Russell Hall of Gibson.com recently conducted an interview with CHICKENFOOT/ex-VAN HALEN singer Sammy Hagar. An excerpt from the chat follows below.
Gibson.com: Early on you described CHICKENFOOT as "like CREAM, without the jazz, with funk mixed in." Do you still feel that's a pretty apt description?
Hagar: Yes, it is. When I say it's like CREAM, it's because CREAM was a strange mix of players who you might not think would be compatible. You wouldn't think Jack Bruce's bass style, and Eric Clapton's really elegant guitar style, and Ginger Baker's jazzy, swing style would blend, but they did. The chemistry created a special sound. And I think that's also what we have in CHICKENFOOT. Chad's [Smith; drums] funky style, Joe's [Satriani; guitar] shredding, blues-based futuristic music, and Mike's [Anthony; bass] distinctive style … you wouldn't think those things would work, but the chemistry is very special
Gibson.com: Were there any disadvantages to working with really seasoned musicians? Was anyone set in his ways?
Hagar: There really is no disadvantage. We don't have those problems, and I hope we never do. The advantage of playing with guys who are this good is that when someone comes up with an idea, everyone learns it in about three seconds. You get songs so quickly you never get bored, and you never feel like the songs are being beaten to death, to the point where the life comes out of them. The songs stay fresh.
Gibson.com: How do Joe and Eddie Van Halen differ in their approach to the guitar and in their approach to songwriting?
Hagar: As a writer, Joe is faster. That makes him easier for me to work with, because I come up with things really fast as well. As soon as I hear a chord structure, I have a melody, instantly. And then five seconds later I'm writing lyrics. Working with Joe is great. If I say to him, "Hey, let's do something funky," next thing I know he's saying, "How about this?" It's like, bang, he's done. Whereas with Eddie, he would come back a week later and want to re-do something.
But that said, working with Eddie was great, and we wrote great songs together. The Van-Hagar stuff still holds up fantastically well, but it was a slow process. It took three years to write the "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" album. And when I tried to do the Van-Hagar reunion, in 2004, and we were trying to make a new record, Eddie could only squeeze three songs out. He's just not as prolific, and not as fast. So that's the difference between them as far as writing.
As far as playing goes, they're both phenomenal. The innovations Eddie came up with in early VAN HALEN — before I was in the band — were just so unique, he gets lots of points for that. But as just a straight-up player, who can play anything, and plays perfect every time, there's no one better than Joe.
Gibson.com: Was there ever any consideration of your playing some guitar on the CHICKENFOOT album? Or did you feel that doing so might interfere with your giving enough emphasis to vocals?
Hagar: I did want to put my emphasis on vocals, but had there been a need for me to play guitar, I would have played. Things were moving really fast. Joe and I would get together, and he would write some music, and I would come up with some words and melody. It happened so fast there wasn't time for me to learn the guitar part. First thing I knew, the song we were working on would be finished, and in the can. It took just 43 days in the studio write and record the whole album.
Read the entire interview from Gibson.com.