Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 48 - Chickenfoot

CHICKENFOOT


Sue Ashcroft interviews Sammy Hagar

Over the last eleven years I’ve interviewed some big names, but for me, Sammy Hagar is right near the top of the list. Having been a fan of his work since the early days of Montrose, all through his solo career and on to my favourite band of all time – Van Halen, I’ve loved every bit of it. Now, he’s part of the most SUPER of super groups – Chickenfoot who have just released their second album, amusingly titled ‘Three’. In an interview which started with laughter (and a bit of a faux pas), we covered some serious topics including the VH debacle, world affairs and much more. One of the best interviews I’ve ever had the pleasure to do – Sammy’s the man!


I have to tell you something before we start. My husband Phil and I have been married 20 years and, when we started going out together, we discovered that both of us owned a full set of Montrose and Sammy Hagar albums, so we knew we were well suited.

I’m honoured! You know, we did so well in the UK with Montrose, especially the first album and the first tour when we went over there and supported it. Then, when I left that band, I had a really great career in Great Britain for two or three years and then all of a sudden, when I joined with Geffen Records, it seemed that it went down the toilet over there. I don’t know why – it was so funny, my earlier stuff that didn’t do well in America did really good in England. I used to go over and tour over there and it would be sold out and everything and then I release a big commercial success in America and I went back and didn’t do nearly as well.

It’s strange that you should say that, because that’s exactly the same thing that happened to Rick Springfield.

What? So, in other words, when Rick Springfield recorded one of my songs, he bombed in Great Britain? Is that what you’re saying? (laughs)

No! Er, yes! What I mean is, it’s just a strange coincidence. So, anyway, on to bigger and better things – Chickenfoot. I interviewed Joe (Satriani) recently….

You know, I’ve just been watching our press pack online that we’ve been putting together and I was listening to what Joe has to say. He’s just so honest and he explains things in a technical fashion very well, he’s a pretty good guy, I love Joe.

He is, he’s lovely. When I was with him, he made me put on the 3D glasses and look at all the pictures on the album cover, which was really cool. He also told me that he had no idea why the album is called ‘Chickenfoot III’ as he was in the other room having his photos taken for the album at the time and when he came out of the room, everyone said “it’s going to be called Chickenfoot 4”, but then it somehow got diluted to Chickenfoot 3, so can you shed any more light on the title?

Well, we were just joking, because we are Chickenfoot and when we get together we have fun – the first thing we all agreed was that it was not going to be called Chickenfoot 2. I just said I’m not going to sit there and call it that – it’s so friggin’ boring! If we can’t come up with something better than Chickenfoot 2, then we shouldn’t make the record, right? So, we all laughed and someone said, “Let’s call it Chickenfoot 4 then!” and we all laughed so hard we thought we were going to burst, so we said okay. Every time you go in the studio with a band to record an album, you usually come up with a working title within a couple of days. Sometimes it stays as the title, sometimes it doesn’t. In this case, everyone laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s great, it’s really funny” so we kept going and going and when the record was done, we all said, “You know, this record is too good, it’s too serious to make a joke out of it and calling it 4”, but I said “but we can’t call it 2 – we all agreed on that” so, I said “How about 3?” and everyone said fine, so that was it!

So 3 was your compromise then?

It was – it was like the last man standing. We had five minutes to make this decision and rather than try to come up with some great title, we thought ‘Chickenfoot III’! And then we start trying to justify it by saying, well it’s in 3D, we’ve got the white album which is a DVD so that’s like Chickenfoot 2 in a way, then we said it was because we had taken such a huge step musically, so it’s like the third record, and I really stand by that. I think that makes the most sense, because this does not sound like a band’s second record. Except for Cream – ‘Disraeli Gears’ was much better than ‘Fresh Cream’. ‘Disraeli Gears’ is one of the albums of the history of my LIFE! I think ‘Chickenfoot III’ is one of the greatest albums I’ve ever been involved with, that’s for sure. So, there you go.

I love the songs on the album. It’s far more … I hate to use the word mature, but you know what I mean. It’s a far more mature record as a band.

Yeah, the band matured. As individuals, I’m way too old to mature any more! When we got together the first time, we were just having fun, we jammed, and just kind of threw it together and it was fantastic, full of energy, but with this one has got a little more soul, I think. It’s just that the band grew – you get it!

Considering the state of the world economy and certainly the US economy, ‘3½ Letters’ really hit home to me. Joe told me a little about your thoughts when you wrote it, but I’ve been thinking about it all week since I saw an item on the news which really upset me, about people who had been investment bankers or whatever – had fabulous jobs and they’re now living in tented communities in the woods in New Jersey. I don’t want to get too political here, but what are your thoughts on that? You’ve obviously tried to get some of your thoughts across about people falling on hard times.

Well, that song was written from real letters that I’d received. My wife and I have a family organisation called The Hagar Family Foundation where I try to help families with terminally ill children – that’s our goal, even if we only help one family a year because it’s so expensive if you have a terminally ill child, your insurance runs out, you sell your house, your car, you sell everything to give that child a better chance. One last pill, whatever it takes.

So, people who get themselves into that situation are the first people I want to help. But, I can’t help everybody. If Bill Gates can’t do it, I can’t do it. We’re trying to just do our own little job. So, I get all these letters from people that are looking for help and that’s how the idea started. With John Carter, our manager who died in the middle of us making the record, he kept telling me, “You’ve got to write a song about this - I need a job, I need a job, I don’t want a sushi bar, I want a job, and things like that.” That didn’t make sense to me at the time, but I started going through these letters … then they made sense. But, how that happens – what you were talking about – the fall is so much greater today. The Depression is the closest it’s ever been to something like this. Like you said, there are white collar people, people with million dollar homes, two or three cars and a swimming pool and everything and all of a sudden they’re just wiped out and I don’t understand how it happens, but it is a sign of the times that there is this huge change going on in the way that the whole world economy is working. It’s no longer you just go and get an education, then you get a job and you make money for the rest of your life. Those days are damn near over. I don’t even know what the answer is, but I do know you can have a doctorate and not necessarily have a job right now. It’s pretty scary.

So, what’s in the future for Chickenfoot? Are you going to tour with this album?

I’ve got the October birthday bash with the Wabos and Chickenfoot are going to play in Cabo too, but in November we’ve committed to do five cities in America, probably San Francisco, Los Angeles, St Louis, Chicago and New York, and we’ve been jamming with Kenny Aaronoff – Chad chose him to be in the band. We love Kenny too but he was Chad’s first choice, so he’s going to be in the band since Chad has the Chili Peppers tour, but if those five cities go well with Kenny, then we’ll book a tour. We’re not going to do any more than that because if we’re going to go out with another drummer, the chemistry has to be, maybe not the same because that’s impossible, but will be just as good only different. We tried three other drummers before Kenny and it didn’t work, the magic chemistry just wasn’t there.

I love Chad, he’s just so funny and the nicest guy.

He’s so special, in the way he plays, the way he interacts with the band – we have to have that! We need that kind of energy and that camaraderie that we have with Chad. Like I said before, when we get together, we start laughing – that’s the first thing that happens when we walk into a room and they all start goofing off and we need a guy that does that without pretending. It’s got to be real, otherwise we can’t be Chickenfoot! We’d have to change our name!
 

Read the full three page spread where Sammy talks about Chickenfoot III, discusses in depth the music business, his tequila, the Wabos, Van Halen and his award winning documentary in Fireworks #48. Available from:


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• Here in the Fireworks Magazine Mini Store (no registration required) 
• Direct from Fireworks HQ by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , paying via Paypal. Send £6 (Inc P&P)

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