UltimateClassicRock.com conducted an interview last week with Michael Anthony on Chickenfoot’s upcoming album. Here’s some excerpts:
Michael Anthony, the founding bassist of Van Halen, and current member of hard-rock supergroup Chickenfoot, took time from planning the release of the band’s upcoming album to grant Ultimate Classic Rock an exclusive interview.
He talked about his departure from his former band, his new group’s sophomore album (humorously titled ‘IV’) and Chickenfoot’s plans for their upcoming tour. He also explains how his insides manage to stay together after decades of being subjected to low frequencies, whiskey and hot sauce:
So, you and the Chickenfoot guys seem pretty damn happy together, huh?
It’s like how Van Halen was in the early days. It’s four friends getting together and having a good time. I guess a lot of that has to do with, you know, we’ve all had our own careers and done really well. So, it’s not like we have anything to prove, and we don’t need to do it for the money, so we can do it just purely for the enjoyment of making music.
In between Van Halen and Chickenfoot, did you consider recording your own music?
You know what? I did kick it around. People were saying, “Hey, why don’t you go out and put a band together, and just do some shows?” I didn’t want to do the thing that [David Lee] Roth was doing, you know, cause he went out and put a band together and was just doing Van Halen stuff. You know, that’d be kind of a cheesy way to go. When I went out [on tour] with Sammy [Hagar], I put together this Mad Anthony Express thing a few years back. I thought it was great. People were saying, “You ought to take this out, do a House of Blues tour or something.” But, you know what, it was fun to do that one time, but if I were to do something it would be totally on my own. In the meantime, I was out playing with Sammy quite a bit, obviously the Planet Us thing came up, but that kind of blew apart because of the Van Halen ’04 reunion. I dunno, seeing how that all came out, maybe we should have stuck with the Planet Us thing. That didn’t end very harmoniously.
UPDATE 6/30/11: Michael Anthony called the VHND today and wanted to clarify something regarding this interview.
Michael Anthony: “I want to say something about the interview UltimateClassicRock.com. The guy that interviewed me interpreted a couple of things that I said about Dave’s solo touring the wrong way, and after I read some of the comments on VHND, I wanted to clarify what I meant.
“In that interview, I was talking about how, a few years ago, Roth put a band together and went out on a couple tours and was played nothing but Van Halen classics. I didn’t mean to knock him for doing so. What I meant to say about that was – that’s fine for him, but for me, I would not want to do that.
“A few years ago I put together my “Mad Anthony Express” band just to do a few shows. We were doing a few Van Halen songs, but we were mainly doing a bunch of classic rock songs that I dig. I could have taken it out on a small tour, but I didn’t want to. Or I could have went out and toured and played only Van Halen songs just to make money, but I don’t want to do that either. It’s the same reason why, on Chickenfoot’s first tour, we didn’t play any Van Halen or Hagar or Red Hot Chili Peppers… we didn’t want to only rely on our past.
“But anyway, I have no ill will at all towards Dave. He was the one guy that I was really looking forward to jamming with some day, either at the Van Halen reunion tour or when Van Halen would get inducted to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. You know, before the induction, his manager called me and asked if I would want to jam with Dave at the induction, and I said I’d love to! But neither would come to be. I’m totally cool with Dave.”
You’re saying the new record is heavier than the first one, right?
Yeah it is, there are parts of it that are also maybe a little darker. I think we’ve really evolved as a band. The first CD, we just had so much fun jamming, we had some ideas and we put it together kind of quick, because everybody else had their schedules to keep. Even though we actually kind of did it the same way this time, we were a lot more comfortable jamming with each other, and I think we dug a lot deeper. There’s a lot more meat to these new songs.
Is it true you recorded ‘Down the Drain’ from the first album in one take?
That was the one song on the album that we basically wrote as we were playing it. We were actually taking a break working on another song. Joe just started playing this lick, and like it happened so many other times, Chad [Smith] and I started jamming a little bit. We told [producer] Andy Johns to always be recording, because you never know what could happen — there you go, right there, ‘Down the Drain.’ All we had to do was, there was a little B-section that we added in. We jammed that thing for a long time, so it was just a matter of “Let’s chop this off right here,” but otherwise, that was a one-take deal.
Is the mood of the new record serious, or more of a party vibe?
Well, it gets kind of serious when Joe [Satriani] gets there, because he’s kind of a serious musician. If it wasn’t for that, between Chad, Sammy and myself, we’d still be dicking around in there.
Has that rubbed off lyrically as well?
Yeah, it was interesting because Joe had a handful of ideas, and the way this process worked, some months back, we all had a week off, where we just kind of got together because Joe had some ideas. We came up with the foundation for a few things, and that was it. Then, the way we do it, if there are ideas being thrown around, we MP3 each other, we send files back and forth because everybody is, you know, not together. Then, when we get together, it’s really cool. That’s where you can really see the chemistry of this band. Everything just gels and music comes flying out. That’s great, that happened twice in Van Halen — once at the beginning, and once when Sammy joined the band, that kind of chemistry was there.
It’s that easy, huh?
Well, I think it was a little overwhelming lyrically at first for Sammy, because all of a sudden the ideas were coming fast. It’s like, oh man, we’ve got, one, two, now we got four or five [songs.] Eight of the songs on the new album, we didn’t even get together to rehearse these songs. When Chad and I were flying up north to record this at Sammy’s studio in San Rafael, we were in record mode, we weren’t rehearsing or anything. It’s kind of cool that way, because a lot of things happen very spontaneously as you play songs or work them out. Sometimes, the more you listen to them, you think, “Oh, I can play this there, or that there.” But when it’s spontaneous, you throw stuff out there that’s like, “Whoa, I didn’t even know I played that.” We were doing two tracks a day for four days. We had eight tracks. He’s writing lyrics, and we’re going, “No, we’re onto this song now.”
Any particular favorites?
In fact, there’s one song on the album now called ‘Different Devil’ that Sammy had nothing for, but he really liked. It always happens, he either goes to his place in Maui, or his place in Cabo. I remember him calling me and saying “Awww, Mikey, I just got inspired!” He came up with this whole thing, and it ended up being one of my favorite songs on the record.
So when do we get to hear some new music?
We’re hoping to have a single out sometime very soon — hopefully in July. Why wait? We’re hoping to have the album out sometime in the fall.
Read the entire interview on UltimateClassicRock.com.