Planetmosh chats backstage with Chickenfoot’s lead singer, Sammy Hagar, at the Manchester Academy 1, 12th January 2012.
Planetmosh. Thanks for taking the time out from your busy schedule to chat with Planetmosh.
Sammy Hagar, hey, no problem.
PM Do you consider Chickenfoot to be a classic rock act ?
SH. I wouldn’t agree on the classic label, I’m ok with it, sure we play classic rock, to a certain style, but were more of a bluesy rock, but we can rock it up when we want to.
The classic rock label to me, is the old style of bands, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Van Halen and stuff, what makes us special is that while we sound classic rock, we are making new music in our own style, and most classic rock bands are not making any new music, we are. I mean I love the Led Zep song “ A whole lotta love”, but really, how many times can you listen to it and still be in love with it ?.
When I hear “Bigfoot”, our song, come on the radio, on a classic rock station, it sounds so brand new, so full of energy, but to pigeon hole us as classic rock, then I don’t know, who knows lol
All you have got to look at is the “Metal bands”, what there stuff has morphed into, its crazy high energy stuff, nothing like what were playing, even Metallica sounds dated compared to some of the metal stuff that’s going on now.
P.M. Taking your point about Metallica, what do think about the new record with Lou Reed ?
S.H. James and I are really good friends, in fact all the band are, but James and I are the best of mates, so I can speak to him mate to mate, so I says “James, why the fuck did you do that ?” and replied “ Cos it was really inspiring to me”
So I said “What do you get out of it” ? and James answered “ I’m gonna be a better song writer” so I said “ fuck yeah, I can understand that”. As a song writer I know how hard it is to write songs, so to be inspired by something new, to get your creative juices flowing, to move forward and to lift yourself up, so I said “well, in that case I can’t wait to hear your new stuff”.
P.M. “Lulu” got a lot of hate directed at it, from both Metallica and Lou Reed fans, with both sets of fans saying the record doesn’t work for either camp
S.H. let me put it this way, music is music, it wasn’t what we where expecting from them, you don’t have to buy it, there are other choices out there, as long as you give it a chance, but it is interesting that they took a big artistic chance like that, now that, is interesting to me.
That marriage wouldn’t be my first call, the music wouldn’t be my first call, buts its interesting. Its hard if you’re the main writer to write for like what, 10 albums, its fucking hard man, you know.
James Hetfield told me personally it was extremely inspiring and he will be a better songwriter from that experience, so in that case, I can’t wait for the new record.
P.M. Metallica do seem to have more ups and downs than most bands, up was Ride the lightning/ the Black album, and down was Reload and St Anger, Lulu to me is a down, but if it helps with the next release, and puts them back on top again, then im all for it.
Though you cant help thinking how many fans they have lost over this.
How do your fans treat you Sammy? lol.
S.H. Fans can make you a slave, if you allow them, I think you have to take control of your fans by saying “We ( chickenfoot ) are making music that we like to hear, we are writing and recording the songs that we would like to hear on the radio, were not trying to be like anybody, we write songs that we like, we would never in a million years bring in outside song writers just so that we could have a hit. When I turn on the radio I wanna hear songs like “Bigfoot”, I wanna hear a song like “Different Devil”, so that’s the way we approach it. We consider our fans in the way that we want to put out a great record for them, we also want to put on a great show for them, so we consider them, but we don’t cater to them, so we make a record that we like, and we hope that they like it to. So far so good, but were not a very commercial band anyway, though some of our tracks are good enough to be commercial, you can listen to them and think, they are so well crafted, or that’s a good lyric, its not premeditated, and that’s my honest opinion of Chickenfoot.
P.M So back to lyric writing, do you feel that you are writing better songs now, than you have ever done ? and has being in Chickenfoot with these incredible musicians helped ?
S.H. well it certainly hasn’t been a hinder, sometimes I will come up with a lyric based on my experiences, my personal life, or sometimes I’ll just make some stuff up, “Bigfoot” is made up, there’s only so many times you can write about your old lady leaving you, so I look for different angle’s, take “I cant drive 55” for example, that’s a true story. I went to Africa for a month and when I got back they had changed the fucking speed limit, I got off the plane, rented a car, I was driving back to a place I own to chill out for a while, and I got pulled over for doing 57 mph, so im thinking to myself “now what the fucks up”. So the police officer says to me “The speed limit is 55”, so I said “nobody told me”, he was like, “where have you been for the past month”, so I told him, “Ive been on vacation”, anyway I cant drive 55, so I wrote that as a protest song lol
Being in this band, with the musicianship of Joe, Chad and Michael, raises everything up for me, it makes me a better singer and a better songwriter, there’s no question about it.
I can write a lyric just like that, if you play me some chops, I can go bam bam bam, it wont be finished, and most of the time it wont be good, but then you sit down with joe, and he plays over it, you change a few words around, add and take away, and we come up with a song, just like that. Songwriters need to be inspired, and all the guys in this band do that for me.
PM. Holidays, one place I have yet to visit is Mexico, and when I do, im gonna drop by when your playing at the Cabo Wabo Cantina bar.
S.H. You’ve never been to Mexico, you wanna go man, its 85c, I love it down there, it’s a very inspiring place, playing at the Cabo Wabo gives me the freedom as a musician, to sing the songs that I want to sing, the other thing is we don’t charge to get in, except for the last two birthdays, we made a charge as people where sleeping on the sidewalk, just to make sure they could get in, sometimes for days beforehand, its unhealthy, we told them you don’t have to do that, so we make a charge and give them a wristband, but they do it anyway, so they are the first person in the club lol
I play around twenty or thirty times a year, it allows me the freedom to do what ever I want, I sing Otis Redding songs, I sing James Brown songs, and that musical freedom has aloud me to find myself in these last ten years, you know, to really find out who Sammy Hagar is.
When I was in Montrose I didn’t have a fucking clue, I could express myself very well, but not communicate you know, I would sing a song or write a lyric, and people would go “Yeah we like that song you wrote”, or “we like the way you sang it” but I didn’t know how to do it, I just did it.
P.M. You where very young then ? So you didn’t really have the life experience to convert the ideas Into better songs ?
S.H. Yeah, it came automatically, but it was small, but now I know my limits, I know what I’m good at, I know what I’m not good at, but a lot of finding myself happened at Cabo Wabo, also Finding out what actually turns people on you know, and its what I do, on stage, that make’s them happy.
P.M. Lets talk for a minute about your food and drink empire.
S.H. I’m one of those weird guys that if you give me a spare five minutes, Ive gotta have something to do, so down in Mexico I wanted to make my own Tequila for the Cabo Wabo, so we went to the town of Tequila and we went through the whole region tasting Tequila’s that nobody had tasted before, Guys making home brew and stuff, so anyway I find one that I liked and decided to sell it at the Cabo Wabo, and it wasn’t even a business idea, I just wanted to have it, my own Tequila in my own Cantina. So anyway we got great reviews for the Tequila and these wine importers asked me for six thousand cases, so I said “Fuck yeah” that sounds like fun, and then Campari offered me money for my Tequila, but I turned them down as I was having to much fun, but it was a lot of money, but, hey, I don’t need the money, Ive been a singer for a long time, Ive got money.
Then they offered me crazy stupid money, I couldn’t sleep at night after they had made me the offer, not because of the money, but because I suddenly started thinking about what I had to do with the business, Campari woke me up to the fact that I had a real business, I don’t think im a business man in the same way I don’t think im a rockstar, im just a singer you know.
Fans get all excited when they see me, I find it strange, but I’m cool with it, and it’s the same with the Tequila, I didn’t realise I had the number two best selling premium Tequila in America, I sort of knew I had, but not what it meant. So I thought what if I turned all this money down and I go out of business this time next year, so I thought fuck it, sell it, and let Campari worry about all that shit.
Im not quite sure how it all happened, as im not a smart business man, if I knew how to do that then I would go into politics and try and help my country and try to feed starving kids, stuff like that, which is the main purpose of Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill.
P.M. On the new Chickenfoot record there is a song about helping your fellow man, Three and a half letters.
S.H. I really care about people, I wanna help them out you know, I’ll sing and play music almost as a hobby for the rest of my life. I do it, cos I like to do it, and if I have time I’ll do it, and if I don’t have the time then I wont, I don’t have to do it, it is not a business for me, there’s a lot of people that need help, so I write songs for them, I hope that makes them happy, I run the Cantina, where they can have the time of there lives,
I try to give something back.
You know Bill Gates can’t help, he could, he could feed everyone, so I have these Beach Bar & Grill’s, there’s one in Hawaii, New York, Maui, St. Louis and Las Vegas and every penny they make goes back to the local community, the one in Maui feeds kids in Maui, the one in St. Louis feeds kids in St. Louis and so on, if a Bar and Grill make’s two hundred thousand dollars a year, that goes back into the community, if it makes half a million dollars a year, that also goes back into the community, and that’s what I do, it makes me feel really good, my fans help me out by eating in the Bar and Grills and they know all the profits go to a good cause.
If Bill Gates could do that, though he probably hasn’t figured it out yet, this is the way to inspire people, KFC and McDonalds could do the same, I know they do help out, but I give ALL my profits.
P.M. The trouble with that Sammy, is that all these big corporations’ have shareholders, and shareholders want a return on their investment, so we need people like yourself to come up with these idea’s, they may sound crazy at the time, but eventually other people may be inspired enough to follow your lead.
S.H. Exactly, I feed nearly eleven hundred kids a year just in St. Louis, the Maui one has paid for two kidney transplants for kids who had cancer, things like that cost a frightening amount of money in America, so you know, it’s just my way of helping people out.
P.M. Ha ha, were getting waved at by your Tour Manager, so it seems that, is that.
Well its been a pleasure, thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
S.H. The pleasure has been all mine.
So, there you have it, Sammy Hagar, a true gentleman, in every sense of the word, is he a rock star ?, nope, as he will tell you himself, he’s just a singer in a rock n roll band.
Interview by David Farrell
Pictures from the gig are HERE
Interview with Sammy Hagar, at the Manchester Academy 1, 12th January 2012
Planetmosh chats backstage with Chickenfoot’s lead singer, Sammy Hagar, at the Manchester Academy 1, 12th January 2012.