Diamonds Are Forever

Anyone trying to steal the spotlight from David Lee Roth is asking for it

A: He's still doing it today! But it doesn't bother me. Sam has a passion for this, and I think it's a great opportunity for him to finally find some closure.

Q: Closure to what? To following you in Van Halen and having to listen to legions of fans saying they want him out and you back?

A: Sam has had to sing my songs and Sam has had to labor in the shadow of one of the great American bands in the history of the sport. But this is a chance to let people see that there's two halves to the Super Bowl. And you can make a comparison if you want, but I think it's greater than our list of songs. This is a confirmation of some sort, in the same way that going to a Rolling Stones gig used to be -- somewhere between Limp Bizkit and Jimmy Buffett. Because what I sell now better than anything is young and impulsive, and I can make you feel that from 300 meters even without a microphone.

Q: Have you said nasty things about Sammy over the years? I did a quick Internet search, and I didn't find much.

A: There hasn't been much, really, because I've been around for long enough not to care about that kind of thing. It's hard to say at what point that happens in your career, and it's different for everyone. I mean, by the time young Beyoncé Knowles looks up at the clubhouse wall, the other two girls in the rhythm section have evaporated, proverbially speaking. But after, I don't know, five summers or so, I'd built up a reserve of confidence that defied competition with anybody else. I became Popeye: "I yam what I yam what I yam." And for me, it's never really been about a contest anyway. I'm at odds with the entire planet, much less little Sam Hagar. I'm a black man trapped in a Jewish body! Every time I step on that stage, I'm proving something, and just like James Brown, I have no fucking idea what! It doesn't matter to me or to you. It's just, "Prove it, baby!"

Q: A lot of people in your position would think they don't need to prove anything anymore.

A: I've always taken a very confrontational approach. I'm a trigger hippie. You give peace a chance. In fact, give it three chances -- and if it doesn't work, I've got you covered. Which makes sense, right? Because, after all, what animal in the forest makes the meanest, loudest noise? Answer: The one that's the most frightened. My approach is, let me find a weakness and ax what it is, and I'll meet you at the titty bar at 8.

Q: Is it satisfying to you that there are still people out there who treat the day you left Van Halen like some kind of tragic anniversary?

A: It's not even an anniversary. It's a steadfast refusal to let that band or the memory of it fade, just like we treat Hendrix or the guy in the Doors. It transcends simple melody, and it transcends lyric writing. It becomes part of your history -- and that never ages, does it? Think of your first girlfriend. Think of your first car crash. Think of the first time you drank too much beer and barfed. It's all like it just happened yesterday, isn't it? And as soon as you hear the soundtrack that happened along with all of those colorful and important events, you're right back there. As soon as you hear the beginning of any of the 20 songs I play back to back, during every single one of them, you're going to be kneeing and elbowing strangers next to you and saying, "Oh, my God, I graduated to this!" or "Oh, my God, I flunked out to this!" I get cards and letters constantly: "Dear Dave, I got sent to jail because of this." "Dear Dave, your music got me through jail." "Dear Dave, I'm still in jail." And on and on. People have pinned the most singularly important events of their lives to music like mine and Sam's. Well, I'm not familiar with Sam's catalog, but I'm familiar with mine, and it's definitely true about me.

Q: Is that the legacy of your career that means the most to you?

A: No, my favorite legacy is the last three weeks, when I've been receiving cards and letters from my home base at the Mojo Dojo from all kinds of ex-girlfriends: "Dear Dave, I'll be attending St. Louis. By the way, I'm married now -- but don't worry." I kid you not!

Q: Do you have them lined up all along the tour?

A: They're lining themselves up! It's all over but the winning, coach!

Q: It's been a few years since you've seen a lot of these women. Do you think you can handle that much action?

A: That may be the single stupidest question I've ever heard.

Q: Sorry about that.

A: You should be.

Q: Was one of the reasons you left Van Halen because it became too limiting for you?

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