Following is the uncut / unedited / but sometimes censored interview we did with Sammy Hagar the man who went from solo artist to Van Halen frontman back to solo artist.
Let me say that I love this new album. I think you did a great job. I remember on the Standing Hampton tour, you used to come out for your encore and say, "We're gonna do a song by the greatest rock & roll band ever," and you'd launch into "Whole Lotta Love." And I think you captured the spirit of that band with "Little White Lie."
"I wouldn't see that connection, but yo u know, like, when you just do something, like in a second, it came so fast, I just did it, I didn't think about it, you know . . . I would imagine. You're probably right, if I took every element even. Probably on the next tour, when I go out, I'll say, Yeah, I'll do a song by the greatest rock & roll band who ever lived,' and I'll bust into Dreams' by Van Halen."
So, did you enjoy getting back into the solo thing in the studio, and having full control?
"Yeah, I really did. Being in a band for 11 years, it was great, first of all. You know, no complaints, no nothing. It just was a great movie with a bad ending. Everything was great until the end. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens. But with Van Halen there was always a compromise. I'd say, I wanna paint that wall blue,' and Eddie would go, I don't know, maybe red,' and Alex would go, Naw, Black,' you know, and Mike would go, I don't know, white,' and you end up with a brown wall. And that's what bands are about. That's what Zeppelin was about, that's what The Who was about. All those bands are like that. Otherwise, if there's a leader that gets his way all the time, then it's a solo artist. Then you've got John Fogerty. He's the same with Credence as he was solo. It's just no difference. So being a solo artist, you don't ever have to ask anybody. You've just gotta say, This is what I want to do.' And there's a great, great freedom to that, and I'd forgotten how fast you can get things done, how fast you can move. For Van Halen, we used to take two months to decide what producer we were gonna use; three or four months sometimes. We couldn't even get started on a record. As a solo artist, you just say, Hey, I wanna use this guy. He's available? Okay, when can he start? Tomorrow? Okay.' Everything happened so much quicker, and it makes everything real fresh and exciting. I'm lovin' it right now, I mean, the freedom is killing me, man. I'm just going, Oh boy, this is a blast!' and probably five years from now, I'll be going, Where's my band members, man?'"
I think the excitement is kind of contagious. It kind of came across on these songs.
"These songs are the freshest thing I've ever done in my whole career. I'm just telling you straight up, and they are fresh! I wrote the songs and recorded em, and they were done. Nothing was pre-written, except Amnesty is Granted,' which is an old song I wrote a couple years ago. And the other song was Warmth of the Womb,' I had written about two months before the band split. I wrote it for Van Halen. But everything else, man, I just wrote as I was recording. I just went along . . . and then they're on MTV talking about me. And some guy yells at me, Sammy, Sammy, hey, you gotta see the brothers on TV!' And so I come running out of the studio into the lounge, and there they are, man. And I'm going, What? These guys are lying. That's not what happened. Aww, come on!' So I wrote Little White Lie.' That's how fresh this record was. Everything that happened, I wrote about. My wife had a baby, I wrote a song. It was pretty special doing it that way."
My favorite Sammy Hagar album, what was it called, All Night Long? That live album that came out years ago.
"That had some energy man. I listened to that record just last year, and I couldn't believe it. I'm going, This guy's jacked out of his brain!' A lot of energy on that record. That's a real live record, too, you know, there's no fixing up, no overdubs, no nothing."
That's a true live record, as it ran. I like this one even better than that. I'm real stoked on this album.
"Well, thank you very much. This album is pure Sammy Hagar. This should have the scratch and sniff on it, it smells like me, man! Right now, it's my favorite record I've ever made in my whole life, and that's a big statement, because 5150 and For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, those were great, great, great records. I would've never thought I could've outdone those, but in my heart, I did on this record."
What was it like playing with the guys in Montrose again, and some of the other players you worked with on this album.
"It was great. You know, Ronnie Montrose played really, really good on that song. I'm really impressed with that. Denny Carmassi is one of the great rock drummers of all time. That's that Led Zeppelin thing in this album, that's probably what you hear is that Denny man playing that big (bleep) bass sound. He's got a great foot on him. And Bootsy Collins, what an experience. On Would You Do It For Free?' I wrote that song on bass, and Bootsy . . . there was a toss up in my head of who I would ask to play on it, whether it would be Flea or Bootsy, because they're the two baddest bass players I know. And a friend of mine says, Man, you should get the grand daddy of funk. Get Bootsy to play.' And I go, Do you know Bootsy?' He goes, Yeah,' and I said bull-(bleep).' So he grabbed the telephone and called him up. That was a great experience, hearing a guy that was that much of a master on his instrument. It's like Eddie on guitar, you know, Eddie's a master of that guitar, and Bootsy's a master of the bass. We cut that song Denny Carmassi, Bootsy on bass, and me on guitar, and it was just rippin', man. I mean, it was almost like we didn't even have to do any of the overdubs. We had the song just like that. Oh, and Mickey Hart, my new-found best friend in the world, my mentor, my hero, man, I love this guy. He's got more energy and enthusiasm than any human being I've ever met in my life. If I play him a riff I could just be sitting around on the guitar and play one lick, and he'll go, hey! Do that again! If you play that and I play the beat like this to it, see whatcha got?' And I'd go, Whoa! No (bleep)! I never would've thought of it like that. That's just a blues lick.' Like Marching to Mars,' I'm just playing a School's Out' blues, you know, Alice Cooper sound type lick. That's just an old blues lick, and this guy heard this kind of a beat behind it, and next thing you know, you've got this almost high tech drum beat behind this blues lick. I just can't believe it, the guy's just so energetic and enthusiastic, that he just pulls something outta nothing. There's a song called Ether,' and it's only on the Japanese version, I think. It's just a little one minute instrumental, I think. But I wrote that about Mickey, how out of thin air, this guy can just pull something out. He's really amazing."
How has being a father changed our outlook?
"Well, I've been a father, but being a new father of a baby girl my first baby girl, I've got two sons I'm tellin' ya, the best way I could sum it up is that moment when your baby is born . . . everyone in life is looking for a miracle. You know, you want to see somebody fly? You want to see someone walk on water? You want to think someone can just do something that no one else can to perform a miracle. But when you see that baby come out, and you realize it was inside of its mother for all that time, it grew, you know, and now you cut the cord and it takes its first breath, that's like a whole different dimension. And when you see that, you realize that (it) is truly a miracle. And that blows your mind so bad that you kind of become enlightened. It changes your life. I think it does; it did me again. It just enlightened me to the fact that life is a miracle. The fact that I'm sitting here talking to you on the telephone is a miracle. It makes you a little more enlightened to where everything you see around you, you take a little more seriously, and all of a sudden you feel like you're responsible for this baby, and you're so in love with this baby, the fact that you would take a bullet for this baby, and not even complain. You know, save this baby's life? Take mine right now! And when you start thinking like that, you realize that's the true meaning of love, and that's what love is. It's unconditional. You don't take love from someone. That's what love is all about. I mean, when you give love, more flows through you, and it becomes a special, special thing. And when you start living your life like that, about giving and not taking, and about caring, and being unselfish and not even thinking of yourself, you'd be amazed how beautiful life is. And that's how it changed my life."
I can definitely concur with that. About a year ago, we had our first child. It was a baby girl, we had the birth at home and I caught the baby . . .
"Oh come on, then you know exactly what I'm talking about! You know, you love that baby. When's her birthday?"
"Oh yeah, Kama's is April 1st. So the song, when I wrote the song Kama,' you know, that's my baby's name, and it means love' in Sanskrit, the original written language. And that's supposed to be the true way to say the word love,' like you, know, love' is the American version, or amore,' and all these things, but you know, Kama is the true meaning, as in Kama Sutra, which is the art of love,' and the art of lovemaking (laughter). I think it's been turned into that, but I think Kama Sutra actually means the art of love.' So Kama comes from that. And that song, when I wrote that song, I just closed my eyes, and I just wrote about exactly what happened. You should listen to that song and think about the birth of your baby, and about naming it, and about what you're feeling. That song will take your (bleep) South. If you don't get choked up when you know what that song's about, then you'll have to convince me that you had a baby."
We named our daughter Kaela.
"Wow, that's totally similar. Does it mean something?"
No, we just took a name from the Bible, and kind of adapted it to the spelling we wanted.
"I bet it means something. Kaela, I bet, whatever the original spelling was, if it came from the Bible, it means something. Check it out. A name has power. Words have power. They work. That's why poetry can affect people. That's why music and lyrics and songs affect people, and that's why chants and prayers and affirmations, and all these various things affect the frame of mind. And a name, this person goes through their whole life and people call them that name. And a name like (bleep), the poor kid would be pretty torn up, you know, I don't feel very good about myself, you know, everybody yells (Bleep) at me.' I think it's cool to have a good name."
I agree wholeheartedly. Well, it's funny, you know, here's this reheaded rocker, and he's no longer working with this big band, Van Halen, and he's singing a song about forgiveness in "Amnesty is Granted." What's up with that?
"Well, I actually wrote that song while I was in Van Halen. This is a long story, but the reason it's on this album is because this album is truly a concept record about what happened. Marching to Mars' is the concept about, Hey, I'm leaving it behind. I'm moving on. I know there's life in the universe for Sammy Hagar, and I'm gonna live it.'
"Amnesty is Granted' wasn't written for the bereavement. It's on this record because it is a statement to these guys. I still love Ed now. I don't love the managers, I wish I could (laughter). If I was really Christ-like, I could, but I can't muster it up to love their manager. But I still love Ed now, and when I think of Van Halen, I think of some great times. I think that Eddie and I wrote some of the greatest songs ever written in rock & roll in the last ten years, and I really feel like amnesty is granted. I don't like what they did. I think it was a chicken (bleep) move, but at the same time, I still love them. I would rather run into them in the street somewhere and give em a big hug, and go out and have a beer, and talk about good times, rather than just get in a fist fight. That's the way I would like to think of Van Halen. That's why Amnesty is Granted' is on this album in that specific place, right before Marching to Mars.'"
A lot of the songs on here kind of reflect a Judeo-Christian outlook. Have there been any changes in Sammy Hagar's life since . . .
"Not really. I've always been a real positive person. I like to bring hope and happiness to people, and maybe some direction to people, rather than doom and gloom. I just think the world is as ugly as we see it. The only Christian' part of me is what we talked about before, with the love, which is . . . I'm not an organized religious guy at all. I don't go to church at all. I believe in prayer. I believe in the power of it, that it has power if you pray and project positive thoughts, there is power there, and that's a good thing. The love side, about unconditional love, which is the Christ philosophy, that you give love unselfish love forgiveness, amnesty, that kind of thing but I have Buddhist philosophies and I have Zen philosophies, and I have Krishna philosophies. That's just me. That's what I'm made up of. And what I try to do, is I try to take any great man that's ever walked this planet, that has had something good to say, then I read about him, it affects me, and I'm in. I'm going, Hey, I'll take that philosophy and add it to mine and continue on in my life.' I want to be good, and I want the world to be good. I want to share happiness and goodness with everyone. No one needs to be depressed. You know, like when the band broke up, I was hurt. When Eddie called me up and said, Man, you frustrated me so bad, I went and got David Lee Roth back in the band. We've been working together and it's going great. You might as well go back to being a solo artist. You don't listen to anybody. You've always acted like solo artist, you might as well go back to being one.' I was like, What?' I was so . . . I was angry. I jumped up out of bed, and I was ready to kill. David Lee Roth? He was the enemy,' I thought. You know, He's singing through my microphone, and I'm sitting here changing my baby's diapers.' I was (bleep). When that happens, there are two things you can do. You can either crawl into a hole and be wounded, and be less of a confident human being and let it beat you down. Or, you can go, I learned something from that. I'm a wiser person right now, and I'm a smarter person, and that will never happen to me again, because I'm wiser than that.' Therefore, I'm a bigger person. I'm a more confident person. And I can walk around saying, Hey, I just got hurt by that, and now I'm stronger.' And that's the way I do things, and that's the way I would like to address that to the whole world, because that is really important. Everything that happens that hurts, it makes you more strong, and it makes you a wiser person, more intelligent, and therefore, you should have more confidence about yourself. Now, it's, I'm smarter now. I should've seen that; now I see that, and now I know.' All those things can make you stronger, not weaker. That's the Sammy Hagar philosophy in a nutshell."
Yeah, it's good to see you walking in that. Well, what do you think of Jesus Christ?
"Man! (Laughter) What do you say about that? I think that if what we are reading today is held true to His philosophy, then He's one of the greatest men that ever walked the earth. You can't say anything bad about a person like that. Anyone that was unselfish, and anyone that was willing to take the pain Himself so that you didn't have to suffer, to me, I know that's Christ's consciousness, but no matter where that came from, I would still say that is a great thing, you know, a godly kind of thing. That's what I think about Jesus Christ. The organizations that are built around Christianity right now, most of the time, make me sick. You know, the Bakkers and the Swaggarts, and there's a lot worse ones than those, but those are just the ones that have been exposed. I'm not saying that is Christianity. And that's not Jesus Christ's fault. It's man's fault. I think that it's been exploited and crutched and leaned on, and that part of it makes me sick, so it keeps me from saying, Yes, I am a Christian.' But other than that, I am a Christian. In my heart, completely. I believe that in the philosophies, it's the way to live life. I think it's one of the great religions of all time, but there are other religions. You can't just be confined to Christianity, like some organized Christian churches say, You come to this church; you can't go to another church.' That is wrong. That's like, Hold it now.' You can't go to another church? (Bleep!) You can do anything you want, as long as you don't hurt another person, you don't inflict your power on a person, you don't try to do evil to another person. There are certain rules you follow, and you can walk into any church, you know, Hinduism, and all those things, they have a lot to offer as well. All those men are like Jesus. They were a different avenue to God, and I do not believe that Christianity is the only avenue to God. I just don't believe that. I believe you can be born onto this planet and be enlightened and understand God from birth, and never even hear the words Jesus' or Buddha.' You could still understand God. There's a lot of different ways. That's the only thing I have about the organizations. Other than that, I probably am more of a Christian. And I'm a rebel too, dammit (laughter)!"
And a redheaded one at that!
"Well, I'm semi-blond. Red is my favorite color, as far as that goes. I like the power of red."
What do you think about the claims of Christ to be the Way, the Truth and the Life "No one comes to the Father but by Me?"
"I think that's something that man made up I'm not sure though. I can't say in my heart that I believe that, but I also can't say that I know for a fact that it's wrong. I just don't think that . . . I think it's just been misinterpreted and taken out of context. You're a journalist. You've done interviews. I'm an artist that has done interviews, and I've read things that are taken out of context, and they don't mean at all what I've said just because they've been taken out of context. I really interpret that as Christ saying, My beliefs . . . my belief's,' you know, The way I preach life is you don't hurt another, you don't kill . . .' You know, the Ten Commandments. Let's use those for the example. I believe that He's saying, This is the way to God.' You don't have to go through Him, and use Him, like he's saying, I'm the egotist,' or "I'm the vehicle.' He's teaching. If you don't obey these rules, you will not go to Heaven, and not be in touch with God.' But there's other rules as well, and I don't think, like, if you learn those rules, true, you yourself, if you taught me those rules, and I learned em, and I lived em, then I can do it. I don't think Jesus was doing it as an ego, power trip thing, like, I'm Jesus Christ, you have to come to My house first, you have to go along with My program, and then you get to go.' I think He's saying, These are the rules.' He presented them, and I think they've been taken out of context, for the organized Christianity people to say, You have to believe in this, and you have to do this, and you have to send us money, you have to support us. It's become big, big business, and you know it. And I think it's been misinterpreted over the years. If I could read Sanskrit, then I could find out the true meaning of that. But, you know, through interpretations, and all that, I think too much pressure has been put on Jesus Christ, the Man, Who did His duties to this planet, to bring people closer to God. I think too much emphasis has been put on Him, rather than His teachings. His teachings are what we need to learn. And if we learned em . . . I mean, I don't care if you learned em through the devil! Those teachings are what are important. Some people learn from bad experiences. Some people learn from screwing up so bad that they hit bottom. You know what I mean? Like, a drunk, or a drug addict or a killer, and then they go, Wow!' and it finally dawns on em. Well, drugs, you know, or a weapon that would take another person's life, that's the worst thing you could possibly do. That's the devil's work, but if it brings you to the reality of Christ's teachings, hey, you're there, man. Even Christ said that: forgiveness, right? You're cool. I think too much emphasis on the Man himself, and if He were walking around here today, He would go, Hey man, don't be looking at me. I can't save your (bleep). Only you can save your (bleep). And He made it pretty easy on us. Those rules are so simple, the Ten Commandments. I mean, humans are so stupid that they had to finally simplify it. Just don't use God's name in vain. I mean, how simple is that? Okay. Don't kill someone. Okay. Don't screw your neighbor's wife. Okay. It's just really simple, man. Anybody in their right mind could live by those rules. I think that's all Christ was really trying to do."
I can respect that . . . I think He was, like, a servant to the max. Like, the night of the Last Supper, He took off all his clothes, He wrapped a towel around himself and He washed their feet. And then He took the towel off and dried their feet. And that's the epitome of humility. But I come to the conclusion that the reason He died is because of His claims, that He claimed to be God. To a Jewish culture, you don't go around saying, "I am," and "Before Abraham was born, I am" and "The Father and I are One." I mean, He knew what He was getting into, in the context of the people He was talking to. And so, in my opinion, He went to His own death, not for His teachings, but because of Who He said He was, and that He was the Sacrifice that's gonna take the pain, like you said, for us, so we don't have to. But to me, there's a lot of common ground between every religion in the world, when it comes to the exterior parts, like, Be nice to each other.' But when you get to the core, you've got one in Buddhism that says, "Become nothing, and just isolate yourself from everything." And then you've got Christ, who said, "Serve mankind," and "I am God, and I'm dying for your sins, and you can get forgiveness . . . " The closer you get to the middle, the more you find that they don't agree with each other.
"I think you're right on the money. I agree with you 100%. But the difference is, let's say you've got Eastern people, like, you know, the Buddhist philosophy. You've got that consciousness, that lifestyle. Buddha was the man to relate to those people, and could take them there. That's why I say there's different teachers, and the important thing is that you get to a godliness through an enlightened faith. It doesn't matter how you get there. See, Jesus related to His people, and it's just like every disciple that came from these different areas, they had to have their qualities. It's like me, mister blond, curly-haired white dude ain't gonna go down into the ghettos and grab these black crack people, these dealers, and people that are out there killing people in the street, these gang members, and go, Hey you guys. Knock it off!' That ain't gonna work. You need some other black dudes that are just like em, who finally come up one night, and go, No, no, no, this is bad (bleep). Put your gun away.' And they go, Who the (bleep) are you, man?' Well, it's me.' That's what it takes to deal with those kind of people. That's why I'm telling you why Buddha was right for his people, and for that area, and Jesus was right for His. And now, we've grown up into a world that now, we can get on the telephone and talk to someone in Israel or China. Therefore, now Jesus is international, and Buddha is international. But at the time, they were just neighborhoods. Well, they were a little bigger than that, but you see what I'm saying. Of course, they sort of disagree, and that's where man has misinterpreted their writings and teachings. Because really Buddha is saying that in order to live a Christ-like existence, such as pure, giving love, I have to go to the mountain, because in my world, if wash people's feet and stuff, I'm a peasant. Some guy's gonna . . . I'm gonna make that guy be a bad guy, because he's gonna take advantage of me and make me his servant. Because that's the way they have it there. They're servants. So in order to break all those rules, you have to go up into the mountains, and you have to hide away to become enlightened so that you don't influence anyone to be a bad person. So it's half your fault if someone (bleep)s up around you.
"So, Christianity is a great philosophy, but you go out and, say you're walking down a cobblestone street, and your feet hurt and you're barefooted. Well, Christ would say I don't think Christ would say this, but -- well, the philosophy would be that you take all the cows, kill them, take their hides, and cover the whole road with them so that we can all walk, so it won't hurt our feet. And Buddha would say, No, you take a piece of the cow, and you'd wrap your individual feet.' You know what I'm saying? That's kind of like, You take care of yourself, and if you're perfect, the whole world's perfect.' Christ is saying, No, the whole world has to be perfect first.' And it works either way. If everyone was like you, then they'd be perfect, and the whole world would be perfect. But Christianity is more like, Help your brother,' and I like that. That's why I say I'm more of a Christian, but I can see the philosophy of an Eastern person. You had to be an individual, you had no choice. Genghis Khan, man, if you come around saying you want to wash his feet, he'd say, Yeah, well, I'm cuttin' your (bleep) head off. But you walk your (bleep) down to the ghetto, man, to a crack house, all those crack dealers with guns and some (bleep). You go down there as some white dude, man, it ain't gonna work. You need Martin Luther King to go down there, as best. That's the way I look at it."
That's a good point. I still don't buy into the fact that they're telling the same story, because Jesus talks about a Heaven and a Father, and Buddha talks about nothingness.
"Yeah, I don't like that part of Buddhism. I must admit. I don't believe in that. Buddha is all for life, in a way, and I believe life is a wonderful, wonderful thing. But those guys are so much heavier and deeper than us, that you can't quite comprehend what they're talking about. That one baffles me, because I'm not anti-life. I'm pro- life. Life is so cool. I'm the opposite of that."
Hey, do you have a cousin named Ken Tamplin, who's into Christian rock music?
"Yeah, but I've only met him once. But you know, he sends me his records and all that stuff. Yeah, he's totally into Christian stuff, which is cool. There's nothing wrong with it. I just think it's been so abused. I would almost be embarrassed to say I would have belonged to one of those organizations. The Bakkers, I think, and the Swaggarts are the worst in my mind. But those are only the big guys that they've exploited. You don't how much of that (bleep) is going on everywhere. I've seen it too much. But, like I said, you can't blame Jesus for that."
Right, I think it's interesting that no matter where you go, you tell those stories about Swaggart, and everybody gets mad, because I think everybody has a sense of justice. You know, it's just not right to be a hypocrite.
"It's not right to use God's or Jesus' Name, power or anything, for your personal gain, or pervert much less, in a perverted sense in an evil sense. To me, that's more like the devil than anything. That's the devil rearing his ugly head right there in those people, because that is evil. That's much worse than a crack dealer, in a way. In my heart, I want to always be good. I want to be godly. I want to project that, but it keeps me never trusting anybody.
"What the (bleep) are you trying to do to me? Make me think!? (laughs) This was kind of a refreshing interview, instead of just talking trash, you know."
Well good. Maybe we can sit down and talk next time you're in Austin.
"My wife's from Austin."
Really! I've been here for 18 years now, and it's a great place.
"That's great. Austin's totally cool. It's one of my favorite towns in Texas. We tried to start the tour there, so we could do a week of pre-production, but instead, we're in Padre Island."
Well, if there's anything I can ever do for you . . .
"Doug, you just did it! Just tell the truth, man. That's all you can do for me.
Well, that's what I'm here for.
Great, well, I'll see you in Texas!
Okay, take care . . . thanks a lot.
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