From Las Vegas Review Journal:
Dec. 04, 2009
It was the rare encore that marked a beginning rather than an end.
And 21 months later, it’s still going on, in a way.
Back in February 2008, Sammy Hagar ended a show in The Pearl at the Palms by inviting a few of his running buddies — former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani — onstage to knock the stuffing out of some classic rock covers as a way of concluding the gig.
It was one of those flash point moments, the striking of a match, the
lighting of a fuse.
“I totally remember it,” Anthony recalls, his voice a cannon ball of
enthusiasm. “When Sammy was doing the show in Vegas, he wanted to do
something different than just going onstage for the encore with his band
the Wabos, so he called up Chad and myself and had an idea to call up Joe
also. We’re all like, ‘We’ll come down and do a jam for the encore.’ And
“I’ve been fortunate a couple of times in my career where the magic is
just happening — sometimes it never happens,” he continues. “It’s on
fire, and then you add the crowd being there, god, it was just so much
fun. After we were done, that’s when we were like, ‘Wow, we’ve got to get
into the studio or something and see if we can do something with this,’
because we just had so much fun doing it.”
What ultimately resulted was Chickenfoot, a full-fledged new band whose
eponymous debut has earned the group a gold record.
The album’s appeal lies in its kinetic, off-the-cuff feel. It’s an
energized affair, with Hagar howlin’ at the moon through most cuts,
teaming up with Anthony for their trademark backing harmonies, which are
high up in the mix.
For his part, Smith lays down a hard, funky swing, while Satriani peppers
everything with some wild-eyed fretboard acrobatics. As such,
“Chickenfoot” is a blend of spontaneity and technical fireworks; chops and
It’s a very informal sounding record, and yet the band locks in on such an
airtight groove, their skill as players is always palpable.
It would be easy for a project like this to come off as gimmicky or
forced. Instead, it feels organic and never overthought.
“When we were recording this thing, nobody told anybody else in the band
what they think they should play here or there,” Anthony notes. “Everybody
was free to just throw their thing into it, and that’s the cool deal. It’s
almost like four little solo records coming together as a unit. We
recorded it live in the studio, besides some of the overdubs that Joe did.
We wanted to keep it really loose in that respect. I think it really comes
off that way, and when we do play those songs live, we never play them the
same. With this, you don’t know what to expect.”
Anthony’s a fun guy to talk to, prone to letting loose with this huge
laugh that barrels out of him, shattering the calm like a brick hurled
through a plate glass window.
He sounds relaxed and more than a little liberated, as if Chickenfoot has
picked the lock to his true identity as a musician.
“It’s great, because in the later years of Van Halen, I was kind of choked
as far as what I played in the band,” he says, reflecting on his former
group. “This was like a really great release. It was like, ‘Ahh, man, I
can just go out there and jam and play whatever I want.’ ”
Anthony claims that he’s having such a good time, that he’s bent on
helping some of his new bandmates do the same, especially the normally
“We pull Joe out his shell a little bit now,” he says with another
chuckle. “He actually breaks a sweat and moves around onstage. That’s
something that he doesn’t do very often doing the solo thing. You get a
few screaming girls up in front of him, and we change him up a little bit.
We said, ‘Hey Joe, check out what the other side has to offer to ya
More laughter ensues.
Though Anthony says that he hasn’t toured or worked this hard since 1975,
he seems completely at ease with himself.
It’s as if vacation has become his vocation.
“We’ve all done our stuff in the past with Van Halen, we’ve made money, so
we can do this purely just to hang out as friends and have a good time,”
he says. “And, man, you look at it a whole different way when it’s like
that, because you don’t feel the need to have to do anything or prove
anything to anybody. Everybody just brings their own deal to the table,
and it gives you a kick in the butt. It gets me all inspired and makes me
realize why I got into doing this in the first place, and that was just to
have fun and make music, you know?”