There’s More Than One Way for Sammy Hagar To Rock
There’s more to singer-guitarist Sammy Hagar than his long stint as the front man for legendary hard-rockers Van Halen. In advance of his appearance at this week’s Canadian Music Week festival, the Red Rocker, 63, speaks about his new autobiography (Red, published by HarperCollins) and the assorted ways of rocking.
You’ve been an accomplished solo artist as well as a part of Van Halen and now with Chickenfoot. And you’ve had a lot of success with various entrepreneurial ventures, including your own brand of tequila. You sing There’s only one way to rock, but you make a convincing argument that’s there’s definitely more than one way.
Thank you – I’m proud of that. But that song was a pointed thing. It was written about a radio station that wouldn’t play one of my songs because they said it was too hard for their format. And they called themselves the Rock of the Bay.
There’s a line in that song, “Crank up the Les Paul in your face.” But last year, there were only a few rock discs among the 25 top-selling albums. Are kids no longer interested in rock and roll?
I think they are again. There’s a generation that I see at my shows with Chickenfoot. I speak to the Gibson people, and they tell me there are huge amounts of kids buying Les Pauls.
In your book, you mention David Bowie as a quintessential rock star back in the day. They don’t make them like they used to, do they?
I would agree with that. In the 1970s and in the 80s, you could have your choice between David Bowie or Robert Plant or Roger Daltrey or Pete Townshend. They lived it and brought it to you, and had the mystique. And you believed it and paid to see it.
Can we say that rappers are the new rock stars?
Yes. They’re the ones with the most character. They’re doing the outrageous stuff. But then, Lady Gaga is a rock star. I think there’s no question about that. She might be the new David Bowie.
I would argue that Kid Rock is the last great rock star.
Yeah, he’s lived the life. Good call. I also think Metallica’s James Hetfield is doing a great job at growing up as a heavy-metal artist. It’s tough to do that when you start hitting 50. You’re going, “What am I pissed off about? I’ve got millions of dollars.” You have to either be a fake or you have to grow up in the industry. And I think Kid Rock is doing a good job of it.
Speaking of growing up and earning millions of dollars, you’ve done quite well as an entrepreneur, outside the music world.
I’ve done it purely out of creativity. If I had five minutes off, I was bored. So I started making clothes, for example. If I get an idea in my head, and it sounds like a good idea, I have to do it. One thing, though: I never have investors. I never take other people’s money. If I want to do something, I use my own money – and I own it. That’s the way I do it.
So there is only one way that Sammy Hagar rocks?
I love that – exactly! Don’t put my name on it if it’s not what I want to do.
Sammy Hagar’s autobiography hits shelves on March 12, the same day as his keynote interview at Canadian Music Week. On March 11, Go There Once, Be There Twice (a documentary on Hagar and his Mexican cantina Cabo Wabo) screens at Canadian Music Week.