Sammy Hagar: 'If I Joined Van Halen Right Now, I'd Feel Like a Hypocrite'

The Red Rocker also talks about Donald Trump and why he hopes to make peace with Eddie Van Halen before he dies

"The only Number One albums they've had in their life, and they want to pretend like they never happened," says Sammy Hagar of his Van Halen tenure. Credit: Rex

Last week we got Sammy Hagar on the phone to talk about his new cookbook and his upcoming plans for Chickenfoot and the Circle, but we'd be highly negligent if we let him go without getting into the endless Van Halen saga yet again. We also got his take on Donald Trump and the upcoming presidential election. He didn't disappoint, proving once again why he's up there with Noel Gallagher as one of the great interviews in rock.

Hey, Sammy. Good to talk to you again.
You're not going to trick me into saying something stupid and putting my foot in my mouth again, are you?

Actually, that's exactly my plan. I'm just going to be upfront about it this time.
You seem to always squeeze something out of me. I get off and say, "Dammit, I gotta be smarter than that in the future!" But I just can't.

Let's get into it ... You played some Van Halen songs on Live From Daryl's House earlier this year. What happened next?
[Laughs] There you go, Andy. You got the fuckin' pick and shovel out now. Well, there is no question about it, I'd like this to be known, the Van Halen brothers will not allow me to do any of my own songs on TV. They can't stop me from doing them live, because they've tried and they can't. They want to pretend like Van Hagar never existed. The only Number One albums they've had in their life, and they want to pretend like they never happened. I don't know why they hate me so bad, but I guess I'm too happy for them.

Yes, it's true. They wouldn't let me do them. I can hire an attorney and fight them and I'm going too, but I didn't have time to do that then. On the new Circle DVD we're making from the live album, Led Zeppelin agreed to let us use their music. And Van Halen said, "No." And then I said, "Fuck you." I don't need to do this to survive, and thank God, because otherwise, they would starve me out like I think they're trying to do.

It's the lowest, cheesiest thing ever. I wrote every lyric and every melody and I sang them in that band. Alex Van Halen played the fucking drums and Michael Anthony played bass, and I wrote music and lyrics. When you're singing "Right Now" or "Why Can't This Be Love," that's my music. I wrote all the lyrics. 

To be clear, they told you that you couldn't put their music on a DVD too?
Yeah, it's going to happen, though. It just becomes a legal mess. Also, in my book I wanted to run some lyrics from the [Van Halen song] "Cabo Wabo." They wouldn't let me use one verse, in my fucking book, of my own lyrics. They fought it, and I didn't have time to fight back since they did it at the 11th hour 'cause they're assholes. It's unbelievable that Led Zeppelin lets us cover their songs on TV and anywhere else, and the brothers won't let me sing my fucking songs. And why? 'Cause they can't do them anymore. Without me, they can't play those songs, and they're fucking jealous. And that's the thing that gives me comic relief out of the whole thing.

How exactly did they try and stop you from even doing them live? That's insane.
When you play live, you turn your set list into ASCAP or whatever organization pays for it. When they saw that, somebody wrote a letter to my publishers or had a guy make a call asking if we'd stop playing those songs live. The answer was, "No."

Any cover band in a bar can play whatever they want, so certainly the guy that wrote the song...
Exactly. Wait a minute, they have licensed the songs to cover bands, but they won't allow me to do them. You ever watch that show on AXS, The World's Greatest Tribute Bands? There was a Van Halen tribute band that plays a little of mine and a little bit of theirs. They clear it for them, but not the guy who wrote that shit. It's just stupid.

See, you got me. You really got me, because this is my soft spot; you found the chink in my armor. I gotta tell you, it's maybe the stupidest, lamest thing I've ever seen in this business.

You're fighting back though. You put that video on YouTube when Eddie trashed Michael Anthony's bass playing.
It's obvious the fans want Mikey back in Van Halen, before anyone. If it's gonna be Dave or me, it doesn't matter in this sense. The main thing they want is Mikey back in the band. God bless Wolfie. It's got to be frustrating. But Eddie's just trying to stick up for his kid and to justify that he has him playing bass. He shouldn't have to justify that. He wants Wolfie in the band, that's fine. But you don't have to bash Mikey to make it okay. Mikey is the wrong guy to bash. He wouldn't stand up for himself in a million years. That's not because he's chickenshit. It's because he's just such nice person.

Van Halen's summer tour has been soft in some markets. It sort of feels like people are losing interesting in seeing this lineup.
I can only speculate on what I've seen on YouTube, things people send me now and then. My buddies are always saying, "Hey, check this out." And you turn it on and say, "Oh, fuck, not this again." I don't go looking for none of that stuff. You know, of course, I heard some of the live album. There's just no chemistry up there. They don't like each other. I mean, it's obvious. It's like a backup band with a guy out there in front.

I bet they don't say five words to each other offstage. What I saw was just so chemistry-less. Van Halen was always about chemistry in the early days. Early, Dave, that band was all about fucking chemistry, man. They were on fire. When I joined the band, they had great musical chemistry. We were friends, and we were on fire. We had so much fun, it should have been illegal. Now all that's gone.

Do you ever think you'll ever speak to Eddie again?
I would hope so. Because that would be really sad if any one of us — I'll put myself in the same category — took this to our graves. That is not where you take things. I would rather go to my grave with no enemies left. I just don't think that would feel right. But who knows. Whatever. It's not my decision because I was the one they pushed out and tried to fuck over. To me, it's up to them to come back and say they're sorry.

I'm not sorry for anything. I didn't do anything. Matter of fact, I did everything for that band. It was 100 percent my heart and soul and the best I had to give. All I did was make Number One albums and a lot of money. That's all I ever did for the band. Anything that's been done has all been in anger towards myself and now Mikey, too. To me, they need to come and say, "We're sorry." And then our job would be to say, "Great, you're forgiven." Boom. Not for a reunion or anything like that. That's over, to me. That's completely fucking over. I wouldn't want to be in a band like that right now.

I'd feel like a hypocrite for joining that band. How about that? There's a good quote for you. If I joined Van Halen right now, I'd feel like the biggest hypocrite in the world. And I'm not a hypocrite. 

The Beach Boys reunited a few years ago, and they absolutely hated each other.
They needed the money, probably, or they wanted the money. Even if they didn't need the money, they wanted the money.

Any thoughts on Donald Trump?
[Laughs] Oh, boy, that's the touchiest thing I've ever seen in my life because I like the fact that he's shaken up the political world, which needed to be shaken up. Everyone has been so dishonest. The politically correct thing is about to drive me out of this country. You can't do anything or someone's going to sue you. You can't say anything or an organization comes down and blackballs you. You can't talk about any race on the planet and call them by any name that's even close to sounding like you're a racist, even if you're not. You just get dogged and blackballed.

I love the fact that Trump is saying, "Fuck all you people" and just beating them up and talking shit and busting their balls. I like that part of it. But I'm not sure that's the man I want as my next president. But maybe we need somebody that radical.

Do you see a scenario where you'd vote for him over Hillary Clinton?
Oh, fuck, that's a tough one. I've got nothing against Hillary, to be honest with you. And what they're crucifying her for is just total bullshit. It's just like everything else. I mean, come on. She erased some emails or something. I know it's not good for security and all that, but I'm not a political kind of guy. So I'm going, "Hey, you all think the president of the United States — Obama or Reagan or anybody — never fucked up?" They all fucked up! Clinton, look what he did in there! They're human beings.

I just wish Trump wouldn't be so tough on Mexicans or the rest of the Hispanic population. From my judgement of living in Mexico and having businesses down there, they are family- and God-loving people. There's bad seeds in every single race on this planet, but the Hispanic population comes to this country because they want to work. They want to better their lives and feed their children.

And Trump says they're rapists.
That is insanity. That I have a real hard time with because I know different. But I'm sure there are people who have done everything. But if you want to take each race, and someone needs to do a survey and say, "How many did this? How many did this? How many did this?" I doubt if you'd find the Hispanics are the guilty ones on this planet or in this country. Every Hispanic I know that works for me, both in Mexico and in America, are my favorite employees, the hardest-working guys, the hardest-working ladies. They are just good people, and they carry their babies on their shoulder and go to work. They're just good people; they're not abandoning their kids and shit. That bothers me. If Trump would leave Hispanics alone, he could probably be president of the United States.

There's my Trump answer. Did I field that one how you wanted?

Yeah, that was great. I think that should do it. Thanks so much for doing this. You always come through.
Okay. Sell some books for me, will you? And peace and love. Always fun talking to you.