ChickenfootChickenfoot has stepped into the yard
By Naughty Mickie
Photos by Daniel Narvaiz
 
"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.
 
ChikenfootAnthony 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 practice" question.
 
"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 song."
 
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 City College.
 
"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 night.
 
Chickenfoot"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 says.
 
Somehow instead of saying our goodbyes, we end up talking about Hagar.
 
"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.
 
Chickenfoot"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 logo.
 
"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 www.madanthonycafe.com, Anthony adds.
 
"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 guys play.
 
"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."
 
Find out more about Chickenfoot at www.chickenfoot.us and see Michael Anthony's cars and more at www.madanthonycafe.com

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