Sammy Hagar Talks SXSW, a Van Halen Reunion and Making Tequila With Adam Levine

Gregg DeGuire/WireImage
Sammy Hagar arrives at the 13th Annual Stuart House Benefit at John Varvatos on April 17, 2016 in Los Angeles.

Sammy Hagar wants it known that he'll mean business when he attends his first South By Southwest conference this week in Austin, Texas -- and not just hawking Chickenfoot's new album.

"To be honest with you, I want to get re-inspired," Hagar tells Billboard. The erstwhile Red Rocker and liquor maker will sit for a public interview on Thursday afternoon in the Austin Convention Center, and plans to do some filming for his Rock & Roll Road Trip show on AXS. "I want to get my finger back on the pulse. I'm a smart enough guy where if I saw something great I could identify it."

Hagar may even go beyond that. "I may want to grab one of these young bands and say, 'Hey, I want to sponsor you. I want to help you out. I'm not your manager, but I'll be your sponsor. I'll give you enough money to make it.'" Hagar says that scenario could very well play out, as once he has an idea he takes action.

He admits he may even take things a step further than simply sponsoring a band. "Hell, may start a record company!" he says. "I may go, 'You guys aren't signed? Here, let me start a record company and I'll sign you!' I'm that crazy. It doesn't take much to get me with my sleeves rolled up."

Aside from hypotheticals, Hagar will definitely be doing work down in Austin. For Rock & Roll Road Trip with Sammy Hagar he'll take a crew to the city's streets to film for a future episode. "I'm going to be putting some microphones in people's faces, some younger artists, asking them what they think about the event and if they think they're going to get anywhere from it," Hagar says. He's also scheduled an interview with Darryl "DMC" McDaniel, to discuss a new collaboration of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way."

Naturally, Hagar has his sleeves rolled up in other endeavors, too. Chickenfoot -- the all-star band he fronts with Red Hot Chili Peppers' drummer Chad Smith, Joe Satriani and Michael Anthony -- just released a Best + Live collection with one brand new song, the gritty "Divine Termination." It's the first new Chickenfoot material in five years, but despite fans clamoring for more, Hagar doesn't think anything is likely soon.



"I love the band. I love those guys," he says. "But the commitment it takes to go in and make a great record is six months, for me to shut my world down for that is hard, as much as I love it."

Outside of music, Hagar has also recently launched his latest liquor, Santo Mezquila, in partnership with Maroon 5's Adam Levine. It's the first-ever blend of mezcal and tequila, an odd couple much like the two men behind it.

"[Levine] moved to Cabo and we ran into each other, and hit it off like crazy," says Hagar, who served as a mentor with Levine on The Voice last season -- where he sported an early Santo T-shirt. Hagar recalls how, when they first met, Levine told him he grew up with Van Halen and said, "I want to be like you when I grow up." Hagar then took him for a drink. 

Levine, according to Hagar, was being wooed by some whiskey makers, but his personal taste for tequila added to his bond with Hagar. After talking for a while, Hagar (who successfully launched Cabo Wabo Tequila and Beach Bar Rum) decided to make Levine a partner. He says, "I told him, 'Look, we're not going to endorse it. You're going to get skin in the game like I do. He jumped in." 

About the only thing not on Hagar's plate at the moment is anything with Van Halen. Fans were heartened when he exchanged pleasantries with Eddie Van Halen around the guitarist's birthday in January, though things never went any further. 

"Let's put it like this -- when it came to my birthday, I didn't get a message," Hagar notes, "so obviously that camp, him and Al, still have some kind of trip against me. I'm certainly not looking to get back in that band when I've got Chickenfoot sitting in my lap and I'm scared to grab the reigns of that one. Van Halen would be twice the nightmare of the workload and the anxieties about getting along or being worried about being stabbed in the back again or something. I don't want to put myself in that situation, that's for sure."

Hagar then adds a quick, "but you never know" and throws out the idea of going on the road with the original Van Halen, including David Lee Roth and Anthony back on bass, with the two singers trading off songs they recorded with the group. "That's really the only way I would be interested in a Van Halen reunion," Hagar says.

"Everybody's saying, 'Well, what would it take?'" Hagar says. "For me, no money, man. I don't need money. I would do that for the fans and give the money to food banks or something. I'm not sure anybody else would agree with me, but that would interest me enough to sit down across the table from everybody and work that one out."