Sammy Hagar on Eddie Van Halen: "I Don't Hate the Guy, I Love the Guy. I Hate What He Did to Me"
By Michael Christopher
Last week, Sammy Hagar was in the green room at The Tonight Show, preparing to musical guest with Chickenfoot, his band that dropped its critically acclaimed second album (cheekily titled Chickenfoot III) in September. Host Jay Leno popped in to say hello, and seeing the Red Rocker in the midst of an interview, started squawking. "It's all lies! Don't believe a word!" Given Hagar's former mates in Van Halen have released a bombastic new album with David Lee Roth at the helm titled A Different Kind of Truth, it's an interesting course of joking.
To a fault, Hagar has long been a straight shooter. His 2011 book, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, was a no-holds-barred look at professional and personal highs and lows. This spring his tour with Chickenfoot wraps up at the Greek June 10. Candid as ever, Hagar talked about Eddie Van Halen, wanting to be a '70s rock band and those cool jumpsuits he wore in the '80s.
You took a lot of flak for some of the things you put in your book. Were you ever worried that you were being too honest?
There were a lot of times where I said, "I really shouldn't say this." But I felt that my fans, who've been with me all this time, deserved the real story; they need to hear why and understand why I am who I am and why I've become what I've become and how I did it and what I went through for it. I just figured at this stage of my life I'm just gonna tell the whole story. A lot of it had to do with Van Halen; there was always a controversy of who said what and "He did this and he did that," and I wanted to tell the truth about all that.
You told me you haven't heard the new record yet but they are out on tour.
The fact that they're out right now, that's so great; I'm so happy that they're out doing it -- but look how long it took. It's so dysfunctional and who knows how long it will last like this and I just can't be part of something like that.
I don't think I ever slowed down and stopped trying to prove something in that damn band 'til the reunion in '04, but by then it was too late. Eddie was shot at that point, though I heard he's great now, and I'm really happy that he's supposedly sober and playing great and doing good. People think, "Oh you hate the guy." I don't hate the guy, I love the guy. I hate what he did in '04 to me on the reunion tour, but other than that I still love the guy.
Chickenfoot (featuring fellow ex-VH member Michael Anthony, guitar savant Joe Satriani and session drummer Kenny Arnoff filling in for the busy-with-the-Chili-Peppers Chad Smith) seems to have you in such a happier place.
The musicianship in this band is on such a high level, you can't even compare it to anything, and no ego trip about it, everybody's so great at what they do on their instruments. In our sleep we could probably play better than a lot of bands out there.