Sammy Hagar Plans New Music and Tours With Chickenfoot and the Circle: Exclusive Interview
If Sammy Hagar has his way, he’d like to give his fans the best of both worlds with a tour that would feature both of his supergroups, the Circle and Chickenfoot, on the road as a touring package.
“My dream is is to do a Circle/Chickenfoot tour together,” he tells Ultimate Classic Rock. “We each play 50 minutes or maybe an hour each -- [we’ll] see how long I can sing like that -- Mike [Michael Anthony] can play bass all night, you know? [Guitarist] Vic [Johnson] and everybody else, we just switch out with Joe [Satriani] and Chad [Smith] and Jason [Bonham], two drum kits up there so that everybody’s playing their own s--- and I think that could be the coolest tour I maybe have ever done.”
For Hagar, the pairing would do a lot to help keep all of his fans happy, especially the ones that want to see him tour and make new music with Chickenfoot.
“To go in the studio and spend a half a million dollars to make a great record that’s going to sell forty or fifty thousand….maybe a hundred thousand records, [you] basically pay to play and you’re going to lose money on that,” he says. “And then you go out and tour with a band that could sell two or three thousand tickets in any city in the world, but you know, flying around in a private jet and staying in Four Seasons hotels and all of that and with these four guys, we’re all rich, so it’s like, we don’t need the money, but at the same time, to go out and do 60 or 70 shows and come back and make as much as I make in one night after a year of that, is pretty hard.”
“I don’t do things for money, but it’s pretty difficult to put everything else aside. Because I’m saying, “Okay, if I’m putting a year of my life aside, I’m not going to make any money, number one. Which I don’t need money, it’s okay, I can get away with that. But the energy that it takes to do all of that and my fans sit there and hound me, as much as they love Chickenfoot, they hound me to go out and do [the songs from my history]. “We want to hear this song, we want to hear that song,” and I’m going, “F---, now I’ve gotta go back out and work again, I’m f---in’ beat,” you know?”
Happily, there is new music in the works from both groups, which Hagar is really excited about, including a new Chickenfoot song called “Before I Die.”
“What we decided to do [with Chickenfoot] is casually write a record the way we’re doing now. Like, Joe and I get together and get the song and then Chad put drums on one song already and Mikey put bass on it and we did the vocals. We’ve got one f---ing finished song that to me, is the coolest song that we’ve maybe ever had. It’s really bluesy and edgy and modern and it’s f---ing cool.”
He’s quick to praise his Chickenfoot bandmates and share the reasons why he knows he’ll continue to make music with the band.
“I love Chickenfoot. It’s just that for me, being able to play my whole career with the Circle is so important to me,” he says. “I’ve gotta tell ya, the chemistry in the Circle is right up there with the chemistry in Chickenfoot, when Chad’s in the band, Chad, Mike and I. It’s the same kind of thing -- it’s just a little bit different. Chickenfoot, I think may be the most creative band I’ve ever been in. I think it’s even more creative than Van Halen was in a sense. Joe is so prolific that Joe can write 20 pieces of music, beginning to end, bridge, chorus, solo section, intro, outro and just bring it and say, 'How do you like this?' And we go, 'Wow, that’s great,' or 'Eh, it don’t feel right to us -- it sounds like Joe solo.' You know, whatever!”
“Having a guy like that in the band that is so freakin’ prolific -- I’ve never seen a musician in my life [like that] -- because he reads and he writes and he studies...he’s a professor, so he’s theorizing with music,” Hagar explains. “I say, how about some mid-tempo thing like ‘Every Breath You Take’ by the Police. Joe walks in the next day and he’s got it. How about something like ‘Black Dog,’ which was ‘Soap On A Rope,’ with the breaks where the vocal is and the next day Joe walks in with that. I mean, not just an idea….that whole f---in’ piece and all I had to do is write lyrics and come up with a melody and that f---in’ song was done. That’s the way Joe is. Being in a band with that kind of creativity and the engine of Chad and Mike on the rhythm section is second to nothing. You know, Mike and Jason [Bonham] are bad-ass too, don’t get me wrong, but I have to do another record with that band, because it’s so creative.”
“With the Circle,” Hagar continues, “I want to make a really ethnic, rootsy, American music record. I want to be like a hard rock version of the Band. I do not want to make a metal record like what we’re playing in our classic stuff -- and I don’t want to be a hard rock band in the studio. I have this feeling and this idea and I’m really anxious to experiment with acoustic instruments, but big heavy drums, almost what Zep did, you know, how they always had that acoustic stuff going…..kind of a record more like that. Because how can we write better songs than freakin’ [Led Zeppelin's] 'Whole Lotta Love' or 'When It’s Love' by Van Halen or 'I Can’t Drive 55' and 'There’s Only One Way to Rock,' you know? [Laughs] What, do you think we can write better songs than that? I don’t think so.”
Up against the legacy of his own material, Hagar has a specific plan on how he would present the new material from the Circle in the live setting.
“Those are some of the best classic songs ever written and I’d rather not try to compete with that. I’d rather break the set down in the middle and play these four or five new songs that are just really kind of rootsy and folksy/bluesy -- all of that, but heavy,” he says. “You know, like, f---in’ Jason, he don’t know how to play any other way, man. He f---in’ plays heavy. He’s got a foot on him like his dad, he’s got a snare like his dad, he’s got tom chops like his dad and I want to utilize that and not try to compete. So that’s the only way I figure we can do it and that’s what I want to do.”
Getting the new songs recorded with the Circle is high on Hagar's agenda and he’s been anticipating the moment, “Because we haven’t been in the studio before,” he says. He’s keen to see what comes out when he gets the chance to take the band -- with Bonham on drums, Anthony on bass and guitarist Johnson -- into a recording situation.
“I’ve written four songs -- they’re not finished products, but four songs, and we’ve jammed them, backstage and at sound checks and at rehearsal in my studio. There’s a couple of them that we all got goosebumps. There’s a song called ‘Wide Open Space,’ that I’m getting goosebumps just talking about it. When we hit that chorus and the drums came in….it’s one of them acoustic things that kicks up and comes in and it reminds me of that Band song, ‘The Weight,’ it’s a song like that. It’s kind of country, blues folk and it’s heavy, with the big heavy drums and damn, I’m excited about it.”
“I’ve got goosebumps all over my legs about that song and that’s what happened when I played it for them and Jason just kicked in...he didn’t even f---in’ listen to the whole song, he came in right where it would have come in,” Hagar recalls. “He just was listening and he goes, “Oh, this is cool” and he’s sitting at his drums and he starts playing them all of the sudden [imitates drum pattern]. Everybody went nuts.”
Van Halen and the Top 100 Rock Albums of the '90s
You Think You Know Sammy Hagar?