SAMMY HAGAR Says With Wealth Comes Responsibility: 'You've Got To Help Other People And Not Just Be About The Money'
During his November 19 appearance at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, veteran rock vocalist Sammy Hagar (VAN HALEN, CHICKENFOOT, MONTROSE) discussed the inspiration behind the title of ”Space Between”, the debut album by THE CIRCLE.
”I wanted people to understand that I am not a left person and I am not a right person,” Hagar said. ”My whole life, growing up, [people would] say, 'Oh, you've got to stand up for something. You always have to take a stand.' I just think that is so over — that you don't have to take a stand if you don't believe in it. I don't like what these guys [on the left] are doing; I don't like what these guys [on the right] are doing; so I said, 'I'm just going to sit on the fence and wait until somebody comes along with a political [or] religious belief that touches my heart.' I don't feel that [right now]. The political climate, it's ugly out there. I don't like that, and I don't like that, so I'm in the space between. I just said, 'I'm going to name this album 'Space Between', because that's where my heart is.' It's a sanctuary. It's a safe place. It's where peace is, that space between. That's where peace lies — two hands reaching out to that space between. That is the answer — to me, right now. It's a very sacred, special place.”
The album's concept revolves around greed, but according to Hagar — a multimillionaire who has experienced even more success as a spirits entrepreneur than during his years a multi-platinum recording artist — greed and wealth are not the same thing. ”It's what you do with your money,” he said. ”You can be as rich as can be — a guy like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — [but] these guys build schools. They build hospitals. They feed people all over the world. The difference is not doing good for other people — just hoarding your money and spending it like crazy and doing crazy things and ripping other people off. That's what greed is. There's nothing wrong with being rich, man. It's much better than being poor. Believe me — I've been both. You've just got to help other people and do what you can and not just be about the money. It's really about what you can do with the money. I just think it's important to know that you can't hate somebody because they're rich. Is this guy cool, or is he not cool? I just kind of got hung up in that first, and then I made up a story that was really interesting about a guy that goes through it, has everything and blows it, and then gets enlightened from hitting the bottom. When he hit bottom, he had nothing, and he's crashing at the beach with friends, and all of a sudden, he goes, 'Wow, this ain't so bad compared to where I just came from.'”
Hagar explained that the album's concept factored heavily into the performance of guitarist Vic Johnson. ”It was a lyrical album,” Hagar said. ”I thought the lyric was really important, so a solo had to say kind of the same thing that the lyrics meant. It's not just noodling and showing how fast you can play. I just thought on we've done that so many times. All you're going to do is get compared to Joe Satriani or Eddie Van Halen. Just think about the song, and if it needs a solo, we'll put one in, but we don't need a solo just for a solo. I wanted two-and-a-half, three-minute songs… I didn't want to have these big, long things. I wanted to get to the point, get you on to the next chapter. Long solos can distract [from] what I was trying to say lyrically. It was kind of selfish, but Vic played some of the greatest little licks and solos and rhythm parts. His tone… Vic is the most underrated guitar player.”
In many ways, the concept behind ”Space Between” parallels Hagar's philanthropy. ”I grew up poor,” he said, ”and without going into too many details, if it wasn't for food banks… My mother, for Christmas and Thanksgiving, I had a single mom [who] raised four kids, and I was the youngest of four kids — she'd go get a turkey or a ham from the unions from the steel mill in the town. They'd give food away, and it was so great for the whole family. It was like, 'Wow. We're going to really have a great meal tonight.' It wasn't like we were starving, but we were definitely poor. I just remember the joy we would get from free food. Us kids would go, 'Whoa, look at this!' I just want to feed people. I think the basic thing you can do is feed people. I [donate] to a food bank in every city I go for 10 years now — every city I play, I write a check to the food bank. I go down to the food banks. When you see families like my family was — we weren't homeless; we were just having a hard time making ends meet… I just believe it's really a lot of bang for the buck. I'm also a really big fan of local. I would love to feed every child in Africa. I wish I could, but I don't live in Africa. I just try to help as many people as I can in my environment, so when I go play a concert, I don't just take the check — I leave something behind. That's my philosophy.”
THE CIRCLE's first album of all-original material, ”Space Between”, was released May 10 via BMG.
In addition to Hagar, THE CIRCLE features drummer Jason Bonham (BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION, JASON BONHAM'S LED ZEPPELIN EVENING), guitarist Vic Johnson (THE WABORITAS) and Hagar's VAN HALEN and CHICKENFOOT bandmate Michael Anthony.