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.
Q: Is that disappointment what triggered the return to the “Right Now” video idea?
Hagar: Exactly. There’s a crisis right now. We’re at a huge crossroads in ecology, economics, the war. So much has changed and so much has not. It’s just raising your hand up and saying, “Hey, is everyone aware of this?” That’s my responsibility, to slap the audience around every once in a while, and say, “Stop having so much fun!”
Q: It seems the scene now is much the same as it was when the first “Right Now” video came out.
Hagar: Obama’s talking about change, change, change, and you’ve got McCain, who used “Right Now” in his campaign. I’ve got both guys talking about my philosophy. And I‘m fine with that. These guys are running for president. I‘m honored to have a candidate using a phrase I wrote. How about that for a feather in the cap? I can be like, “I‘m not voting for the guy, but I like it.”
Q: What’s next for the Chickenfoot project?
Hagar: We got in the studio and recorded eight demos in two days. The chemistry is everything in a band. The band changes one guy, sometimes the whole damn thing changes -- look what happened when I joined Van Halen. But with this band, the chemistry is awesome. It’s the best chemistry I’ve ever experienced, better than the Montrose chemistry, better than the Van Halen chemistry. We’ve got nine songs recorded, we’re going back in December to get a couple more songs and will hopefully have a February/March release.