platinum records and filling arenas around the world. But then, after parting ways with the band, the grunge came, and according to the singer, it struck him hard.

In a recent Buzzfeed interview, Roth discussed the decline of his career during the '90s, heavily blaming the grunge movement for turning fans the other way.

"Two words: Kurt Cobain. I went from playing to 12,000 people to 1,200. From arenas to casinos and state fairs and the local House Of Blues," the singer said. "That will cause you to reflect a lot more clearly on your values. Fun wasn't seen as fun anymore."

The frontman also reached several other interesting topics such as his views on marriage or the way his career would have turned out if he'd stayed in Van Halen.

"I wonder who I might have been had I stayed in the band," he said. "Not as interesting, not as involved. I probably would have followed the more traditional, long, slow climb to the middle. Enjoying my accomplishments, living off my residuals. I wouldn't have half the stories to tell.

"I've lived alone my whole adult life. I've had girlfriends, I've had love affairs. Never longer than a year and a half. I'm the drunk who won the lottery, I'm going to be very difficult to convince of a lot of traditional things. I put off getting married when I found out, oh, you don't really have to."

Van Halen are currently preparing for the Stone Music Festival performance on April 20 in Sydney, Australia. The band is also set to take on Japan with a string of five concert dates during June and July.

138 comments sorted by best / new / date

    justin.mitchell
    Hummalah zummalah boobalah bibbily hummalah zummalah bibbily bop!
    brndnstffrd
    I read that in the voice of Bill Cosby
    justin.mitchell
    So if there's anything we've proved here, it's that Diamond Dave blames Kurt Cobain for his downslide and Bill Cosby could have a legitimate case against Dave for stealing his Bippity Bops.
    Vendettagainst
    God and to think Kurt had the audacity to destroy brilliant lyrics such as these, what a waste.
    Mr Brownst0ne
    this man is the cliche of the arsehowl rockstar frontman. dude can sing though.
    Parkl
    I don't see why y'all are disliking this and crap because he speaks with humility. The 90's came crashing down with Grunge and hair metal was down the drain. That's what the guy is saying; at least he established that he failed. He didn't imply that he was better than Cobain or even if he thought Cobain was better than him. He just said another man was the reason why his popularity went down the drain and became outcast.
    PoloSG68
    It's just the same old story of popular culture being replaced by the new underground culture becoming popular, each one a reaction to the last popular culture.
    marshismellow
    No, no he can't. Even back then Dave was not a great singer. Great showman maybe, but not a great singer. He's much worse now as a singer, and as a showman. His "soft shoe" crap absolutely sucks.
    deadsmileyface
    This. He was a great performer, but as far as quality of his actually singing voice, it's not very good.
    rebreh
    A lot of singers make up for lack of skill with charisma. DLR gave Van Halen songs a great sense of humor. It would be hard to listen to Jump if it was sung by a good singer, imo
    notaconotaco
    And I thank Kurt Cobain every day for this.
    Vendettagainst
    Kurt died for hair/metal's sins.
    iCarebear
    Burt Cocaine was the OG-emo and a pussy.
    sonofgkex
    Yeah, I feel really sorry for him, but if you kill yourself before you raise your kid then you are a pussy. I know he was miserable, but he left Courtney Love to raise his daughter and that is just messed up no matter how much you don't want to live anymore. He was probably convinced that his daughter was better off without him, but still. If you have children you have the responsibility to raise them as best you can before checking out.
    Vendettagainst
    It was an assisted suicide at best, murder at worst. Dead men can't pull triggers. He probably OD'd, then either had someone blow his head off after he was out cold, or they found him dead from the H-bomb, and decided to blow his head off to make it more sensationalized than a mere drug overdose. Again, dead men don't pull triggers.
    Motleycrue11
    nirvana sucks ass though, they ruined fun and partying in the 80s, then the 90s were a depressing set of years, and to this day, i still hate what people say about hair metal, because it gets your heart running and your mind thinking that you could actually have fun with life
    N7Crazy
    I could say either three things about you: 1) You're an old man stuck in the 80's. You really need to get your head out of your ass - Hair metal would never last, it was overbloated, and an anticulture would rise up against it anyhow, no matter if you liked it or not. Also, ironically, while grunge had the outsider/loser look, hair metal stars were the latter. They were mediocore, and unoriginal musicians, they were constantly ****ed up on cocaine, speed, and heroin (which, probably unintentionally, or unaware of, is part of what you define as "fun"), and became bitter, and loathesome people when that fame based on a relatively short fad faded away, and blamed it on everything but their own failed characters, consequences of their lifestyle, and the lacking skill of evolution in hair metal. 2) You're a young metalhead, who doesn't understand exactly what hair metal essentially was. What you might seem to not realize, is that hair metal was the equivalent of the pop-music we have today. It was popular, it sold a lot, almost all of it was about partying, having fun, drinking, heartbreak, drugs, being in love, etc. - but just like pop-music today, that kind of music can only last to a certain extent before people resent it, and a counter-culture would be born. Hair metal wasn't meant to be good musically, or really last the test of time - It was a reflection of the life of those who experienced prosperity under Reagan - It was the music of the lucky part of the middle class that would be torn apart by Reagans policies. And just like pop-music again, it hardly had any relevance, nor reflected anything of what happening in society at that time. Todays equivalent of those days "metalheads", are today the douchebags who live of their parents money, dress in expensive ridicoulus clothing, and think that Nickelback, Psy, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, One Direction and LMFAO is the shit, because it "gets your heart running and your mind thinking that you can actually have fun with life...", completely oblivious to the reality of society - we're economically screwed, people are under pressure, educational system is ****ed up, and life is actually hard. Grunge came to birth, because it reflected the reality of society and life for many American teenagers, who werent born with a silver spoon in their mouthes. Furthermore, if you want to argue that hair metal isn't like pop because It had a lasting influence on people! think again! If you want to acclaim to fast ripping soloes, and instrumental technicality to the metal scene of today, you're incorrect the vast majority were influenced by thrash-metal, which was also a counter-culture to glam (Metallica, which was the first real prominent thrash-metal band hated Motley Crue, and the hair metal scene to such a degree, that they frequently had brief mockings in their shows against hair-metal which they described as posers of metal, a fitting title in my opinion. Furthermore, if you want to blame grunge as being responsible for emo-rock and stuff simular like that, you're also incorrect while emo shamlessly ripps, and fakes the self-loathing of grunge, and it's takes it's mellow, sad lyrics, and makes them overly melodramatic, and overblown, the sound and visual style of emo mainly stems from hair metal. Grunge's true legacy lies in the indie, and garage-rock scene of the 00's, while Hair metal never had any true legacy what so ever. 3) You're a troll As the third option, you're aware of everything I said before, and simply came to start a flame war. Contratulations in that case, you won the internet, now toddle off, and let the grown-ups talk... TL;DR: Stop whining.
    hriday_hazarika
    >the sound and visual style of emo mainly stems from hair metal Not sure you've ever heard or seen any emo bands.
    N7Crazy
    Believe me, I've not only heard, but also seen plenty of emo bands (I used to date a girl that was into that stuff, and, unfortunatly, dragged me with to concerts) - Most emo bands have a sound that leans more up of metal than grunge, and the visual style lies closest to goth and hair metal (two genres that despite being pretty far away musically, have common elements visually, which are then weirdly cross-mixed in emo) - And if you count lyrics as a part of the sound, then I already mentioned that part in my comment. Emo lyrically ripped off elements of grunge lyric, and made it overly melodramatic, and overblown. My final point is that emo owes more to hair metal than grunge, and that the argument "Grunge gave birth to emo" is a statement of ignornace, and deliberate misintepretation of grunge's influence.
    hriday_hazarika
    >Most emo bands have a sound that leans more up of metal than grunge, and the visual style lies closest to goth and hair metal Believe me, man. You couldn't be farther from what emo is. This is what emo sounds like.
    scrymusic
    Texas Is The Reason.... that the president's dead... You gotta suck suck Jackie suck!
    Vendettagainst
    You guys all fail to remember, without NIRVANA, RAP would have taken over! even if you don't like "grunge", it's still rock and roll, and it kept rap from destroying music and popular culture for 1 more decade at least.
    The_Dayman
    I'd rather listen to rap over hair metal any day. Oh, wait, I forgot. "RAP SUCKS AND ISNT MUSIC!!!", right?
    TryTheKetchup
    Well, at least, he has his "Little Elvis" insured.
    Vendettagainst
    Whats the point? Not like he could have had it replaced if it were damaged. Bionic artificial cock replacements? lol
    sonofgkex
    Well, he could cry in his new Lamborghini at least.
    Mazz-
    it's David Lee Roth for Christ Sake, have you ever seen the video of "I can't drive 55", Granted EVEN THOUGH that's Sammy Hagar, I'm pretty sure many of you would agree, Sammy is at a bit of a lesser stature than David Lee Roth...so, He could cry in his Lamborghini ANYWAYS, then his Ferrari the next day, then his McLaren F1 the NEXT day, then his Ford GT40, his 1967 Corvette 427 the next day, then his 55 Chevy Bel Air Hot Rod the next day (obviously which WAS painted like "Frankenstrat" when he was WITH Van Halen, but afterwards, he had to have that shit repainted...)
    TheBigDirty716
    don't shit talk Hagar. I understand he didn't have the stage theatrics like Roth. But go to Cabo and you'll understand. We're at dinner. all you hear is a man screaming and a bunch of comotion running all over the place. then you realize Sammy has taken the mic and is playing with the house band, and it sounds good. the best part... after every song sammy says thanks to the crowd and then looks at the band doing mini fist pumps and just saying "yesss". like they just recorded the dark side of the moon. respect
    Rick_Diculous
    Man who sang phrases like "snappy little mammy" blames better lyricists for killing career.
    zalant
    Better lyrics? One Nirvana hit has the word 'yeah' repeated over and over and over (very deep stuff there). And Teen Spirit is absolute word salad. Please don't get me wrong, though. I was right there listening to Nirvana at the time and I still do, even now, but I just can't get on-board with the notion of Kurt being a voice for my generation nor a great lyricist.
    HairMetalReturn
    First of all, Grunge did NOT kill Hair Metal. Record companies got sick of supporting the genre because it was getting over the top. So the record companies sought out to find other areas to promote. Doesn't anyone find it just a little strange that the day the 90s hit, suddenly Hair metal started to "die"? I don't blame Grunge for killing anything. I love bands like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Nirvana. I'm just sick of this 20 year old feud that I guess will end the day all these guys are dead.
    TopHatCharlie
    a lot of rock stars don't seem to realize that their fame was a fad. they were great, but times change. nowadays even quicker then then.
    AlexGreat123
    I saw this somewhere else, but it rings true about the tail end of the 80s music scene 'Lets not forget the 10th generation of glam bands who copied bands that copied bands that copied bands that copied Motley Crue.'
    BlueIceBox
    Didn't Alice in chains Tour/Open for Van Halen in the early 90s?
    ScottStewart1
    they also opened for a couple of thrash metal bands. You don't hear them bitching. Instead they stepped up their game and brought about a resurgence of the genre.
    N7Crazy
    If he had to be honest the title should be: "David Lee Roth blames the evolution of rock over time for the downfall of his career" or "David Lee Roth blames himself for being a douchebag as the reason for the downfall of his career" or "David Lee Roth misses the 80's"
    vinnym86
    "David Lee Roth unable to stay relevant through history" "David Lee Roth refuses to push envelope of creativity and wonders why he's faded into obscurity" "David Lee Roth is a crybaby and blames other people for his misfortunes."
    MrDo0m
    Please; he hardly acted like a crybaby at all. Nor was he "blaming" anyone for anything (look at his actual quote and ignore the slander UG writes around it). He just sounds like an old guy reflecting on his past. And I'm not even a fan of hair metal or Van Halen.. and I do like Nirvana.
    Oughton
    Mainstream music is always evolving, and it was always inevitable that "Hair Metal" was going to be replaced by a new sub-genre. I think the resentful attitude towards Grunge by musicians like Roth is more due to the less emphasised and flamboyant attitudes of the frontmen.
    Vendettagainst
    Yep, less cock, more rock.
    Oughton
    Although Grunge clearly has nothing too do with that awful excuse for music Van Halen put out nowadays.
    jd277
    VH new album is great. quick to rip on VH but slow to accept that they always will be bigger than grunge (for good reason). coming from the guy whos favorite musician (besides EVH) is Dave Grohl. Foo Fighters are more talented than Nirvana, so don't just go based off reputation.
    Oughton
    That was by no means based off reputation, just opinion. I'm a big fan of both VH and Nirvana, but I just personally feel that the new material wasn't anything compared to what they were releasing before this reunion.
    Nirvana12390
    I think the girly squeals he inserts between song lyrics are what caused the downfall of his career.
    Gibson_SG_uzr55
    It couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that people no longer cared about DLR or the kind of music he performs, right?
    TheBigRobboUniq
    Totally agree. Everyone wants to blame grunge for killing things but van Halen just weren't interesting after a while. Don't get me wrong I love the DLR Van Halen albums and Nirvana but his expiry date came just like everybody else's. Screw "grunge killed this and that"
    frehley freak
    The reason he went to fill casinos is because he left Van Halen... when he rejoined they were selling out arenas again.
    guitarhero923
    Guys a douche, so what. And he wasn't ever said to be a lead singer. It was frontman/showman. If it weren't for him, they would've lost a lot of attention they had in the early days. But yeah, shouldn't blame it on Grunge. Dave added great tone to the band, plus the Roth Era tunes were so much better than, "Why Can't This Be Love" and "Finish What Ya Started".
    MrDo0m
    Why is everyone calling this guy a douchebag/doofus/*****/etc? He never outright said "I blame grunge for killing my career." He's just saying his career kind of died down when Kurt Cobain's exploded. Nothing this guy says makes him sound like an outright douchebag at all. And I don't even listen to Van Halen. He may have been in a band you don't like (most likely because it's not "cool" to like them), but he's just a dude. I don't understand all the hate.
    awsomebadas5
    i quote the mighty RJ Dio:'in a way mtv, and hair metal ruined real heavy metal' metal is about music and attitude not hair and makeup. its not grunge that killed him, it was just time, i mean look a black veil brides, they try to be glam/hair, and they have half of the metal world hating them
    GrungeGuy93
    Its just a shift in music, there is always gonna be that group of people that are like "that genre ruined our fun blah blah blah this is not music blah blah blah" think of the older generations that feel this same way. All you can really do is to continue to listen what you like. If you really like it then it will never die. Oh, and as far as this whole DLR thing, i think he had (has?) a very successful career before Nirvana came into the picture so he should not have anything to complain about. He is David Lee Roth.
    psychoskin473
    There are so many stories like this, Well from most of the 80s hair metal bands. All of those bands were extremely talented musicians but when it came to the actual songs there wasn't much to relate to. Especially when bands in the scene were like carbon copies of one another because it was the big thing. All popular genres face that kind of imitation since a huge number of musicians weren't doing it for the right reasons and it showed. All of the success is probably really fun but you can only withstand a non stop orgy and getting completely loaded for so long before the excitement of it all disappears and what your left with is a gigantic mess of STDs and broken, addiction ridden lives. Kurt Cobain had his addictions and demons but it wasn't strictly for the fun of it or brought to him by success. Whether anyone is a fan of nirvana or not is beside the point or if they venomously hate Kurt Cobain for some reason(which is something I still don't understand) Nirvana was about the reality of the average person. Even if Kurt wasn't talking about his own experiences in his songs people could relate to the feelings of alienation, frustration, depression, love and death. Hair metal was completely about flash and trying to become a superhuman sex god. The memorability and energy of most nirvana songs still stand today but after nevermind hit it made bands before it obsolete. There wasn't extreme technical ability or sixteen different riffs, breakdowns, or obscenely endulgent solos it was just 3 people falling into sync with the groove of the song and Kurt singing about the way he viewed life and sharing his story
    Guitarus Rex
    A few thoughts... I saw van Halen live for the first time in 1980, I think it costs a whopping $5.50. I think it was the tour for "Women and Children First" When you look at classic concert footage on Youtube, I always think, "I don't remember Dave sounding that bad." I do remember him forgetting the words and probably being drunk and/or stoned at the time, but that is rock and roll. At least it was back then. Even if Dave was that bad, it was all about the atmosphere. Hearing the band on a CD or watching on Youtube is nothing like experiencing it in person. Mike's bass, Al's pounding drums, the absolute wail of Ed's ferocious playing in his prime and Dave's showmanship - even if it was the same repeated schtick from city to city - remains a highlight of my concert-going years. No one else put on a show like Van Halen. The music was fun and the live shows were legend. What happened? They got old. Maybe 'matured' is a better word. Dave always seemed to go his own way. If you read his book, you learned that he was quite an adventure seeker. I don't know that you can do all of those things and not have it impact your view of the world. Go back and read an old letter or even an older e-mail that you wrote and see how much you have changed since composing it. Dave was the ultimate in good time rock and roll, but that that was 35 years ago! I've changed a heckuva lot since then and so have they. I wouldn't want to be doing the same things I was doing in 1980, yet we expect Dave and the boys to stay stuck in the times for our personal pleasure. It's fun to go back for a visit, but who would want to live there for good? KISS is a decent example of a band that stayed in the 70s. They had their brief time without the make-up and an updated style. They probably found there was more money in the nostalgia act. I saw them in 1979 for the Dynasty tour, Judas Priest opened for them(!), and again in 1988, but I haven't seen them since the make-up went back on. So, I can't say if it was the 70s all over again. But, they are not without their share of drama either. Guns 'n Roses might be one we'd like to see as a nostalgia act, but that one is probably done. I saw later tours for Foreigner and Kansas, but I didn't see them in their heyday, so, again, I can't make a decent comparison. What's my point? I wonder if it's a losing game to try to relive the past? Is it different if you stop touring and then re-engage as compared to always touring, like the Stones. Mick and Keef are always out there, so it's more of an on-going evolution of the band. But, when VH w/ Dave stops touring in 1984 and then starts up again 20+ years later, we expect to see 1984 again, because that's our last memory of them. Dave can't hit the notes, we don't like his soft shoe bit or the new songs don't resonate. Zakk asked Ozzy how he hit all of those notes in the old days, Ozzy replied simply, "Drugs." Dave is no longer a 25 year old with the world eating out of his palm. He's seen and done a lot since then and I'm sure it has affected his lyrical view on songs. He's in a difference place than he was then. We want the cocky 25 year old and he's in his 60's. I try not to water down the memories of the past by expecting them to be the same 30+ years later. I enjoy that I got to see them and I had the time of my life. That's good enough for me.
    richard.warts
    That may just be the wisest thing I've ever read on UG. Also, Having seen KISS only a month ago, I would agree that nowadays they are very much a nostalgia act. Having said that, they know how to play to their fans. I don't think anyone expects to go to a KISS show now and expects anything so much fresh and new. We go for the spectacle we've heard so much about over the years. The big, dumb rock n' roll and the extensive pyros and massive production that comes with it. And in that respect, KISS still put on probably the best show I've seen. They may not still be in their 20's, like you said, but they don't try to act like it either. They still play their characters and do it well. I'll even concede that if they didn't do the comeback with the makeup, there's a good chance they would've gone the same way as many of these bands, like Roth.
    iommi600
    Sure, blame grunge, not his ability to astonishingly repeat himself album after album.
    xstatic44
    Wondered what I'd see for comments as I clicked on this story. I was not disappointed. What a doofus this guy is.
    Zerath
    Personally, I've always found Van Halen and the likes to be extremely overrated! It just feels so plastic and fake. I much more prefer Soundgarden and Nirvana.
    guitarhero923
    Plastic and fake? Have you listened to their debut and them compared it to the rest of the music before it? It was fresh and new. Plus EVH inspired generations to come, and Alex was a killer drummer at the time, much different than the rest.
    Zerath
    I've never truly listened that much to VH but I have friends who likes them and have shown me songs. In my ears those songs were boring and without feeling compared to the psychedelic/prog rock in the seventies. That said, Van halen brought the style of tapping into the mainstream which in my opinion birthed many shredders. I don't like shredders! But again thats just my view on it.
    Zerath
    Unless the shredding is blended into their playing so that there's a balance.
    MrDo0m
    While personally I am not a fan of Van Halen, Van Halen overrated? I don't see a whole lot of Van Halen fans running around. I still see a lot of kids wearing Nirvana shirts though.
    crazysam23_Atax
    I think he ruined his own career. He was enough of a douchebag while he was in Van Halen that they eventually kicked him out. That's what ruined his career.
    guitarist5477
    I think he should blame the year 1984 and not working it out with the van halens and staying in the band, cause his solo career blew
    Blew1
    Blame Cobain? I suppose his alcoholism, ego and leaving one of the world's biggest bands at the time didn't have ANYTHING to do with his plight?
    Vinson
    Hmmmm....seems to me that Van Halen was still filling arenas long after Dave left and fizzled into obscurity... No Dave, Kurt Cobain had NOTHING to do with it....YOU did! Seriously...from Hot for teacher and Panama to Just a gigolo????
    ne14t
    Really I would have thought Cocaine would have been to blame for the downslide of his career...
    switch625DL
    grunge sucks and it killed metal. that is the reason we have crappy music today. if you can't realize it then I don't even feel sorry about you.
    MrDo0m
    What are you talking about? Grunge didn't even dent metal. You can't kill the metal.
    ScottStewart1
    this. The good bands are usually underground, they get pushed into the spotlight, they sell out, elitist fans go back to the underground to find the next band they can call 'theirs', rinse, repeat, ect. It's how it's always been regardless of what genre is in the limelight. Metal has been relatively the same in that it kind of swings in phases between obscurity and popularity vs genres like grunge or dubstep tend to disappear altogether after their fad is up.
    dickwolsifer
    thank you kurt cobain believe me everyone was sick of roths shit solo music. and homosexual outfits and spandex. he probably didnt get married because he found a special man to keep him warm on those rough nights playing to the local carnival crowd.
    Vendettagainst
    Yeah but Kurt wore eyeliner and wore womens dresses on stage, so who's gayer? They both are gay, but Diamond Dave is just jealous that Kurt kicks way more ass and is way more relevant
    Jackstratstroem
    OOOOOR maybe cause you lost one of the great guitar masters Jason Becker. I blame grounge to.. It even got to bonjovi.. Noone touch bonjovis music.