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Intimate Portrait: David Lee Roth

By: William V. MeterDavid Lee Roth is the man. A blurred cartwheel of platinum hair andspandex, Roth was Van Halen’s original lead singer and faroutshined his replacements, Sammy Hagar and Gary (ewww!) Cherone.Roth has just released his sixth solo disc, Diamond Dave, acollection of blues-rock covers. He called us from his Californiaestate a few days after his publicist claimed that Roth had held anintruder at bay with a shotgun. (The “intruder” turnedout to be Roth’s neighbor, who had allegedly been breakingwindows in his own home before trespassing on Roth’sproperty.) Roth sounded unharmed, though slightly incoherent.

Spin: You’re so prompt! It’s 7:30 a.m.
Roth: I keep boxer’s hours. Although I am not a boxer, I have seen a lot of boxing movies. I wake up at five, go until about noon, take a siesta for a couple of hours, and then I’m up until midnight. Frequently, I say I haven’t been to sleep since the late ’80s.

How did you choose the songs for your new album?
These are the songs that I grew up with before high school. Uh-oh, sounds like there’s a sequel, Dave! I’m talking about the time between the integrated-busing phase in Pasadena, California, when I was 12, to however old you are when you enter high school–16?

No, 13 is seventh grade. That was a big year for me. I came to know a girl named Jeannine in the biblical sense in seventh grade, your honor, and I remember it exactly. At any rate, how many movies have you seen like Stand by Me where a couple of 12-year-olds sing “The Purple People Eater” or “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Polkadot Bikini” as they wander down the railroad tracks? This is my version. I determined early on in life exactly what I wanted to be. Do you know what that was?

A singer?
No, a black man!

I’m not sure I consciously visualized it, but it is true–every time I take a step to the mic. I’m a black man trapped in a Jewish body.

Do people call you David or David Lee?
They call me Diamond Dave. If you go out to dinner with the Lone Ranger, you don’t want him to say, “Just call me Kevin.” You want to tell your friends that you turned to him and said, “Hey Lone Ranger, pass the french fries!” I have graduated to action-figure status now. I am an entire genre.

We have to talk about the intruder story.
My first inclination was: High school student has a few beers and goes streaking through the haunted house. It turns out it was some character who was tweaking. They found crystal in his pocket. I mean, every house in this neighborhood has a gun in it. In America, we say it with bullets. Ultimately, I didn’t even have to point it at him. You rack the gun twice, and it’s a very convincing sound. [Editor’s note: Police say they did not see Roth holding a gun.]

So you shooed him away?
I made him lie down in the sprinkler system until the cops came. He was babbling out of his mind. He had fallen off a 15-foot wall into my backyard.

You should have done a back flip out the window like in the “Jump” video and pulled some Matrix-type shit on his ass.
Your techniques are worthless! Now I will tame you, tiger. They call me grouchy tiger. But not when I’m around. These days, I practice what I call Nike kung fu. Have you heard of that?

No, what is it?
I run.