Sammy Hagar has once again weighed in on the proposed all-star VAN HALEN tribute concert, saying that he is "so disappointed" that the event never materialized.
No progress has been reported on a possible VAN HALEN tribute show since April 2022 when former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted revealed to The Palm Beach Post that he was approached by VAN HALEN drummer Alex Van Halen about six months earlier about playing bass for the project. Newsted told the Florida newspaper that he agreed to go to California to jam with Alex and legendary guitarist Joe Satriani and see if it felt right, but he eventually realized that it would be impossible to do justice to VAN HALEN's legacy. "How could you?" Jason said. "There's nobody that can top it, so how do you show it honor? I didn't want it to be viewed as a money grab. And then it kind of just all fizzled."
Asked in a new interview with the "Rock Of Nations With Dave Kinchen And Shane McEachern" podcast if he thinks the VAN HALEN tribute concert will ever happen, Hagar said: "As far as the tribute goes, I'm so disappointed how they've handled everything, including when I left the band, what they did, and that. I don't know — the dysfunction in that band… When I was in the band the first nine years, we got along like fricking brothers and sisters and we were happy together and one big family. Things went wrong. Drugs and alcohol are a bad thing when it turns ugly, and it's just never been the same. And for them not to have done something for Eddie Van Halen, the greatest guitar player in the world, the greatest rock musician, I'm telling you… It's ugly, but it's not my job."
Referencing his band THE CIRCLE, in which he is joined by former VAN HALEN bassist Michael Anthony, Sammy said: "Mike and I are doing our thing and we're gonna go out next year again. I'm gonna do this as long as I can. I don't know how much longer I can sing those songs and sing my own songs and go out and jump around on stage and do a great show, performance. So as long as I can do it, I've gotta keep doing it. But I think we just keep adding more VAN HALEN songs to the set; that's what we're doing. Mikey sang 'Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love' last night. We're serving the VAN HALEN stuff up pretty good."
Back in September 2022, Sammy was asked in an interview with Rolling Stone if his CHICKENFOOT bandmate Satriani called him up before jamming with Newsted and Alex Van Halen to say that it was happening. Hagar said: "No, because the VAN HALEN camp is 100% secrecy. I bet when he walked through the door, they made him sign something, and I'm dead serious. Alex is a very, very secretive guy. I don't know how he can keep his lips so sealed. I could probably say something horrible about him right now and he wouldn't even respond. Don't take that the wrong way. I have nothing bad to say about him. I'm just talking about how stubborn he is. He does not budge. But Joe told me about it later, after it happened. I knew there was talk of it because [VAN HALEN's manager] Irving Azoff had called me. He said, 'I want to do a residency in Vegas with you and Mike and Al and a superstar guitar player.' And I said 'Like who?' And he said, 'Like Joe Satriani.' I said, 'It just sounds like CHICKENFOOT with Alex Van Halen instead of Chad Smith.' I wasn't much for that, as much as I love Joe. He could do that job best, without a doubt, because he's so friggin' anal about the way he plays, and every single note. I said to Irving, 'I'm going to call Joe.' When I did, he told me what happened. And I said, 'Jason Newsted? What the fuck is going on here, man? Whose idea is this? This must be a Dave [Lee Roth] idea.' And Irving said it was a Dave idea.
"Why would he want anyone but Mike?" he continued. "It's probably because he knows that Mike and I are so close. I would imagine if they would've called Mike, Mike would've said, 'Yes, I'll do it with Sam.' Because without Ed, there is no VAN HALEN to start with. So now, you're going to go out and just play the early songs, and not play the second era? That would be the biggest failure VAN HALEN ever had if they call themselves 'VAN HALEN' if they didn't have Mikey. If it's just Alex with other guys, that's like what Jason Bonham does with LED ZEPPELIN. There's a million bands out there doing that. It would be totally nuts. Also, I'd prefer that nobody attempts to replace Eddie Van Halen. I think that's blasphemy and should be illegal.
"Anyway, I think that Irving boohooed it, and Dave went around him and did it anyway. I'm surprised that Alex went that far, but Alex might have just been his methodical self and said, 'Well, let's see what this is like. Let's see how it feels.'"
Asked if he would be interested in playing with Alex and Mike as part of a Vegas residency, or any kind of tour, Sammy said: "Not a tour, no. I wouldn't leave what I'm doing for that. I would make myself available to have a rehearsal and see which guitar player would work the best. I'm telling you, Joe would be the best. But like I said, then it's just kind of CHICKENFOOT with Alex, which there's a problem there. And I think that's probably what they were thinking when they tried to get a different bass player, but that's stupid, too.
"I would definitely love to play with Alex and Mike with a great guitar player that doesn't try to just mimic Eddie perfectly. There's so many great guitar players. There's Steve Vai. There's frigging John 5, who is a great guitar player."
Pressed about whether he is thinking of merely a one-off tribute show, Sammy said: "I'm thinking of one-off weekend or something where we give the money away to some cause. It can't just be, 'Hey, we're going to grab some money.' I got plenty of money. There's nothing that I would do for money that I just wasn't in love with the idea of doing. And I'm not in love with the idea of being VAN HALEN without Eddie Van Halen. Matter of fact, I'm dead against it. But I would love to play music with Alex and Mike again. I would love to play those songs again. And if we did a residency or a tribute, I would sing 50/50. I would sing half the Dave songs too for the VAN HALEN fans. And those songs are great. I don't mind singing some of them. The lyrics don't fit in my life today, but neither does 'Rock Candy' or 'Bad Motor Scooter'.
"But I just think it's crazy to do anything that's called VAN HALEN without Eddie. I would love it if Dave wanted to do a tribute where he'd sing ten of his songs, and then I'd come out and do ten of mine. That would be great with Alex and Mike and maybe a bunch of different guitar players. Look at what Dave [Grohl] just did for Taylor [Hawkins]. That's one of the greatest events in rock history. That's right up there with the early Farm Aids, and right up there with Live Aid. That was a great event, and that could be done for Ed with everybody playing."
Asked if he has spoken much to Eddie Van Halen's son Wolfgang since he was a kid on VAN HALEN's 2004 tour, Sammy said: "Yes, but not a ton. I really gave him a lot of love when he made his first record, and he gave me some back. It was very cordial, not like, 'Hey, let's get together' and stuff like that. I mean, Wolfie blows my mind. Look what he did over in London for that Taylor thing. When he played Eddie's stuff, man, that was fuckin' really good. He just keeps impressing me with his talent. That song 'Distance' is so soulful. I had no idea he could sing like that. He's really got his pop's talent. It's kind of like Jason and John Bonham. I mean, Jason's just like his dad, man. He plays fuckin' that good. And I think Wolfie, maybe not as innovative because nobody is, but yes, he's definitely doing it right. I praise him for not trying to be Eddie.
"But now, I'll make a statement. If there was ever a situation where there was a VAN HALEN tribute in some kind of way with Alex, Mike, myself, Dave, if he would cooperate, and Wolfie playing Eddie's parts, now that would be worthy of calling 'VAN HALEN,' for a moment. Wolfie would be crazy to drop his life and his creativity and his career to be his dad's mimic. But for a moment, it could be great."
In July 2022, Wolfgang was asked by Rolling Stone to elaborate on what happened to cause plans for the tribute concert to fall apart. He said: "What I can say is that there was an attempt at doing something. But, you know, I don't like to speak negatively about people, but there are some people that make it very difficult to do anything when it comes to VAN HALEN. After being in VAN HALEN for a long time, I really have strived to have an environment where there is no walking on eggshells and there is no personality that you have to deal with. It's just guys having fun making music and just having a good time. But, you know, from my time in VAN HALEN, there was always some stuff that gets in the way from just making music and having a good time. And, I think, that's what happened.
"I would love to just sit here and say everything and say the truth," he continued. "There are plenty of interviews my dad did, where he straight up just said everything. And people hated him for it and thought he was lying. So I could just say shit, but people have already decided how they feel about things, facts or not. So I can say the facts. But that may not align with how certain people feel. I know how VAN HALEN fans get. They are very motivated by which specific people they like in the band. And it's just not worth it. Just, we made an attempt, and some people can be hard to work with, and made it not happen."
Regarding his involvement in the proposed tribute concert, Wolfgang said: "When it comes to VAN HALEN, and decision-making overall and what VAN HALEN does, it's Al, and then I'm there and supportive. You know, I basically help make the decisions that dad would be there to make, because I'm in there in his stead."
Wolfgang went on to say that he "would really like to do something" for his father, but that the tribute concert idea "never even got off the ground."
"Look at anything that's happened with VAN HALEN," he said. "And look how things have fallen apart. You know? The fact that in my tenure, in VAN HALEN, we managed to do three tours, put an album of original material and a live album out is a fucking miracle.
"People love to pin every decision VAN HALEN has ever made on Dad," he continued. "But Al's the brain. Al has been the guy forever. He's the dude. When it comes to VAN HALEN, Dad just wanted to play guitar. But, you know, Al's mentality, and it's the mentality that VAN HALEN took for the entirety of its band, is that there's nothing worth talking about unless it's happening. So the reason that nothing has been talked about from VAN HALEN, the official channels, is because nothing's happened. And I know how that will stir people up and piss them off. But that's how the operation is run."
Asked what he would say if someone were to assume that the main problem was a certain singer with three initials — referring to David Lee Roth — Wolfgang replied: "I would say 'Do your research on the history of VAN HALEN, and come to your conclusions.'"
In June 2022, Anthony confirmed to SiriusXM's Trunk that he was involved in some of the early conversations about the VAN HALEN tribute.
"I haven't spoken to him in a little while, but I have spoken with Alex on occasion," Michael said. "And for the most part, we don't even speak that much about music — more about just family, how we're doing and stuff like that. I know it still pains him a lot as far as Eddie goes and will probably for the rest of his life. But I spoke with him and Dave last year about a possible something, but Dave just starts going [talking really fast] And I'm, like, 'Okay.' And we basically just had kind of a conference call about having a conference call to discuss it, and then that other call didn't happen for whatever reason on their end. I told them that I'd obviously be interested. And it would be more like a celebration of the music rather than putting together something and calling it VAN HALEN because that just wouldn't be right at this point."
Anthony went on to say that he hadn't been aware Newsted was involved in the discussions until Jason disclosed it in The Palm Beach Post interview. "That's the first that I'd even heard about anything like that," Michael said. "And it was kind of interesting because he said he spoke to [Dave and Alex] about a year ago, and that's about the time I was speaking with them. So I don't know. I'm gonna have to call Jason and ask him. [Laughs]"
When Trunk noted that Roth said in his comment about the VAN HALEN tribute that "two of us" would be required "for every position" in the project's lineup, possibly suggesting that more than one guitarist and more than one bassist would be involved in the show, Anthony said: "I was kind of thinking along those lines also, but then one thing made me kind of change my mind and make me think, 'Well, Dave's just kind of being Dave,' and maybe he's just saying that it would take at least two people to be able to duplicate what one person in this band did, and the reason I thought of that was all of a sudden he brought up the name Pink. He was saying that Pink would have to be one of the David Lee Roth characters, or singers, and I'm, like, 'Huh.' That just sounded a little too 'Dave' to me.
"But I don't know," Anthony quickly clarified. "At this point, I've gotta tell you, I don't know if anything will ever happen. 'Cause Alex is — he's really hurting. Him and Edward were so close on all levels — musical levels and personally and whatever. It just seems to me like it might be really hard for Alex to even enter into something to bring back all those memories. I don't know. I could be wrong. I'm the guy that always says, 'Never say never.'"
According to Anthony, the proposed VAN HALEN tribute would likely take the form of a single concert rather than a full-fledged tour.
"What was being talked about was not actually doing a tour," he said. "You take something like this on tour and people are gonna think it's a cashgrab. I'd rather have something, like a memorial-type thing, done at a venue. And there were actually a couple of venues discussed. But do it that way instead of taking it on the road. And make it just a real celebration of the music…
"I actually would not be up for doing a tour right off the bat," Michael continued. "I think holding a celebration of Eddie and the music and the whole VAN HALEN legacy is great. And let's face it — none of us need the money. I don't need the money. I'd rather take the money and throw it in a charity."
Michael once again reiterated that he has no concrete idea whether any VAN HALEN tribute concert will take place. "I think it all really hinges upon Alex," he said. "And he's gotta be the person, really, that wants to do this and give his blessing to the whole thing for it to move forward. And like I said, when we speak, we really don't even speak about doing anything like that at this point. He's still healing. And if it gets to that point, I'm sure Alex will be the first one that'll wanna do something like that."
Asked whether there has been any bad blood between him and Alex and Dave in recent years, Anthony said: "Not at all. I only spoke to Dave that one conversation we had [in 2021] and I couldn't hardly get a word in edgewise, which is… that's typical Dave. But I have spoken to Alex on occasion, and it's great. We'll speak for, like, 45 minutes, an hour. And probably about the first 20 minutes is Alex, sometimes he'll vent to me a bit about all the circumstances around how everything happened with Eddie. But we basically just talk about family and we actually bring up some of the old times on the road, to lighten things up a bit."
In June 2021, Wolfgang, who joined his father in VAN HALEN for the band's 2007 reunion tour with Roth, replacing Anthony, told SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk" it would be "great" to eventually organize an Eddie Van Halen tribute show. "It's not in the immediate plans, 'cause that's a lot of moving parts that you've gotta corral to get that to happen. But I definitely think it should happen. Absolutely," he said.
Asked how he envisions the tribute concert taking place in terms of which musicians should be involved, Wolfgang said: "I have no idea. All I know is that the focus should a hundred percent be on Pop. While it could be a celebration of VAN HALEN and the band's history, I think more than anything, it should be focused on him… It's a tall ask and a big thing to figure out. But I do think it should happen at some point."
In November 2020, Wolfgang told Entertainment Tonight that proceeds from any tribute show in honor of his father would go toward Eddie's favorite charity, Mr. Holland's Opus, which helps underprivileged students access musical instruments. Proceeds from the debut solo single from Wolfgang's solo band MAMMOTH WVH, "Distance", are also benefiting Mr. Holland's Opus.
Eddie died in October 2020 at the age of 65. The legendary VAN HALEN guitarist passed away at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California.
Photo credit: Leah Steiger (courtesy of Hannah Kampf)