Andrew Hagar,
The TVD Interview

Andrew Hagar, the son of legendary musician Sammy Hagar, is anything but typical. From an early age he decided to forge his own path that included diversions one might find contrary to the rock and roll lifestyle that many might expect growing up as a “rockstar’s son.” Andrew’s passions have led him from martial arts and combat sports, working with “at-risk” kids, theoretical physics, and then full-circle back to music. His journey was not easy nor expected, but one that was necessary to fully actualize his true self.

With the recent release of his latest band’s first single “Triggerman,” we sat down with Hagar explore his unique path, his love for vinyl, and his ultimate desire to give back to underprivileged children in need.

Let’s get rolling—how did you get started in music?

I got started in music kind of by accident. I originally ran away screaming from music because everybody else in my family was going toward it. From a young age I started doing other things. I started studying martial arts when I was five and then got into Ninja Turtles, and that stuff led me down that path. Then when I was about 24 or 25, a girl I was dating at the time bought me an acoustic guitar because I had been playing a lot of Guitar Heroes with my buddy, and it was one of those silly things where I got good at the game and all my friends were like, “Why the hell are you playing this game? You should just get a real guitar,” I got a real guitar and then it just kind of started from there.

When did you begin to take music seriously?

I didn’t start taking it seriously until about four years ago when I was staying with the Kristoffersons. [Kris Kristofferson]. They had a tour coming up in Scotland and asked me if I wanted to help them carry bags and stuff because I was dating their daughter Kelly at the time. Then one day we were just all just messing around singing some duets and they were like, “Dude, you should open for us.” It was crazy. I never, ever would have guessed in my wildest dreams that would have happened.

Tell me, what was it like performing on stage for the very first time?

I remember we were at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh, Scotland and couldn’t believe that I was there. Everything just kind of hit me all at once. I wasn’t worried about what other people were going to think necessarily, I just wanted to go out there and do my best. Frankly, I just really wanted to make sure that I wasn’t awful.

And how did that show turn out?

I went out there and after about a song and a half I could see people in the crowd were actually into it. I felt like we were doing a really good job and had this epiphany moment where I was like, “Jesus, this is awesome.” We only had maybe 15 minutes up there, but I remember when it was over, I was like, “Man, I just want to do this all night.”

Who were some of your early influences that helped shape the singer/ songwriter you are today?

One of the very first bands I ever got into when I was kid was Radiohead. When I was about seven or eight years old, I got into Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails and those were probably three of the big bands besides Stone Temple Pilots that I first really got into when I was a kid. We’re talking eight, you know? Then I started learning more about where hardcore came from—like Bad Brains and Black Flag—and all that stuff. I also remember times around the house when my mom would listen to old cowboy poetry and real country, not pop country. I grew up with a lot of that, a lot of Dylan, stuff like that. It’s pretty clear my musical influences come from all over the place.

Is there one artist you’ve taken the stage with and said, “Is this for real?”

Oh man, are you kidding me? It would definitely be Kris Kristofferson (along with the whole Outlaw crew including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash). They were a huge influence on me growing up around the ranch. Amazing music.

I’m sure you learned a great deal from these legends. Tell me about your latest solo project, S.o.S?

S.o.S is basically just the culmination of all the stuff I’ve been working on over the years. The sound is a hybrid of psychedelic, garage rock, and grunge music, along with an obvious folk sensibility. It’s marrying all these things together the way that I heard in my head, and I’m just now getting to the point where, from a production standpoint, we can make that happen. S.o.S is simply the marriage of all these little unique different elements that I’m constantly hearing.

I gotta ask, what does S.o.S stand for?

S.o.S. can stand for a lot of things. It’s Morse code for distress. At the same time for me it’s acknowledging where I’m coming from, “Son of Sam,” without actually relying on that and making it a huge part of who I am and what I’m doing.

So, you just released “Triggerman,” the first single off your upcoming EP. Help me understand how that song came to be?

I had an idea for a song I wanted to write after the senseless shootings in Parkland, Florida. Later that year, I remember going up north to Tahoe to play a show with my dad and he goes, “Hey, I got a song idea for you, but I don’t know what you’d call it. Maybe the ‘The Coward’s Last Stand’ or something.” He wanted me to write a song about the people who were committing a lot of these crimes, then skirting responsibility and rather than letting the authorities dispense justice they’re taking their own lives after it, which again speaks in a huge way to mental illness. He and I were on the same wavelength and that’s how the song came to be.

Switching gears, I hear you are big into combat sports. How did you get started?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. I swear to god. I wanted to surf, skate, fight, train martial arts, eat pizza—just have a great time. I’m like, “Why not just go into something where I can break stuff all the time?” I begged and pleaded with my parents to put me into martial arts. I started training with karate when I was six and I found kickboxing when I was 15. I then started learning Brazilian Jujitsu and Muay Thai soon thereafter. I even picked a college to go to based on its proximity to a real MMA gym called RAW—Real American Wrestling. At the time, it was one of the first ones in America. It was crazy, man. All I wanted to do was just was train and have a fight. When I was 18, I had my first fight.

Did you dream of fighting professionally?

Yep. I woke up one day and decided to quit my corporate job, liquidated my savings, and basically started training professionally. I wanted to become a professional fighter. I went over to the Netherlands to train for a few months and the experience was insane. When I got back, I blew my knee out training for an upcoming fight and had to have knee surgery. That setback led me down the road to become a professional trainer. A few months later I was employed by Fabricio Werdum, who later became the UFC heavyweight champion, and it all blew up from there. It was crazy time for sure.

Did this passion help you dial in your live performances?

Absolutely. I think there’s a massive amount of overlap and think a lot of performers could stand to learn some things that come from training in the martial arts. It’s one of those things where, when you’ve actually been in the ring (or the cage) or however you’re competing, dealing with nerves, the idea of taking away all of the variables, all the different things that are going on, all the different doubt that sits in your mind, before you’re about to go out there and do anything.

Like I said, when you’ve been out there and you have another adult human being trying to take your head off, that’s an experience that you can’t get with anything else in this current way that we live our lives. And I think that the training, the repetition, the grind, all that stuff that I learned through training and competitive fighting has ultimately parlayed itself into success on the stage. I’m living proof as I really didn’t even have a musical background to begin with. To this day, I wouldn’t even consider myself a musician, but I still get up there and play regardless of how people perceive it.

I understand you have solid vinyl collection. Can you tell me about it?

I’ve been collecting vinyl since I was a kid. My mom and dad were huge vinyl collectors too. They both have tremendous collections. I remember growing up my dad had this crazy ass record player—it looked like something out of Blade Runner. It was silver and black, and when you touched it, this thing recessed inward and then pulled so you could put the record in, you know? I remember as a kid being completely obsessed with this thing.

When I got older and I got my own record player. I don’t know, man, there’s just something about it. Everybody says vinyl sounds warmer, better, whatever. Regardless of what it is, I just love the sound. I currently have a vertical player by Gramovox, this company out of Chicago. You put an album on there, sit back, relax, drink a beer, smoke a joint, whatever you want to do and just chill. Yeah, it’s totally entertaining.

What are some of your most prized albums?

Oh, man. I got a bunch of first edition, first pressings of Crosby, Stills, as well as Nash and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I also own a lot of good old outlaw country. I just got this old Patsy Cline original pressing and its killer!

What’s different about vinyl versus music in the digital age?

It’s just different. I like having physical things. Growing up in an era where, maybe I was at the tail end of that—we had CDs and cassettes before everything started going digital. I don’t know, there’s just something about having vinyl—the physical package, the album artwork, etc. You can get a lot of incredible information with an album that most would just pass over digitally. Granted I’m not that old, but I talked to my pops and others from his generation and they’re like, “Man, when we were growing up, we didn’t know anything about the band. We would actually buy the record, put it on, listen to it over and over, and look at the fricking artwork, the leaflet inside, and try to figure shit out.” Bottom line, I love vinyl. It reminds me of how music was when I was a kid.

Do you have a favorite vinyl outlet where you like to shop?

I go to my buddy Darrin’s place up in Novato. It’s called Watts Music. He always gets in so many crazy rare pieces. I don’t know how he does it, but he does. Love that place, check it out if you’re ever up in the Bay area.

Are there any charitable causes or movements that are important to you right now?

We do a benefit for Kiddo every year, which is an organization based in Northern California that’s working to put the arts back in schools and help “at-risk” kids. I think that it’s really important.

Down the road, it’s my goal is to start an organization that’s going to help at-risk kids and help understand how to actualize how they feel. Many of these kids don’t know how to express their feelings, they don’t know why they’re disillusioned or feeling depressed. It’s honestly a huge goal of mine and I do believe in 10, 15 years (hopefully sooner) we’ll be looking back on this time and going “What in the hell were we thinking?”

Very noble cause—all the best with that. I hear you’re a science fiction nut, dabbling in theoretical physics. Is this for real?

Yeah, that’s 100% for real. I’ve been fascinated with that stuff since I was kid, especially with space. Now that were in the so-called information age, it’s so easy to read up on things that we might not have in the past. And as for theoretical physics, I am a nut. I like finding the inflection points with real things. People talk about a quantum entanglement and I think about how quantum entanglement could kind of be disseminated and talked about in terms of love and how one always feels connected with others, or you’re thinking about somebody and then they call you out of the blue—how theoretical physics concepts could basically be used to explain some of the weird natural phenomenon that we experience like deja vu. Cool stuff.

This is what I write about in my songs. All the songs on this new record “From the Other Side,” and then the second EP, “From The Other Side II,” are all based on, for the most part, theoretical physic concepts and weird sci-fi stuff.

Speaking of “theoretical concepts,” who parties harder, Kris Kristofferson or Willie Nelson?

Oh, shit. They both party pretty frigging hard. I have a funny story about smoking Willie’s weed.

When I was opening for Kris, we were out on the road with him while he was opening for Willie Nelson and the Strangers. My dad told me before I went out, “Whatever you do, don’t smoke Willie’s weed, it’s too strong.” My dad’s not really a big smoker and I grew up smoking as far back as I can remember. I was like, yeah, okay, whatever, dad. I’m going to have a good time.

One night on Willie’s bus, I walk in with a friend and there’s Kris and Willie sitting there, smoking a giant joint. I’m like, “Oh boy, here we go!” Willie passes it to me and I’m like, I don’t want to be a little B, so I take a big hit, exhale, and pass it on. I’m sitting there trying to have a conversation with these folks and about five minutes into it and I’m just turning into a house plant. Crazy social anxiety, all sorts of shit, and I had to run off to our personal bus and just cool off. I probably should have listened to my pops because Willie’s weed was super strong!

Hilarious! In closing, anything else you would like to share with us?

There are many people out there who tell me I should just be playing shows with my dad and his friends. I think it’s funny how certain people like to project their expectations for your life on you. That’s something that all second-generation, musician/entertainer kids must deal with.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m always thankful for the support I’ve received from my pop’s audience. They’re amazing. But I think that people need to realize that I’m out here doing my own thing, and if they want to support me, that’s wonderful. If they don’t (because I’m not doing what they expect), then that’s fine too. And for those that do, I just really wanted to say thank you for really supporting me and really appreciating what I’m doing right now.

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