Sammy Hagar: Chickenfoot Is No Joke (But Van Halen Is)
"The reason Chickenfoot had to go in was because of Chad," Hagar tells Billboard.com, meaning drummer Chad Smith, who was also busy recording the Red Hot Chili Peppers' new "I'm With You," which comes out Aug. 30 -- two weeks before "Chickenfoot III's" Sept. 13 release. "We had a window where he was available, and I was going, 'F*ck, I don't want to be rushed into it. I was in Cabo (San Lucas, Mexico), summer vacation was coming up, I was just planning my time off. I had my feet deep in the sand, and I was going to vacation this whole summer. Everybody was trying to get me to go in and do this Chickenfoot record, but I just didn't feel like going into Chickenfoot mode."
But other voices -- including bandmates Smith, Joe Satriani and Michael Anthony -- and Hagar's late manager John Carter prevailed to bring the album into being. And the Red Rocker is pleased it did.
"We were so comfortable making the music," Hagar says. "We got to know each other on the first album (in 2009) and then touring for it. Joe and I got to know each other as writers. I struggle my ass off on the lyrics, 'cause the music is so good. I can't just start talking about girls and cars, y'know? So I wrote 'Up Next' five different times. I wrote 'Different Devil' five different times...and once everything was done I could look at it and go, 'F*ck, this is good.'"
As for the "III" title for a second album, Hagar says the group was adamantly opposed to calling the 10-song set "Chickenfoot II," and Smith came up with "Chickenfoot IV" as "a joke," but once the album was finished it realized "this album is not a joke," according to Hagar. " 'Chickenfoot IV' is a joke. 'Chickenfoot III' is kind of a joke, but mostly it's just fun."
Touring is next up for the quartet, which will be without Smith due to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' commitments. Chickenfoot has been working with veteran skin-pounder Kenny Aronoff (John Mellencamp, Melissa Etheridge, John Fogerty), who was Smith's personal choice but hasn't been officially announced as the choice. "I'm trying to act like he's not the guy, but we all know he's the guy now," Hagar says with a laugh. "We tried him. He's f***ing great. He's really solid, and he's got fire."
With the lead single, "Big Foot," already out, Hagar says Chickenfoot intends to "road-test" its new material with a five-city promotional run at the beginning of November, and he's already anticipating a full-scale tour to follow.
"Right now we're getting all these offers," he says, "and, y'know, I don't want to tour," he says. "I do not want to pack my bags up for six weeks and go out...I do not want to go on a plane for South America or Japan to work. But when I listen to this music, I go, 'I got to.' I just can't see letting something this good not be played. So we'll probably start accepting shows."
This is also an anniversary year for former Van Halen bandmates Hagar and Anthony -- 25 years since the release of "5150," Hagar's first with the band. Hagar still considers the chart-topping, six-time platinum set "a great album" but, as he made abundantly clear in his autobiography "Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock," there's no love lost with the Van Halen camp.
"I'm so disappointed in those guys," Hagar notes. "I'm not even angry. I'm just disappointed. I really don't like them anymore, and I can't tell you how sad it is to me that what we had as creative guys, and as a friendship, how it just went away. Mike and I had the biggest laugh when they canceled (the Soundwave Festival in) Australia. He was like, 'I thought you told me they had canceled a couple months ago,' and I was, 'No, no, I told you they announced it.' 'Oh, they announced it,' and we just cracked up. They kill me."