Van Halen died aged 65 on Tuesday October 6, after a lengthy battle with throat cancer.
In an interview published by Rolling Stone yesterday (October 9), Iommi recalled how the one and only time Van Halen joined Black Sabbath on tour in 1978 cemented his lifelong admiration for the guitarist and his unreal talent.
“I just don’t know how he could play like that,” Iommi said. “Nobody can play like him.”
According to Iommi, the two guitarists spent a lot of time together during that tour.
“We really got to know each other well on that tour,” Iommi said. “He [Van Halen] used to come around to my room most nights after the show. Or I’d go around to his room and we’d sit there talking.
“We used to have such a great time together. We really spilt our hearts out with each other.”
“What I like about Eddie, he was always an inventor. He’d always want to come up with something new. He worked hard to develop his own amplifiers. And he’d work on his own guitars as best he could to make them feel comfortable to him. He was always very much an innovator with a bunch of things.”
Iommi remained friends with Van Halen for the rest of his life, saying he spoke to the guitar god just before his passing.
“This week’s just been horrible,” Iommi said, “I can’t stop thinking about it, to be honest. It’s very, very sad.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Iommi recalled how Van Halen had a hand in writing ‘Evil Eye’, a song on Black Sabbath’s 1994 album ‘Cross Purposes’.
“I said, ‘You ought to come down to rehearsal if you want.’ [Van Halen said] ‘Oh, can I?’ I said, ‘I’ll pick you up from the hotel.’ I said, ‘Let’s go and get a guitar.’
“And he came to rehearsal. We played some of the Sabbath stuff for him. One of his favourites was ‘Into the Void’, strangely enough. We played that and we went back to writing. I think it was ‘Evil Eye’, and I said, ‘Go on, you play the solo on this.’ He did and it was really great. When we recorded it, of course, I tried to duplicate that, but I couldn’t.”
Earlier this week, former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar revealed how he had rekindled his friendship with Van Halen before his passing.
The pair had had a tentative friendship and not spoken directly since the end of the Van Halen reunion tour in 2004. Reconnecting earlier this year, Hagar revealed in a note to The Howard Stern Show, “Eddie and I had been texting, and it’s been a love fest since we started communicating earlier this year. We both agreed not to tell anyone… But he also didn’t want anyone to know about his health.
“He stopped responding to me a month ago, and I figured it wasn’t good. I reached out one more time last week, and when he didn’t respond, I figured it was a matter of time. But it came way too soon.”