Q&A: Sammy Hagar aims to slap some sense into audience

Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:23pm EDT
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By Jeff Vrabel

CHICAGO (Billboard) - Sammy Hagar, former singer for Van Halen, spent his 61st birthday performing and relaxing at his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The October event has become an annual rite for the Red Rocker and the fans who begin lining up days before the series of free concerts he throws there with friends.

The birthday shows are a tradition, but the rest of Hagar's fall is all about the new. On November 18 he'll release "Cosmic Universal Fashion" (Loud & Proud/Roadrunner), his first solo album in eight years. The project is more about social issues than his trademark tequila-fueled party rock -- so much so that the lead-off video revisits the "Right Now" concept from the 1991 Van Halen video. But the album leaves room for a cover of the Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)." And his all-star supergroup Chickenfoot -- a name he and the band are trying desperately to change, for obvious reasons -- with Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and guitarist Joe Satriani is planning to release its debut album early next year.

Q: A two-week birthday party in Cabo?

Sammy Hagar: It takes a while to turn old now. There are so many years to my calendar that it takes a couple weeks to flip it over. But, hey, the old blues guys did it before us; John Lee Hooker was 80-something last time I saw him perform. If blues and jazz guys can do it, why can't rock guys do it?

Q: What's the story behind the track "Cosmic Universal Fashion?"

Hagar: I was looking for management a few years back, and I had a meeting with Miles Copeland in Cabo. And I said to him, "If you were my manager, what would you think I should do?" He said, "I think you should be more political, make more statements, become a more outspoken artist." I've never been that. Being an activist for me was "I Can't Drive 55." That was my rebel yell. So he got me thinking: "I am older, more mature. How many times can I keep writing rock 'n' roll car songs?" With "Right Now" I tried to do it in Van Halen a little bit, but I got pushback from those guys at the time. So Miles brought me this song. I based the album around the idea of, "I think I need to make some more statements."

Q: Do you find that sort of material difficult to write?

Hagar: I'm extremely fast with writing concepts. The only load is figuring out what direction I want to go in. Once that's decided, it's always done within an hour or two. I'm a lucky man. I'm not tortured or tormented by my music. I have such a great life that inspiration is all over it: beautiful places, beautiful wife, beautiful family. I'm inspired by my environment. The only thing I'm disappointed with is the state of the world right now.   Continued...