How Ted Templeman Helped Sammy Hagar With ‘Crazy Times’ Vocals
Sammy Hagar hadn't worked with Eddie Van Halen for nearly 20 years before the guitarist's death in October 2020. But his influence still permeates the Red Rocker's new album with the Circle, Crazy Times.
"Eddie was so special. He had a profound influence on me musically, and, you know, Mikey [Anthony], too," Hagar tells UCR. "I think anything I've done since Van Halen has 100% got [his influence]. Just like Ronnie Montrose had an influence on me, you take that with you. There's just no way to get around that kind of brilliance that doesn't help you with songwriting, mainly."
Hagar says that on Crazy Times, which comes out on Sept. 30, he and his Circle bandmates — bassist Anthony, drummer Jason Bonham and guitarist Vic Johnson — sought to incorporate the soaring, almost angelic vocal harmonies that were a signature part of Van Halen's sound.
But even with Anthony's sky-high tenor in the mix, the band and producer Dave Cobb struggled to nail the formula. But it wasn't just a Circle problem.
"I tried to get it with Chickenfoot and we couldn’t get it," Hagar notes. "We had the same vocals, Mikey and myself. It doesn't sound anything like Van Halen, those background vocals. We tried. I said, 'What the fuck?' You know, 'Mike, are you losing your voice or what?' He goes, 'I don't fuckin' know!'"
Stumped, Hagar phoned the leading authority on achieving the Van Halen vocal blend: the band's former producer Ted Templeman. "I said, 'Ted, how the fuck do we do it?'" the singer recalls. "He's going, 'Oh, there's a trick! Mikey has to double your part. Like, if you're singing the low part, you double yours and he does one. And then he triples his vocal, his high part.' When he does that third one, bam, it sounds like Van Halen, that horn honkin'."
The call paid off instantly. "Boy, did we get it," Hagar says. "Once Cobb heard it, he went, 'Oh, fuck yeah!' Now it’s all over the record. So that's the most Van Halen influence on this record, I would say, strictly those background vocals."
Templeman points out that Eddie Van Halen's voice was an important ingredient in the band's indelible vocal alchemy, too. "Ed's background parts are part of the sound of Van Halen. A lot of people don’t realize that," the producer tells UCR. "They think about him as the guitar hero, but he was part of that youthful sound that came out right away, at the very beginning, even on 'You Really Got Me.'
"The thing that got me, I'm watching Ed and Mike sing and I'm going, 'How do these guys … ?' Ed sings so great for [being] the guitar player, you know?" Templeman notes. "Most guys who play that kind of guitar don't sing that well. But he had this great, youthful voice. He's part of the sound, that California Sunshine sound [of] heavy metal. That was all part of Ed's sound."