Sammy Hagar recently told the press he blamed manager Ray Danniels for his
exit from Van Halen. Hagar said if longtime manager Ed Leffler was still
alive, the split would have never happened. Hagar said the dispute with
Danniels stemmed from the manager's idea of releasing a "best of" package;
Hagar vehemently opposed the idea. Hagar said Leffler and the entire band
had agreed to focus on new material rather than look back. Hagar refused
to go into the studio for a "best of " release but did agree to record two
songs for the "Twister" soundtrack. When he discovered that one of the songs
was being used for the "best of" record, he said he felt conned. Then, when
he got into a dispute with Eddie Van Halen over one of the songs lyrics, he
discovered his band mates had already been "secretly" recording with David
Lee Roth. Hagar said he was devastated and disappointed, especially since
the band brought Roth into the studio. "I've been with this band for 11 years
and I now that David Lee Roth was the enemy," he said. "The three of the guys
in the band hated him more than anyone on the planet." In a rare interview,
Danniels answers some of Hagar's allegations.
Q: Was Hagar conned into doing a song for the "best of" release?
A: No one was tricked into doing anything. Sam knew for a year there were
discussions about a "best of" record. The reason he didn't like the idea was
based on not wanting to have his material on the same record as Roth.
Throughout Leffler's tenure and since Sam came into the band, he (Hagar) had
done everything he could to ignore that part of the group's history. He felt
that this was going to expose that and create comparisons and [make people]
pick singer one or singer two. I, on the other hand, felt that was insanity.
After 10 years plus, get over it.
Q: Hagar says a "best of" record will the make the band look bad.
A: That's just absurd. He did his own greatest hits record right after Ed
Leffler passed away. [And] within their contract, Warner Bros. had the
rights to a greatest hits record. Sammy had signed that deal. Ed Leffler
had signed that deal. The other guys had signed that deal. I didn't create
something that wasn't already there. And there are many active artists with
greatest hits records. Elton John has got at least three of them. Eric
Clapton has numerous. Billy Joel has numerous. And what about Bruce
Springsteen: is that a dead act? I don't think so.
Q: What instigated the work on a collection at this time?
A: Eddie brought it up saying, "How come we've never had one. I can't
believe it." It became a topic of conversation and I picked up on it and
said, "Let me check your contract." I came back to them and said, "One day
this is going to happen. Do it now. Why not? You're coming off a
successful record." What I didn't want was this to be something that
happened later. That may have suited Sam's purpose. It didn't suit the
band's purpose as a whole.
Q: Hagar said Roth was viewed as public enemy No. 1 to his band mates.
Then Hagar said he had no ill will towards Roth. How do you see it?
A: At the point these guys separated 11 or 12 years ago, they were 12 years
younger and...it was a very different time. There were at least two
alcoholics in the band and things were said that the three guys I'm still
working with certainly would not say today. I can only tell you that Sam
was very much behaving like the second wife in a marriage that wanted the
first wife to not exist --- no pictures, no reference, don't mention the
word. And when Ed was alive and he managed them, they pretty much
successfully eliminated David.
Q: Did you want to do a "Sam and Dave" tour?
A: I certainly didn't suggest a reunion tour and I didn't suggest they
get back together. But I wasn't going to treat a guy who'd been part of
their initial success and sold 35 million records with them as a bad word.
To me that was childish. But they will not tour until they've made new music
with whoever the singer is. If the chemistry with David is right and David
wants to go forward, and they want to go forward, then we'll see. It would
be very easy to go out and just do it, but that's not where we're coming from.
Q: Everyone agreed to a "cool down" period after the split but
Hagar took it to the press, saying he was devastated and disappointed.
A. I understand him being upset and angry. This is a guy who somehow
managed to blow being a member of the biggest American rock band,
period and heís smarting. But unfortunately, heís created this
situation for himself. Heís been his own worst enemy and he
continues to be.
Q: Hagar said the tensions were fueled when you started managing.
A. Iíd like to go on record as saying when Ed (Leffler) died, it
was Sammy Hagar that changed the rules. It was Sammy Hagar that
immediately went to Geffen Records and did new songs for a greatest
hits record of his. It was Sammy Hagar that re-did an old deal at
Warner Music and started to write and provide songs for Meat Loaf and
various other acts. And it was Sam who seemed more focused on his
outside projects then he was on Van Halen. And you know what? Ed
Leffler probably wouldnít have allowed that, either. Maybe
thatís the difference between Ed Leffler and Ray Danniels; Ed
Leffler could have stopped Sammy Hagar from doing some of the things
he did that caused friction. I didnít have the ability to do that.
I didnít have the history with them. So from that standpoint,
heís absolutely right. But he fails to recognize heís the cause
of the friction. The truth of this, more than anything else, is
Eddie Van Halen got sober and is capable of making judgement calls
today and cares about things that he probably let go for many many
years. The boy became a man. And he took his band back. Itís as
simple as that.
Q: For the record, whoís idea was it to start working with Roth
A. David made a call to Ed. These were two guys who had spoken twice
in 11 years. Once by sheer coincidence, they bumped into each other
on the street in New York and exchanged pleasantries. One other
time, David had been gracious to call Ed and Al when their father
passed away seven years ago. So there had been no communication.
Warner Bros. had sent Dave a courtesy letter telling him about the
"best of" package. He called with his encouragement and talked
to Ed and they hashed an awful lot of things out on the phone. And
the timing was right. But this was after this situation with Sam had
deteriorated to the point that it is right now. Unfortunately, Sam
seems to think that somebody had this great idea that we would
divorce wife number two and go back with wife number one, and that is
as far-fetched as it can get.
Q: So one was not the cause of the other.
A. Oh God no. Absolutely not. If things with Sam were good, why
would you want to disrupt a band that had survived the onslaught of
new bands and new music and was one of a handful of elder bands that
still had the juice? Why would you mess with that?