Sammy Hagar has always pursued a degree of "enlightenment" with his music — even if it's about the ardors of driving 55 mph or the benefits of "Mas Tequila." But on Space Between, the new concept album by his all-star band The Circle, Hagar is going deeper.
"The album is really about money, greed, enlightenment and truth," the Red Rocker — no stranger to the filthy lucre with his record sales. liquor brands and clubs and restaurants — explains to Billboard. "Money is not the problem. Money is beautiful; You can heal the sick, you can feed the poor, you can stop a war with money. It's greed that's the problem. So you shouldn't hate somebody just 'cause they're rich, especially if they didn't f*** anybody out of (the money) and if they do something good with it. Go guys like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, you can't be mad at them for being so rich. These guys build hospitals, build schools for children and other countries. Those are good guys. That's what you can do with money."
Part of the album's message, Hagar adds, is to encourage that kind of charity from listeners. "If they have some extra money, maybe they will be enlightened to do something good with it," he says. "Y'know, 10 bucks at a food bank makes something like 10 meals, or feeds 10 people. It's really good bang for the buck. There's things you can do to help your fellow man and not just sit around and bitch about everything. I really do hope that it changes some people, maybe gives them some hope." But Hagar hastens to add that Space Between — coming out Friday (May 10) — should not be construed as politically motivated or a statement on the current U.S. presidential administration.
"I stay out of that crap," Hagar says. "I mean, watching the news, seeing what's going on in the world, I just go, 'Man, it's ugly out there…' So I just thought it was time to make a statement, without it being political or saying, 'Hey, vote for this guy' or anything. If I had an answer on how to fix this country or the world, I'd run for office. But I stay out of politics because I don't have an answer. If I can make people happy for a couple of hours on stage and give them some hope and some fun and maybe enlighten them a little bit, I'm happy to do that."
Hagar has, of course, been doing that for a long time, with his own Waboritas and with bands such as Montrose, Van Halen and Chickenfoot. The Circle — which includes his longtime guitarist Vic Johnson, founding Van Halen bassist and Chickenfoot bandmate Michael Anthony and drummer Jason Bonham — has been together for about seven years, to this point playing favorites from his past and an assortment of Led Zeppelin covers. The group released a live album, At Your Service, in 2015, but Hagar acknowledges he was "scared to make a record" of original material with the group.
"A couple years ago I said, 'Man, I don't think we'll ever make a record. How are we going to put a new song in between 'I Can't Drive 55' and and 'Right Now' and 'Whole Lotta Love?' You can't do it'," Hagar explains. "But I think we did it. Touring seven years together, playing, we knew what we were all about. It was like starting over, like when we were kids and paid all our dues together — and then we made an album." That said, he and Johnson in particular had an understanding about how they wanted to approach the album.
"I really approached this record different than any time, ever," Hagar says. "The first thing I told (Johnson) and myself was there weren't going to be any songs that we shred on. I'm showing him the songs and he's like, 'Where's the solo?' 'There ain't gonna be no f***ing solo.' It's unnecessary, especially with what I'm talking about in these songs. Can you say that on guitar? If you can, then go ahead. But if you can't, then let's leave it alone. We've got enough room for five-minute guitar solos in the other songs we play."
The Circle has, in fact, trimmed the Led Zeppelin songs down to one per night in order to make room for the Space Between material. But Hagar and company are still drawing from his Montrose and Van Halen repertoires — though he continues to put to rest rumors and reports that surfaced earlier this year about Anthony rejoining the original lineup of the latter.
"Mikey has my blessings to do it — if it ever happens," Hagar says. "Every now and then (Van Halen's) management throws something at me or Mikey saying, 'Hey, what are you guys doing next summer?' or, 'We're talking about maybe doing this or doing that,' and we're like, 'Yeah, let me know' and you never hear nothing. If Van Halen asks Mike to come back, I'll say, 'Take a break, absolutely.' He has to have that for closure, 'cause he's a founding member. If that could happen to him and he wants to do it, I'm all for it and then he can come back (to the Circle). But right now nothing's going on so he's here and the Circle is going strong."