has stepped into the yard
By Naughty Mickie
"Chickenfoot" (Redline Entertainment) has
only been out since the beginning of June and already the
album's namesake band, Chickenfoot, is becoming a household
name. The recording is produced by Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin,
The Rolling Stones) and mixed by Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Metallica).
The CD boasts a heat sensitive black cover, which reveals its
images with your touch. This is as cool as the player lineup,
Sammy Hagar on vocals, Joe Satriani manning guitar, Michael
Anthony holding down the bass and Chad Smith behind the drums.
Hagar and Anthony hail from Van Halen, Smith made his mark in
the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Satriani is one of the world's
best rock guitarists. It was with this in mind I set out to
learn more about this supergroup.
"About a year and a half ago, Sammy was
playing a show, it was a pre-Super Bowl thing in Vegas at the
Palms and he wanted to do something different for the encore,
he was doing this with his band, the Waboritas," Anthony
starts. "He called Chad and myself up, us three are
Chickenfoot jamming down in Cabo. The name, by the way, was
just some silly thing that we came up with because we have to
call it something when we're playing down there. We just can't
say, 'Here's Sammy, Mike and Chad playing,' so we always think
up a name down there. Chickenfoot was our name-- the three
toes, the three of us.
"Sammy was saying 'Hey, if we're going to
do this, I want to get a proper guitar player, a good guitar
player' because he felt he was a little substandard next to
Chad and myself, I don't know. He called Joe up and Joe said
sure, I'll come out and play and he came out to Vegas and we
jammed two or three songs for the encore. Man, that instant
gratification from the audience, it was great and we had such
a great time that we said, hey, let's go in the studio or do
something, we've got to do something with this because it was
cool, it was magic. Right then we decided to see how far we
could take this, if it could turn into something."
"After we had that jam, Sam and Joe got
together because they both live up in the Bay Area and came up
with a handful of ideas and Joe demoed them, put them on CDs
and sent them to Chad and myself and we were able to get
together at Sammy's studio in San Francisco. Joe was actually
in the midst of doing a tour which would take him almost a
full year last year." Anthony continues, "We got together over
a weekend and by the end of that weekend we had pretty much
demoed up seven ideas. That kind of chemistry sometimes never
happens to anybody, it's like a once in a lifetime deal. You
get together and jam with people and play and it just turns
out to be a jam and that's it. But when the magic and the
chemistry is there, it's pretty exciting."
I ask Anthony how they practiced being so
far apart and so busy.
Anthony laughs and then says, "This is kind
of the way we did a lot of the demoing and actually a little
bit of the recording because Joe was touring and Sammy was
doing some touring, I obviously was just relaxing in my
semi-retirement and Chad wasn't doing anything with the Chili
Peppers. When Joe would have a little break and Sammy would
have a break, we would all reconvene at the studio. Chad and I
would fly up to Sammy's place in San Rafael and we'd jam some
more and work on some more ideas. It wasn't actually until the
end of the year, we got together in Sammy's studio and we
recorded some tracks, but it wasn't until around November-ish
that we all got together and were able to book time at
Skywalker Ranch up in Northern California, George Lucas'
place. At that point we just dove right into it."
OK, I try again with my "how do you
"It's funny because it was so whirlwind
finishing up the recording, putting everything together."
Anthony responds, "There were actually two, three songs that
we wrote as a band in the studio while we were laying down the
other tracks that we had never really rehearsed as a band. A
lot of times you get together and you'll write a song and
rehearse it and sing it and we'll play it in a live situation
in the studio and then we'll record it, but we were actually
recording it as we were writing it.
"In fact one of the songs, 'Down the
Drain,' that's the one in the beginning Sammy is asking Joe,
'Hey Joe, is that that new thing? Is that that new idea?' Well
Joe had an idea for another song, which was 'My Kind of Girl,'
but this is kind of weird, we were in the middle of trying to
do another take of 'Soap on a Rope' because we thought that
maybe we could beat the track that we had, do a better job and
in between doing takes of that Joe just started jamming this
thing that would turn out to be 'Down the Drain.' And Chad
came in and I came in and we were just jamming and Sammy was
asking Joe was that the new thing? Well, yeah, it was the new
thing that we were doing right there on the spot and we wrote
that and recorded it as we were playing. Of course we played
it for about a half-hour because you're always jamming the
different parts, but we put it together and that was the
Does being a supergroup equal success?
"I think what's really going to help the
success of this band, we haven't even released the CD yet, but
just seeing on the Internet from some of the music that we've
leaked out of it and the fan reaction, I think the music is
what is really going to sell us." Anthony shares, "When I
think of a supergroup I think of a manufactured type thing,
like let's grab Sammy Hagar, let's grab Chad Smith out of the
Chili Peppers and put a thing together like that. A lot of
guys do that and it's a project and it's a supergroup project,
but I think that way that we did it was more of an organic
kind of thing because we were all friends and knew each other
and it wasn't out of let's put this together, it just fell
into place. It was more for the love of the music and what we
were playing and jamming and having fun with rather than let's
put this together and we'll start writing. I think that really
helped as far as how the music came together. To me, it really
sounds like a band, it sounds like a band that's been together
a long time actually."
I wondered if Anthony still played his
trumpet like he did in his youth.
"I pick up and blow the trumpet every now
and then, but I probably should play more seriously," says
Anthony. "I'll pick it up on New Year's Eve and rattle my
neighbors' brains out and stuff like that, but I really don't
play trumpet much any more."
Then I ask him about his time at Pasadena
"I majored almost a couple of years in
psychology, believe it or not, because my father, he knew
being a musician himself a long time ago, he knew how tough it
was to make it in the business," replies Anthony. "He was
like, 'Well, you know you have to have something to fall back
on.' So I majored in psychology because that was the only
other thing I was interested in. I was really interested in
helping mentally challenged children.
"I majored in that for a while. What I wanted to do, it seemed
like I was going to be going to school for 10 years or
something like that, but while I was doing that I was also
playing with Van Halen at night. So I'm trying to go to school
during the day and do the club scene in Hollywood or wherever
we were playing at night and I think once my father realized
that this is what I really wanted to do, he gave me the green
light and I was pretty close to getting my AA at Pasadena
(City) College, so I switched over to music. I majored another
year or so in music, but then that got to be a strain because
Van Halen was playing more and more at night and it was just
so tough to try to go to school and play at these clubs all
"I would go to my music classes, but I
would sleep in my car in the parking lot," Anthony laughs,
"when I was supposed to go to my other classes. It was like,
'I can't do this, oh my god.' I finally dropped out of school.
I had to do it because Van Halen, we were attaining local
success and it like OK we may starve or not make any money
doing this for a while, but we're going to give it a shot
doing our own stuff. I dropped out of school, my father
kicked me out of the house and I lived with my sister for a
while. But I knew that this was the one shot that I had, it
was like the opportunity was there and thank god,
I'm glad it worked out."
Today he's more than made and has an
impressive car collection.
"A bad habit that I acquired from Sammy Hagar. I've got nine
or ten cars, it's crazy. It's a bad vice, but it's not as bad
a vice as some of the other vices I've seen a lot of my
musician buddies pick up." Anthony then tells me about his
other business, "I'm involved with a company, we mainly do
forged billet aluminum wheels, called Bonspeed. My partner,
Brad Fanshaw, has been in the business a long time and we
formed this company some years back and are doing quite well
now. It's the hobby thing, I love cars and anything that has
to do with cars and just speed and driving fast. It's a pretty
relaxing thing for me on the other side, for my partner Brad,
he's the one who stays stressed up all the time on that."
So what's next for Chickenfoot?
"We will be finishing up Europe mid-July
and we'll take a couple of weeks off and get our production
together for the States and then I think we start August 7 in
Halifax up in Canada, but then we'll come right back down and
we're going to be playing shows through the end of September
in the States, so we'll be coming back around again," Anthony
Somehow instead of saying our goodbyes, we end up talking
"It was funny because after he left Van Halen we were out of
touch for quite a few years and all of a sudden, I don't
remember if it was one New Year's when I was a little drunk
and I told my wife, 'Hey, I'm going to call up Sammy and wish
him happy New Year, I hadn't talked to him in so long.'"
Anthony recalls, "We missed each other a couple of times, he'd
call me back and I wouldn't be around or I'd call him and he
wouldn't be around and finally we reconnected. This was when
Van Halen, there wasn't much going on. The Gary Cherone tour
had finished and Eddie was dealing with his tongue cancer that
he had and he had a
couple of other personal things going on and Sammy and I
reconnected and we're actually better friends now than when he
was in Van Halen.
"We reconnected more on a personal level
rather than all of a sudden 'here's your new lead singer' and
he came in the band like that. We were great friends then too,
but when he left the band my allegiance was with Van Halen, it
was politically incorrect for me to have anything to do with
him," Anthony goes on. "We have a great time. He's probably
one of the if not the most upbeat, positive people that I have
known in my life and just being around him, we love the same
things too. We love the beach, we love cars, all that kind of
stuff and we get along great."
I can't resist asking for a little advice.
"If you're a real musician and love playing
your instrument, that's the first and foremost thing. Do it
because you love doing it," Anthony states. "There's a lot of
guys that go out there and they want to be rock stars and me,
I consider myself a musician not a rock star. If people want
to put that tag on me, that's great, but I love playing bass
and I love playing music and for me that's the most important
thing. I know people, musicians, great musicians who have
never been able to make it big in the business so to speak,
but it doesn't bother them because they love playing music and
there's guys that play.
"There's a couple of buddies of mine that
play at a place in Arcadia called First Cabin-- Pat O'Brien
(and the Priests of Love). Pat and Jim Volpe, who plays drums.
Jim played alongside me growing up and I've been known to go
in there and have a couple of drink and get up and jam with
those guys. They do it because they love doing it not because
they have to do it.
"That's the other sad side, I've grown up
playing with a lot of great musicians in bands that early on
they get married and have a kid and that straps them down and
all of a sudden they need to do that, to know that money's
coming in and they can't take a chance to try to make it."
Anthony continues, "That's kinda sad, but guys like Jim and
Pat, they're great musicians and they're great guys. They love
playing music. Especially today it's so tough trying to make
it unless you're trying to go the 'American Idol' route I
guess. I have two younger brothers that are playing in bands,
this is well after I'd been playing in clubs, all of sudden
the club managers and owners they don't want to take a chance
on new bands and so my brothers are playing in these clubs and
they have a handful of tickets. If you want to play here, you
have to sell these tickets for $5 a piece or whatever or the
band has to eat it and they have to buy them. It's kind of
like the club owners don't want to take a chance, they want to
make sure that they've got that money coming in and they're
not going to lose a dime on these bands. It's sad, it really
makes it tough on these guys because where do you play? If you
don't have the money to buy these tickets.
"Where do you play? Parties? If you're an
aspiring musician you're not going to get recognized playing a
backyard party. That's what really made it tough. It was tough
for us, I can't even remember how many nights where somebody
was supposed to be at the show and you've got the little
reserved sign out on the table and at the end of the night the
sign is still on the table and nobody's there. It is tough, a
lot of times you have to have a connection. Van Halen, our
whole idea was to build a following and if we had a big enough
following, somebody couldn't help but take notice of this band
that had a huge following and fortunately it worked for us. I
can't imagine how tough it is now.
"The only other real vehicle that I've seen
that bands can do to get it out there is to have a MySpace
page or Twitter. I know a lot of agents and a lot of managers
will cruise those sites looking for talent. It helps a little
bit, but it's really a tough deal."
I ask Anthony if he has any last thoughts.
"Want to talk about my hot sauce?" Anthony
laughs, "It all just stepped out of my love of hot sauce. In
Van Halen in the later years when Sammy was in the band and it
just got out around our fans how much I love hot sauce and
every show that we'd play people would show up with chili
peppers, salsas and people would always be bugging me, 'You
ought to be making your own hot sauce.' It was the same thing
when I drank Jack Daniels back in the day, everybody was
going, 'Oh, you need to build a bass that looks like a Jack
Daniels bottle' and lo and behold, there it is.
"We were shooting a video for our 'Balance'
record and the catering had this hot sauce called Ring of Fire
and I really dug the logo that was on it. It was a chili
pepper wearing a sombrero blowing flames out of his mouth and
I thought, 'Man, that would make a great tat some day.' They
gave me the bottle, saying, 'Go and take it' and I kept it for
a couple years and I had a tattoo put on my forearm of this
"I was at the NAMM (International
Association of Music Merchants) show in Anaheim signing
autographs for one of the people I endorse and a friend of the
owners of this company saw this and they told the owners. The
next year all of a sudden, this person brings, 'Oh they want
you to have these hats and these shirts and they're glad you
like their sauce.' Then the whole Joe Perry and Aerosmith, Joe
Perry came out with his hot sauce, so I thought I'm going to
call these guys up because it might be a fun thing to do and I
never had the idea of taking it like Sammy took his tequila, I
was just looking for a fun thing to do.
"I called Mike and Diane's Gourmet Kitchen
down in San Diego and they loved the idea of doing a sauce
with me and they were fans of the band, which didn't hurt. So
they said, 'Yeah, let's develop the sauce.' I was right on the
ground level of developing the sauce which was really cool."
Anthony goes on, "I grew into this thing. We came out with the
sauces in 2004. I won a couple of awards and a couple of big
hot sauce challenge things that they hold in Texas every year.
It's a lot of fun.
"I've got two levels of hot sauce, but
flavor is the important thing. I went through my whole phase
where, like, I can eat the hotter sauce, but that doesn't make
a dining experience very pleasurable when you're sweating
profusely all over your food," Anthony chuckles. "You can't
even eat your meal. I've got the sauces and then we do a
couple of barbecue sauces and a spicy yellow mustard which is
just enough spice."
Mad Anthony's Hot Sauce is available at
Plaza Produce in Glendora and online at
"If this little tour is any kind of an
indication as to what's going to happen, we're going to have a
great time this summer and in the fall because we love doing
what we do, we're having a fun time and playing with two great
musicians, well three, but Joe and Chad, I think they're are
big secret weapon," continues Anthony. "People in the rock
world that don't necessarily listen to the Chili Peppers or
maybe not even Joe's solo stuff, they're really going to be
surprised when they hear the way that these guys play within
the context of this band.
"Chad, he might be a funk guy with the
Chili Peppers, but he's a Detroit rocker at heart. Let me tell
you, the boy can hit those drums hard, he's a rocker and he
adds that little funk finesse, which is great and Joe, the
same thing. I know he's been looking to play in a band like
this with a singer. It changes the way that he plays quite a
bit and people are really going to be impressed to see these
"I know my tongue's hanging out all the
time just standing between these guys playing." Anthony sums
up, "It's really inspiring and just doing this whole thing has
re-inspired me and makes me feel good about why I got into
this business in the first place and wound up playing music
and that was just to have fun."