SAMMY HAGAR SAYS THAT EDDIE VAN HALEN’S GUITAR PLAYING IS “NOT AS FLUENT AND VERSATILE” AS JOE SATRIANI’S

sammy hagarfriendscdcover Peter Hodgson of Gibson spoke with vocalist Sammy Hagar about his new solo album, Sammy Hagar & Friends and the playing styles of Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani. Portions of the interview appear below.

Gibson: You always hear “Sammy had so-and-so over to jam at his club in Cabo,” but most of us never get to see that. This album is like that experience being distilled into an album you can throw on in your house.
Sammy Hagar

Hagar: What I wanted this record to be was my life: my lifestyle now. Because in the past when I’ve went into the studio I’ve gone in with 15 or 20 songs and I’d record them all and pick the best ones. It was kinda like a business. And this record I wanted to be exactly who and what I am today. So the first thing I thought was, I want to write just lifestyle songs. So, I wrote Father Sun first, and then All We Need Is An Island. And then I thought, well, maybe I should call up some of my friends to play on this stuff. And little by little it dawned on me that I was making the record that I really wanted to make but I didn’t have a method of doing it. There was no manual to making a record that’s who you are. But then I realized what you just said: what I’ve been doing for the last ten years is going to Cabo San Lucas with different people all the time. I meet Toby down there, I meet the guys from the Grateful Dead down there, I meet Slash, Jerry Cantrell, guys from Metallica. They say “Hey, I’m going to Cabo, are you around?” And I’ll say “[Expletive], I’ll meet you down there.” I have a house, I just go down there and we play this kind of music. This is what we do. Chad Smith and I, we go down there and we play Going Down. We jam a lot of blues stuff, and this record is exactly who and what I am. It’s what I do.

Gibson: Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus is an interesting choice because even though it wasn’t originally recorded in a heavy blues style, you can unlock that from it.

Hagar: I’ve gotta tell you, as I studied that lick I went “That is a blues fricken’ lick.” For an electronic band, some bizarre alternative electronic band, that’s a badass blues lick. And I played it on guitar and said, “This is it.” And Neal Schon, the intro on that thing, the licks Neal’s playing, it’s in high gear. I can’t wait till the Depeche Mode guys hear it. I think when they hear it they’re going to say, “Sammy Hagar, that [expletive] rock and roll freak?” Haha. They’ve gotta like it. It’s a blues song and it’s a great lyric, a great deep, dark lyric. I can’t write lyrics like that. It’s too dark for me.

Gibson: I dunno, you got pretty dark on Van Halen’s Balance. When that album came out I was like “Is Sammy okay?”

Hagar: Yeah, you’re right, you’re right. That’s because it was a dark period! I knew that was the end of that rainbow, man!

Gibson: I’ve always wanted to ask you how you rank yourself as a guitarist. It takes balls to stand up there with Eddie Van Halen or Joe Satriani. I’ve been lucky to jam with Satriani and Vai, and to a certain point it’s intimidating but also at a certain point you’ve just got to tell yourself “Screw it, this is what I do.”

Hagar: I’m a little bit intimidated if we go too long, but in Chickenfoot and Van Halen I just put the guitar on and got a big cheer always, and then I’d burn for a little bit and then take it back off before I ran out of chops, y’know? I rate myself as a guy that can play, and I can express myself extremely well but only in one language. I can only play blues-based guitar. And when a guy like Joe steps up there, he can play. Once he finishes with my repertoire he can go into French, Spanish and Russian on the guitar! He’s just so versatile and fluent. Eddie’s not as fluent and versatile. Eddie’s got a style for himself and he’s very much in that pocket but Joe can play anything. He freaks me out. When Joe and I start to write together he’ll show me some chords and I’ll start singing, then I’ll pick up a guitar just mainly to figure a lick out: “What chord is that? What are you playing?” so I can know what notes I have to choose from to sing. Then he’ll go “That was a cool lick, what did you play?” and I’ll go “[Expletive], I don’t know!” I don’t get it. I just play.

Gibson: There were so many great guitar players to come out of the 80s where you knew they’d kind of fade away, but even early on it was apparent that we’d still be hearing about Joe Satriani in 40, 50 years.

Hagar: Oh Joe’s here to stay. I think he’s going to have a kind of Jeff Beck career. He’s going to have these little windows where he gets a little bump, a little more publicity, a little more recognition, and then he kinda just cruises along, then all of a sudden somebody’s gonna say “Wow, Joe Satriani’s the best guitar player in the world” and everybody gets hip again. He ain’t going nowhere. The thing that amazes me the most about Joe’s guitar playing over any other musician is he knows exactly what he’s playing and he can play it twice, three times exactly the same. He works his parts out but he does it really quick. It’s not like it takes him forever to come up with a part. He comes up with it, BAM, instantly, and he knows every note he’s playing and I don’t know how he does it. He’s too smart for his own good. But you’re a lucky man if you stood up and played next to Joe Satriani. What I do is, I learn. He immediately makes me better because it makes me aware of what I’m playing, because if I see him solo I think, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” So I start to think a little more, like “Oh I know why that note works.” So he just enlightens. He’s enlightening to play with. I don’t know if that works for you but that’s how it works for me.

Read the rest of the interview at Gibson.

Sammy Hagar & Friends is out now on Frontiers Records.

Comments

  1. For Christ sakes Sammy let it go already. All you do is bitch about Van Halen and desperately want back in to Van Halen. Satch and Eddie are both great guitarists. They are different from each other and that is what fans like. If they sounded the same or played exactly the same what would be the point? Could it be that you see your career slowly sinking without VH . Hardly a interview is done without some comment about VH. You have great musicians to play with. get on with your own stuff and let go of the past it’s done.

    • It’s the Interviewer bringing up Van Halen.

      • Exactly….
        This site pulled that particular interview to post here for a reason too ..

        I’m a huge VH ( roth era mostly ) fan but I dont get offended like some people at Sammy. Sammy just speaks the truth about the love of his life ; Rock & Roll . And if that involves slaming people like Eddie that have some obvious mental issues so be it.
        I’m sure Joe is a more rounded player then Eddie. Sammy would know he’s been in the business for 45 years and played with both . And sure, maybe Sammy is taking little digs at Eddie once in awhile . I’m sure he’s still baffled ( as we all are) by how inmature Eddie has been over the years….

    • Jimmy Apple (@jimmyapple5) says:

      He answered a question. Context. It’s important. And his answer was very succinct, to the point, and hardly defamatory.

  2. Who buys a new car and says the old one is better?

  3. Are everyones comments being moderated or is it just guys known to be filthy at times?

    • Yes, thanks to a few a rotten apples, everyone’s comments will now be moderated for content. Sorry.

      Dana from EddieTrunk.com

  4. Satriani sounds like more like Eddie than anyone else. His “Satch Boogie” featured licks by Jeff Beck and Billy Gibbons. Joe plays like a combination of other guitarists, as you would expect a guitar teacher to play, and despite his claim as being a huge Hendrix fan, to my ears he owes most of his style to Eddie. Joe sounds like a great guy in interviews, but he’s not the innovator EVH was. Sorry.

    • Totally agree John G, like usual.

    • MetalMania says:

      I’m not looking to argue, just adding my opinion, but personally I don’t think Satch is an Eddie clone. I know you didn’t exactly say that, but I don’t think they sound that much alike. Maybe as a guitar player myself (and not flying anywhere close to the height of those guys) and listening to both of them a lot, and learning some of their work, maybe I’ve just grown more sensitive to the differences. I think Joe’s Hendrix influence is more apparent on his later material than the earlier albums. I’m not of the opinion that Eddie invented two handed tapping (because he didn’t – although he did propel the technique to prominence in rock playing) or that everyone else who uses it is ripping him off. It’s another tool in the box available to everyone, and if you’re creative enough can find a way to lend your own style to it. Even using the same techniques there are nuances that sound different from each other. I’m not saying they don’t have similarities, I just don’t think there would be no Joe without Eddie. I will agree that EVH’s popularity kicked the door open for a generation of “super guitarists”, that no doubt benefited guys like Satch, Vai, Lynch,etc. I’m by no means belittling EVH’s greatness or his importance to the evolution of rock guitar as we know it. I’m just not so sure it wouldn’t have happened anyway had someone else broken through to the masses first.

      • MM, I agree with you. Satch is by no means an Eddie clone. I give him a lot more credit than that. But his sound and approach to the guitar are very “Van-Halenesque”. The licks he plays, the way he uses the bar and the weird noises and general approach. He sound is very EVH. He certainly has taken EVH’s style further.

    • Buck Futt says:

      I totally thought the guy playing “Satch Boogie” was EVH the first time I heard it on the radio.

      That said, Sammy’s right: Satriani does have a lot more range than Eddie. Now me, personally, I’d rather listen to Eddie play any day, but the point remains.

  5. Does this guy ever shut his damn mouth?

  6. Lance Ito IV says:

    Eddie’s worst mistakes were in ’85. Letting Roth walk(or firing him) and hiring this hack. Cocaine is a mutha. Eddie should have conferred with Ronnie Montrose before hiring this bantam bum.

  7. Rich Cudd says:

    In case you didn’t notice, Sammy was ASKED about VH, he didn’t bring it up. The guy just answered the question and gave his opinion, and not an interview goes by when he’s NOT asked about his time in VH. I also happen to think he’s right. There’s this group of Van Halen fans out there that sure are sensitive and I don’t really get it. Sammy helps them sell millions of records and makes a significant contribution to writing some great material, then gets pushed out of the band by the egomaniacal Van Halen brothers, and somehow he’s to blame? And in case you think I’m wrong about that, I think that all you have to do is look at the situation with Michael Anthony to know that Sammy’s version of how he was kicked out of the band holds a lot more water than anything Eddie had to say about it. As for his career ‘slowly sinking’ – please, compare the sales of Chickenfoot III to ADKOT and get back with me. What I really love is that I can go to vanhalenstore.com and buy Chickenfoot merch. I know that the band probably has nothing to do with that (I think, anyway) but you have to admit that it’s kind of funny.

    • Of course he got asked about Eddie, cause everyone knows he’ll talk about Eddie. Do you really think anyone wants to interview Sammy about anything other than Eddie lately? Everyone knows he’s ear candy for that kind of stuff. And once he got asked, he just went on and on and on. He talks more about VH than Michael Anthony does, and he is the guy who should be pissed about whats going on. But he’s been a class act all the way like usual. Sammy could learn from that. If I was one of the other guys in ChickenBut, I would get ticked about how Sammy talks more about VH than their own band. Sammy has had an incredible career in and out of VH and his new band isn’t a bad listen. But everyone knows he’s good for a EVH dig every time someone puts a mic in front of his face.

      • Rich Cudd says:

        You’re right. EVH is a real standup guy and is the victim in that whole situation. Give me a freaking break. How many years of his life has he pissed away because of his ego and inability to manage his own substance abuse issues? As much as anything his life is a cautionary tale. Maybe he’ll show up at NAMM again drunk off his ass and butchering his own guitar licks in front of his adoring fans – he’s a real professional. And you’re right about one thing – Michael Anthony is a class act and a standup guy, which is why he’s done with VH and jamming with Sammy. Get a clue.

        • Wow Rich, sensitive issue for you I see. People trashing EVH for being a rock star is like trashing Lemmy for smoking too much. EVH doesn’t owe anybody anything. Neither does Sammy, which is why he should get on with his life. If you can’t smell the bitterness in Sammy’s words, your just ignoring what you choose to ignore. Its not about getting a clue, its about history. You really think Michael Anthony wouldn’t jump ship and rejoin VH if his phone rang? I think you might need to get a clue my friend.

          • Rich Cudd says:

            I’ve seen a lot of interviews with Sammy over the last several years. At this point, no, I don’t think he is bitter at all. Was he pissed when that whole nonsense went down – I’m sure he was. But if you know much about Sammy you would know that he’s a guy that believes in moving on and doing what he loves to do and has been hugely successful at, whether it’s recording, touring, or managing his different business ventures. I honestly don’t think he holds grudges or believes in engaging in all of that negative energy. Why else do you think he suggested touring with DLR? He thought it would be fun and a unique opportunity for fans to hear music from both VH eras in addition to all of their collective solo music. But as usual, DLR’s ego got in the way, just like it did when Roth left VH in the first place. Today, if anything, I think that Sammy remains a little perplexed about the manner in which the Van Halen brothers handled everything. Would he get back together with Eddie to do something in the future? Probably, or at least that’s what he’s said. If he did, it would be for the love of the music that he created with VH and to have the opportunity to play it for the fans again. And I bet he would want Michael Anthony in on that as well, or knowing Sammy he might turn it down. He knows Eddie screwed Michael, and honestly if it were me I’d tell Eddie to go to hell. But like I said, I don’t think Sammy holds grudges, because if he did there’s no way he’d even answer a phone call from Eddie.

    • Lance Ito IV says:

      Wow, a Sammy fan. Ugh. I thought you people had died off. BUTT ROCK RETARDS.

  8. I think Joe is a great player and I love his music and playing, but Eddie VH was an undisputed game changer (like Hendrix and Yngwie). As stated above, they’re different players, and there’s no need to point out that one is “better” than the other. I also agree that deep down, Sammy wants another VH world tour with himself at the Mic, but it is unlikely that Eddie will budge, because he doesn’t have to and there’s been too much water under the bridge. We’re dealing with some serious ego’s here people.

    • MetalMania says:

      It’s too bad the whole thing with Sammy and Michael Anthony and Chickenfoot often brings up these comparisons to Van Halen (I know, I guess it’s hard not to) and Joe vs Eddie stuff. I don’t know if Joe and EVH have ever met, or what would happen if they did. I would hope they have mutual respect and admiration for each other as two of the greatest guitarists of an era in rock history. Could you imagine one of Joe’s G3 tours with himself, Vai, and EVH together? It’ll never happen of course.

      • I agree MM. In the end, Chickenfoot has put out some good material – much better than a lot of the other newer ‘super groups’ that have shown up lately. Sammy is one of the few rock vocalists out there who still has his voice and sings extremely well. Sammy should stat away from any conversations relative to EVH because as this post shows – its a very polarizing topic with everyone feeling one way or another. Most importantly it distracts from a quality band putting out quality material. Satch is phenom player and more importantly seems like a quality guy with an incredible resume. But EVH is EVH – guitar god, innovator, and musical genius. I am not the world’s largest VH fan, but as a musician cannot dispute how the industry changed with the first VH record. You can hate him, but you cannot dispute his talent and his genius. I never get tired of listening to him after all these years. Sammy needs to stop talking about Eddie, period. It doesn’t do him or his band any good. If Satch and Steve Vai don’t talk about him, he doesn’t need to. If he is asked about Eddie, he should talk about the music they created and the success they had, and then talk about what he’s doing today. As metal fans and hard rock enthusiasts we’ve been so spoiled with incredible talents over the years that it seems we’re taking some of these guys for granted (I do that as well). But trash talking Eddie is unbelievable to me.

  9. Sammy, you’re taking your once brilliant career and throwing in the shitter – as you are now becoming more known for talking shit about EVH than you are about your own music. And its incredibly annoying. Rise above dude and focus on Chickenshit or Chickenscratch or whatever you call the band of yours that’s actually not too bad. EVH has moved back in with his first wife and you need to move on cause holy crap do you sound bitter and vengeful.

  10. I think one look at Roth at the SoCal fair show is enough for Sammy to rip the band a new one but he doesn’t. EVH can hook & riff to classic top 20 chart hits, Joe just plays, don’t expect chart hits from Chickenfoot. Sammy was supposed to be at 5150….he blew it off…adios amigo. Sammy was correct about Balance. A dark mess 75% of it.

  11. death monkey says:

    Sorry Sammy, Eddie is better…period

  12. Khriss Bliss says:

    Any decent guitar player can argue Eddie’s not THE best guitar player.

    But a real good guitar knows that Eddie is AWESOMEST!!!

    To appreciate Eddie, don’t put him on a pedestal: look at him the way he looks at himself: just an elevtric rock guitar player doing his thing, trying something new. If you put aside the cartoon of the longhaired guy with a red striped guitar doing whammy dives & fingerboard tapping and study all the details about him objectively, he’s a very unique and dedicated artist. Best songwriter among the shredders who backdrafted his blitzkrieg approach (even Yngwie taps his neck), & ditto his contributions to guitar design have also left a huge footprint. Eddie … Is the awesomest: period.

  13. Eddie is Eddie. Joe is Joe. Neither guy is trying to do or outdo the other. I don’t buy the range stuff.
    I have seen Eddie take some real complicated styles, add his own thing to it and absolutely blow it out of the water. He added his style to slide, acoustic, flamenco, and on and on. To me, that’s range.
    Joe is a great guitar player by any standard. While I agree he has some Eddie influence, I would not be surprised if Eddie did not find some inspiration in Joe.
    Two guys, two style…great music.
    Sammy…..well….he is what he always was. He can be a loud mouth and I think he does play the Eddie card ALOT. (we all know that the parameters of an interview are set before anyone says anything) He does good music and puts on a good show. Live and let live.
    Michael Anthony has always been a good guy. Class act and always a smile. One of the true good guys of rock.

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