Ask Eddie: Using a Drill on ‘Poundcake’

Eddie Van Halen has long been known for his innovation, whether it was creating his own guitars or supercharging his amps.

But who would have thought Van Halen would use a power drill to complement his fretboard ferocity during the song “Poundcake,” which came off 1991′s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge?

In the latest Ask Eddie feature, Helio Nascimento chimes in from Brazil to inquire about this remarkable development. Read the exchange between Nascimento and Van Halen below.

Nascimento: Eddie, I was always amazed by your talent for music in general and the way it naturally flows from you, and for me, one of the greatest examples of this gift is with the electric drill on “Poundcake.” Therefore, I’d like to know how exactly did that idea of using a drill as a guitar riff come? Did you hear the noise from it and figure out its note, and then build a riff with it? Thank you!

Van Halen: Hi Helio,

Thank you for your question and your compliment. The drill on the “Poundcake” was a complete fluke/creative accident. We were playing, and I always like to play in the control room because I hate wearing headphones. Ken Deanne, who was my maintenance tech for my studio at the time, happened to be replacing a piece of outboard gear behind me while we were playing. He left the drill laying right in front of me as he was going to grab a replacement piece of gear. As I am sure you know, a guitar pickup is very similar to a microphone. I happened to grab the drill, and by sheer luck it was in the same key as the song. So I asked Alex to start “Poundcake” again from the beginning, and I used the drill over the pickup and scraped it on the strings for the intro. I also used it for a second or two during the song’s solo. It’s just one of those funny unplanned things that happen every so often. Since it was on the record, I ended up using the same drill every time we played the song live. I hope that answers your question, Helio.

All the best,


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