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Gary Cherone Recalls His Time Fronting Van Halen

Van Halen
Al Pereira, Getty Images

Van Halen‘s other lead singer says his three years with the band were a dream come true. Despite not being the most popular choice amongst VH fans, Gary Cherone says the brothers and bassist Michael Anthony treated him very well, and that he never witnessed the alcohol and drug abuse Sammy Hagar references in his book.

During an extensive interview with Rolling Stone, the one-time Extreme singer calls getting the gig surreal: “Even when I was in the band, [Extreme's Nuno Bettencourt and Pat Badger] would call and go, ‘I can’t believe you’re in my favorite band.’ It was surreal. You’re growing up with Aerosmith and Van Halen posters on your wall.”

Like most of the rock band’s fan base, Cherone has trouble listening to ‘Van Halen III’ — the only VH album to feature his vocals — but not because he didn’t care for the music. “I didn’t think the production was great,” Cherone says, adding that Michael Anthony’s backing vocals weren’t on the record enough. “I think there was some great songs on the record, but I didn’t think the record was great. I think the songs developed once we played them live.”

Cherone’s late-’90s tenure with Van Halen came during a time when the band was teasing fans with a David Lee Roth comeback. This confusion caused the younger singer to be looked at as a less than ideal alternative, but they still supported him despite critical backlash.

“The thing that got me through that time was that the fans are so loyal to the band,” he adds. “I was in the band for a minute compared to the era of Dave and the era of Sammy, so the loyalty for them, I get it. They are going to hate anybody up there.”

While Cherone says Eddie Van Halen started drinking more towards the end of his run in the band, he was lucid and enjoyable to work with most days during the three years. As for the new project, Cherone says he had only heard portions of it and didn’t offer much of an opinion — unlike Sammy Hagar, who didn’t hold back at all when asked about his opinion of the current Van Halen.

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