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Exclusive: Sammy Hagar on recording Chickenfoot's new album
That supergroup known as Chickenfoot (from left, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith and Sammy Hagar) are ready to cut album number two this weekend.
Chickenfoot begin recording their new album this Friday, but for singer Sammy Hagar, the next 48 hours will feel like an eternity. "I am so ready to make this record," he says. "I'm beyond ready! The songs we've got, the riffs that have been flying around - we're going deep."
According to Hagar, "We've got stuff planned that we never could have dreamed about when we first got together. We're talkin' heavier than ever, bluesier, more emotional - I get goosebumps just thinking about it."
Chickenfoot (which also includes guitarist Joe Satriani, bassist Michael Anthony and drummer Chad Smith) will track the album at Hagar's Marin County studio, The Foot Locker, formerly known as Red Rocker. "We did a lot of the first album here," he says, "and we finished up at Skywalker Studios. This time, I'm pretty sure we'll be able to do the whole thing here. Five of songs on the first album were all tracked here, and they're some of my favorites."
Hagar is particularly fond of the drum sounds the live room in The Foot Locker delivers, and he says that recent upgrades to the recording console will result in "drums that will take your head off. I can't wait to hear my man Chad in this place now. We've fine-tuned everything to an unbelievable degree. Unless I'm totally crazy - and, of course, it's been said that I am - nobody's going to say we don't have enough inputs or the board is lacking this or that. This place is built for speed. We're gonna stay here till this sucker's done."
Which won't be very long, the singer believes. "The last record took us about three months," he says, "and I think we'll knock this one out in half that time. We don't have these laborious sessions where we go over every phrase and suck all the energy out of the songs. Everybody is so musically capable in this band that we're able to turn on a dime. We're almost like a jazz band. Somebody says something, and off we go."
Whereas Chickenfoot's gold-certified debut was co-produced with the band by veteran boardsman Andy Johns, this time out Mike Fraser, who mixed that album, will serve as engineer and co-producer with the group. "Andy's great, but he's a little hit and miss," says Hagar. "He kind of wings it. Mike's a different sort of animal. He's more of a control guy, but in a good way. Believe me, this band can get out there with the constant flow of ideas, so we need a guy to reign us in."
Hagar estimates that the band is hitting the studio with four numbers fully written - music and lyrics. Of the 14 or song fragments that Satriani has sent the group over the past few months, the singer says, "I have melody and lyrical ideas to about eight of them. We'll see what all works and what doesn't. The music and the songwriting is so spontaneous in this band. I'm sure that once we all get in the room together, other songs will happen and some will fall by the wayside."
Although Chickenfoot have spent much of 2010 apart (Satriani just wrapped a tour for his most recent solo album, Black Swans And Wormhole Wizards, while Smith has been finishing the Red Hot Chili Peppers' long-awaited next record), Hagar has no reason to doubt that once the four musicians reconvene, sparks will fly. "All I have to do is tell Joe I'm thinking of doing something kind of like Whole Lotta Love, and he'll play me a riff that has that spirit. Then I'll start singing, Chad and Mike will tear into it, and before you know it, we've got a song."
When asked how the new record might differ from its predecessor, Hagar points to a song called Come Closer, which he says is the first time Satriani composed music to the singer's existing lyrics. "Usually, I write words to the musc; this time we did it in reverse, and it's amazing." Hagar also mentions two acoustic numbers that Satriani has been working on. "These things are stone-cold blues," he says. "I'm listening to my Robert Johnson anthologies to get in the proper spirit. What I want to do is get real authentic with the blues like Zeppelin did. I want to take the blues and really rock it out. It's time to 'Zeppelin-ize' our music."
On the subject of a release date, Hagar says it's "a little early to predict that. But I do want to hit the road later this year." One possible kink touring-wise centers around Smith, who will most likely be performing with the Chili Peppers when they release their album in the summer. "It's a conflict," Hagar admits. "But what can you do? Chad is going to make an incredible record with us. If he can't tour we us, we'll have to get a temporary replacement." He names Jason Bonham, Matt Sorum, Vinnie Paul and Abe Laboriel Jr as possible candidates. "Any one of them would be amazing. But like I said, they'd be temporary - I can't stress that enough. Chad Smith is a member of Chickenfoot, and that's that."