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

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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.

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

  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.

      1. 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….

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

      2. You hit the nail on the head,Dude.I love EVH.But like u say he didn’t INVENT tapping.And like u were pointing out,guitar technique is out there for everyone.For anybody wanting to do there own thing with it.Using harmonics isn’t the sole property of Rhoads or Wylde.Palm muting doesn’t BELONG to Metallica.Or double stops to Hammett.Every horror writer isn’t just ripping off Stephen King.The creative world is to b shared.I read EVH say when he sees new guitarists tapping,it’s like someone stealing your car then bringing it by your house to show it off.I HOPE his thoughts on the subject have changed.

    2. 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.

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