Sammy Hagar on Acoustic Music, Booze, Charity, Van Halen, and Alien Abductions
Courtesy Photo Sammy Hagar is scheduled to perform on Saturday, April 5, during Phoenix Bikefest at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino.
The Red Rocker is alive and well. Better yet, he's thriving within his own realm, which could appropriately be dubbed Sammyland. The thing about Sammyland is that it's not a standalone entity. Instead, it's sort of like a community outreach program filled with charitable efforts, loyal followers, and musical roots spiraling deep into the annals of rock and roll and heavy metal history dating back to when Tricky Dick still held the presidential office. And that's exactly the way Sammy Hagar likes to have it.
When the solo recording juggernaut and former Van Halen front-man is not up to his eyeballs in his own brand of Sammy's Beach Bar Rum or jamming out with his party band, The Waboritas, Hagar keeps himself occupied by many different endeavors -- some of which stretch outside the realm of music.
Most notable perhaps is the Hagar Family Foundation, which supports food banks by donating all the profits from Sammy's Beach Bar & Grill restaurant line back into the community. Additionally, Hagar writes a check to a local food bank in every city that he performs, which means that one such charitable organization will be getting a donation from the Red Rocker after he performs at Phoenix Bikefest on Saturday, April 5, at Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino.
"I chose food banks because [they] are not just for homeless people," explains Hagar. "A lot of times families, that are working people, don't have enough money for something. So, the food banks subsidize that, and that is the most important part of it."
Last fall, Hagar released a collaboration album titled Sammy Hagar & Friends, in which he invited a who's who of his musical compadres from Neal Schon and Michael Anthony to Toby Keith and Kid Rock to perform on the record.
"It was a blast," recalls Hagar, "I almost can't imagine doing a record any other way now."
Without question, Hagar has carved out his place in music at the age of 66. This is funny for a man who admits that before the successful solo career, and spearheading Van Halen, Chickenfoot, HSAS and his namesake rum, he would have been content with retiring after the success of his first band, Montrose. The cherry on top came in 2011 with the release of his autobiography, Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock, where Hagar says, "Having a #1 New York Times Bestseller was, I gotta say, just as exciting as having my first number one album."
Hagar is currently in his studio working on his latest brainchild to construct a one-man show with just his acoustic guitar. By restructuring his older rock songs and experimenting with modern country, Hagar says all his focus is currently on this project. But looking back on decades of albums, how would the hard rock and heavy metal professor describe his music today-- "I would have to call it classic rock; I'm sorry," says Hagar with an admitting laugh. "It's not a nasty word for God's sake!"
Sammy Hagar will be performing this Saturday at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino as part of the 2014 Phoenix Bikefest (more information on the Phoenix Bikefest here). Before he takes the stage, Up on the Sun had a lengthy conversation with Hagar on everything a Red Rocker fan wants to know. He discusses his current musical affairs, philanthropist work, and his relationship with Eddie Van Halen today, as well as a few things that perhaps fans didn't know; like his trick to career longevity and the time he found himself right in the middle of an alien abduction.
You recently released Sammy Hagar & Friends. What was the idea to release a collective album?
Well, I've made so many records in my life so I always try to do something different. After the Wabos having such a party with Red Voodoo and Not 4 Sale, and all these party records, I was going, "Man, I'm running out of ideas, and I'll have to start repeating myself."
So, I asked a couple friends to come in and co-write with me and a few to come in and jam with me. It ended up being so much fun and so prolific, that I started calling up everybody and saying, "Hey, what are you doing next week?" [Laughs]
The album was not a preconceived idea-- it just ended up being a collaboration. I've been doing that in Cabo for 23 years now since the Cabo Wabo [Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico] opened for my birthday and people come down and play with me. So, it was pretty easy to incorporate that into making a record of new music. It was a blast-- I almost can't imagine doing a record any other way now.