‘He’s a spontaneous cat, you know': Producer Andy Johns still marvels at Eddie Van Halen’s inventiveness

Producer Andy Johns has worked with Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, but he never saw anything like Eddie Van Halen — who displayed a genius for guitar and every-day home tools during sessions for 1991’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.

Johns spoke with Guitar Shop TV, in a newly posted video via Bravewords, about how the sound of a drill made its way onto the track “Poundcake.”

“He astounded me one day,” John says. “There was a power drill, just sitting on the end of the mixer. I hit play and record, or whatever, and he picks this drill up and goes zzzzzz, zzzzzz, zzzzzz — right over the pickups. I went: ‘Gee, that’s quite inventive.’ He’s a spontaneous cat, you know. And then here comes the solo, and he manages to manipulate the solo, then pick up the drill and put one more zzzzzz in, then put it back down and keep playing. It sounds absolutely seamless. ‘How did he do that?,’ is what I thought. What?!”

“Poundcake” would become the lead single from the Johns-produced For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, and it eventually topped the charts for Billboard’s album rock tracks. “Top of the World” went to No. 1 on the same list, while “Right Now” got to No. 2.

This was Van Halen’s third album with Sammy Hagar, who had replaced original frontman David Lee Roth in 1985. Hagar would sing on the 1995 follow up Balance, before departing. Gary Cherone then took over for Van Halen III in 1998, before the band returned in 2012 with Roth back at the mic for the well-received union disc A Different Kind of Truth.

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