Michael Anthony opens up about Van Halen, Chickenfoot

Michael Anthony's a happy camper once again
Michael Anthony's a happy camper once again (Image credit: Todd Martyn-Jones)

"I'm the ultimate rock 'n' roll sideman," says former Van Halen bassist and current Chickenfoot member Michael Anthony.

"But that doesn't mean a 'sideman' isn't vital," he stresses. "I'm the kind of guy who has your back. When you want to go off and solo for ten minutes, I keep that groove going. It's an important job."

Since he first came to the public's attention in 1978 on Van Halen's revolutionary debut album, Michael Anthony has done his job better than anyone. Throughout the '70s, '80s and into the '90s, he helped lay the foundation for the Van Halen sound, providing massive yet nimble bass parts over which Eddie Van Halen could fly. "Incredible times," Anthony remembers. "Despite all the bullshit that went down in that band, I'm proud of the music we made, and always will be."

Changing lead singers - David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar and, for a minute or two, Gary Cherone - made the Van Halen experience "something of a mind game from time to time," says Anthony. "As soon as we had a strong identity, we had to change." And Eddie Van Halen's substance abuse problems didn't help matters. "I don't want to talk smack on anyone," says Anthony, "but there were times that were, uh, difficult."

"It was a blow. I would have loved to have been a part of it" Michael Anthony on the Van Halen reunion with David Lee Roth

After a bittersweet 'Van Hagar' reunion in 2004, Anthony assumed the band was finished for good. So he was more than a little surprised when Van Halen announced they were hitting the road early last year with original lead singer David Lee Roth - and Eddie's son Wolfgang on bass.

"It was a blow," says Anthony. "I would have loved to have been a part of it. But at my age, you learn to roll with the punches. And you find that better things lay ahead."

Such as Chickenfoot, the supergroup he's formed with fellow Van Halen survivor Hagar, guitarist Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. (If you don't know about this band yet, check out Related Links and catch up.)

"Chickenfoot is phenomenal," the bassist enthuses. "I can't believe the music we're making. And wait till you hear the blazing lead guitar Joe Satriani is playing. The guy's a monster."

In the podcast below, Anthony talks candidly about his Van Halen years, times both good and crushingly bad. "A lot of these things I've never said before," he reveals. "I'm kind of a 'let it go' kind of guy." Plus, he raves about his new band, who aim to have an album out next spring. "We're gonna rock people's worlds," he says. "Just when everybody says nobody makes music like this anymore, here we come."

Part one - Anthony on playing with Chickenfoot vs Van Halen, plus the VH breakup
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Part two - More about the VH breakup, the last 'Van Hagar' tour and being replaced by Wolfgang
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Part three - Michael Anthony answers your questions
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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.