Former Van Halen singer Sammy Hagar revealed that he and Eddie Van Halen planned to make new music together before the iconic guitarist's death in 2020.
The 76-year-old musician, who has released a five-LP Van Halen box set titled, "The Collection ll," became the band's new frontman in 1985 when he replaced original lead singer David Lee Roth, joining Eddie, Eddie's brother and drummer Alex Van Halen, and bassist/vocalist Michael Anthony.
After producing four multi-platinum albums, Hagar's stint with Van Halen ended with a split in 1995. The Cabo Wabo founder briefly reunited with Van Halen in 2004 but left the band again after the conclusion of their successful summer tour. Hagar's second departure led to a long estrangement with Eddie, but the pair reconciled in the months before the Van Halen founder died due to lung cancer in October 2020.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Hagar recalled that Eddie was experimenting with new instruments prior to his death and the two had discussed collaborating musically.
"He wanted to keep going. He was getting into it before he died. When we first connected, you know, again, after we went through all the fighting, and he was sick, and I reached out, and we got together and talked a lot. He was talking about playing cello and playing some wind instruments," Hagar said.
The Grammy Award winner continued, "He was saying, you know, 'Yeah, I'm working on some.' 'Cause I'd say, ‘Ed, what are you working on? You know, I want to get in there and work with you. Let's write together again.'
"And, you know, he said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah. Next year, you know, we'll get together, make some noise and all that stuff,'" Hagar remembered. "He said, 'Yeah, I'm really experimenting with other instruments.' And I thought, wow, he just – he was so musical.' And he had hands that would do what he thought. My hands won't do it. I think that's why I'm a singer. I think my voice will do it. I think my hands, you know, like they don't want to cooperate."
Hagar went on to marvel over Eddie's musical versatility and noted that his former bandmate was "absolutely" a genius.
Hagar complimented Van Halen's musical versatility. (Paul Natkin/WireImage)
"That's not overstating it," he said of Eddie's talent. "That's not bragging or that's nothing. The guy was a musical genius."
Hagar added that while Eddie wasn't formally educated, his innate genius was apparent when the two would collaborate on writing some of their greatest hits.
"He was capable of comprehending a lot of things about life that we would talk about and not, you know, not just musical," Hagar said. "When I would write a lyric that was really deep, like "Best of Both Worlds," you know, the things I was talking about, he got it. You know, I mean, a lot of people don't know. ‘What Love Walks In’ – people don't know what I'm talking about. But Eddie did."
After Hagar joined Van Halen, the band scored its first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 chart with the 1986 release "5150," which became certified six times platinum by the RIAA. Over the next 10 years with Hagar as the lead singer, Van Halen released three consecutive No. 1, multi-platinum albums, including 1988's "OU812," 1991's "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" and 1995's "Balance."
Last week, Rhino Records released a five-LP Van Halen box set titled "The Collection ll," which comprises remastered versions of Hagar's four studio albums with the band as well as a "disc of rarities, including instrumentals, B-sides, and song that were once only available as bonus tracks," per a press release.
Last week, Rhino Records released a five-LP Van Halen box set titled "The Collection ll." (Paul Natkin/WireImage)
During his interview with Fox News Digital, Hagar shared his excitement over hearing the remastered versions of his Van Halen albums. The release of "The Collection II' follows "The Collection I," a Van Halen box set that encompasses the albums and material from Roth's era with the band.
"My favorite thing about this remastering is the ‘5150’ and ‘OU812,’" he said. "Those records were recorded in Eddie's old studio. Completely analog. There wasn't a digital piece of equipment, and everything had a tube."
He continued, "Everything had to warm up before you could use it. And it's so warm. Those records recorded so warm. They were made for vinyl. They were made on, you know, tape, on three-inch tape, and so they really benefit from the technology of today's remastering."
The Red Rocker noted that the remastering process was conducted by Donn Landee, the engineer and co-producer behind the original four albums.
"He oversaw everything so that you wouldn't lose that beautiful analog," Hagar explained. "Those records were made for vinyl. You know what I mean? So they were mixed to a certain level of bass that just doesn't pop when you put it on digital. The bass was way low on those records because it was for vinyl. In order to get that much information on a turntable and with a needle, you couldn't put too much bass because it would take up too much space. So, boy, they really benefited from it."
The remastering process for the music was conducted by Donn Landee, who produced the original four albums. (Paul Natkin/WireImage)
"When I put those two records on, I just went ‘Woo, man,’" he recalled with a laugh.
Hagar also reflected on the differences between his collection of albums with Van Halen and those from Roth's era with the band. Roth fronted Van Halen during three different stints from 1974 to 1985, in 1996, and from 2006 until its disbandment following Eddie's death in 2020.
"I say it's more sophisticated and – whether you like that word or not – it's more creative," he said. "It's a little deeper, more artsy. But what Dave did that, I've got to say, like I said, Eddie was – we first heard Eddie then. So we just first heard him."
He continued, "So a lot of people think, ‘Oh, man, you know, he was so much better. He was so much more innovative.’ But not true at all. You just heard everything he built his life to. You heard on the first Van Halen record, and that was everything he had done up to that point. So anything he did after that, you start getting into repeat a little bit, and that's why Eddie was really turning to keyboards."
After Hagar joined Van Halen, fans noted that keyboards were more prominently featured in the band's music, which previously relied heavily on Eddie's virtuoso guitar-playing. The shift in Van Halen's sound drew ire from some critics, but Hagar explained that it was Eddie's idea to incorporate more keyboards since he wanted to expand his musical horizons.
In an interview with Fox News Digital, Hagar recalled that Eddie was experimenting with new instruments prior to his death and the two had discussed collaborating musically. (Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty Images)
"That guitar neck is only this big, you know, it's only got so many frets and six strings, you know, a couple of volume things and wiggle bar," Hagar said. "[Eddie was like] 'Brother, you know, like I'm limited here, you know what I mean?'"
He continued, "And so when you're a genius mind like Eddie was – he really needed other outlets."
After joining Van Halen and their label Warner Bros. Records, Hagar recalled that he was still contractually obligated to produce another solo record for his previous label Geffen Records. The singer remembered that Eddie offered to co-produce and play bass on Hagar's album, which was titled "I Never Said Goodbye" and released in 1987.
"Eddie said, 'I'll produce it with you, co-produce with you.' And he goes, 'And I'll play bass.' Because I said, 'You can't play guitar on this record, Eddie. We give away Van Halen. I mean, you and I go do a solo record already. I just joined the band,'" Hagar recalled of their conversation.
He continued, "So he goes, ‘Well, let me play bass.’ I mean, he was that kind of musician. He just wanted to play music, and he played unbelievable bass on that record. I mean, you listen to ‘Give to Live,’ ‘Eagles Fly,' ‘When the Hammer Falls.'
"His bass playing – oh man, that record is one of my favorite record of my records because, half of it, because of Eddie's bass playing, that sucker. But so that's why he wanted to play keyboards."
During his interview with Fox News Digital, Hagar explained what he believes most differentiate his vocals from those of Roth.
"Just range," he said. "David, he's got a limited range, and so he works a lot more off attitude to try to, you know, get his point across. And it limits you lyrically in a lot of ways, unless you're really poetic. Like Bob Dylan, who didn't have a huge range or anything. But Bob had a pretty good range. Bob was in better shape than people think. You know, you listen, he sings right on key, and his phrasing was like, whoa, like, you know, mathematical. But anyway, so, you know, Dave, it was limited to his phrasing because he wasn't just poetic like Bob, who could just ramble off all this crazy stuff that made sense, you know, even though it didn't."
"I'm capable of hitting notes that I can bring out different emotions and I don't have to have attitude," Hagar explained.
Hagar said he aspired to sing like English rock band Procol Harum's frontman Gary Brooker and Led Zeppelin's lead vocalist Robert Plant. (Fox Nation)
Hagar said he aspired to sing like English rock band Procol Harum's frontman Gary Brooker and Led Zeppelin's lead vocalist Robert Plant.
"People that got up into the stratosphere and went up to what I call a supersonic range," he said. "I wanted to sing like that. I wanted to go up and hit notes that were like, whoa, you know, really gave you goosebumps."
"I was going for the emotional thing, and Dave was more like the attitude," Hagar continued. "So they're both great, you know what I mean? Especially with what Eddie was playing back then."
"I don't know if Dave could have ever sung to any of the songs from my era except ‘Finish What Ya Started,'" he added. "He couldn't hit those other notes and the emotion of a ‘Love Walks In.’ My God, he wouldn't want to sing that. He wouldn't try to sing that. So that's the difference is that, you know, one'semotion, one's attitude."
However, Hagar told Fox News Digital that he "loved" Van Halen's early music with Roth and regretted that the two former frontmen couldn't have toured together with Van Halen before Eddie's death.
Hagar told Fox News Digital that he "loved" Van Halen's early music with David Lee Roth and regretted that the two former frontmen couldn't have toured together with Van Halen before Eddie's death. (Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)
"That early stuff is great," he said. "It's too bad we couldn't have done the tour together. The two of us with the band, which, you know, they were thinking about that. Eddie was talking about it. Even [Eddie's son Wolfgang Van Halen] Wolfie talks about it. You know, that his dad had that plan."
He continued, "We're going to go out and do it, you know? Too bad that never happened. That was a dream come true for the fans. But you know, who knows? Life has this way of coming back around on you."