Michael Anthony talked a whole lotta Van Halen during his recent appearance on The Jeremy White Podcast.
In the interview (above) Anthony covered a range of topics including former Van Halen producers, his hopes for a remastered ‘OU812’, his desire to perform David Lee Roth-era Van Halen songs with his current band The Circle, what he thinks of recent Van Halen books and more.
Below are some of the highlights from the interview:
On Van Halen Producers Andy Johns, Bruce Fairbairn & Ted Templeman
“I really felt that your performance was really highlighted on [‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ and ‘Balance’],” said White. “It was the first time – aside from the first six records – where you actually felt and heard the bass.”
Anthony, who gave credit to the producers of both albums, the late Andy Johns on ‘F.U.C.K.’ and the late Bruce Fairbairn on ‘Balance’, responded: “Andy Johns, God bless that guy, I loved him to death. He was a bass player too. He really wanted to hear the bass. He’s one of those guys that likes to hear and feel the bass and I was like, ‘Haa! My man!’ And of course Bruce, what a great guy he was too, we had a lot of fun recording with him too.
“Andy, I think, was a little bit more of a guy that would be right out there in the studio with you, he didn’t just sit back behind the board,” continued Anthony. “Not to say that Bruce was just sittin’ there letting everybody else do the work but Andy would be right out there in the studio with us, actually like a fifth member of the band and was right down in the trenches with us.”
“Bruce was very relaxed and very easy to work with,” Anthony said of Fairbairn. “He was one of the guys that didn’t try to make us sound one way or another, he just totally let us be who we are and sound the way we do. I had a lot of fun with Bruce, he was great.”
Of course there’s Ted Templeman, who produced the first six classic Van Halen albums. Anthony recalled how Templeman helped hone the Van Halen sound in the studio on the early records.
“A lot of them, they make suggestions, especially Ted Templeman in the early days. If we were left totally to our own devices each song would have been like 10 minutes long,” said Anthony. “Every song started out with a long guitar intro, every single song that we had. Then there’d be like this long instrumental thing and then the vocals would come in and [Ted] was like, ‘No, no, no, no, no guys! Let’s just cut this part a little bit shorter and go right into the vocals.’
“So [producers] kinda help piece the things together,” he added. “Everybody would make certain musical suggestions…but [none of the producers we worked with] tried to steer us into doing what they wanted us to do, they always let us do our thing.”
Anthony explained why Templeman wasn’t brought back to produce Van Halen’s first album with Sammy Hagar – 1986’s ‘5150’, which was produced by Mick Jones.
“It wasn’t that we were dissatisfied at any point along the way with how we were working with [Ted],” said Anthony. “It was just at one point we felt that it was time to see what another producer, how they would capture us. That’s basically all it was. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God this guy’s terrible to work with,’ ‘cuz we always made sure that we were gonna have a good time with the guy in the studio before he even walked into the studio with us.”
Why So Little Bass In ‘OU812’?
“I really don’t know,” said Anthony. “One thing that’s kinda tough is that Eddie’s tonal range is so broad and Alex’s drums are so big that a lot of times – and this would carry onto the live show too – a lot of times it’s kinda difficult to get the bass tucked in where it sounds great and works with everything.”
Antony continued, “In the early days with Ted Templeman for example, Donn Landee, who was his engineer, I listened to a lot of the stuff that he had done like Linda Ronstadt, Doobie Brothers, bands like that where the bass is there but it’s not there. You can feel it, you can tell the notes are moving or whatever [but] it’s not really a prominent thing. I know on the early [Van Halen] records that there was a big focus on Ed and what he was doing so I just kinda did my thing or whatever and it wasn’t really until Andy Johns that he said, ‘I want a real meaty, beefy, big bass sound,’ ya know and I was like, ‘Alright, my man!’ ya know and went for it.”
Will ‘OU812’ & The Rest Of The Hagar Era Albums Ever Be Remastered?
“I know Warner has brought up the question – would we like to do that? as far as like a box set,” said Anthony. “Obviously it all happens after Eddie passed and it’s like, ‘Hey let’s cash in on this and that and whatever,’ which I don’t want any part of that type of – going in that direction – but I know there has been some talk about doing a box set, redoing some stuff. But I think it’s kinda in the early works and nobody’s really talked that much about it yet. I’m sure and I’m also hoping that will happen.”