Rock 'n Roll Roulette
Fast paced, rapid fire, and unedited
"Ed and I hadn't spoken for several years, really dating back to when I was told I was out of the band, which I learned from the media, (just like everyone else did). That really hurt. There were a lot of unresolved issues and we never got to speak about those, and that's a shame."
The Rhythm Goes on with Van Halen's
Raised in Chicago and eventually ending up in Arcadia, California, Michael Anthony didn't always want to be a bass player. In junior high, he ran track, and was a pretty skilled catcher. He thought about how cool it would be to play in the Majors, yet by the time he started High School the athletics came to an end when Michael was more drawn to music.
His dad, a trumpet player, introduced him to music. Michael learned to play the trumpet and then, by High School, he wanted to play guitar. Since many of his friends back then played guitar and drums, Michael moved on to the bass and never looked back.
The first "bass" he played was a Fender Mustang guitar that a friend had given him. Mike removed two strings and played it as a bass until his father bought him his first true bass, a Victoria copy of a Fender Precision. As his improved, he joined bands and played bass and sang.
While attending Pasadena City College, Michael met Eddie Van Halen, who was also taking some classes there. Eddie and his brother Alex had a band called "Mammoth," and Mark Stone was the bassist. When Mark left the band, Ed asked Mike to audition and the rest became Rock 'n Roll History. With his solid bass lines and unmistakable back-up of harmonized vocals, Mike played a huge part in Van Halen's sound and success.
He was with Van Halen from 1974 - 2003. From the late 70's until his "forced exit," Van Halen was one of the biggest names worldwide in Rock and pop music. They changed the landscape of Rock 'n Roll with catchy lyrics, David's performance sass, Eddie's virtuosity in bold guitar chops, and the fierce rhythm of their Rock style. In 2003, a Van Halen reunion brought Michael back to the band for a while.
Since 2006, Anthony has been the bassist for Chickenfoot, and The Circle; two bands founded and fronted by former Van Halen singer, Sammy Hagar. I got to speak with Mike recently and felt honored to have the chance to try and put him on the spot. Here we go, another Rock 'n Roll Roulette special:
By: Kreig Marks, June 14, 2021
KM: Hi Michael, welcome to Tru Rock Revival Magazine's Rock 'n Roll Roulette. This will be about 15 questions, none of them are prepared, and nothing is edited. Whatever you say we put on our issue. You ready?
MA: Yep! Let's gamble! You can call me Mike. Michael sounds so formal. LOL.
KM: LOL. Alright, Mike. Let's do it! I'll get the wheel spinning. You were an integral part of Van Halen from it's inception until the early 2000's. What was it like being a part of that band, which was probably the biggest band in the world for the entire time you were there?
MA: There's really no other way to describe it other than a dream that became a reality, that I was fortunate to be part of for a long time.
KM: Did you know Van Halen would become the success it was and the impact it would have on Rock music and the history of music?
MA: I don't think any of us did when we first started out. We hoped people would come to our shows. LOL. Actually, I think out of all of us, Dave was the one who knew how big we would get.
KM: Ha! He was right!
MA: Yeah, he was! LOL, go figure that out. LOL.
KM: When did you first realize Van Halen was something special?
MA: When we were on stage, and we'd do a show for 10 people. Then, the next show had 30 people there. Then 100, and then 500. It happened fast. Next thing you know, there were people from the industry there, and we were getting signed by Warner Brothers. Then, we were out on the road opening for Journey, Black Sabbath, Montrose. That tour, our first, was supposed to be for just a couple of weeks, and it turned into a long tour, for about 8 months or so.
KM: That's wild. The rest is history.
MA: Yeah. LOL. That was it. Man, it happened fast.
KM: What is your most memorable show with Van Halen?
MA: Man, there were so many of them. You're gonna put me on the spot like this?
MA: Wow. Hmm. One that really stands out was the concert we did at the LA Coliseum. Supposedly there were over 80,000 people there. It sounded like it. Man, it was loud! Or, maybe the first show we did with Sammy Hagar. There have been so many great shows.
KM: I'm gonna put you on the spot. Who did you prefer as the lead singer with Van Halen?
MA: Oh man, you're gonna ask that?! Why don't you just ask me which of my kids is my favorite?
KM: LOL! OK, let me rephrase the question. What do you think Dave brought to the band, and what did Sammy bring?
MA: Dave was the consummate showman. When he was up front, he ruled that audience. He liked to have all eyes on him. He didn't want to share the front of the stage. Sammy was, is not just a singer, but a tremendous songwriter, and also plays the hell out of the guitar. He loves everything about performing, and is the first one to share the front of the stage. He's not looking to be the center of attention. He likes to share it.
KM: Different people, different ways. I know you've been asked this question a lot. When you were let go from Van Halen, you heard it through the media. That must have been like a kick in the nuts!
MA: Aha! That question. Yeah, I've been asked it once or twice. LOL. So, yeah, it was painful, I guess like that kick in the nuts. It didn't hurt like that, but it hurt in a whole other way. Imagine being out for dinner with some friends, and one of your friends says, "Hey man, it's too bad about you and your wife." And you look at this guy with a strange expression and say, "What?" And your friend says, "Yeah man, I'm sorry about you two getting divorced. My wife told me. Man, I'm sorry to hear that." And you just smile and nod, because you know you and your wife were having some issues, but you learn about her filing for divorce from a friend and not directly from her. So yeah, that's kind of how it was. You get that phone call from your buddy and he says, "Oh man, I'm sorry to hear about you not being in Van Halen anymore."
KM: Whoa. So this was around the time that another reunion was gonna happen with Dave?
KM: How did you react to that? Were you pissed?
MA: Yeah I was pissed, because Ed made it seem like I had quit the band. I never did that. He decided that, on the reunion tour in '07, that he wanted Wolfgang to be in the band, so I found out thru the media. Now, he went on and said I quit. But, that was total BS. I never quit that band. Then, I basically find out the same way everyone else did, over the internet. That's what hurt. But now, it's water under the bridge. He's not here to rehash it, so it is what it is.
KM: Sadly, yeah. When's the last time you and Eddie spoke before he died?
MA: Oh man, it had been years.10 years, 12 years. I do wish we had spoken before he died, but, we hadn't spoken for several years, really dating back to when I was told I was out of the band. There were a lot of unresolved issues, and we never got to speak about those, and that's a shame. There's obviously unfinished dialogue there. I did speak with Alex briefly, after Eddie died. It was just a short call, expressing my condolences. Hopefully Alex and I can really catch up one day. I think that'll happen. That would be cool.
KM: Do you think the largely publicized "Van Halen Reunion Tour" would have gone on, if Eddie hadn't been sick and died?
MA: Oh yeah, without a doubt. It would have happened. It was in the works, but Eddie got very sick, and you know what happened.
KM: Yeah, RIP Ed. Now let's move ahead here. Let's talk about Chickenfoot and The Circle. Both great bands you're in. When you, Sammy and the guys are performing, how much fun are you guys having? Because, to me as a fan and an observer, it looks like it's 1000 mph of nonstop fun.
MA: Oh man, it is nonstop. We have a blast. It's like a 2 hour jam session with either band. That's the best way to describe it. It's like 4 friends getting together and just jamming. So much fun.
KM: Cool! Mike, you've been blessed in this life. The 3 bands you've been in, the talent in those is incredible.
MA: Man, you're not kidding. You're right, I've been blessed in this life. I got to play in a band with arguably the best guitarist to ever walk the earth in Eddie Van Halen. One of the best front men in Dave, and then Sammy. Man, who the hell gets that opportunity? And, don't forget an incredible drummer, who in my opinion was and is still underrated, in Alex Van Halen. Then, I get to be in Chickenfoot with Sammy, Joe Satriani and Chad Smith. And now, The Circle with Sammy, Jason Bonham and another incredible guitarist, Vic Johnson. Who the hell gets this in life?
KM: You're right, it is incredible. So, how are your wife and kids doing? Did everyone stay healthy during the pandemic?
MA: Yeah, we all made it through OK. I feel bad for all of those who weren't as fortunate.
KM: What kept you busy during the pandemic?
MA: Well, Sammy and I, and the rest of the band, did several lockdown videos. That was fun. Obviously, not as fun as doing it live or in the same location, but still fun. I hope people check out the videos. I also continued to do behind -the- scenes work with my wing sauce, "Mad Anthony's Sauces." Have you tried any?
KM: I haven't, but I'll have to now, especially the BBQ.
MA: You have to! They're amazing. We'll have to get some out to you guys at Tru Rock.
KM: Yeah, do it! Send it on over. When can we expect The Circle to come pay us a visit in South Florida?
MA: We've got some shows on the schedule now. I'm not sure if there's any in your area, but I love heading to Florida for shows. I'm sure somewhere along the way we'll be in your area.
KM: Let us know! What about Chickenfoot? You think there will be another Chickenfoot album or tour?
MA: Yeah, I think so. I think it'll happen.
KM: A couple of years ago, I had the privilege to sit with Sammy for an interview, when you guys were at the Seminole Hard Rock here in Hollywood, Florida.
MA: Yeah, I remember that show.
KM: At the end of our interview, I asked Sammy, out of all the music he's done over the years and all the bands he's been in, at the end of the day, how many ways, really, are there to Rock?
MA: LOL! I know what he said. (Mike begins singing it in that unmistakable high voice) "There's Only One Way to Rock!"
KM: LOL! Mike, thanks for calling in. This has been beyond cool.
MA: Thanks for having me, Kreig. Let's do this again.
KM: Anytime, man! Keep in touch.
For further information about Michael Anthony, go to his website, www.madanthonycafe.com
Kreig Marks, Founder/Publisher, TRR
Kreig Marks is the Founder/Publisher of Tru Rock Revival Magazine.
Rock music has always been his passion, and promoting musicians. In is spare time he is an internationally recognized neuro-fitness trainer/ kinesiologist.