MICHAEL ANTHONY Talks About CHICKENFOOT III, Reminisces About The VAN HALEN Daze - "The Only Regret I Have Is That The Band Did Not Go Out Like It Should Have"
October 2, 2011, 5 years ago
VAN HALEN’s only legitimate bass-man Michael Anthony recently sat down with BraveWords.com to talk about the band's oddly-titled but anxiously-awaited new sophomore effort called CHICKENFOOT III, which features his musical allies, former Van Halen singer SAMMY HAGAR, guitarist JOE SATRIANI and RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS drummer Chad Smith. Anthony hypes up the forthcoming Road Test tour, the fact that he doesn't consider the band a super-group and the beginning of the end of the original Van Halen.
BraveWords.com: We’re here to talk about the fantastic new Chickenfoot III album.
Michael Anthony: “I like that ‘the fantastic new Chickenfoot album’ - that’s what is it.”
BraveWords.com: You’ll be heading out on the road soon with Kenny Aronoff (JOHN MELLENCAMP, MELISSA ETHERIDGE, JOHN FOGERTY) as your drummer...
Anthony: “I’m in the San Francisco area right now and Kenny has been rehearsing with us.”
BraveWords.com: You’ve also recently announced a mini six-date tour. Can we expect more dates soon?
Anthony: “Oh yeah. We call this a Road Test Tour. It’s during the first week and a half of November. It’s basically a promotional tour to let everybody know that we’ll be coming out. We’re going to do a lot of press - TV and stuff like that. We’ll do a couple of shows on the east coast, west coast and in the mid-west. We’ll do the same thing in early January in Europe. It’s basically a pre-tour tour. We’ll probably launch the full on tour by the spring or summer.”
BraveWords.com: Package tour or clubs?
Anthony: “Well, I would hope that we’re not in the club phase anymore.”
BraveWords.com: The new album seems less experimental and more in line with the sound of the Van Halen F.U.C.K. album. It’s more melodic rock...
Anthony: “The first album was (and I’m not sure the word would be experimental)... We were all new with each other in the studio, so there was a lot of jamming going on. It was ‘jam-oriented’. It was looser. After being in the studio and touring as much as we have, everybody is comfortable now and musically knows where everyone is at. I think it’s a natural evolvement of the band. This album is a lot more in-depth and I don’t want to say darker... I use the term ‘meatier’. It’s not as loose sounding as some of the stuff on the first record. We really have an identity now.”
BraveWords.com: The last time Michael Anthony was part of an album named III - it didn’t end so well.
BraveWords.com: So, when the band said to you - we’re calling this album III. Did you say ‘hey, wait a minute’?
Anthony: “I had not even thought about that until just now when you mentioned it. Boy, you just ruined my whole... I’m just kidding. That’s really interesting. I had not even thought about that. Originally, Chad had suggested calling it Chickenfoot IV and everybody was like ‘hey hey’... because it’s only to let people know that a new album is coming out anyway. The way Chickenfoot works and they way that we all are is that we like to have fun. Our fans know that after seeing some of the videos and stuff from our first album. We knew the logical thing would be to call it Chickenfoot II, but we’re not going to do that - it’s too predictable. So, let’s call it Chickenfoot III and now I got a whole new spin on the whole thing because of you.”
BraveWords.com: Well, you get second chance...
Anthony: “No, no, no (laughs). The other III album was NOT my favorite album (laughs). Where this IS my favorite album.”
BraveWords.com: Let’s talk about your relationship with Sammy Hagar. He left Van Halen in ’95 or so...
Anthony: “Well, he really didn’t leave. He was ‘departed’ from the band.”
BraveWords.com: Still you managed to maintain a friendship with him which is not always obvious under those circumstances especially in the rock business world. How is it working with Sammy?
Anthony: “Actually when Sammy was out of Van Halen, I didn’t have any kind of contact with him for a few years because it wasn’t the politically correct thing to do. Eddie and Al - they were my band. When Sammy and I finally got back in touch with each other we actually became better friends this time around then we were when he was in Van Halen. I don’t know why that is. When he joined Van Halen it was kind of like ‘well, here’s your new lead singer’. Our relationship started up like that, but when we reconnected we didn’t even talk about music... it was more just being friends with ‘how have you been? What have you been doing? How’s the family?' - stuff like that. We became better friends because of it.”
BraveWords.com: It shows and musically there’s a magic as well.
Anthony: “We do have a pretty good chemistry together on stage. If I guest with Sammy’s band or whatever we’re almost like the Martin & Lewis of rock. He’s like Dean Martin and I’m Jerry Lewis. We always had a chemistry vocally, too. We really wanted to bring that out when we got together and formed this band, Chickenfoot. With the new album, we really wanted to bring out the background vocals a lot more and that sound. It has become the ‘signature’ sound between him and myself.”
BraveWords.com: ...And that’s what I meant before about the album being more melodic. The background vocals really come to the forefront on this album. It makes it a more whole album and everything just works well together.
Anthony: “Yeah and I think the way the songs evolved and were being written really lent themselves to some great background vocals. Sammy and I would listen to the music in the studio after we’d be done tracking and we look at each other and say, ‘Oh, my God - we could throw a great background there... a great ‘ouuu’ or ‘ahhh’’ or whatever. We knew that there would be a lot of room for some really good stuff creatively (vocally).”
BraveWords.com: Were you more conscious about making a more radio friendly album or it this just how you write and this is what came out?
Anthony: “Yeah, I think it’s just how it came out. We don’t want to create any kind of pressure or put any pressure on ourselves. We got together (this band) to do this as four friends - just wanting to have a good time with nothing to prove. We’ve made money. We’ve had fame. We’ve had all of that, so we just wanted to purely do this to have fun with it. We didn’t know how far we’d go. When we first got into the studio - it was ‘let’s jam and have a good time’ and when everybody goes back to what they do... but everything was just happening and it sounded so great that it turned into an album and then a tour. Now, it’s a new album and tour (that we’re going to do), but we don’t want to put any kind of pressure. We want this to be a fun thing to do and not have to worry about it turning into some kind of business. No - ‘we have to better ourselves on this one’ or whatever. The writing is what it is and luckily it turned out... I knew it was going to be great because the ideas when the were being developed... Anyhow, here it is and if the people like it - they like it and if they don’t - they don’t, but we’re all really pleased with it and that’s the main thing for us.”
BraveWords.com: I think you’ve hit a home run especially with a song like ‘Come Closer’. Probably, the best ballad to come out of the Hagar/Anthony duo...
Anthony: “Kind of new for Chickenfoot - kind of a different direction. That was actually a song that Sammy came up with the lyrics. He presented them to Joe and he came up with a very cool melodic piano thing. I remember Joe playing it (on the piano for Chad and myself) when we got together in the studio. We’re like ‘wow - let’s jam. Let’s play around with it and see’. Joe was like ‘I’m not really sure I know it well enough on the keyboards’, so he just strapped on his guitar and it took a little bit of a different direction. It got a little bit away from the keyboard thing and it turned into something very different for us. When we listened to the demo (Chad & I) we were like ‘hmmm, we’re going to have to come up with something to fit with what Joe is playing’. We came up with a cool little groove behind what he was doing and it turned out to be really really good song.”
BraveWords.com: Joe had a long-standing solo career. His playing was very technical and, of course, playing guitar in a band can be very different. How is he adjusting to the band mentality and how it is for you playing with him? You played with a guitar God in Eddie and now you’ve got guitar God II with Joe.
Anthony: “Yeah, I haven’t done too bad (laughs). I think Joe was ecstatic about being in this kind of a situation. I know that originally he had a band called THE SQUARES and he played with DEEP PURPLE for awhile. He just kind of fell into the solo type of deal. I think he’s really been looking for something like this and he doesn’t have to be the melodic focal point of every second of every song. He’s got three other guys working with him here. He does great rhythmic stuff too and I think he was able to show a whole different side of what he can do (in this band).”
BraveWords.com: If I may - you are no longer in Van Halen. How is that for you on a personal level? Do you have regrets?
Anthony: “The only regret I have is that the band did not go out like it should have. In 2004, when we did the reunion tour - that’s something we should have toured three times around the world with and unfortunately because of the state Eddie was in - we had to pull the plug after about 80 shows. It just couldn’t continue and I didn’t want to short-change the fans at all (myself personally). I wasn’t even supposed to do that tour. Without getting into it - I took a lot of cutbacks and the only reason I did that was because if it was the last time the band was going to tour then I wanted to play for the fans. I wanted to do it for the fans. It was just sad to see how the whole thing went out.”
BraveWords.com: I was backstage at one of the 2004 shows and you could just feel the tension. It was very discernible. It was you and Sammy in one corner and the other guys in the other corner. I remember thinking, ‘this is not going to work’.
Anthony: “Well, there were a lot of those ‘what’s going to happen today moments’. You’d wake up every morning and it’s like ‘oh, my gosh. Is this going to be a good day or a bad day?’ That’s not the way to do anything.”
BraveWords.com: Let’s get off of Van Halen.
Anthony: “Thank you (laughs). I just choose to remember the good times because it was a great time. It was a big part of my life and my career.”
BraveWords.com: In terms of Chickenfoot - what are the future plans? It started off as a super-group and by nature they aren’t entities that are meant to last.
Anthony: “But we’re not a super-group. The people that don’t know the band think we’re a super-group, but I’ve known Chad for years - him, Sammy and I have performed many times (before the band). I think that’s what makes the band work. I think I know what you’re getting at, but what makes this band work is that it’s four FRIENDS that got together. People would think that we pulled Chad Smith out of the Chili Peppers and let’s get Satriani - he’s a guitar shredder - but we did it out of friendship. The way Sammy put this thing together is that he was touring with his band in 2008 and did a show in Las Vegas. He called me and said ‘hey, I want to do something different for the encore. I should bring out a couple of friends to blow the fans’ minds’. So, he called up Chad (and myself) - we were like ‘yeah, we’ll come out and jam with you.’ He then had the idea to call Joe. I guess he figured with Chad and me there - he wanted to have a proper guitar player playing. Joe and I had jammed before as well. Sammy and I had a project we were trying to get off the ground before the (2004) Van Halen reunion called PLANET US with Neal Schon and Dean Castronovo (JOURNEY). We actually did a Rockline show and Joe played with us (on a couple of songs) because we performed during that show. Joe was actually going to be the other guitar player in that band, but it didn’t happen.”
BraveWords.com: You actually recorded demos for that project. What happened to them?
Anthony: “Yes, we did and we actually finished up a couple of those demos. Two of those songs, Sammy put out on one of his recent albums. The album was called Cosmic Universal Fashion. The two songs are Peeping Through A Hole (ed.: actual title on the album is Peephole) and... It wasn’t like any kind of prefab deal or whatever. The way we got together is that we did the show (Vegas 2008), jammed on 'Rock N’ Roll' by ZEPPELIN...
BraveWords.com: About the future. Are there plans for more albums?
Anthony: “We have no intent (after the way the new album tuned out) of ending anytime soon. We said we would do this unless scheduling didn’t permit us to do it... We’re looking forward to getting this thing out on the road and whatever is going to happen is going to happen, but we nobody did this to go out in a blaze of glory. I, very much look forward, to doing another Chickenfoot record.”
BraveWords.com: Last words?
Anthony: “We’re very proud of the new album and we can’t wait to get out and play it for everyone.”
For more visit: Chickenfoot.us.