Mike, I appreciate you taking time for this today. What’s been going on?
I had one daughter just graduate high school. Another daughter just had her 25th birthday and her boyfriend just graduated college. We’ve been in birthday – graduation – home mode around here. I’ll be doing a few shows with Sammy this summer and in September we’ll be back in the studio.
It’s nice to see that Chickenfoot has taken on a life of it’s own and people realize it is definitely a “real” band and not just another supergroup. How did you guys see it when you first got together?
We didn’t even see doing a record. When we first got together about three years ago we had so much fun that we decided to go into the studio and do some writing and see what would come of this. It definitely wasn’t a supergroup thing where we picked out musicians to work with. I’ve known Chad Smith for years and I’ve jammed with Joe before. It was really just four friends with a little time to see what happens. We just wanted to get together and jam. We started writing stuff and it sounded great. Next thing you know we decided we needed to record what we were doing and then we got Andy Johns involved. Then we decided we should do a record. When you hear about “supergroups” you know they’ll record a CD and hit the big arenas and make a lot of cash and then shake hands and say goodbye. It wasn’t like that all. We want to have fun. We’ve all done our stuff in the past and we have absolutely nothing to prove. We’re just diggin’ the music we’re making.
That vibe definitely comes across. If you were lying to me right now it would be easy to see on stage if you were telling the truth or not! It’s like a bunch of brothers on stage.
Let me tell ya. We toured for a good part of last year and it was like a paid vacation. Not to dwell on it, but Van Halen in the later years became all about big business. It was more of a corporate thing and you almost lose sight of why you were doing it in the first place. Now it’s like I’ve been rejuvenated. I feel like it’s the first band I ever played in. I get to hang out with three of my buddies and have fun and then we get to go on stage and jam and have a good time! What more could you ask for?
Think how many real brothers wish they had the bond you guys do. Especially you and Sammy.
We were great friends when he was in Van Halen. It wasn’t until after he left Van Halen that we reconnected after a few years and really became buddies. We’ re better friends now than we were the first time around. The proof is watching the DVD or seeing us live. There is no act going on. We’re having a great time on stage. How can you not when you see a guy like Chad up there just going nuts?
When someone is known for dropping his pants as quickly as he does, you know you’re in for a party atmosphere.
There’s been a few times where we told him to leave the sock at home! That’s for his other band. It’s definitely a fun vibe. Even Best Buy – who we did the album through – asked what was up and if we were gonna just call it a day. We were like, “hell no!” It may take a little while to put another one out because Joe’s working on another solo album and Chad’s in the studio with the Chili Peppers. We’ll wait. It’s not like we’re going to make it a revolving door type of band where Joe can’t make it so we’ll get another guitar player. This is a band and we’re not going to replace anybody unless we just totally have to.
You mentioned your deal with Best Buy. You had to be blown away with the promotion for that CD. Not only when the album first came out, but I still see Chickenfoot promo items in the stores.
They still have our faces up there in the CD section. I go into the local Best Buy quite a lot because it’s one of my favorite stores. They just had a sales contest for the new Chickenfoot DVD and they won for their territory and got one of the autographed Ibanez Chickenfoot guitars. Best Buy threw ‘em a chicken wing party. It’s not like being on Warner Brothers but they almost go out of their way to treat us better than the record companies.
I think it’s going to take doing things like that again to restore people’s faith in the music business.
Exactly. It’s going to guys like Best Buy and Walmart now. And they’re not small corporations. They’ve got big cash. The entertainment section of Best Buy is great. They were throwing parties for us all during our tour. We hosted a bunch of parties for them. It’s great. One hand washes the other. We have a great relationship with those guys. Gary Arnold is the guy we worked with on the road and they really believed in the band. They came out on the road a lot. Gary even came to Europe with us.
One thing that took me by surprise when I heard you guys were getting together is that Joe Satriani was in the band. He seems like such a structured guy compared to everybody else in the band.
That makes sense because he keeps the structure within the band! You’ve got me, Chad and Sammy on the other hand! Joe keeps us all in balance.
I can just see him in the studio with his glasses hanging on the tip of his nose writing notes on a chalkboard.
He brought the staff paper to the studio every day, believe me. We’re all into it. But – where us three would wanna jam something out, Joe would say, “no, I’ve written this out.” He’s a very structured musician as opposed to Eddie Van Halen. Eddie doesn’t read a note of music. If you ask Joe something about a chord progression, he’ll go into this mixolydian mode stuff. He really knows everything behind that. I took a music class when I was in college so I have a basic understanding and can read music. He really does understand it and that’s great. To have that with great musicianship really works.
You had new songs, a new band and a new guitarist. Did you approach your bass playing differently with Chickenfoot?
Oh yeah. When you’re jamming with different musicians it’s very inspiring. I had Joe on one side and Chad on one side with Sammy wailing away. My tongue was on the floor every day. Playing with Chad now is like playing with Alex when we used to really connect. He’s not your basic “four on the floor” type of drummer. He’s very unorthodox and it does make you see things and play things differently. I just went with it. Nobody thought about it. We all just did our thing and I think that’s really what makes Chickenfoot work. Hopefully that won’t change when we’re doing the second album. We wanted it to be old-school like we used to record in the studio. We had everybody jamming in the studio at the same time. We pretty much did all the tracks at the same time in the studio together.
I know you said you’ll hit the studio in September. What have you been working on so far?
We’ve been bouncing some ideas back and forth. In April we were able to all get into the studio together. We went in to Sammy’s studio in San Francisco for about a week. During that week we had four things demoed up. There was one song Joe and Sammy had been working on but the other stuff … There were just so many ideas coming out. It’s definitely Chickenfoot. We’re not looking to change direction. Hopefully we’ll spend a lot more time in the studio as a band than we did on the last album. The schedules only gave us a few days here and there. I hope we have more time to work on stuff in the studio.
Now I want to shift gears for a minute. Mike, I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs – but I eat like a pig. We’ve got to talk about your hot sauce. Tell me a little about your sauce and why you decided to get into it.
It all comes down to my love for hot food. I remember a couple of the last tours when Sammy was in Van Halen, the word got out and almost every city we came to had people dropping off homemade chili and this and that. I thought it would be fun to do my own hot sauce. I didn’t want to just slap my name on something and cash in. I have a tattoo on my arm of a chili pepper guy blowing flames out of his mouth. It’s the logo for the company that makes my hot sauce, Mike & Diane’s Gourmet Kitchen. They make a product called Ring Of Fire that I tried and I really liked it. I put that tattoo on my arm and friends of theirs found out about it and they came and saw me at the NAMM convention. I talked with them and they said they’d love to do the sauce. It’s made out here in San Diego. I was in from the ground floor. I got to be really vocal and instrumental in putting the whole concept of the sauce together. Unlike Sammy and his tequila – which he really got into – this is more of a fun thing, on the side. I’m not looking to be a hot sauce millionaire, but it is fun and other people like it. We branched out and have a spicy mustard and a barbeque sauce, too. We’re also working on a hot shaker rub type of thing.
I dig the little catch-phrase: “So hot you’ll need two assholes!” That’s classic.
I came up with that. I collect hot sauces and there are so many out there like Sphincter Explosion. I’m sure you’ve seen ‘em. The only thing is that restricts you to the kind of marketing you can do. I’m not going to get into any major grocery chains with that on the label. We’re working on changing the label a little bit because I would like to branch out. I thought it was pretty cool when the phrase came up.
What about doing a solo album? Your songs, your music, your vision. Think we’ll ever see anything like that?
Possibly, yes. I was starting to go that way before Chickenfoot. For a number of years I’ve been going out and playing with Sammy doing some of the Van Hagar era stuff. I don’t want to do that forever. Fortunately, Chickenfoot came up so that’s on hold. But thank God for that, because creatively we’re all doing what we want to do in Chickenfoot. I wouldn’t say I won’t do something like that in the future.
Tell me about those mini replica basses on your site. Those things are sweet!
I though they were cool. A guy came to me with the idea and I thought it was cheesy at first. I’ve seen a lot of people try to duplicate the Jack Daniels bass and had to shut a couple of people down because I didn’t want people exploiting that. Then I decided if that was gonna happen that I should hook up with somebody and see what they wanted to do. It’s just another fun thing to do. I don’t do it to make the money. It’s cool to do it for the fans.
Michael – thanks again. What would you like to say to all the fans and readers?
Chickenfoot is here and we’re here to stay. Enjoy the DVD on our down time. That should fill in the gap from our last tour to our next tour. We’ll be back!