He knew band weren’t planning Roth reunion in 1996 despite TV hint – because they’d already hired the Extreme singer

Van Halen III lineup

Signed up: Cherone, left, with Van Halen

Gary Cherone knew Van Halen weren’t planning a reunion with David Lee Roth when the original lineup appeared together in 1996 – because Eddie Van Halen had already hired the Extreme singer.

Anticipation exploded when Roth walked on with his former bandmates at the MTV Music Video Awards, telling an excited crowd: “This is the first time we’ve stood on stage together in over ten years.”

Many believed Van Halen and Roth were about to get back together – but Cherone knew better.

He tells Rolling Stone: “I got on the phone with Eddie Van Halen a few times and we wrote a song over the telephone. I flew out for the weekend and we just hit it off. We started writing the moment I got off the plane and he actually asked me to join the second day I was there.

“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 Video Music Awards. They told me, ‘Gary, no one knows you’re in the band’. I remember bumping into a photographer who knew me from Extreme – he goes, ‘What are you doing here?’ I go, ‘Nothing’.”

Asked if he was worried he’d been sacked after only just getting started, Cherone says: “No. Maybe Dave Lee Roth thought that, and maybe he didn’t. I don’t know. Me and Eddie were writing at the time. I didn’t feel threatened.”

But he adds: “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 those guys treated me like brothers.”

Cherone lived in a guest house on Eddie Van Halen’s estate while working with him, and even remained there after his time with the band was up. He refuses to draw negative conclusions from his experiences – although he wishes they’d managed to record a follow-up to Van Halen III before they finished up.

“At the time I thought Extreme was going to get back together. I said, ‘Yeah, sure, I’ll go out for the weekend, sing Jump, come back and have a good story to tell.’ I never bet too high because I didn’t know how long it would last.

“When we finished the record and put it out and the tour started, I finally realised, ‘Ah, okay – this is my comfort zone, being on tour.’ That’s when I felt good.

“The new songs we wrote after the tour were better. It felt more like a band. Looking back, it’s tough to listen to Van Halen III – I think there were some great songs on the record, but I didn’t think the record was great. The stuff we wrote later was more developed.”

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