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Rockers Roosting, Happily, In Chickenfoot

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, August 7, 2009

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The four members of Chickenfoot don’t think they came up with a great band name.

But with a successful debut album out, they’re “kinda stuck with it” according to frontman Sammy Hagar.

“It was a joke,” says Hagar, explaining that Chickenfoot was the “pet name” for himself, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith when they’d play together at Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. They subsequently added guitarist Joe Satriani but never thought to change the name.

“I get a lot of flack from everybody — ‘Why such a stupid name?’ ” Hagar says with a laugh. “What happened was, we kept referring to it as Chickenfoot, and now if you Google it or something it goes right to us.

“Without trying to, or wanting to, we created a name for this band and it would get confusing if we tried to change it. You’d tell someone the new band name and they’d say ‘Who’s that?’ and you’d say ‘Sammy, Mikey and Chad’ and they’d go, ‘Oh yeah ... that’s Chickenfoot!’ So what the hell ... ”

Chickenfoot is certainly making a significant footprint in the rock scene. The group released its self-titled debut album in June; it debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 chart while the first single, “Oh Yeah,” hit No. 1 on the magazine’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. And thanks to the Chili Peppers’ current hiatus, Chickenfoot has been able to hit the road, although Smith did aggravate an old shoulder injury during European jaunt that forced the cancellation of some shows.

Nevertheless, the well-established musicians of the quartet are enjoying their new venture — and association with each other.

“It’s fun, and that’s the way it should be,” says Detroit native Smith, the group’s “baby” at 47. “It was no preconceived, ‘Let’s get this guy from this band, and that one from that band.’ We’re not a supergroup. It’s kind of an old-school, straight-up rock ‘n’ roll band and we’re having fun doing it and I think people pick up on that vibe of it.”

Satriani, meanwhile, says “the unexpected connection of our musical roots” is what makes Chickenfoot so appealing to him.

“We have all these shared influences that we never would have expected,” says the 52-year-old guitarist. “I think they were pretty shocked at how much I was into rootsy, bluesy playing, and I was equally surprised to find out that Sammy was into Jimmy Reed and Chad was into old rock ‘n’ roll, ’50s stuff, and that he could nail it, and Mike knew all that material, too.

“So it wasn’t just Chad being funky like he is in the Chili Peppers and Mike just doing what he did with Van Halen and Sammy doing the Sammy thing and Joe playing a million notes per second. We came together with something that we weren’t expecting and it was real, it was tangible and it was great.”

Hagar, 61, says Chickenfoot was “a little bit like Montrose,” his early ’70s band, when it first got together. And it still retains some of those characteristics. “There’s such an intensity to this,” he says. “You’d think we were 20-year-olds out there, trying to make it again.”

Chickenfoot’s future is something of a question mark, however. All four members do see the band as a going concern despite their outside commitments — particularly Smith’s with the Chili Peppers, who plan to start working on their next album in October. “I’m kind of the bad guy,” Smith says with a chuckle, “ ’cause I’m in another group.” He’s also releasing an album by his instrumental side band, Chad Smith’s Bombastic Meatbats, in September.

But Chickenfoot has been filming shows — with a crew booked for Aug. 30 in Atlanta as well — and plans to release a live DVD. And Hagar talks openly about “the next time we go in” to the studio and says there are “a couple of awesome ideas” already in place, as well as a confidence Chickenfoot will endure.

“The luxury of this band,” Hagar explains, “is that we’re all financially great, we all have fame and fortune already so we’re not like, ‘Omigod, we gotta work! I need the money!’ or ‘We’re gonna fail if we don’t do this or that!’ We’re just here to play music and have as much fun doing it as we can, so if we need to gear up for a week at a time and work here and there between the Chilis or anybody else’s stuff, we can do that.”

Satriani adds that Chickenfoot “is a once-in-a-lifetime connection that you get and nobody wants to see it evaporate. We are all grown-ups now, so I think we can work it out. I definitely know that we’ve got a couple of albums’ worth of material in us.

“We’ll just have to figure out how we work it out with our crazy schedules.”

Chickenfoot and Davy Knowles & Back Door Slam perform at 7 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 8) at the Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave. Tickets are $59.50 and $38.50. Call (313) 961-5451 or visit www.livenation.com.

Web Site: www.livenation.com

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