Although the collective members of Chickenfoot have plenty of talent and technique to spare, the one thing that’s not on anyone’s side is time. When the band got together in
February 2011 to record its curiously titled sophomore release,
Chickenfoot III, there simply wasn’t a minute to waste. Vocalist
Sammy Hagar’s New York Times, No. 1 bestselling book, Red: My
Uncensored Life In Rock, was weeks away from its release, guitarist
Joe Satriani was barely decompressing from his Black Swans and
Wormhole Wizards tour in addition to the Experience Hendrix tour,
and drummer Chad Smith was just about ready to go back to his
duties with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“We’d meet up in the morning,” says Satriani, ”and someone
would say, ‘I really like that song, let’s do that one.’ And we’d spend
a few hours learning it and arranging it, and then record it and that
would be it. We’d move on to the next song.”
This mad dash proved to be a good thing and gave the album
its fresh sound. “There’s a lot of spontaneity on this album
because there wasn’t a lot of time to rehearse the songs,” says
Anthony. “We would rehearse it 20, 30 times and then we record-
ed it.” The time constraints extend beyond the recording session.
Because of Smith’s commitments, drummer Kenny Aronoff will be
filling in for him on the band’s upcoming tour. But this won’t be
a permanent lineup switch. Anthony says, “We didn’t want this to
be a revolving-door band.”
The long road to Chickenfoot’s origin can be traced back to
1985 when Van Halen and vocalist David Lee Roth parted com-
pany. After this breakup, Roth did what any crafty jilted lover
FEATURE > CHICKENFOOT
would do: He got sweet revenge. He recruited über-virtuoso Steve
Vai along with bass hero Billy Sheehan to form a supergroup with
superhuman, pyrotechnical abilities. Van Halen counteracted by
bringing in Sammy Hagar as the new lead singer, but as Eddie Van
Halen became more and more content to rest on his laurels, his
position as the king of rock guitar was slowly being usurped by the
continually innovative Vai, who ended up becoming the guitar hero
to round out the ’80s and onward to the present day.
Flash forward to 2007 when the impossible happened and Van
Halen reunited with Diamond Dave. This reunion came with a
twist, however. Eddie’s teenage son, Wolfgang replaced founding
member bassist Michael Anthony, leaving both Anthony and Hagar
without a gig. They must have asked themselves “what would Dave
do?” because soon after, they formed Chickenfoot, a supergroup
featuring Joe Satriani—Vai’s former mentor—and Chad Smith
from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
This ensemble proved to be a success with Chickenfoot’s self-titled first album debuting at No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100 and
going Gold. But this is no poor man’s Van Halen.
“During the first tour we wanted to establish ourselves as
Chickenfoot so we decided not to play any Van Halen or Chili
Peppers stuff,” says Anthony. “Obviously some of the stuff is going
to sound like Van Halen vocally because that’s where Sammy and I
come from and people can identify with that sound in our voices.
But we don’t want to be like Van Halen. We don’t want to be like
the Chili Peppers, we don’t want to be like Joe’s solo stuff. We just
do what we do.”
How did Chickenfoot III
Anthony: Because we were
going to be losing Chad to his
other band [laughs]. Actually,
we wanted Chad on the new
Chickenfoot record and we
knew once he got fired up with
the Chili Peppers that would
pretty much be impossible.
So we said, “Hey, let’s go into
the studio and put some stuff
together while Chad’s still free.”
Satriani: We always knew we’d
get together again and continue
it. After the set of tours that
we did, we really solidified as
a band and I think we all look
back on the first record like,
“Wow, that’s hardly representa-
tive of what we can do.”
What revelations did you have?
Satriani: We felt like a band,
but we didn’t know if we
sounded like a band until we
had that first album. When we
hit the road we had to prove a
lot to ourselves. We went from
the club thing to the festival
tour and did the theaters and
the arenas in the summer and
then it was over. But in that
period we learned so much
about each other musically, and
the potential of the band would
really blossom every night that
we would play.
Anthony: I think we’ve really
niched out what Chickenfoot is
about on this record.
Michael, do you approach your
bass lines differently depending on whether the guitarist is
playing more in the pocket and
bluesy or going crazy?
Anthony: The difference here is
when Eddie would go off, he’d
be like, “Pump on this note, it’s
king of like an AC/DC thing,”
whereas Joe gives me a chance
to play different things and not
just ride on one note.
Are you enjoying the freedom
you have now?
Anthony: Oh, it’s great. I don’t
think there was one time on
this album where Joe came up
to me and said, “Can you play
this here?” He let me go off
and develop my own bass parts.
Everybody was allowed to put
in their own two cents.
What differences and simi-
larities do you see in Joe and
Anthony: They’re both great
guitarists in their own right.
Eddie would treat every song
like it was an instrumental and
either Dave or Sammy or even
Gary would fit their vocals
around it. I had to be more