Sammy Hagar had not worked with Eddie Van Halen for almost 20 years before that of the guitarist death in October 2020. But his influence still permeates the Red Rocker’s new album with Circle, Crazy Times.
“Eddie was so special. He had a profound influence on me musically and you know Mikey [Anthony]too,” Hagar tells UCR. “I think everything I’ve done since Van Halen has gotten 100% [his influence]. Just like Ronnie Montrose had an influence on me, you take that with you. There’s just no way around that kind of brilliance that doesn’t help you with songwriting, primarily.”
Hagar says it further Crazy Timesout Sept. 30, he and his Circle bandmates — bassist Anthony, drummer Jason Bonham and guitarist Vic Johnson — tried to incorporate the soaring, almost angelic vocal harmonies that were a signature part of Van Halen’s sound.
But even with Anthony’s soaring tenor in the mix, the band and producer Dave Cobb struggled to nail the formula. But it wasn’t just a Circle problem.
“I tried to get it Chicken feet and we couldn’t get it,” notes Hagar. “We had the same vocals, Mikey and myself. It doesn’t sound like Van Halen, that backing vocals. We tried. I said, ‘What the hell?’ You know, ‘Mike, are you losing your voice or what?’ He says, “I bloody don’t know!”
Stunned, Hagar called the foremost authority on obtaining the Van Halen vocal mix: the band’s former producer Ted Templeman. “I said, ‘Ted, how the hell are we going to do that?'” the singer recalls. “He’s like, ‘Oh, there’s a trick! Mikey has to double your part. Like, if you sing the low part, you double yours and he does one. And then he triples his vocals, his high part. ‘ When he does the third one, bam, it sounds like Van Halen, that horn honking.”
The call paid off immediately. “Boy, did we get it,” Hagar says. “When Cobb heard that, he said, ‘Oh, fuck yeah!’ Now that’s the whole record Van Halen influence on this record, I would say, strictly the background vocals.”
Templeman points out that Eddie Van Halen’s voice was also an important ingredient in the band’s indelible vocal alchemy. “Ed’s background parts are part of the sound of Van Halen. A lot of people don’t realize that,” the producer tells UCR. “They think of him as the guitar hero, but he was part of the youthful sound that came out right away, at the very beginning, even onYou really got me.’
“What got me is I see Ed and Mike sing and I’m like, ‘How do those guys…?’ Ed sings so great because [being] the guitar player, you know?” notes Templeman. “Most guys who play that kind of guitar don’t sing that well. But he had this big, youthful voice. He’s part of the sound, that California Sunshine sound [of] heavy metal. It was all part of Ed’s sound.”
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