Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, Jason Bonham and Michael Anthony visited Howard Stern and Sirius XM in L.A. yesterday (November 14), to announce their 2024 “Best Of Both Worlds” tour. Named for the Van Halen song that came for the mid-‘80s and early ‘90s period when Hagar fronted Van Halen, the song is a fitting name for the upcoming tour.
The trek will focus mainly on Van Halen songs, with Hagar’s impressive solo catalog interspersed throughout the show every night. Before their press conference with Eddie Trunk, I sat down with all four band members to discuss their tour, their friendship, paying tribute to the late great guitar god Eddie Van Halen and more.
Steve Baltin: So how are you guys doing today?
Sammy Hagar: Great. When was the last time you did something for the first time well? For me anyway, I sang about seven Van Halen songs at 6 o’clock in the f**king morning. Yeah, Mike and I, and importantly, Jason, we pulled it off and Jason was singing some of my parts because they said I can’t sing the chorus and the verses. It was really interesting.
Baltin: Coming back to some of these Van Halen songs, were there any of them that really changed for you guys? Because some of these songs I’m going to guess you hadn’t done in a long time.
Hagar: Right, like ‘Summer Nights,’ we haven’t played since the 5150 tour. Mike and I haven’t played it. Jason has never played it. We decided we wanted to put that in a set because Joe can play it without that special guitar where no other guitar player can do that. I’m going to tell you right now; no other guitar player can do that. So, we tried it and it came off great. So that’s in there. A song like “5150,” where I forgot the complexity of that song and the intensity of that song. For this tour, we’re adding a lot of deep tracks and so we tried f**king tried about on Howard cause he was asking for them. It wasn’t like, “Wow, this is really weird.” It was like, “Wow, this is f**king great.” You forgot how great those songs were.
Baltin: I was just interviewing Greg Dulli from Afghan Whigs. He put out this box set of Twilight Singers and he was talking about the fact that on that set there’s people like Mark Lanegan who he was friends with, Dave Rosser. Close friends who passed away and he’s like, “It’s just so many memories.” So, I’m sure for all of you guys going through these songs, it’s a very emotional thing.
Hagar: Probably Joe can answer that question. Cause we all miss Eddie. Mike and I do, but Mike and I have been playing these songs, not all of these songs. And Jason, the three of us with the Circle, we’ve been playing four or five Van Halen songs every night when we played. So, we kind of got over that.
Jason Bonham: For nine years now.
Hagar: Yeah, other than the first gig after Eddie died when we did the Birthday Bash. That was hard.
Michael Anthony: That was like a day, couple days after he died. Yeah.
Hagar: But Joe, he’s the one that’s stepping into some shoes. How do those shoes feel, Joe?
Joe Satriani: You can’t fill them. You can put them on, but you can’t fill them. But you’ve got to enjoy it. You have to respect the genius of the architecture of his guitar parts and how he built the songs and you’ve got to get in there and just enjoy what he was building cause he would weave in and out of his original composition every time he played it live and bring new amazing little nuggets to each little section. So yeah, I really enjoyed getting into it. It is really frightening because I don’t play like him and I’ve had to learn to anticipate all his quirky accents where he likes to push things and turn things upside down. Just when you think they’re going to go left, they go right or up or down. So, it’s exciting.
Baltin: I saw Queen and Adam Lambert Saturday night and I was there for their first show. And the reason that works is because Adam is very talented and he’s smart enough to never try and be Freddie and that’s why they’ve been able to tour for 10 years. Where I was getting with the emotions is every song brings back its own memories. Do you hear the songs in a different way?
Hagar: Yeah, particularly like I said, I think “Summer Nights,” cause that was the first song when I walked into Van Halen when I basically auditioned, went down to meet them and Eddie and Mike and Alex played me that music.
Anthony: We already were working up the music. That was for one of the first things.
Hagar: I started singing “Summer Nights.” I sang it first time out and it stayed. So, when we sing that song, it really does jolt you back to the future. And that was cool tonight cause we never have done it. And the song lyrically was so ’80s and almost silly. But when I was singing it tonight and I remembered the f**king lyrics, by the way guys, I didn’t get any kudos from my band here that I remembered those damn lyrics cause I didn’t even listen to the song before we did it. And having 5150, when I listened to my lyrics first time I’m going, “Oh, this is one of them silly ’80s lyrics.” But then I checked it out and I’m going, “You know what, this is pretty good though.” It was a good job of talking about girls and partying in the streets like young guys.
Baltin: Do you feel like you’re coming from a place of you are doing what you want to do now versus what you have to do?
Hagar: Oh 100 percent. My money situation has been very secure and I don’t have to go out and work, but I choose to work and I choose to work with the people I want to work with. And I love this band. I love Vic Johnson too, who’s been in the circle forever, but playing this much Van Halen you’ve got to have Joe Satriani. There’s nobody else that I think understands Eddie the way he understands him. So we’re doing this cause we really want to do it. And when I’m singing a song that’s sort of silly ’80s lyrics, like when I was 40 acting like I was 20, I can honestly think about the people that are listening to it. And Mike and I talked about that. We’re going out to serve the fans that we accumulated and it gave us this privilege to live like we live. And Jason talks better than anybody about how he grew up on those songs.
Bonham: I get to come in as the outsider that grew up in the Zeppelin house or whatever. But, for me musically, when I was buying music and getting into bands and had my earlier bands, I got to see Mike in 1984 and the final tour with Dave Tour in Darlington in England. I can remember when I first heard the single. We used to tour Florida in ‘86 in an RV and I was coming into Florida and they were playing [“Why Can’t This Be Love”] the first time I heard it with Sammy. And then “When It’s Love” came out, that was it. That was a song I literally ripped off that song on a track called “Playing to Win.” I completely stole that. Alright.
Hagar: So now the truth comes out (laughs). So this band, the chemistry, and of course every guitar player idolized Eddie. And Mike and I were there. So, it feels really good playing those songs with this group. And today’s the first day we did it. And we found out we have chemistry. And boy you find out real quick about chemistry. When it is the first day of rehearsal and you go, “This s**t ain’t working.”
Baltin: It takes some cajones to do it live on Stern and see if it works. So, was it instantaneous?
Hagar: He was really tricky because he really got down to the best of us. He put this to the acid test. Number one, we were only going to play a minute, like an intro, so Joe could show up and then a verse and a chorus where Mike and I can show off our vocals and we all said, “Okay, we know enough to do that. And we’ll play one song all the way through.” We said, “Well, we know ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ the best. So we rehearsed that at rehearsal this morning and we said, “Oh yeah, we can play. That’s good.” Howard wants “When It’s Love.” Good enough.
Satriani: We ended up playing like four songs all the way through. It’s the first time as his band we played them live together.
Baltin: Do you feel like there’s a joy in being able to share these songs? There are going to be kids who are hearing this stuff live for the first time?
Hagar: 100 percent. Not only a joy to be doing it, but also an obligation. That’s what Mike and I decided, it’s been 20 years since we played with Ed now, the “Reunion” tour, which was 20 years ago come this May or June when we start our rehearsals. It’s 20 years later. We can’t wait another 20 years. We got to go out and do this. Now, the music will outlive all of us. There’s no question about that. But like what Jason’s doing with the Led Zeppelin thing and all that, it’s an obligation.
Bonham: Yeah, it became bigger than just what I thought was a good idea to go play some music and get it off my chest and therapy. It soon became about their love. They lost their drummer, lost their band. I’m playing these songs. In some ways I much prefer to come into this because I can just be the drummer, there’s a huge joy to me. There’s a big weight. When I go and do that thing, I’m representing the family name and the whole thing. So this, to me, is where you’ll get me to see me smiling, having a great time. And that comes across. Everyone I’ve spoke to about the last run we just did, everybody comes up to me and says, “You guys are the guys that are having so much fun on stage.” And it comes off.
Hagar: The obligation for Mike and I, that’s why we have a guy like Jason Bonham. Shortest story is Alex Van Halen, his idol, his hero, the guy he worshiped was John Bonham. He plays just like John. So he’s good for playing Alex’s part. There’s no question about it. And Montrose too. So, to do this, we need a real keyboard player. It’s like things on tape originally and 5150 Eddie played keyboards and I played guitar. When they did a keyboard song, we didn’t have background and it was the best. When I go back and see those videos, 5150 was really the coolest era cause we were on f**king fire and we were live as a mother**ker and we were really good in high energy. So, I want to create that with this thing. I think it’s an obligation for those 20-year-olds and say, “I want to see Van Halen.” And didn’t get to see them. So, they’re going to hear the voices, that’s number one. And they’re going to hear a drummer that can serve that s**t up as good as anybody. And they’re going to hear a guitar player that’s as good as anybody on the planet. Like I said, you’re going to go deep into Van Halen deep tracks and deep catalog, you need Joe Satriani. That’s what Joe and I said. We’re going to play about eight, 15 Van Halen songs, about an hour and a half of Van Halen. About half hour of my shit. And he’s going, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait a minute dude.”