"Five Questions With Sammy Hagar"
By: Chelsea J. Carter

Los Angeles Times (October 18, 2000)

SANTA ANA, Calif.--First he was the Red Rocker. Then he became Van Hagar.

Now rocker Sammy Hagar is "just Sammy."

After nearly two decades of a successful solo career interrupted by a hit-making decade fronting the rock band Van Halen, Hagar is changing his image again with new music.

"Ten 13" -as in Hagar's Oct. 13 birthday -arrives in stores Oct. 24.

"It's kind of like a birthday celebration. Every year on your birthday, you get a chance to start new. This album is something new. Something fresh. It's a rebirth," said Hagar, 53. "I've taken all the knowledge and all the experience and I've rolled it into a ball and I've moved forward with it."

Hagar, whose solo hits include "Your Love Is Driving Me Crazy" and "I Can't Drive 55," has made a career of party rock anthems. In the 1970s as the lead singer for Montrose and then a decade later as the singer for Van Halen, his vocals helped catapult album after album onto the charts.

Does Van Halen influence the new album?

"It is part of who and what I am today. That experience really has a lot to do with what I'm doing today. Although it's not influenced by Van Halen, in a sense it really is because everything I've learned, felt and experienced with Van Halen is solid within me. There is no longer a hang-up with it," he said.

Do fans buy that?

"To them, I'm just Sammy. I had a solo career before Van Halen. My fan base filtered through Van Halen with me and came right on out the other side with me."

1. Why do you call "Ten 13" a rebirth?

SH: It was hard going back to being a solo artist. It took two records, I think ... to get to where I am now. Now, I've just taken what Van Halen had to offer, the influence, the good, the positive, and I think kind of reinvented myself. It's not easy being in a band for 11 years, a band of that caliber, and then striking out on your own completely. It takes awhile to discover who and what you really are.

2. How is it different from your previous solo efforts?

SH: When I left Van Halen, I went in the studio and made a CD called 'Marching to Mars' with all studio musicians. I did it immediately. With the disappointment riding on my shoulders of the breakup of the band, I felt just driven to go right into the studio. I made a very self-indulgent record. ... Then I went right back in the studio and made 'Red Voodoo,' which was very much like our live concerts. It really wasn't a piece of art, in my opinion, as much as it was a celebration of us just playing music.

3. Is the new album fun party music or serious reflection?

SH: Both. I started out with 'Shaka Doobie,' which is the morning after 'Mas Tequila,' my last hit single from 'Red Voodoo.' 'Mas Tequila' is about drinking tequila and partying yourself stupid. How do you follow that? How do you carry on?

So what I did was write a song about the next morning. You know, you wake up and everybody hates you. You hate yourself. Your wife has no mercy on you. She's looking at you, saying, 'I don't feel sorry for you.' You just feel terrible.

The song 'Serious JuJu,' it's about the bad conditions, ecologically and economically facing the planet. JuJu is a healing juice a witch doctor uses. I thought I would write about the problems and the need for solutions rather than trying to make it a serious protest song. ... I'm not just a blind party person. I have a good time because I believe in it and I think it's healthy to have fun in life. But I also have concerns.

4. Why do compare yourself to blues great John Lee Hooker?

SH: I'm John Lee Hooker in the sense that he was a blues man and he played blues his whole life. I'm a rock guy and I'm going to play rock music my whole life. ... Here's a guy who's 88, still playing. When I'm 88 doing the shows in Mill Valley (Calif.) at the Sweetwater, I want people to say, 'Sammy's like John Lee Hooker, he played his whole life.'

5. What's it like to be a grandfather?

SH: I have 4 -year-old daughter and my wife is pregnant. We're going to have another baby in April. ... I'm still raising kids myself, so I don't feel like a grandpa. ... I figure if there's one thing I'm going to be my whole life besides a singer-guitar player-songwriter, it's going to be a father. I can see myself at 75 years old playing football if we have a son.

I'm going to have to.

Interview © 2000 Los Angeles Times