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Interview:
Sammy Hagar
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Sammy Hagar says the first day of his 61st year was “non-existent.” That’s understandable after a wild nineday 60th birthday bash last month at his Cabo Wabo Cantina in Mexico where he kicked it up with Toby Keith, Ted Nugent, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, ex-Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and more than 10,000 revelers. “Let’s put it this way — I didn’t even walk on the beach the next day,” Hagar says with a laugh. “When my feet don’t go in the sand every day when I’m in Cabo (San Lucas), you know I’m a laid-up man ...” The other 364 days in a year are nothing like that, however. At 60, Hagar works and rocks harder than some musicians one-third his age. Besides continuing to maintain his Cabo Wabo franchise, a new Internet radio station (www. cabowaboradio.com) and a tequila brand — though he recently sold an 80 percent stake in it to Gruppo Campari for a reported $80 million — he’s currently juggling a variety of musical projects. Hagar is playing in two or three different band permutations at each show on his current tour. He’s in the midst of recording a new album, and he has plans for a comprehensive “anthology” tour for summer 2008. “I’m so driven,” Hagar says. “There’s so much I want to do, and there’s nothing I feel is holding me back — nothing with my age or my physical health or my strength or my enthusiasm, my talent. I’m having more fun than I’ve ever had, I gotta tell ya.” For that Hagar also has a partner in crime in Anthony. The two were friendly during Hagar’s tenure in Van Halen from 1985-96, and they’ve become even closer since — particularly when Eddie and Alex Van Halen unsuccessfully tried to bump the bassist from the band in 2004, for a reunion tour with Hagar, and then followed through after that jaunt, which Hagar calls “miserable,” ended. Hagar and Anthony were the only two Van Halen principles to attend the group’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in March, an appearance that somewhat cemented the perception of them as a team — or as The Other Half, which they’ve dubbed their set of Van Halen songs during Hagar’s shows. “It’s not so much a team as a couple of good buddies,” says Anthony, 53, who opens the shows playing more Van Halen material with Mad Anthony Express, then occasionally joins Hagar for a rock covers trio called Los Tres Gusanos.

“When Sam and I reconnected after he’d been out of the band for awhile, we actually became better friends than we were when he was in the band ’cause we reconnected more on just a friendship level. We just have a lot of fun playing music together.”

Hagar notes that “For us, it’s a pleasure. We like to play. I don’t need him out here; he just has nothing to do. So I’m like ... ‘Then just come out here and play with me. It’s actually that casual and that friendly.”

Hagar has ruled out one future collaboration with Anthony, however — a “supergroup” called Chickenfoot that would also include Chad Smith. “I just can’t do it,” Hagar explain. “There’s no room in my life for another band.”

He’s not kidding.

Hagar’s regular musical commitments keep him plenty busy. He and his own band, the Wabos, are about “halfway through” with his next album, the follow-up to last year’s “Livin’ It Up,” with plans to finish recording in December and January for an expected second quarter of 2008 release.

“It’s quirky music,” Hagar says. “It’s a little bit more worldbeat and kinda harder rock, more like going back to (1981’s) ‘Standing Hampton’ or (1984’s) ‘VOA’ or something. “Those records were very ’80s, with a little bit of influence of Peter Gabriel and people like that. Now I think it’s more Peter Gabriel-influenced with a hard rock edge on it.”

Hagar will support the album with a summer festival tour — the “anthology” project for which he plans to reunite “every band I’ve ever been involved with,” including the original Montrose lineup, the first Sammy Hagar Band and a “superstar guitarist” to join him and Anthony for a Van Halen set. “I have some people in mind,” Hagar says, “but I haven’t made the call yet.” There will also be “a big, all-star jam at the end” of the show, he promises.

It’s an impressive workload for someone eligible for AARP benefits — a fact that brings Hagar a great degree of satisfaction.

“When I left Van Halen,” he notes, “I had fame and fortune enough for 10 lifetimes. I thought, ‘Why do I need to keep going out and doing this?’ It really came down to my love for what I do — for the music, to entertain.

“I’m not out there to try to grow and get bigger or have a No. 1 record anymore. I just want to go out there and keep my people happy and have this kind of fun, and as long as people want to see it, I’m happy to do it. As a matter of fact, I’d be unhappy if I couldn’t do it.

“It’s a beautiful thing, man. At 60 years old, dreams do come true.”



Sammy Hagar & the Wabos, featuring the Other Half, Los Tres Gusanos and Mad Anthony Express, perform at 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 2) at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Some $36.50 tickets remain for the show. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.

Web Site: www.olympiaentertainment.com

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