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Diamonds Are Forever

Anyone trying to steal the spotlight from David Lee Roth is asking for an ass-kicking.

WW: Did you pitch Sammy about the tour personally?

DLR: No, I called his manager, Irving Azoff, and he knew it was perfect. I mean, between the two of us, how many tens of millions of album sales have we had? Sam's voice is as familiar as an air-raid siren, and I'm a part of Americana that's as familiar as the Nike swoosh or the McDonald's arches.

WW: Have you known or interacted with Sammy over the past several years?

David Lee Roth, a black man trapped inside a Jewish man's body, has got the hots again.
David Lee Roth, a black man trapped inside a Jewish man's body, has got the hots again.
When Van Halen was rocking: Roth with Eddie, et al, during happier times.
When Van Halen was rocking: Roth with Eddie, et al, during happier times.

DLR: Not at all.

WW: What was that first meeting like, then?

DLR: I just went through a quickie meeting to shake a hand and tell him my idea, which was to split everything fifty-fifty, make it a co-headline, and flip a coin to decide who goes first -- I don't really care either way. Azoff and his minions, they didn't say much, and Sam sat in the corner of the sofa and probably five or six times just kind of mumbled to himself, "Diamond fuckin' Dave." Really!

WW: Are there plans for the two of you to do any songs together?

DLR: No, because it's not written in any spiritual contract that if you're going to play rock and roll, you must jam. I think the purpose for jamming is to come up with something colorful and maybe slightly dangerous, and I don't think fourteen drunks playing "Long Tall Sally" for fourteen minutes is colorful and dangerous. Besides, we have a very different approach to stagecraft. Sam has a big production and loads of people on stage and a lot of things and stuff. And I take it from what I learned from watching The Ed Sullivan Show -- four amps, a drummer and an attitude.

WW: I interviewed Sammy five years ago ("It Was All Eddie's Fault," August 28, 1997), and he spent a lot of our conversation ripping on you. At one point, he said, "David Lee Roth quit the band because he thought he was the guy; he quit the band and tried to fuck them. He was a bad guy. He said shit about that band and about those guys that was bullshit -- and I know, because I was in the band then." I'm sure you've seen quotes like these over the years...

DLR: 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.

WW: 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?

DLR: 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.

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

DLR: 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 Beoncé 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!"

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

DLR: 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. Another question: How many musicians have you been surprised to find out are smaller than Prince? Answer: Plenty. What do these musicians have in common? Fury. The world didn't deal them really good cards when it comes to physical stature or whatever. So why are the best artists always the most fucked-up? Why does the best music always come from heroin addicts, crackheads, wife-beating losers, neurotic party dads? Because it's a shout of fury or a cry for help. But I don't come from a high-arts bias. I come from a sports bias. Follow? The high-arts bias is, learn to live with it and let it be, let it be. And my approach is, let me find a weakness and ax what it is, and I'll meet you at the titty bar at eight.

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