Sammy Hagar’s Surprising New Co-Writers: John Bonham, Ronnie Montrose
During an interview earlier this week with Eddie Trunk on SiriusXM Volume, Hagar explained how each of the collaborations with the two late rock legends took place during the creation of his band the Circle's debut album, The Space Between. The group also features his longtime Van Halen and Chickenfoot bandmate Michael Anthony, guitarist Vic Johnson and drummer Jason Bonham, son of the Led Zeppelin star.
Since forming in 2014, the Circle has performed several Led Zeppelin songs at each of their concerts, in addition to tracks from all eras of Hagar's career. "We play 'When the Levee Breaks,' and Jason has his dad's drum track, and he plays to it live, and that's the way we've done it for years," Hagar explained. "So I asked Jason for that track, his dad's drum track."
Alone in the studio with a cranked-up amp and a "stack of Marshalls," Hagar jammed along with the elder Bonham's drumming and came up with a new song called "Can't Hang." "It's going to put you in the hospital it's so bad-ass," he promised. Though Hagar initially planned on keeping the original drum track and giving John Bonham a co-writing credit, Jason Bonham instead insisted on laying down all new drum parts for the final version of the song.
The album's lead single, "Trust Fund Baby," was born when Hagar was jamming with the younger Bonham on "I Got the Fire," a track from Hagar's second and final album with his first band, Montrose. "It's the song that broke the band up," Hagar said. Guitarist and band leader Montrose "had that riff. That was a co-write song with me. I wrote the lyrics and the melody on that song, but Ronnie didn't give me credit on the album. And when I bitched about it, when the royalties started coming in, he's going, 'Yeah, that's all you care about is the money.' I said, 'No, no, no, come on, I wrote the lyrics I wrote half that song.'"
Listen to Montrose's 'I Got the Fire'
It would seem a sense of injustice still lingered in Hagar over the issue all these years later, at least temporarily. "So I decided out of angst in the studio with Jason, we were playing 'I Got the Fire,' and I said, 'I'm gonna rip this off from Ronnie and I'm gonna fucking put it on the album!'" he recalled.
"And then at the last minute I thought, 'No, I'm gonna do the right thing,' and I put that it was co-written with Ronnie. I gave him the co-write on it, and his family, his estate will make the money off of it. It's very special, it's a lot of the reason why it's the first track on the album. His wife, his widow, sold me one of his guitars, and I used it on this track, that's why we were playing 'I Got the Fire'" in the first place.
Hagar said his new band is the perfect conduit for connecting with past bandmates and idols in such a distinctive manner. "That's what the Circle is," he explained. "The Circle is about my whole music career all coming together with these people, and we play it and we serve it and we wrote a new record around it, and I'm just really proud of it."
Listen to Sammy Hagar & the Circle's 'Trust Fund Baby'
The Space Between will be released on May 10; "Trust Fund Baby" is already available on all digital outlets. The Circle kick off a North American tour in support of the album on April 19 in Reno. You can get complete show and ticket information at Hagar's website.