I recently had one of those huge ‘career highlight’ things: I interviewed Sammy Hagar about his new album. I’ve always been a bit of a Sammy fan – Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was one of the first real rock albums I ever owned – so it was really great to get the chance to spend 20 minutes talking guitar with the Red Rocker himself. In particular I was curious about how Sammy rates himself as a guitarist, because he’s pulled off some pretty impressive shreddage over the years and gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani. You can read the full interview here, but here’s a snippet:
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.”
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.