"I'm an extension of him and I'm just happy to be here to spread the good word of who he was," Wolfgang tells PEOPLE of his late father in this week's issue

By Tomás Mier
June 09, 2021 11:00 AM
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Wolfgang Van Halen knows his dad Eddie would want him to focus on his music.

As he releases his debut album Mammoth WVH, Wolfgang opens up to PEOPLE about mourning his dad Eddie Van Halen eight months after his death to lung cancer and how he's "the only thing that keeps me going."

"It's really tough," he says in this week's issue of PEOPLE. "I guess I'm a good actor when it comes to pretending that everything is okay. But it's really not."

"What really helps me keep going is my dad, because if I just gave up and stopped and crawled in a hole, which I feel like doing every day, I know he'd be really pissed off at me," he adds. "He's the only thing that keeps me going."

Wolfgang - who had been working on his album for years - was thrust into the spotlight in October when he shared that his father had died after a "long and arduous battle" with cancer. What many didn't know was that he put his career on the back-burner to care for his father as he received treatment. Doing so was a decision he has no regrets about.

eddie and wolf van halen
Credit: Igot Vidyashev/Zuma

"Not a single regret," he says confidently. "That stuff can wait. I put everything on hold with my album to spend every waking second with my dad."

Several weeks after Eddie's death, Wolfgang released "The Distance," a song he wrote for his father before his death. The song's accompanying video featured childhood footage of Wolfgang and Eddie that gave a glimpse at the close relationship the father-son pair had.

"Music is a really therapeutic thing," he says. "And being able to focus on that and just paying tribute to my dad and our relationship was a really helpful thing for me to grieve in that way."

wolfgang van halen
Credit: Koury Angelo

Watch the full episode of People Features: Wolfgang Van Halen on PeopleTV.com or on the PeopleTV app.

Now, Wolfgang is in full music-making mode and he's doing so at 5150 Studios, where his dad made some of Van Halen's greatest records.

"This is where I'm going to be recording all my music for the rest of my life. And it's where my dad, since 1984, had been recording," he says. "His energy is all throughout this place, and I'm excited to continue the legacy of filling this place with music."

"I'm an extension of him and I'm just happy to be here to spread the good word of who he was and how he should be remembered," he adds. "I think he is like a Mozart of our generation. I think as far removed as we are from Mozart, and we still talk about him and know who he is, that's what he's going to be."

He also has his dad's best advice in mind: "If you ever make a mistake, do it twice so everybody thinks you meant to do it."

For more on Wolfgang Van Halen, pick up an issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday