Chickenfoot: "This is so much more fun than being in Van Halen"

This article originally appeared in Classic Rock Presents: Chickenfoot III by Chickenfoot.

The simplified take on Sammy Hagar goes something like this. He’s the millionaire sat at the beach bar in the swimming trunks. He’s the mile-wide grinner and the God-given singer. He’s the lifelong exponent of the lucky stick and Midas touch, drafted into prime-time Van Halen, paid millions for his stake in Cabo Wabo tequila, surrounded by family but still not quite squeaky-clean.

At first, it’s this version of Hagar who rolls up for our interview, turning on the Force 10 charm and batting about questions with red-blooded humour and frequent expletives. No fuss, no neuroses, no demons. That’s Sammy Hagar.

But if that’s your assessment of the 63-year-old frontman, you’ve only skim-read his back-story. Make no mistake: Sammy Hagar runs deep. From dirt-poor roots in a violent blue-collar Californian household, Hagar has fought all the way through to Chickenfoot’s latest album, III, never buckling in the face of divorce, death and two excruciating Van Halen meltdowns, nor flinching when telling the tale in his recent Red autobiography or for Classic Rock’s dictaphone.

Naturally, III is the cornerstone of our interview, but nothing is off the table. Ask a question, any question. Back it comes, straight off the bat and spoken from the heart, rather than filtered through the media defence mechanism of many rock veterans. Unlike fellow legends, Hagar doesn’t employ a press officer to ‘sit in’ and intervene when he strays too near the knuckle, so it’s a warts-and-all encounter. By turns, the Red Rocker can be kind, thoughtful, steely, self-deprecating, blustering and bawdy… but he’s always magnetic.

Most of all, there’s the sense that even after all his triumphs – in Montrose, Van Halen, Chickenfoot, The Wabos and, of course, solo – he still has a questing spirit and a little space left on his CV. “I got some demons, some ghosts, some fears,” he tells us. “I have everything to be happy for, but to quote U2, ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…’

You have a reputation as a great interviewee…

I hope I haven’t changed much. Like: “Oh, Sammy’s just not the same guy!”

Are you happy to be the main Chickenfoot spokesman?

Well, I guess there’s a few reasons for that. Joe is a very quiet guy, he’s very serious and he’s almost like a professor. He plays his ass off, but he only talks about the music, so unless you’re a musician, it’s hard for him to connect. Mike and me are the most social guys in Chickenfoot, but Mike’s not really a creative force, so it’s harder for him to go out and represent. And Chad is just fucking crazy. Chad will not answer a question straight. He’ll answer like a politician, and then he’ll get up and walk out of the room. So I’m kinda stuck with the job! It’s not that I want it. I’d rather be on the beach in Cabo than on the phone!

By calling it III, it’s almost like you’ve tried to skip the ‘difficult second album’.

Well, that was always the big joke in the band; the taboo of the second album. We jumped right over the difficult second album, man! This feels more like the third or fourth album, because we took such a giant step. Very few bands have made a great second record. You know which band made the greatest second record in history, in my opinion? Cream. I mean, Fresh Cream was fantastic, but Disraeli Gears was just over the fucking fence, man. They’re about the only ones who really did it. Everyone else stumbled a little bit, y’know?

Chickenfoot backstage at the Avalon in LA with drummer Kenny Aronoff standing in for Chad Smith

Chickenfoot backstage at the Avalon in LA with drummer Kenny Aronoff standing in for Chad Smith (Image credit: Getty Images)

The story goes that it was almost called IV

Yeah, it was. When we started this album, it had been so long that somebody made the joke that we could have made four albums by now. So we all laughed, and then someone said: “OK, well let’s call it Chickenfoot IV”. Ha-ha, right? Then, all of a sudden, the album is actually called Chickenfoot IV. It happened a bit like our band name; Chad said: “Chickenfoot” once, Mike said it a couple times, then someone asks: “So what’s the name of your band?” We said: “Er, I guess it’s Chickenfoot.” We actually had the IV artwork done, but right before the album was finished, we all looked at each other and said: “Y’know, it’s too big of a joke for this serious album, y’know?” Because this album is serious. After we sat back and listened to the songs, we thought, this is way too good to make a joke of. But it was too late to call it Chickenfoot II. Everyone agreed: we were so over that.

The first album was a breeze to record. How about this one?

Yeah, the first album was a piece of cake. We went in there and knocked it out, and it was so easy that I can’t believe it was so good. III was not an easy record. Our manager [John Carter] died in the middle of the project. It was horrible. It came so suddenly; he gets checked up, they find he’s got cancer, he goes straight into an operation and a couple of months later, he dies. Carter was Chickenfoot’s co-manager, but he was my manager, and my balance, and the guy I threw the ball against the wall with. I used him a lot with my lyrics. He would tell me if the lyrics were great or if they weren’t, and he’d say: “You gotta write a better bridge, man.’ He was almost my co-writer, and a great lyricist in himself; he wrote songs like Red with me. Without him, I had to go to work, because I didn’t have anyone else I could trust. Like Joe says, it kinda felt like there was a dark cloud hanging over this album. We had an axe to grind, and we had a manager die on us, and we wanted to prove something and do something for him. We all cared a lot.

Sounds like there were a few obstacles…

I was not ready to make a record. I’d worked pretty hard the year before; I’d just done my book tour for Red. That tour wore me the fuck out, man, I gotta tell you. Doing in-stores and signing 800 books a day for fans… I love my fans, man, but it was hard, because they all want to spend a couple of minutes with you, but if you spend five minutes with a thousand fans, that’s 5,000 minutes. It was hard for me to slow down and just sign the books, though, so it wore me out. So I didn’t really want to go and make a record, but because of Chad’s schedule, we kinda had to. Then when our manager died in the middle of it… oh my God.

Your lyrics are pretty personal this time around. This goes beyond good-time rock’n’roll.

Yeah, it does. It’s a real record. If I wasn’t involved, I’d be so jealous that somebody actually did this. Without being egotistical, if I was in another band, and Chickenfoot had some other singer and they did what we did on this second record, I’d be going fucking crazy. It sounds like four guys that really went to work. We did the music quickly, but I took a long time with the lyrics. With the first record, I just did whatever came to mind, sang what I thought the music sounded like, didn’t struggle with anything, and it was great and it felt smooth and natural. This one, I didn’t do that with the lyrics. All these songs are personal. I don’t wanna say I wrote bullshit in the past, but I was tired of making up lyrics, digging the dirt, or whatever. I had to dig down. It was hard.

At the same time, many songs could soundtrack driving a Ferrari or having sex.

Well, that’s good. I’ve made a living from that my whole life. So that’s on there, no question, but we took it somewhere else too. I guess we didn’t lose who we were; we just did the best version of it.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Up Next talks about arriving in heaven. Do you ever ponder your own mortality?

After our manager’s death, you bet. It makes everybody think about it. But it doesn’t sound like any fun to me, so I tried to make it fun on Up Next. It’s a tongue-in-cheek thing, but at the same time, it’s deep and heavy. We’re all gonna die someday, and to make fun of it is a different twist.

When Joe first brought me the riff and music to Up Next, I loved it and I thought that was one of the first songs that Chickenfoot should finish. I had the melody and the phrasing, but I didn’t have the lyric. I was struggling, and when our manager got sick… I came up with this idea. Every day I wake up, and I don’t care what house I’m in or what part of the world I’m in, I put on a fucking pair of swim-shorts, no shirt, and sometimes if it’s cold I’ll throw on a T-shirt, but I do not put on shoes until I have to leave my house. And if I walk outside, I’ll put on some sunglasses and some flip-flops. That’s just how I live. In that song, when I talk about how I’m gonna arrive at the pearly gates, it’s probably gonna be like that. Hopefully, I’ll have a swimsuit on.

What did producer Mike Fraser bring to the sound?

We switched up with Andy Johns – who’s a great engineer and producer but to me, he’s disruptive – and without him, it was easier to relax. With him, if I didn’t have something immediately, he’d take you on the big wild goose chase, and it was never natural for me to try his ideas. I hate to say that, but it’s true. What Mike did was to produce us without interfering. He was like a coach, man, and that’s good stuff. So when I was singing, rather than disrupting me and trying to take me on some trip, he’d just say: “Hey, your voice is sounding hoarse, why don’t you take a break?” Or, “You’re sounding good, man, let’s do one more.” He just let us do our thing. When you’ve got four guys in there who have sold 200 million albums between us, they don’t need to be told what to do, they just need the whip cracked on them, y’know? He just made sure that it sounded as good as it could… and by God, it does.

Is it fair to say that you and Joe lead the song writing?

Oh, absolutely, Joe and I are the songwriters. We’re the Page and Plant, the Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, or whoever those guitarist/singer songwriting teams are, we fit right into that mould. In Van Halen, Eddie would write the music and I would write the lyrics and melody, and then we’d make a song of it. On the first Chickenfoot album, Joe and I followed that pattern. On this one, we changed it up a little bit; he wrote music to my lyrics on Lighten Up, and we experimented on tracks like Three And A Half Letters. On Come Closer, I gave him those lyrics, and just said: “Write music to those words.” He did it on piano, and then converted it to guitar. Those are big leaps for songwriters. I think there’s more in us, but we hit it this time. The combination was really working.

What are your own favourite songs?

With Different Devil, I didn’t like the music at first. I thought it was too soft for Chickenfoot, because it was just Joe on acoustic guitar. I thought it was just a ditty, and it just wasn’t hitting me, so I kept ignoring it. The management were beating me up, saying: “Sammy, finish the fucking song! This is a fucking great song. Don’t throw this one out!”

But that was before the band played it. I got a great melody, and now it’s one of my favourite songs Joe and I have ever written. And that is a prime example of why a great lyric is so important and sometimes underestimated by musicians. Without a great lyric, that was just a poppy little song. When you come up with something to say that really means something, it becomes a great song. The Beatles were a band who proved that again and again.

Something Going Wrong is a masterpiece from Joe Satriani; the way it builds up with banjos and dobros, and the solo gives me chill-bumps. Originally him and I were gonna trade off, get a little Page and Plant thing going on there, where I was gonna scream and then he’d play a guitar lick back at me. But fuck that. It was too subtle for that. I liked starting with Last Temptation and ending with that song, which is another Biblical one.

Different Devil, Chickenfoot live at Brixton Academy in 2012

Different Devil, Chickenfoot live at Brixton Academy in 2012 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Let’s talk about Three And A Half Letters

It’s very experimental. I’ve been getting letters from people my whole career. I’ve always been a blue-collar guy, so blue-collar working-class people tune into me and they want to work in my organisation. Y’know, they want to go on tour, they want to be my roadie, they want to drive the truck… that’s my fanbase, they feel like they’re close enough to me to work for me. Some of these letters, I try to help; some of them I throw in the trash because I know they’re just bullshit from extortionists; some of them, I can’t do anything about it. I have a Hagar Family Foundation where I can help charitable organisations, so word got out on that, and I started getting these letters that broke my heart. But I started collecting these letters. I just thought: “Everybody needs a job.” I just put it all together.

Are you qualified to comment on poverty and redundancy, though? Some people think Chickenfoot is just a millionaires’ hobby…

Pfft… they’re kinda right. But it’s one hell of a hobby. I’m not comparing us to Albert Einstein, but Einstein had a job; he was a professor, right, and his life’s work was E=MC², right? He was trying to solve that equation and prove it and bring it to the world. So sometimes people’s hobbies can be their best fucking stuff, if their heart and soul is really into it. I’m sure that to the Wright Brothers building airplanes was a frickin’ hobby. It was a love. A hobby is something you love to do. To me, playing music, my whole career has been a hobby.

The less business you put in, the better your art is. When art becomes business, that’s when you become a big corporate band. Chickenfoot couldn’t be that if we tried. It might be to the management. My business was tequila and restaurants and cantinas. I’ve got all kinds of businesses…

So Chickenfoot is still fun?

Oh fuck, it’s even more fun than you can imagine. And a lot more fun than being in Van Halen. Because we took the business out of it. We’re all successful; we’re all fine. So why are we doing this? Because we love it, man. It’s like guys who are hooked on golf. I don’t play golf myself, but guys who are hooked on it – all they want to do is go play. They’re dying to get out of the office. Even a brain surgeon who should be caring about their patients: if that fucker is a golfer, you can bet that he’d rather be on the golf course than being in that hospital. Not me: I’d rather be in Chickenfoot than doing anything else.

Hypothetically, let’s say I wanted to join. What personal qualities would I need?

You gotta be famous first, because if you need money, you can’t be in this band. Nah, it’s really about chemistry – and can you hang with us? And when you’re with us do we have fun? Or do you bring us down or take it in another direction where we don’t wanna go? That’s why we’re so concerned about our drummer…

Good point. Chad isn’t coming on tour – what will you miss about him?

I already miss him. Chad’s crazy.Everybody thinks that I’m the spark plug in the band and the energy force behind everything, but when Chad’s around, I become the straight guy. We’re trying Kenny Aronoff on drums. Chad knows him pretty well because he sometimes replaces him in The Meatbats and he says that Kenny is our guy. I’ve played with him once before and he really was bad-ass; he probably hits harder or as hard as Chad and we need that intensity.

Hopefully Mike and Kenny together will develop a chemistry that keeps that craziness going where you don’t know what’s gonna happen next. Without that, it can be boring, and I don’t think Chickenfoot can ever be bored; if we’re bored, we’ll probably break up. It’s one of the things that keeps us together – we love the intensity, the energy and the spontaneity and the lack of direction. Because we don’t have any direction. Y’know, we’re the most self-indulgent frickin’ band on the planet. Nobody’s ever told us what to do: no record company, no producer, no management. The four of us do what we do, and the record company present it.

"Who does your hair, the council?!" Brian May and Hagar share a joke backstage at Brixton

"Who does your hair, the council?!" Brian May and Hagar share a joke backstage at Brixton (Image credit: Getty Images)

Have you got the hell-raising out of your system?

Oh hell, no. And that’s what I mean: it’d be boring without somebody getting in trouble or pushing the envelope. Without that, we’d just be sat around being… normal people. Mike and I are the drinkers. Joe drinks a little wine with us once in a while if we’re having dinner, but we’re the guys who start doing shots. Chad is the only guy I’ve ever known who is no different when he’s clean and sober. When he was doing all the drugs and drinking and he was fucking ripped out of his brain, he might have got in more trouble, but he hasn’t changed one bit. He’s the same crazy person, and he still plays the same. He didn’t have to reinvent himself. When Alex Van Halen got sober, it took us a year to make our second record, because it was different; all kinds of problems came in. With Chad, nothing changed. I mean nothing. He’s still the same crazy dude calling me up at two in the morning, yelling crazy shit on the phone and playing music in my ear, leaving whacked-out messages. Totally straight. We’ll be in public and we’re going: “Chad, chill out, you’re embarrassing me…”

What does Chickenfoot’s audience look like these days?

It’s all over the place. The female side of Chickenfoot’s audience comes from The Wabos and from Van Halen and Sammy Hagar’s solo career, because Joe doesn’t really have a female following. He’s a guitar player; he’s got a bunch of guitar nerds out there, so they come. The Chili Peppers’ fans, they come a bit, but not really, because they’re an alternative band, so their fans haven’t really come over. We’re a guy band, from musicians to young teenagers to older guys who wanna get their rocks off and get the buzz on: they love Chickenfoot.

It’s really diversified, Chickenfoot’s audience. I’m still trying to figure it out. Or, I’m not trying to figure it out, but I’m trying to understand it. What’s going on out there, man? It’s like teenagers and young kids and video game kids, and older people and guys with their families and a bunch of chicks all ganged up together partying. You’re looking out there thinking man, these girls are having a good hard time out there – they’re gonna be hurtin’ tomorrow! And the way people came out for the first tour, when they hardly knew any of the songs, but they’re all there responding and partying and digging it, is really cool. We’ve invented the lifestyle for you to get your buzz on and have a good night out.

You were very frank in your autobiography…

Yeah. That’s the way I’ve been my whole life. I’ve been candid my whole career, but now I think people believe me. In the old days, in the 80s, when I was being frank and I was telling my honest opinion of things, from my heart, people thought I was making shit up and putting on an act. I think my autobiography solidified it – like: You know what, this guy’s been for real since the beginning.

What was the hardest chapter to write?

I found it difficult writing about the Van Halen reunion. I didn’t want to slap the fans around like that, but I had to. It’s like, what are you gonna say? I’m not gonna tell them it was fantastic – it was a nightmare. Some people said: “Wow, you sure threw Eddie into the mud.” But anybody who was on that tour would tell you that I was kind to Eddie in the reunion chapters. That was the only place I might have held back a little bit. I think I painted the picture to let you imagine the other things that could have happened. It was a whacked-out experience. I’m actually glad it happened, because now I’m through that, and it makes me appreciate Chickenfoot even more.

So that was a difficult chapter, and some of the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll stuff was difficult to write about too, because I have kids now. But like I told my wife, you only get to write your autobiography once, and I gotta put it all in there. Especially in an ‘internet world’ where people know so much already. Next thing you know, you’re looking on some website and there’s a picture of you doing something you don’t even remember.

Two of these men would go on to form Chickenfoot... Van Halen go 5150 in 1986

Two of these men would go on to form Chickenfoot... Van Halen go 5150 in 1986 (Image credit: Getty Images)

Do you think Eddie will be offended or could it be a wake-up call?

If he’s got his life back together then he knows that’s the way it was. If he’s still as smashed-up as he was on the reunion tour, then he don’t get it anyway. He don’t even know. He probably doesn’t remember nine-tenths of the shit he did, it was so whacky. At our age – and I’m older than Eddie – you can’t do that to yourself and expect your mind just to snap back and say: “Oh, I remember, I’m all cool now, oh boy, I shouldn’t have done that, oh, I’m sorry, I’m embarrassed.” If he really knew what he did, he would have called me the second he sobered up and said: “Dude, I’m sorry.” The fact that he hasn’t done that, and instead, y’know, they fired Mike, and all these other crazy things, tells me that he don’t even know what he did. I don’t care if he knows or not. I’m not gonna be the one that goes: “Hey Ed, look what you did.” I just wrote about it.

Your story has a touch of the American Dream…

Yeah, and that’s what I’m most proud about in the book. Everybody dug the Van Halen dirt, because that’s one of the biggest bands in the world, so everyone wants to know. But the truth is that if you’re a musician, or a struggling person in life, or going through a divorce, or you just got fired, or you have a dream, this book can help you. Because I went through all of it. I went through a divorce. I went through a bad situation in my childhood where I was poor and I had an alcoholic father… the embarrassment is all in there. If you’re going through that, this book can help you, and at the end, you’ll say, “If Sammy Hagar can do it, I can do it.” Because I’m not educated. I’m not the smartest guy in the world. I had no breaks. I just work hard. I’m not the most talented guy in the world. Y’know, I have some talent, but it’s really about perseverance and never giving up. The only way you can not achieve your goals is by quitting. That’s the guarantee. You wanna guarantee failure? You quit, right? So it’s not just the American Dream; it’s the dream for anyone who wants to do better and get through hard times and come out the other end of it and still be smiling.

Would you say you’re a very different father to your own?

In some ways, yeah. In some ways, no. My father, if I explained myself properly in the book, was very loving, to me, and he made me feel special. So I’ve taken that, and try to do that with my kids… even when they piss me off and I want to break their necks, y’know? In the end, you gotta let ’em know you love them and that’s why you’re mad at them. A kid that’s loved can go out into the world with confidence and it gives them something to fall back on. If you go out into the world with no love behind you… man, that’s a tough road.

Is it fair to say you’ve come through without any demons?

I got some demons, some ghosts, some fears, and I couldn’t really tell you what they are. I have everything to be happy for, but to quote U2: ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for’. I think that’s human nature. I don’t think anyone can ever feel truly satisfied, like, “I’ve arrived! This is it!” Every time I get to that spot, it takes me about a month, and then I’m getting antsy. Pretty soon, I’m sitting in the beach in Cabo, and I’m going: “Dude, I wanna go somewhere where it’s raining.” I don’t think you ever quite get there.

You sold your stake in Cabo Wabo tequila for millions…

It didn’t change my life. That’s what I’m trying to say: you wish for things, and you think, if only I had this, but it doesn’t change anything. The next day, you wake up, you hit your head on something, and you go: “Fuck, nothing’s changed!” I mean, I bonused everyone who ever worked for me. I gave everybody a whole bunch of money, was the first thing I did. I gave millions of dollars to my friends and family. I didn’t buy myself one thing. And that made me feel great for a little while, but then I just put it in the bank, and you just go: “What the fuck?” It didn’t change anything. So it was kinda enlightening.

The only thing that money has changed is that I’m more interested in helping people. I don’t like to brag about it and all that, but I have these restaurants called Sammy’s Beach Bar & Grill; I got seven of them – in Hawaii, St Louis, Atlantic City, Las Vegas – and what I do is that every penny from those restaurants goes to local charities. And it’s mainly about terminally ill children. If you have a terminally ill child, you can’t afford it – nobody can, because your insurance runs out and the kid still has two years to live – so I try to help the quality of those people’s lives. If Bill Gates can’t save the world, I sure as hell can’t. But it’s not about trying to save the whole world. It’s about trying to do something in one community that makes a difference.”

The dude abides, the Red Rocker at rest

The dude abides, the Red Rocker at rest (Image credit: Getty Images)

You called Chickenfoot “the best band I’ve ever been in”. That’s a pretty bold statement…

I’m sorry, but it is, by far. With Chickenfoot, I’ll go head-to-head with anyone. Let’s go man-for-man with Van Halen today. In the heyday, when I joined Van Halen, Eddie was as good as any guitar player on the planet, and Al was great. But you take Mike Anthony and Sammy Hagar out and replace them with Wolfie and Dave today… I gotta laugh. And if you go on YouTube and watch some of those live performances from the [Van Halen] reunion tour, and compare Eddie to Joe, that’s a joke too. And Chad Smith, I don’t care who we replace him with, will still be the greatest fricking drummer in the world. He’s got chops and he’s got soul and he’s in the pocket, and he grooves like a mother… I just don’t know how another drummer can be better than that.

HSAS – Hagar Schon Aaronson Shrieve – could have been great, though. Why was there only one album?

It didn’t have the chemistry. It’s not about who’s better and who’s worse. I love Neal – we’re great friends and he’s a fantastic guitarist and he’s got music flowing out of him like saliva out of your mouth, but the chemistry just wasn’t the same as me and Joe. And Kenny Aaronson and Michael Shrieve – they just didn’t have the chemistry of Mike and Chad.

Is it bad for your self-esteem to always work with guitar virtuosos?

Yeah, it humbles me every time I pick up a guitar. Like today, I’m gonna go and play with Joe, and when Joe Satriani starts playing, I just think what the fuck would I even want to play guitar for? I’ve got a weird thing with the guitar. I can speak one language very well – I can play rock blues and express myself well – but I’m not a virtuoso at all.

When Chickenfoot started out, Chad, Mike and myself were playing for five years, five times a year at the Cabo Wabo, without Joe, and with the job I was doing on guitar, it would never have gotten off the ground. It could never have been a world-beating band. When Joe came in, all of a sudden the chemistry just changed between the four guys and it was, as far as I’m concerned, one of the greatest bands, or certainly, the greatest band I’ve ever been in. I used to go back and forth, thinking I was a hot shot player, but once you see the difference with a guy like Joe, or Eddie in his prime, or Steve Vai, or Steve Morse… I’m not a guitar slinger. Y’know, I can cut it. I can have fun and I can jam and I can write songs. But I can’t be one of ‘the guys’.

What’s so great about the colour red, anyway?

Are you blind? Just look at it! It’s bad-ass, man. It’s really about passion and taste, and for me, it just hits. I walk into a guitar store and I’ll go straight for the red one. Doesn’t matter what kind it is. Same thing when I go into the Ferrari dealership, although there’s a lot of red ones, so it’s easier. Say I walk into a clothing store and I’m looking at T-shirts – black always looks good, but I’ll always pick up a red one.

Red or dead, Sammy Hagar in 1983

Red or dead, Sammy Hagar in 1983 (Image credit: Getty Images)

So what’s next for Chickenfoot?

Well, we’re not just gonna find ‘another drummer’: we’re gonna find a guy that works. Between you and I, we’ve tried out three drummers. We’ve played with three other drummers, let’s put it like that. And they were great, confident drummers, but the chemistry just didn’t feel the same. We’re working with Kenny [Aronoff] on Saturday at my studio, and we’re gonna spend the whole day playing both albums with him and see how that works. No predictions, but like I say, Chad swears it’s gonna work. Chad even went and did this crazy video where he’s handing Kenny the sticks. So he’s pretty confident about it, that’s just how Chad is.

As far as another album goes, it’s hard to say, but I would imagine as soon as this band gets together and goes on tour, especially if we have a new drummer who’s gonna give us this freshness, I bet we write so many songs on tour that we’ll come home and do another album. I just can’t imagine not. It’s not really what I want to do. I want everyone to understand that in my life, I want to slow down. But it’s like… I can’t! There’s always something great that’s presented in front of me that makes me want to keep going. I don’t know if that is a gift or a curse, but it’s a fact!

It’s not a bad life, though, is it?

No, it’s not. It’s just that I want to slow down and do some other things. I don’t even know what that is yet, but I gotta slow down enough that I can figure it out. I have two bands. Here I am: I’m a fuckin’ guy in his 60s that has a party band that plays all my classic stuff [The Wabos], then I have an advanced rock band at the cutting edge that plays only our own shit. It’s pretty crazy to have that kind of intensity. And I love it. It’s great that at my age I’m still so driven and so prolific. Something’s going right!

Would you encourage people to come out and see the tour?

Oh hell, yes. I can’t even imagine how good we’re gonna be. I’d go and see Chickenfoot even if it was just Joe and I on the acoustics. Nah, I guess that’s pretty presumptuous of me. But we’re gonna take it a step at a time. The first step is finding a guy that we like and who works with us, that guy could be Kenny, I really hope it is. And then, we’re gonna go play five cities. On the first album we did nine cities; this time we’re gonna do five, play some smaller venues, and make sure that after one week the chemistry still feels good and the fans have accepted it and that it all works. And if that’s the case, then we’ll go out and book a world tour. You bet. We gotta play this music for the world, man. It’s too good!

Van Halen Quiz

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.