From Japanese mag.. BURN.......
Few interesting points....
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SAMMY HAGAR & ALEX VAN HALEN OF VAN HALEN
"Helloooooooooooo Baby! We're Back!"
interview and live photos by John "Shooter" Harrell
VAN HALEN is back together again, this time with SAMMY HAGAR as the frontman for a second term. The band in America has long been forgotten and written off but they are practically selling out every venue they play so far this summer. BURRN! wanted Eddie on the cover with Sammy for this issue but Eddie is in seclusion, and apart from performing every night he makes a quick appearance at the meet and greets where each fan who pays the individual $400-$500 ticket price gets food and drink and then gets to sit up on the stage near the band in something called 'The Golden Rings', a figure "8" pit. As long as the band is on the road Eddie isn't doing interviews and bassist MICHAEL ANTHONY
is rarely permitted to do any either. Rumor has it that the VAN HALEN brothers are still pissed off at Michael for
joining Sammy onstage for the SAM & DAVE TOUR several years ago that boasted a tour with the ex-lead singers of VAN HALEN, at that time SAMMY HAGAR and original frontman DAVID LEE ROTH. Also Sammy nor Alex is allowed to do any separate interviews and time is limited (as well as space here). Sammy is an old friend of mine so his answers were a bit more from the heart and compassionate. Alex has always been the big brother, the guy who actually runs VAN HALEN. He picks the art, approves the photos, chooses the album titles and conducts the band business. He is very proud and territorial at the same time over VAN HALEN's long success, the animal that he created with Eddie and will promptly correct you if he feels you're misguided in your assumptions. He likes to quote old expressions in his void answers and he is one hell of a drummer.
SH: Is this John Harrell? I don't think we've ever met (laughs).
JH: (laughs) No, never. How you doing Sammy?
SH: Let's put it like this: I've got two more shows to do before we go home for a week's break. It's like I'm right there on the edge of exhaustion but it's going great.
JH: Sammy, you were responsible for putting together the SAM & DAVE TOUR and now you've put VAN HALEN back together where people thought it was going to be impossible. Was this tour for the sake of THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS CD package that is coming out so you guys can promote it properly and have it sell well? I mean, you are a performer but you're also a smart businessman.
SH: Not really because for me I was more just wanting to tour. We all got together, this thing came together like; well, I didn't necessarily put anything together because I just got ahold of Al as a friend just from some crazy whacked out dream that I had, I said that I had to call Al and then the next thing I know I'm talking to Ed and the next thing after that I know we're in the studio and the next thing I know we're writing and recording. It was really that crazy.
AVH: I'm making my entrance. Sorry but I am two minutes late.
SH: Hey John, Al can back me up on this now that he is here. And while you were late-----
AVH: You were rewriting history?
SH: No Al, I was bamboozled (laughs)! But anyway John, what happened was that we would have done a whole record if we would have had time but the idea was is that we got excited about going out and playing this summer, like, let's go play right now. I mean as soon as we started getting together the first thing we wanted to do was play in front of people because that's what we do number one. And then it was like, okay we only had three songs done and it was either; you know this Best Of package with three new songs or we would have had to skip playing this year and I said we should do the Best Of and let's go play. It was really based around us playing live for the people.
JH: And because VAN HALEN is a live band too.
SH: It sure is especially when you see it now you'll be going, it's better than it ever was so it's pretty amazing.
JH: Alex, long time no see and talk. How you doing, man?
AVH: Good man, how you doing?
JH: I'm great, thanks. Alex, do you feel as though VAN HALEN has a lot of ground to make up, catch up on since the fans haven't seen you guys in so many years and a lot of bands have come and gone, a lot of new music and different genres?
AVH: Uh, that's a good question. You know if you wrap yourself up too much in what is going on around you and you're too much affected by it then you stop making your own choices. The band kind of generates its own center of gravity if you will, when we make music and the way that we approach it. The plus side of the coin, if you don't listen to what's going on around you, you might be playing stuff that really doesn't make any sense so there is a balance in between. And part of the problem of juggling everything or actually it's a good problem to have is the fact that the music that we've had over the last 25, 27 years has become sort of, part of the ether because they play some of our songs at sporting events, they play them everywhere so the music has kind of gotten bigger than the band if you will. I'm not sure what part of the conversation you guys were at but live is where the band really functions the best: it's instant. When you play you instantly get a response whether people like what you're doing or not and it's a great beating ground for creativity and staying fresh.
SH: John was saying Al, which really threw me off guard because it was exactly the opposite. He was saying, so you guys decided to put out this Greatest Hits record and all this stuff and did you decide to go out and tour to support that record and it was really the opposite way
around. The record company is trying to take a ride with us going out touring because I believe John just like Al said because our music has
been so; I mean, JOHN KERRY announced his Vice-President running mate and they use "Right Now" as the theme music. About two weeks before that ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER was doing something and they were using "Right Now" as well. You know we don't endorse any of these guys but it's just part of the fabric of America like VAN HALEN's music is that important so I think we can go out and play that without any record or anything-----
SH: especially after it's been this long that we haven't been seen. I think people just say, hey I don't give a shit if it's something old, something new, just get out and play for us so that's kind of what we're doing.
JH: The band began the tour in the Midwest and you're still in the Midwest now. How do you think the fans so far on this tour view you because they're use to seeing 80's bands reforming and doing summer tours, summer packages and then disappearing. The Midwest eats that stuff up, so is this a one-time deal or are we to think that you'll be around again?
AVH: This isn't a reformation, it's a continuation. Is that too big a word for you?
JH: I'll look up the spelling (laughs).
AVH: (laughs) This might be a strange way to kind of put things into perspective but it's not like we were a band of teenagers and then broke up when we were 25 and then got together when we were 50 or something. We'd already gone through all the ups and downs and we really were in a place where we were grown men, we were adults. And there were some road bumps, there were obstacles in the way but ultimately the right thing to do was to get back together and you can't stop that.
SH: And the whole time John, it really is apparent obviously that we've all been continuing whether apart or together. We've been continuing to make music because it isn't like we went off and retired and became real estate people and then decided to take our suits and ties off and come back and dress up like rock guys. We've been doing the same thing although we didn't do it together for a few years (laughs).
AVH: Even when Ed was sick, I don't want to dwell on any of it but the fact was when you're off balance or you're not well you go to what you
know and Ed and I were in the studio every day come rain or shine. We were in there and some days something comes out of it, some days
nothing comes out of it. But the fact is that music is where we find comfort.
JH: Sammy the other night in Columbus, Ohio you said that this felt like you guys never stopped.
SH: How do you know that?
JH: Because I was there.
SH: Were you really?
JH: I couldn't get back there with all your security to say hello but I was there. So how does this really feel to you guys honestly?
SH: It honestly feels like that. I mean I don't say things, I don't sit around and think of some clever thing to say at night. I am standing up there and I'm feeling that at that moment and I've said it a few times and it just really feels like that. There is something about the chemistry that we have that is so unique that nothing else replaces that in my life anyway. And as soon as you get back together you realize what that thing is, it's a very strange thing, the chemistry and just hanging around, the tension, all of it. There is tension in this band still---------
AVH: and that's good.
SH: Yeah, exactly and all of that though, that feeling that the four of us have together for me personally, nothing is like that, nothing that I've ever done, no other band, no other friends, my wife, my children, family, none of that. VAN HALEN is a completely unique feeling and experience and as soon as you walk back in, the four of us up on that stage, you go, click, oh I remember this. It's like a drug or something, like you're addicted and then you try to kick it and as soon as you go back you go oh, no wonder why I like this drug or no wonder why I hate this drug (laughs).
JH: Alex, the world hates drum solos, we're really tired of them for many, many years now.
SH: (huge laughs) No, just singers (laughs).
AVH: (bigger laughs)
JH: But with that said, when I heard you play your drum solo I got goose bumps on my arms. You're one of my favorite rock and roll drummers and thank you for having the balls to play a drum solo.
AVH: Well thank you for what you just said. Now I'm speechless and my head has grown three sizes and now the guys are really going to hear about it (laughs).
JH: Eddie told me last year that you gave him the best compliment ever, that he was able to actually get your sound down on tape, something that has never been done in the whole 27-year career of VAN HALEN. He told me that you had sounded like shit for 27 years and I disagreed and then he said, well his snare sounded okay. But I think you're a great drummer, really underrated and it was great to hear a refreshing drum solo like your did. But Eddie also sounds great doing his thing and Sammy, you're one of the top rock singers in this business.
SH: Damn, John! Thanks!
JH: But together you guys still aren't jelling really in my opinion, you're really not in the groove yet. How do you feel about that?
SH: Well I think some nights we are and some nights we aren't.
JH: Excuse me for interrupting but AEROSMITH calls it being in the zone.
SH: I don't remember if Columbus was one of those shows or not but I do know that last night-----
AVH: Which way John didn't it sound right? Sound-wise or which other way didn't it seem to jell because we do listen to the tapes every night?
JH: I think performance-wise. And I'm not sure if having those people in that little pit up there throws you guys off because the three members Sammy, Eddie and Michael are always looking down to see if they're going to fall into that hole or not. It's a little weird seeing that setup.
AVH: (laughs) Yeah, it could have gone either way, huh? When we put this thing together, there is an old expression, go out on a limb because that's where the fruit is. But it can backfire on you if you go too far out because you can fall. Well we took a risk, we took a chance and we said that we wanted to do something that's different and it could go either way and the ring thing it turns out I thought and Sammy thought it was a great way to have the people so close that it causes you to be uncomfortable. That's what rock and roll is, there's a comfort zone and there are the songs and all that but to keep the guys on their toes, there is nothing like having somebody breathing down your neck.
SH: I love it, I think it's awesome.
JH: But Sammy you're use to people standing on bleachers on the stage with you when you perform.
SH: Yeah and it makes me just like Al said, it makes you stay on your game. You can't turn around and go be somebody else for two seconds, come back and try to perform again. You have to perform the whole time you stay right on your game and it helps me be in the zone. But that night, I have no idea like I said if it was a great night for us. I mean we have ups and downs, not really bad downs but some nights are just magic like last night was. It was phenomenal in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We walked out onstage John to just such a shrill, an ovation that just stayed there the whole time that we tweaked into it. The audience in my opinion put us in the zone and it wasn't the best playing because we all made our mistakes and all that shit but still it was a magical night. When VAN HALEN has a magical night I'll tell you straight up, it's some shit, it's fuckin' magic and it'll kick anybody's ass. But I don't think we could ever do a bad show but we are just getting back together and the jell part of it, the flow of the set, we have done less than 20 shows so far.
JH: Are you guys changing the setlist every night?
AVH: A little bit.
JH: Alex what was the plan or scenarios that you and Eddie talked about these last 6 years, what you guys were going to do, what your plans were? I mean VAN HALEN is such an institution to everybody and to see it just go away was really something for your fans.
AVH: Yeah it may sound strange but we don't really make any plans in terms of trying to force something into happening. Ed and I really believe more in a situation where you do what you do and then things will come naturally, kind of like in nature. You plant a seed and then eventually something grows. You can't make it speed up, you can't force things and I think the proof of that was some of the things that we had done in between where we tried to force things just didn't work. As musicians you want to stay creative, you want to stay fresh and you want to have other people provide the impetus to move forward. But again if you try to force it then it doesn't work. And then of course when Ed had the health thing going on that created another problem. But as far as long term plans there really wasn't any long- term plan.
JH: Eddie has been telling me for five years now that he was never going to tour again, never wanted to tour or have another band, go through the pain of finding a new singer, any of that. He said that he'd rather stay home and write and record soundtracks.
SH: I'm glad that you remember that John (laughs).
AVH: Hey no, I'll tell you, the day that he told you that he probably meant it and then the next day it was something different. Nobody has a crystal ball.
JH: Who is the keyboard player on this tour?
AVH: It's Ed. Those are the original tracks from the record and he put them into a sequencer and we just have a guy who runs it.
JH: That's what I thought at first but it sounded too damn good out there and that made me think there was an actual guy playing offstage.
AVH: Ed is one of those guys who likes to have the purity of the original tape recording and that's why sometimes they do actually speed up or slow down a little because the original performances were not uh, we kind of went fly by wire.
SH: Yeah, we didn't always play with the click and shit.
AVH: That's right (laughs). But no, we just got a guy pushing the button.
JH: Sammy I noticed that you don't put the same effort or enthusiasm into the Dave songs as you do your era of VAN HALEN. Why is that?
SH: That's not necessarily true. I just don't relate to the lyric as well like when you sing a song such as "Dreams" or you sing a song like "When It's Love" and "Right Now", those songs to me are powerful lyrics. When I sing those I can or anyone can put power into those lyrics. But when I'm singing something like "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love" it's a great rock and roll tune, I love it. "You Really Got Me" is almost my favorite song to sing in the set but as far as putting heart and soul into those lyrics, it's not my lyric and it's not my heart and soul.
AVH: That's RAY DAVIES.
SH: Exactly so as far as singing them they're just in a different register and----
JH: Yeah I noticed you lowered your range quite a bit.
SH: Right it's not my range, it's Dave's range so for me my supersonic range is where my power is when I'm up there so those songs don't ever reach that. I try to squeeze that in there with and still keep the integrity of the tune. It's a fine line that you're walking down whenever a singer is singing another singer's song, especially Dave who added a lot of character and personality in those songs. And in
their day it was probably a lot more valid lyric than it is for a grown man to stand up there talking about (laughs). But the songs are great and I think they deserve to be done and the ones we are doing are 99% my choice because I like those songs. I mean "Unchained" is a motherfucker, "Panama" is one of the most fun fuckin' rockin' tunes on the planet. I have more fun on "Panama" I think than any song in the set.
JH: I had read on the Internet that there were problems because I guess Roth gets money every time you guys do one of his songs and you were against that but Eddie insisted on having these songs in the set.
SH: (laughs) No John, that is some bullshit.
JH: But you don't get money when you perform a song live, right? I mean that's only when you record another person's song, then he gets the publishing money.
AVH: Well technically you know you get like twenty bucks or something.
SH: (long laughs) But Dave might need the money, I don't know (laughs).
JH: Well he's got that high rent in New York now seeing that he's going to be an EMT (emergency medical technician) worker.
AVH: (sighs) That's funny.
SH: Those songs John just like we said before about the whole VAN HALEN legend from beginning to end, it needs to be when you're playing live, it needs to be touched in as many of those places as possible. If we were doing like 5 or 6 more of the Dave era tunes, I would probably have a little trouble with that because there would be too many songs that I couldn't really relate to.
JH: Well like you and I have talked about a million times the most successful era of VAN HALEN was with SAMMY HAGAR.
SH: Not necessarily because I think VAN HALEN has been successful out of the box, all the way through. The success that we had that was different than the previous one is was that we had a lot of radio success and commercial success because our songs were a little more, uh, I hate to use the word commercial but they were kind of more musical, theme-song, user-friendly and songs like "Right Now" were just extremely commercial songs.
AVH: I would say popular.
SH: Glad you corrected me Al because that's a good word.
AVH: I hate to interrupt but I have to say something: when any musician tells you that they don't want to have a lot of people listen to their music is out of their mind, they're lying to you. You don't write songs just to have nobody hear them. Part of the craft and the talent that it takes to make songs what they are is to make sure that other people can relate to them and the only barometer you have is if a lot of people listen to them and that makes them popular.
SH: I think that's where the difference between the two different eras are is that we had some; I mean, "Jump" was a great popular tune but we probably turned down twenty times a week huge commercial ventures that want to use "Right Now" for, license it and such and we turn it down just because it's almost been overused but it is that popular. So I think that's the difference between the two eras. We had a couple of songs that are just so nice to listen to that people want to hear them and play them and use them just to sell their products (laughs).
AVH: We also have the Guinness World Book Of Records for the most AOR number one hits and they all started in l986.
SH: Yeah, 11 number one AOR hits. That's pretty special even to the mighty Zep (LED ZEPPELIN). That's right!
JH: Alex how did it feel for you, the 25TH ANNIVERSARY of VAN HALEN, this great institution just coming and going? All those great concerts, great records, great memories for the fans just forgotten on the band's 25TH Anniversary? Will you redeem yourself now because it was like getting to your 25TH birthday and then spending it by yourself? It was upsetting to me and a lot of fans I'm sure that no special releases were put out, you didn't get in the Hall Of Fame, no new concert DVD of a memorable show, nothing.
AVH: It certainly was not something that we planned or did not plan. You are sort of, uh, Ed and I couldn't very well had done it by ourselves because there wouldn't be a point to it. And I think you just hit the nail on the head that it just kind of came and went. We were busy doing other things. What's the old expression, 'life happens while you're making plans'. That's why we don't look too far down the road or look back at all. I don't know if Sammy already told you because you must have heard it a million times already but when Sam and I first got together we don't talk about the past because there is nothing to talk about really. Those are things that happened then and we're here now and if you can't grow past with what happened back then, then you're living it again. What's the point? So during the time when 25 years came by, yeah, it literally came and went. I mean we weren't going to go knocking on doors and say hey, we want to put
this out and do this and this when in general anyway the record company usually comes to you. And I think they picked the right time I think. Twenty-six is a good number.
JH: Yeah plus you don't want a bunch of computer geeks throwing you a birthday party anyway.
SH: Right, yeah (laughs). Celebration should happen when it's happening, not like saying okay now listen, next Tuesday we're going to go out and do this and we're going to celebrate. It's like you just feel it, the whole thing coming together like Al said before about the fact that you can't force things. I don't believe in any 10-year, no 5-years, no 12-years, no 22-years; it's just when it's right, then you do whatever you're supposed to do and it's right. And if you're really focused and centered on that it usually starts coming together, everything, you know, synchronicity at the right time.
JH: Are you guys recording this tour for a DVD?
AVH: At some point we will. As soon as we sound like we're playing together (laughs).
SH: Yeah, as soon as we start jelling we're going to start filming (laughs).
JH: Hey, I'm sorry about that guys (laughs). And I was in the $89 seats too (laughs). Sammy, do you have a problem separating Sammy Hagar solo from Sammy the singer in VAN HALEN? You came out onstage in your solo clothes wearing sandals.
SH: Wait, I looked like myself? Ain't this a bitch? Uh no, I think it's always been, uh, I've got to say that even the first time when I joined this band I didn't make any compromises on who and what I was. I think that I fit in this band really well.
AVH: Sorry Sam, I've got to interrupt but Sammy fits as who he is. There is no analyzing, no nothing.
SH: And I don't say, oh shoot, I can't wear these sandals because I'm in VAN HALEN. Fuck, I think it works. I think our personalities are really wacky, four different human beings but they happen to work and I do separate Sammy solo musically and everything from VAN HALEN now because if you notice like we're not doing "One Way To Rock", "I Can't Drive 55" or any of that stuff because I got that out of my system for seven years and it really dawned on me when we started playing VAN HALEN music that it should be separate. That's the idea of going out and being a solo artist once in awhile or getting that out of my system down in Cabo or whatever because I play all Sammy songs and when I'm in VAN HALEN we play VAN HALEN songs
and it's fine with me now. I have so many less hang-ups about all that this time around that
it's unbelievable. I mean between the Roth tunes and between my songs-------
AVH: Did I hear you say Roth tunes?
SH: Oh I'm sorry Al, I meant the older era VAN HALEN songs (laughs).
AVH: Well terminology is important.
SH: Well I'm talking to John like a friend because I've known him so damn long but at the same time you're absolutely right, they are not Roth tunes, they are VAN HALEN tunes with a different singer. And I don't have a problem with that. I don't have a problem with not playing my songs. I didn't even ask, I didn't even say hey, well look, I want to play a couple of my songs. Originally I made those kind of demands (when he first joined in l985) but I like the way it is now. Like when I go out in some club or play one of my own places or something with a couple of guys, we'll play pure Sammy and it'll be fun, it'll be like ah fuck, this is a great song! But it's not like I want to just do that because I like what I'm doing right now, otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.
JH: Is it a maturity thing? Because last time it was an ego thing so why has that changed? Do you feel more confident that you can go out and do whatever you want and it'll work?
SH: I am and I think the band certainly is as a band but as individuals I feel confident that I can do anything that I want.
AVH: It's like a two-way conversation though between us and the audience. It's like if you want to sit there with somebody and you start talking some lingo that the person you're talking to gets kind of ticked off about, you would start talking a little differently. Well we talk to our audience and they like what we're talking about. If they didn't, they either wouldn't be there or we would adjust and every band does that, whether it's U2, THE ROLLING STONES, or it was LED ZEPPELIN. The one element I think a lot of people miss in the equation between the circle of what makes music work is the audience. That's why when Sammy mentioned earlier that you missed last night whether we played great or medium or whatever, it was the audience that made the difference and that's what made last night a spectacular show. Had you been in that building last night you would have walked away and said, WOW! Even though we missed a couple of notes here and there, it was ZEPPELIN on a medium night (laughs) because they were infamous for having inconsistent shows. But the point is that it's the audience that is the part of the equation that also helps pull which way the direction of how the band functions.
JH: With VAN HALEN you're talking about.
AVH: Oh yeah, definitely with any band that has any kind of longevity. been along. I mean, we've been around for what 30 years, 25 years? It's a testament to the audience really, not to us.
SH: Yeah we're pretty interactive like when I say we do what we want I thought you meant in life because in life I feel like I'm free to do anything I want, like if I want to play music or whatever.
JH: No, I was talking more of a comfortable zone for you guys, getting up onstage.
SH: Onstage I think we're pretty considerate with what Al just said and very interactive. I'm extremely considerate and if I did something that didn't work more than once, I'd maybe do it twice and I'd throw it out and say that shit ain't working for these people so therefore not for me. You know the whole idea playing for an audience is to get them off and that shit really works for me, like yeah baby, I'll do that again. Doing my solo set is a little bit risky but see I believe; like I could go out there and do "I Can't Drive 55" acoustically and have the whole place singing or whatever but that ain't the point. The point in the set for me personally, I like the idea if I'm going to stand there by myself acoustically and sing a song, I want to bring it down to the bottom.
JH: Well everyone loves "Eagles Fly" anyway.
SH: Yeah but the other half that I'm doing, "Deeper Kind Of Love" nobody has heard that song and it still works because the idea is to bring them right down. I've read reviews where they say, the whole set was great except when everybody sat down for Sammy's solo. No shit (laughs)!
JH: Yeah, that was the point.
SH: Yeah, it's like well if anybody knows how to get an audience up and screaming and putting their hands up in the air, you know I can fuckin' do that all day long. I like the challenge of doing that and it's working for me. You see I think it's an emotional thing, otherwise I wouldn't do it but emotionally I think it works and everybody gets a little touched by it and takes a little break, a breather and then we all come back out and fuckin' bust into "Seventh Seal" and the shit comes back up again.
JH: By the way "Seventh Seal" sounds awesome live. It's fuckin' great. Just like you said earlier Sammy, you guys really do have some powerful fuckin' songs.
SH: Yeah and look how many we aren't playing (pause, then laughs). It's like next tour we'll put together a whole different set of tunes and it'll be just as good of a night.
JH: What songs are working best here and which ones aren't?
AVH: That's a good question, you tell me.
JH: Well Al you're way up there on top looking down on the whole thing so what do you see?
AVH: Well I'm going to say the same thing that Sammy said that there's a time and a place. You can't have people standing up all night long screaming at the top of their lungs.
JH: Well they were in Columbus except for that Sammy solo set.
JH: (laughs) Which went on for one song too many by the way.
AVH: It's called "The Eyes Wide Open", right?
SH: Oh did we play that song?
AVH: No, I'm just saying that you asked me a question and in that context I can say that there's one song that people have not heard yet and when we play it, it takes them a while to figure out what's going on. Now does that mean that the song is not good? No. It just means that they aren't familiar with it and it's time for them to take a breather and listen. It's like the old expression, there's the calm before the storm; you've got to have dark before you have light, all that stuff. Music is about contrast and excitement and getting people involved in it and they can't be screaming at the top of their lungs the entire time or even 90% of the time. You've got to see where I'm going with it. It's the same reason that Sammy doesn't mind when people sit down and listen. It gives them a time to go 'ahhh' and then we go back into it.
SH: And me too! (laughs) You think I'm not taking a break right there?
AVH: You've got to realize something: I'm a big ZEPPELIN fan as a lot of other people are but their third record was half acoustic and their live show, granted it was an hour longer but the drum solo was half an hour and the acoustic stuff was almost an hour. And we try to have an evening with VAN HALEN in a two to two and a half hours time slot so we do try to cover a lot of ground. Unfortunately we can't play two songs at the same time.
SH: I tell you what is amazing John is that when you ask what songs don't work or not, the three new songs that we're playing they don't work as well as "Right Now" and "Jump" and the biggest hits------
JH: Because people aren't as familiar with them.
SH: But it's still really working. The only one that was a little slow was "Learning To See" and I was doing it coming out of my acoustic thing when everybody was sitting down and then they didn't jump back up for that one because they didn't recognize that song. But to even be great enough musicians to be able to play a new song within the context of 70 million record sales worth of older songs that everybody and their dog can sing, is pretty amazing, the fact that VAN HALEN is that accomplished as musicians that we can go out and throw that in the middle and have it not be a downer in the set is pretty amazing. "Up For Breakfast" for example, nobody has really heard that either but man it's ripping the place up. They maybe can't sing the chorus but "Learning To See" is the one that we've taken out of the set for now until the record gets out.
JH: You guys have talked about today, what is going on right now but you guys publicly haven't made any long-term plans as to what's next. Are there any plans past these 80 dates and the 80 after that, which are planned but haven't been yet announced?
SH: Yeah there is but there aren't real plans like okay, on July 4th we're going to do this or that. We certainly want to continue to work together and just kind of try to find a way in this climate to like, how are you going to record? Are you going to go out and spend a year making a new record and release it and have it downloaded for free and just say Jesus, we spent a couple million bucks and a year of our time and it's like everybody just takes it. The record industry has changed a lot so that's the only thing with Al and I. In fact Al and I could argue about this, and I'm sure Ed and I would be arguing right now but I just don't really believe in doing that that much. I think there is another way to record, a few songs at a time, not necessarily another Greatest Hits package or make one song at a time and put it out free. I mean I'm just talking, strictly from my standpoint because obviously the next thing for us to do would be to either start recording or plan another tour. I like touring. I think that's what we're the best at, I wouldn't mind just writing new songs and going out and playing them live and recording them and giving them away------I don't know. But some other system than what we've done this whole time up till now, which is go out and beat your brains out and spend a year and a half, two years and millions of dollars on making a record, uh, I don't think the record company is the same machine: they're not the same anymore. It's a whole different game now.
JH: Well like STEVEN TYLER told me a couple weeks ago, if AEROSMITH were to record a record and then sell it on their own website, selling 100,000 copies would make more money for the band than them selling 1,000,000 units on a major label! It's just different now like you say.
SH: Yeah that big corporate machine has all changed and there are new ways of doing it so that's the only thing that we haven't decided, you know, what we're going to do in that respect. But as far as saying are we going to continue as VAN HALEN? Absolutely! I mean we don't want to sit here and tell you what we're going to do because we might look like liars if it doesn't happen.
AVH: We don't want to show you the end of the movie (laughs). But I think the terminology is confusing: are we going to make another big lump of music? Absolutely!
SH: Yeah, are we going to continue making music? Absolutely!
AVH: We'll deliver it somehow.
JH: Sammy you were frowned upon previously by the brothers in doing any outside work, solo records, what have you during your tenure in VAN HALEN. Has that changed now because I understand you are planning a summer tour next year with TED NUGENT opening up for you.
SH: No, I don't know where you heard that (laughs).
AVH: John, you've got to stop believing everything you read on the Internet.
JH: I know but that wasn't from the Internet. That was straight from the agent's mouth and Ted Nugent's crew who swore that to me.
SH: I'm not doing that. Uh, I don't know exactly what I'm doing next year but I was taking this year off and then the VAN HALEN thing came up, which kind of threw my this year off plans. Next year I could just take off and play a couple places with THE WABORITAS, like CABO WABO for my birthday bash and those kind of things but not launch a whole big solo tour.
JH: So I guess my bottom line here is, you guys are back together, you're a group together?
AVH: Oh, we're back together.
JH: And John, as far as the solo artist shit about being able to go out and do a solo record and all that stuff, first of all, I don't want to do a record right now. I don't want to do a solo record. And if I wanted to I would and I don't think the guys would have any
problem with it because we're grown up and it's a whole different thing.
AVH: As Sammy just said there is no money in making records anymore so what the hell (laughs).
SH: (laughs) I don't want to make a solo record or a VAN HALEN record either right now.
AVH: I just want to add one slight comment and that is when you really are close buddies and you want to hang out and you want to do creative things together, you feel kind of slighted when your buddy goes and finds a new best friend. That's the way we looked at the solo records. That's all. There was nothing more, nothing less, it was just kind of like, hey man, come on----you belong over here not over there.
JH: Thanks guys. I love you both, see you back in LA.
AVH: John, always great talking to you. Thanks.
SH: Yeah John, thanks and I always look forward to talking to you after the show (laughs)!