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Sammy Hagar on Life in Quarantine: ‘I’m Enjoying Doing Nothing’

The former Van Halen frontman is spending his free time watching ‘Ozark’ and cooking chicken, but he’s anxious to get back to work

"I have started to move my cocktail hour up to 4:30 now," Sammy Hagar says of one of the benefits of lockdown life.

Suzanne Cordeiro/Shutterstock

Sammy Hagar thought he’d be spending the summer playing outdoor amphitheaters with his band the Circle alongside Whitesnake and Night Ranger. And even though those dates haven’t technically been canceled yet, he knows it would take a small miracle for the tour to go on as planned. He’s kept busy by teaming up with his Circle bandmates remotely to cover songs like the Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds,” and Van Halen’s “Good Enough.” But mainly he’s just cooking, sleeping, walking on the beach, watching Ozark on Netflix, and waiting for life to return to normal. He took a break from all that to phone up Rolling Stone and chat about his lockdown life.

How are you doing?
I’m actually doing fine. I feel sorry for the world and all the people out of work and I feel terrible for all that kind of stuff. But other than that, I’m enjoying doing nothing for the first time in my life.

Walk me through your average day of doing nothing.
When I wake up, I don’t have to get out of bed because I don’t have anything to do. It’s not like, “Hey, you’ve got an interview at 9:30” or “You gotta be somewhere,” so I just stay in bed until I feel like getting up. I look at my morning e-mails and texts because I don’t work after 7 p.m. I just shut everything down after that. I just lay in bed and do all that, naked.

My wife opens the blinds up and the doors and the windows. I just lay there sometimes until as late as 10:30 or 11:00. I roll out, but don’t get dressed. I mean, I put on a bathing suit. I live in California, so it’s warm. I brush my teeth and scratch my hand through my hair to fluff it up a little to get rid of bedhead and I come downstairs and have a little breakfast and coffee, maybe make a few phone calls.

I pick up my guitar and noodle around. At 1:30 or 2:00 I go for a walk on the beach and then have a quick little lunch. I’m not a big breakfast guy. I have a light breakfast. I come back and my wife and I will go for another walk or I’ll take a nap. Maybe I’ll fire up the jacuzzi for later.

I have started to move my cocktail hour up to 4:30 now. I’ll mix myself a nice margarita or a mojito, my two favorite cocktails, and start thinking about dinner. I go through the refrigerator and go, “What do you feel like?” I start prepping and eat dinner around 6:00 with a nice bottle of wine. Around 8:00 I jump in the jacuzzi. And maybe watch a movie around 9:00 and then go to bed [laughs]. I’m dead serious. Kind of sad, huh?

Are you seeing anyone besides your wife? Who else is in your quarantine circle?
Our kids. My son and his wife came to our house a couple of days ago and spent the weekend. They are leaving today, but they’ve been in quarantine up in Lake Tahoe. My other daughter lives in Southern California. She came over last night to see my son and us and spend the night. They just left.

Family-wise, I’m hugging. I’m sorry. I hug my kids. I’d just as soon die if I can’t do that. Give me the disease and let me die if I can’t hug my wife and children. I see my kids and that’s it. I really can’t believe it. That part of it, I can’t stand it.

I heard Paul McCartney say that he’s making his own bed because he has nobody else around to do that. Are you doing more housework like that?
[Big laugh] No! I cook. I’m the chef. I don’t mind doing the cooking and I’ll do the heavy lifting. But no. We let the gardeners come. They wear masks and we don’t go outside while they’re here. We don’t have a housekeeper come into the house, that’s for sure. But we have a couple of homes. I hate to say that because in these times I don’t want to say that I’m anywhere near wealthy since it’s not a fashionable thing.

But when we leave our house to drive to the other one, our housekeeper comes into the house and sterilizes everything, wears a mask. When we go back to the house, it’s all clean and nice. Up until then, we just take care of ourselves. We don’t make a big mess.

I’ve always been like that. I take out my own garbage, I’m sorry to say. I’ve been a rock star my whole life, but I’ve always taken out the garbage. I used to wash my own cars and I did yesterday, by the way. I washed a car. I don’t mind doing my own chores. I don’t like being waited on hand on foot.

What movies and TV shows have you been watching?
I got hooked on friggin’ Ozark, man. Oh, boy, did I get hooked. If I wasn’t married, I’d want to marry [Julia Garner’s character] Ruth [Langmore]. Let’s just put it like that. She’d be my kind of gal. It would be like, “OK, honey, I’m going to stay in bed all day. Go take care of that stuff.” [Laughs]

I keep meaning to watch that show. I’ve heard it’s like a new Breaking Bad.
I started Breaking Bad after I finished the whole thing. Listen, I don’t watch TV. I watch my TV show Rock and Roll Road Trip. I watch boxing if there’s a good fight on. And if someone really cons me, if my wife is like, “Honey, I want you to watch this movie. Please! I swear I’ll do this and that for you if you watch this movie,” I’ll say, “OK, I’ll watch the damn movie.” I do not watch movies. I don’t have time to watch TV normally.

But I got so hooked on Ozark that I was watching three episodes a night until we finished it. We knocked it out and I couldn’t stop. And then I said, “OK. I’m going to start on Breaking Bad because the same people that turned me onto Ozark said, ‘You gotta watch Breaking Bad.’” We watched five or six episodes and it was too much for me. I said, “You know what? In these times, I can’t watch some meth head with a baby in the house going crazy.”

It just breaks my heart. I’m way too sensitive for that. These times have made me more sensitive. I’ve always been really sensitive to people struggling. I can’t take it. These times have made it worse since I know there are so many people out there where that’s going on. I don’t want to think like that. I need to remain happy.

Tell me about the best meals that you’ve cooked.
Man. You don’t want to know what a good chef I am. My chef buddies, they know. Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri and Mario Batali — one of my favorite chefs of all time, though I know he got in trouble, but he’s the greatest friggin’ Italian chef on the planet — they’ve all taught me things on how to cook. I call them up when i’m struggling with something. I just say, “Look, I’ve got these poor man’s abalone, these things that grows on the rocks during low tide.”

I’ll pop a few off and I’ll say I don’t know exactly what to do with them. “Oh, you just salt some water and put them overnight in the refrigerator and the next morning they’ll be hard as a rock and you just pull them out of there, hit them with a tenderizing hammer, bread them, and fry them or make ceviche.” They give me these tips. All my life, I’ve been calling them up when I don’t know what I’m doing.

What else do you make?
I make some of the best pastas and risottos in the world because Mario Batali has taught me every trick in the book about how to make every kind of pasta.

Also, I roast a mean chicken. I had a book called Are We Having Any Fun Yet? There’s a recipe in there called Antonio’s Chicken. It’s the simplest thing in the world. You just take the chicken and you just kind of smash it down, the whole chicken, you push the breast down and flatten it out, just a little bit. Don’t cut it open. Leave it whole. Wash it, dry it, squeeze lemon juice all over it, put salt and pepper in the cavity, and rub oil or butter if you want — I’m an olive oil guy — on the outside.

Heat your oven as far as it will go: 500/550. And make sure it is 100 percent ready to go. Put that thing in a pan in the oven, shove it in, and leave it there for 45 minutes. Don’t even look at it. You’re going to freak out if you look at it. It’s bubbling up. “It’s going to burn!” It ain’t gonna burn.

Then turn it down to 175 for another 45 minutes. You can leave it, though, after that. You can leave it for five hours and it won’t dry out because 175 doesn’t cook it anymore, but it keeps it the right temperature so the moisture stays in and the skin stays crunchy. And you pull that fucker out when you’re ready and you don’t even have to use a knife. You just peel the leg off and it’ll pop right out. That’s the best chicken in the world. Take the juice in the bottom, put a tiny bit of wine over the top of it, and I’m telling you. That’s it. That’s the best chicken in the world.

To switch gears here, do you you think you’ll be comfortable enough to get back onstage before a vaccine is out?
Yes, I will. I’m going to make a radical statement. I’m always good for that. Yeah, not too soon. I want to make sure it’s not escalating. When it’s declining and seems to be going away. I mean, it’s the flu, I guess, unless there is something I don’t know. So there’s a season where it’s going to go, “Eh.” I mean, someone is going to get it always. It’s like the cold or pneumonia. Someone is always getting something.

But if it calms down and it seems OK, I wouldn’t mind playing an outdoor amphitheater. I’ve already talked to the promoters and the powers that be that own those places. I’ve said, “What if we put sterilization things all over the place? Hand sanitizers, too. And hand out face masks.” I’m not talking about now. I’m talking about when it first starts opening back up. In a big open-air setting, only sell 10,000 out of 19,000. Whatever. I’m fine with it. Now, this is hard to say too without stirring somebody up on me …

Go ahead.
But truthfully I’d rather personally get sick and even personally die, if that’s what it takes. We have to save the world and this country from this economic thing that’s going to kill more people in the long run. Look at homelessness. If you want to talk about a pandemic, friggin’ homelessness in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago … I’ve been all over America, man. It’s growing faster than anything.

This shutdown of the economy is going to make that escalate 10 times and then we’re all going to be sick and you can’t walk down the street. I would rather see everyone go back to work. If some of us have to sacrifice on that, OK. I will die for my children and my grandchildren to have a life anywhere close to the life that I had in this wonderful country and freedom. That’s just the way that I feel about it.

I’m not going to go around spreading the disease. But there may be a time where we have to sacrifice. We used to go to war for our country where hundreds of thousands of people died to keep our freedom and keep this country economically where everyone has a car and a home. Those days are changing, but that’s the way I feel about this whole thing. I’m not real big on dragging it out until we’re all fucked and there’s no way out.

Your summer tour is supposed to start pretty soon, though.
That ain’t going to happen. I wouldn’t do that. That’s too early. But let’s get through this summer and see how things are looking. If it’s cooling down a bit and the numbers are going down … not in people dying, but people getting it. People are going to die every day. How many people die on the Earth every day? I have no idea. Just because of this virus, it’s probably not many more than people that die of something. I’m sorry to say that. But we all gotta die, man.

I think I’ll wait until the numbers of this virus flatten out and start going down and then I’m happy to do a show. If people want to come, they’ll come. If they don’t wanna come … Wear a mask and have hand sanitizers all over the damn place. How inexpensive is that?

Do you already miss the stage and the crowds?
Oh, my God. The only thing I don’t miss is having something to do. I don’t like waking up in the morning and my tour manager being like, “Wake up. We’re leaving in an hour. Be in the lobby.” You go fuckin’ grab your clothes and throw them in the suitcase and snap it up and go down to the lobby and it’s move, move, move. But the show … when you hit the stage, it’s the greatest thing in the world. I really miss it. I really, really miss it. There is something very addictive about performing. It’s just … wow. Very special.

Are these Lockdown Sessions that you’re doing filling some of that void in your heart?
Oh, yes. What I like about them more than anything is it’s not a whole performance. You don’t have to be in physical shape like you do for a two-hour show. I couldn’t do that now, but I could do one song. And my voice is strong. We can get so creative. There’s no pressure. Nobody paid for anything. The ease of doing this and the amount of creativity that comes into your brain, like when we did “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley … I’ve never done a Bob Marley song in my life. I love the guy, but I’m just not a reggae singer. I said, “Jason, what are we going to do?” He said, “Do it like Robert Plant did it in on ‘D’yer Maker.’” I said, “Yeah, just put the drums down and send it to me.”

Anything goes. A guy like myself who has been around as long as I’ve been and all the commercial stuff in the bands, I’m pretty open-minded about stuff. I can pretty much do what I want to do. But in the back of your mind, I go, “Well, I wouldn’t put that on a record.” Well, guess what? I do it on a Lockdown Session.

We’re doing the Buffalo Springfield song “For What It’s Worth” right now. I got a little “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by the Stones in there and a little Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” and made this crazy little mashup that I would never do in record or a concert. I’m just having a blast with this. It’s the most creative fun I’ve had musically in a long time. It’s right up there with, I don’t know, Van Halen.

And you can blast it out to the world overnight.
It’s free. That’s my favorite part. We’ve got six songs and videos now. It didn’t cost us one friggin’ penny. We’re doing it on our iPhones and I’m going, “Oh, my God.” They look and sound great and people love them. I don’t know if they are of the quality to put on a DVD and record to sell, but who knows? The main thing is that it’s free. I’m loving it to death. We’re going to do a Little Richard song next and mash it up with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.”

At least something good is coming out of all this.
There’s going to be something good coming out of this besides music. I think people are going to get used to having an easier life. When they get used to working from home, there won’t be so much traffic on the road because people are going to realize they don’t need those big ego-trip offices in the big office building.

We all get back to a little more nature and that may be the best thing to come out of this. Let the planet heal. The air will clear up since there won’t be so much traffic on the road. People won’t be so uptight going back and forth to work and going up to an office all day and having big desks and secretaries. They can get back to simplified things.

And you’re probably going to make more money. If that’s your goal, to make a zillion dollars, get rid of that big-ass fuckin’ office and all the people that you don’t need and do the shit yourself. Your family life will be better and your overhead will come down. Simplify. Simplify. That’s what I’m seeing as a positive coming out of this.

I’ll wrap up, but I really think you should finish Breaking Bad. It gets really, really good.
Oh, man! My heart’s gotta heal. You know which one I’m talking about? The kid and the teacher start up again. [“Peakaboo” from Season Two.] They found the meth heads that stuck them up for their meth. I could not take the child. It broke my heart. I’m the softest man in the world. You show me a sick child and I’ll do anything to help. That just broke my heart. I even told my buddy that turned me onto it, my guitarist Vic Johnson, I said, “You motherfucker. You tried to turn me onto this …” He said, “Oh, no, you gotta keep going.” [Laughs] And you told me the same thing. I’ll give it a shot.