- Interviews
Sammy Hagar

WMMS Cleveland - Interview by Matt.

Van Halen, in particular, the Hagar era, has always been a religion for me. All of my very best friendships in this world, were started around musical discussion that led us to discover that “5150” was definitely our favorite album ever recorded, and when it came to live videos, there was definitely nothing that could touch our well worn copies of “Live Without A Net”. Any TRUE Van Halen fan knows that the Hagar and Roth eras are two very separate periods of time, and one, does not mix with the other……or does it? In what could be a possible sign of the apocalypse, Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth have united for a tour this summer, and the tour opens right here in Cleveland, on Wednesday, May 29th. I had an opportunity to catch up with Sammy and discuss many things on a Friday afternoon, and here is just a bit of what the Red Rocker had to say!

MBL – You guys have said some pretty colorful stuff about each other in the past. How is it in 2002 that you guys are touring together?
First of all, Dave said a lot of colorful things about me, and he said a lot of crazy, wild, goofy things about me because his feelings were hurt because I joined the band that he thought he was going to die with, and we took it right straight down the road. I understand why he was a little upset about that. If you look at some of the things that he's said about me, it's just pure angry stuff like, “he's a no talent troll. He's my bitch.” And I'm going, “Oh, boy.”
MBL – That was my favorite – “He's my bitch, and when he says my name, we just sell that many more records.”
SH –
Yeah. For him to even say that…Take a look at me and take a look at him together. It kind of looks like he's really my bitch, but I'm not claiming that. The only thing that I ever said about Dave was the truth. We did have a rivalry. As many times as he's went back into Van Halen and tried to make it work…they've thrown me out and try to get him back in, then throw him out and get Gary Cherone in, throw him out and get Dave back, throw him out, get him back again. I'm going, “hold on here.” I called their attorney and said, “why can't we just do the Sammy Hagar 'Sam and Dave Tour'? Tell Ed and Al, “Don't worry. We'll all travel separately and meet on stage, and we just do the show.” They threw that out, you know, don't even want to talk about it. I think that we had both just had enough, and he just called up and said, “let's just do it together – The Sam and Dave tour.” I said, “Right the Hell on!” It came together. When we met in a room for the first time to discuss the whole thing, Dave stood up and shook hands and said, “I don't care what's gone on in the past and what's been said in the past, we're just meeting for the first time. Let's just start from there.” I said, “right on.” That's the way we approached it. So far, so good. But now, what hasn't happened yet has been us going out on stage – not together. He's got his band, I've got mine. But in Cleveland, the very first show, on the coin toss Dave closes that show, and we go every other one. I close the next show, then Dave closes Chicago and I close whatever is next. The problem is that we haven't addressed yet is, “what's Dave gonna do when I've finished my hour and a half on stage?” That's gonna be the problem. That's all I'm going to say. Everyone's going, “what do you see as a problem.” I'm saying that the problem is that Dave has to walk out and follow me, and that's all I've got to say. We'll find out what the man's made of.
MBL – So, the coin toss has already been made and he's going to close in Cleveland?
SH –
Yep, so get there early, folks!! Even if I was closing in Cleveland, it wouldn't matter. This is really about the whole show. We have this big 30'x40' video screen that we're going to put together. Dave's putting 10 minutes of his career together. I'm putting 10 minutes of my career together…you know, little footage of things like Ronnie Montrose wrestling with me backstage and stuff.
MBL – Does any of that footage include any letters like, “Four #1 albums with Van Halen?”
SH –
(laughing) I'm not going to brag, but we're going to put all the little pieces of video clips together. I don't know what it's all going to be, but we each have 10 minutes, and then we're going to hire a guy – a filmmaker – to put all that footage together into a 20 minute video that's going to be shown before the show starts. Anyone that misses that probably just shouldn't even come. It's going to set the whole thing up so well, and then boom! It's going to be an hour and a half each. We both get full production. It's not like the opening guy that night gets short changed. The opening guy that night gets the full stage. The other band's gear is completely off the stage. When I finish, they wipe the stage and put Dave's stuff up. We've spent a lot of money on technology, getting things that roll out. We built this whole high tech stage so that we can switch over in 20 minutes and people don't have to wait while we set up for the whole next production. It's all good. I've got my waitresses and my 50 people with me on stage from the Cabo Wabo, and I've got my bartenders and my 20 cases of Cabo Wabo Tequila. I'm just throwing the big Cabo Wabo tequila party every night. It's going to be a last.
MBL – So, the Cabo Wabo remains intact then.
SH –
Yeah. I had to redesign it, because it had to move quicker, but it's more high tech now. We've got bleachers that fold up, and they are all scrimmed and painted up really fancy. We get 25 people on each side around the screen, so 50 people. The bleachers are connected to the big screen. It's just a big party.
MBL – Is anyone going to document this for DVD purposes?
SH –
I hope so. We're having troubles with that. Dave has his rules. For some reason, Dave's a control freak.
MBL – Well, so would you be to a point, don't you think?
SH –
MBL – No?
SH –
I say, “Anything goes.” I'm saying, “Dave, you can control your set. When you are up there for an hour and a half, you're in control. I have no say so. I don't even want to know what you did. I could care less! You can bring 50 naked women up there and you can do anything you want. That's what you're here for – to entertain these people. They've got to walk away happy.” But when I'm on stage, you've got no say so. But he said, “I want to make sure that you don't do this and you don't do that.” And I'm like, “Dave, forget about it.” This is like a competition. This is like Ultimate Fighting Championship. You go in there and you can bite, scratch, pinch, pull hair, anything. Hit below the belt – legal.
MBL – Was there anything that went into Cleveland being the official launching pad for the tour, or is that just how it happened?
SH –
It had a lot to do with the logistics of starting in a place that had the individual places that were available. This tour came up kind of late, and a lot of the places where pretty stacked…a lot of the venues. So, it worked out that if it started in Cleveland, which we were all good for…you know, it's not like it's not the rock and roll capital of the world or anything. But it really worked out routing wise, because then we go to Detroit, and then to Indianapolis and then St. Louis. So, it really routed nicely starting the tour out there. If we started on one of the coasts, it wouldn't have worked out. Of course, I would rather it would have started in my hometown so I can stay in my house a week longer, but it didn't work out that way. It's just going to be a blast. I'm not doing all Van Halen. Everyone knows that. I'm going to do my handful of the Van Halen hits; the Van Hagar hits or whatever, and Dave's doing exclusive Van Halen. It's all good. You are going to get a big dose of Van Halen, and you are going to get a big dose of some fun rock and roll, you know, “55”, “One Way To Rock”, “Heavy Metal”, “Three Lock Box,” “Mas Tequila” – what am I going to do? I can't not do those songs for the RedHeads out there.
MBL – I think that whether you have 2 ½ hours or an hour like you did for us about a year ago at that nice little club show you did, you have the power to deliver.
SH – I
like to have fun, but I don't need to apologize for liking to have fun, do I? Matt, come on! I told Dave that it ain't about who can scream the loudest, jump the highest or play guitar the fastest. It's about who can throw the best party, and if you can out party me, pal, then God bless ya. I'll be in your dressing room the next night.
MBL – Initially we heard that there was going to be the sets by you guys, followed by an end of the night jam with all of you. Now as the tour comes to fruition, it seems that the jam has gone away. What happened?
SH –
I wanted it to be that way. I had seen Elton and Billy on tour, even though this is not much like Elton and Billy (laughing), although it might be more like a WWF version. I thought it was a great show the way they co-mingled and the way they started together acoustically singing each other's songs. The first thing I presented, I was like, “Dave, we can really do something great for the fans doing something like that,” and he said, “Absolutely not. I've never jammed with anybody. I've never sang anybody else's songs and I'm not going to start now.” And I was like, “Fine.” I've got no problem with any of it. Like I said, anything goes with me. I just felt that when I'm out on stage that I don't want to hear from anybody else about nothing until I'm done. When I'm done, then I'm done. Dave doesn't want to do it. At the press conference, he had a little bit of a change of heart, a little bit. He said, “well, once we get out there and get to know each other and see what each other's doing, you never know. Anything could happen.” So I'm saying, “OK.” I'm a jammer. Any town I'm in, if there's another musician on the side of the stage, I'm inviting him out. That's just the way I am. That's why I build the Cabo Wabo, to jam with my friends and stuff. I'm really open to that, and hopefully it turns into that, but I wouldn't guarantee that. Really, it's just two bands and two solo artists going out there and trying to make the other guy wish he wasn't there.
MBL – It sounds like it's a good anything goes thing going into this tour.
SH –
It's a good fan thing. If I was a fan sitting in the audience, I would be like, “all right. I get to see these guys go at it. It isn't about even trying to cheer for your favorite guy. This is about entertainment. It's about hearing all these great songs and jumping up and down and cracking up and having a hoot. It's going to be a good, good, good, good time rock and roll.
MBL – For me, I grew up with the Hagar era of Van Halen, and I never got a chance to see Roth live, so this is a chance for me to see that on a curiosity level. I guess you really do get to see the best of both worlds as a Van Halen fan.
SH –
Absolutely, and you nailed that right on the head. There was so many of the Van Hagar fans that thought it and a bunch of the Roth era that never came on board with the Van Hagar era and always said, “Roth was the best, and it ain't the same anymore,” and then the Van Hagar fans and the Sammy Hagar fans that joined the Van Halen crowd that said, “Oh, this is so much better than it ever was.” It is a chance, kind of, to maybe see kind of a touch on that. But it's not a pure Van Halen thing. This is just, in my opinion, two legendary rockers going out and doing their thing, and it's very interesting to see the seasoning on each of us that really brings together the two of us. Together I think you are going to get the best of both of us. For me, when I finish, I want this guy to go, “Oh my God. I don't ever want to follow that guy again,” and I know that he feels the same way. I'm going to give Dave all the credit in the world. If I have to be following that knucklehead, I'm going to be going, “I'm going to kill that guy.” It's good, man. It's good. I'm excited. I'm so up for it. My band, they are like mountain biking to rehearsal. They are coming in and they are pumping iron to get ready. We are up for this mother, man.
MBL – I've got to think that with one wrong look, Mona's gonna take Dave out!
SH –
Well, that's gonna happen. That could be the whole highlight of the tour, baby. Someone will go, “What was the highlight,” and I'll go, “Well, one day Dave was walking down the hall making some sly remarks, and Mona walked out and decked him (laughing). I'm telling you, she'll deck him. We talk about it all the time. Mona keeps saying, “Oh God, I hope I can keep from punching this guy in the face.” And I'm going, “Mona, just wait until the last show, OK? (laughing) I want this tour to happen.
MBL – To talk about something else, you have this really cool other project in the works called Planet Us. What is going on with that?
SH –
Well, Michael Anthony is at my house right now. He stayed last night and he's staying for the next three days. With my band, we are rehearsing during the day, and with Planet Us, we are trying to write some new songs at night and trying to get as many songs in the can as we can, so that when we start recording in the fall, we'll have a lot of material there. We really postponed the project until the fall because I'm on tour and Journey is also on tour this summer. Poor Mikey is sitting around scratching his head going, “Why aren't I out there playing?” We're writing, and it's really an exciting project. I don't want to hype it too much it's so brand new, but the energy between us is so unique. Everyone knows that Slash was originally asked to do it, and he was in, but as soon as we started rehearsing, he never made it. Finally, we recorded two songs without him, and it was so good that we were like, we don't really need anybody else because it was so good with Neil. Neil's a very busy guitar player, and Deen Castronovo is an unbelievably busy drummer and Mike is a very busy bass player, so it was kind of like really rockin'. It's like kind of early Zep meets Cream meets Van Halen maybe, and meets Tool maybe. It's a little more modern like Tool. It's very intense, and kind of Rush-y. It's not like any of that, really, but it's on that ilk of bands. It's very musical. I'm very excited about it. If it wasn't for the Sam and Dave Tour this summer, I was going to work exclusively with Planet Us, because it's that exciting. I'm not leaving my band. This is a project, and it's really, really good.
MBL – Going back to Michael Anthony, it was really obvious that you and him had the most camaraderie together. It was always Sammy and Michael during the Van Halen years. Then, after you left, there was no more Sammy and Michael hanging out at the Cabo Wabo.
SH –
I know, but that's all changed now. He's not only joining me for my birthday bash from October 1st to the 13th this year, but Planet Us is joining me to do,and we're going to do a Los Tres Gusanos reunion, which is myself, my drummer and Mikey. That was the original band down at Cabo, Los Tres Gusanos – Three Worms. Then Planet Us is going to play a night. My band is going to play a night, and then the guys from Metallica…I don't know if the whole band, but for sure Lars and Kirk are going to be there, and we'll put together a jam band. Some of the guys from Nickelback are going to come, because they had to reschedule from last year when the hurricane hit and we had to blow out the Mexican Meltdown. So, it's going to be the craziest week of rock and roll ever. And it's just…Mikey and I are back. We both said, “we don't care about 'the brothers'. They can't tell us who we can have as friends.” I don't care anyway, but I've always been protective of Mikey anyway because he's in the band, and I don't ever want to destroy that for him. If he ever got thrown out of that band, it would be terrible because I can't add him to my band unless Mona quits, and I can't fire her because she's the greatest. She's been loyal and all that stuff. I'm kind of in a predicament, but I'm definitely on his side. Right now I'm calling Mikey “Switzerland” – he's neutral. He can do anything he wants.
MBL – Well, I'm going to let you run, and let you go on to other things…
SH –
I've got to go to rehearsal. I've got to go to my favorite thing in the world, man. I've got to go play music.
MBL – We will see you here in Cleveland on the 29th, and I can't wait, man.
SH –
I want to thank everybody for waiting in line and camping out and stuff for those tickets. We're already at about 7,000 in Cleveland. Half of the place is sold. I just want to say that that is really fantastic for me. It makes me feel really good that the fans really care about me and this tour. We won't let you down, so come on. Buy the rest of those tickets.

Sammy Hagar's CABO WABO BIRTHDAY BASH CLUB TOUR DVD is available now on Image. Catch Sammy Hagar live at Blossom Music Center on Wednesday, May 29th. For more information on Sammy Hagar, check him out online at