The Van Halen frontman has been creating artwork – he calls them comics – while in lockdown. Their themes offer reflection and occasional satire of these Covid times.
“Social commentary is what I do,” Roth said during a conversation with the New York Times. “It’s what I’ve always done.”
The rocker insisted he’s always had an artistic eye. “My hand has always been in wardrobe, background sets, stage sets, album covers, video direction,” he explained. “This is part of it. And there’s craft involved, so there’s a little bit more heft to some of the statements.”
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, Roth had been touring as a solo act, supporting Kiss on their North American run. The performances weren’t easy as the rocker battled an undisclosed illness during the trek. “I’m not so unconvinced I didn’t have the corona,” he admitted. “Man, they gave me enough prednisone to put boots on the moon! We left a trail of groupies, rubble and incandescent reviews. But I don’t want to go back through it.”
Like most artists, Roth cancelled his concerts – including the remaining dates of his Las Vegas residency – once the threat of coronavirus became impossible to ignore. The singer expressed frustrations over the way the pandemic has been handled by America’s leaders. “I sure wish our country had taken a Marine Corps approach to Covid. Instead of [creating] a divide, good or bad, right or reasonable, wrong or otherwise,” he opined.
Still, the iconic frontman doesn’t dwell on the time he’s been forced to spend away from the stage. “Every Jiu-Jitsu magazine has a 28-year-old who’s going to tell you about the two years that got taken away by his elbow. Every kickboxing magazine has a 32-year-old instructor who goes, Well, I lost those three years to my left knee.’ So I’ve just been isolating away. Because I myself am high risk.”
Roth went on to explain that a life of touring has worn on him physically. Most recently, the singer underwent lower back surgery. “It was a spinal fusion where they take a chip from somebody else,” he revealed.
Those fans hoping to see Diamond Dave fronting Van Halen once the world returns to normal should temper expectations. “I don’t know that Eddie [Van Halen] is ever really going to rally for the rigors of the road again,” Roth noted, alluding to the guitarist’s continuing health issues. “I don’t even want to say I’ve waited — I’ve supported for five years. Because what I do is physical as well as musical and spiritual — you can’t take five years off from the ring. But I did. And I do not regret a second of it. He’s a band mate. We had a colleague down. And he’s down now for enough time that I don’t know that he’s going to be coming back out on the road. You want to hear the classics? You’re talking to him.”
When those classics will be performed again in anybody’s guess. So, for now, Roth will continue filling his days with art. “This is performance therapy,” the singer explained. “I’m venting. I’m angry. And I am not asking for forgiveness. And this is how I do it.”
See examples of Roth’s artwork in the images below.