Published in Japan, Burrn! magazine is famous for their worldwide exclusive interviews. VAN HALEN bassist Michael Anthony was interviewed in February 2006 for the April issue, which is out now. Anthony was interviewed by the magazine's U.S. correspondent John "Shooter" Harrell for their exclusive story. Unfortunately, the magazine is only printed in Japanese, but MelodicRock.com is currently offering a few highlights from the interview — translated from Japanese.
On the VAN HALEN 2004 reunion tour:
"Well, in general the reunion tour was great because it had been since 1998 that we played as VAN HALEN anywhere and it doesn't take very long for me after we finish a tour, it only takes a matter of weeks before I'm ready to get up and play in front of people again. So in that respect it was great getting out there and playing again and you know it's like when everybody got back together again, from outward appearances everything seemed fine but we had a few bumps because old things came back up again from time to time on the road between Sammy and Eddie so it was a little bit shaky. Actually the tour didn't end with as much fanfare as I would have liked it to or hoped it would but we got through it."
On the new business arrangements within the band for the 2004 reunion:
"I was not going to just sit home and do nothing and that kind of upset the VAN HALEN brothers for whatever reason I can't understand myself. But basically when this whole reunion thing started Ed really didn't want me to be part of it. I don't know how he was going to call it a reunion (laughs) but I basically had to work out a deal with Irving Azoff's management company in order to be part of this thing. I kind of sucked it up a bit and I made less money but the way I looked at it was, if this possibly was the last tour that VAN HALEN would ever do then I'd be kicking myself because I wasn't a part of it and I want to be a part of it, even more so than the money so I sucked it all up and came on and did it. I did it for the fans."
On making the reunion happen and previous reunion attempts with David Lee Roth:
"I used to needle Sam a bit and say hey, it'd be great (getting back together). We tried to make this thing work with Roth three times and each time it was even worse than the time before. We tried to do a new album with him and his ego just wouldn't let it happen and the third time that we tried to do it with him was more like, let's see if we can just play some dates and just get along with him and he still for some reason couldn't humble himself enough to just being one of the guys again here. Sammy was out here at a relative's wedding I think staying down at the beach and he actually called Al. So Al went down and met with him and they hung out for the whole day and got along great and at that point then it was just kind of like well, 'Let's see what we can do as far as putting Sam and Ed back together.' I knew that Al wanted to get out and play again too because he basically had done nothing because the only person that he plays with is Ed. He doesn't get out and jam with anybody else. So one thing led to another and then (laughs) there was my involvement. You know, I'm the guy who kind of helped put this thing together and then Ed didn't even want me to be a part of it (laughs). I thought it was kind of funny."
And on the 2004 tour and tensions within the band:
"We got along great. Obviously, there was tension between the brothers, basically Ed and Sammy's tequila thing, because he was never happy about that, the whole Cabo Wabo thing. And a lot of these arenas that we were playing in sold Cabo Wabo and even though that really had nothing to do with Sammy because he sells to people and then the buildings, the venues buys the stuff and Sammy doesn't sell to them. So I think Ed would get a little put off when he'd see a lot of Cabo Wabo banners up around the arenas and sometimes that would even create some tension onstage and offstage. There were nights where you know you have that after the show flight on the jet and things would sometimes be a little tense on that plane and without getting into any great detail there came a point to where we actually split it up and we traveled on two different jets; Eddie and Al would fly on one jet and Sammy and I would fly on another. This was only to keep the peace and that sucks just like anything else that even turns into a big business you know, sports or anything. A lot of times you almost lose the reason in the first place of why you got into doing it you know, making music and getting laid (laughs) and it all turns into big business. It got to the point to where I couldn't even see this thing going on much longer without either somebody blowing up on somebody or whatever. So Sammy finally said, 'I'm not doing any more dates because this is just not working.' When we first started out I was fully ready to do it because I thought we were going to go to Japan, Europe, South America, you know, do the thing that we should have done, like, big band reunites but unfortunately that wasn't going to be.
"[Ed] did not want Sammy doing any promoting of his stuff at all using the VAN HALEN name but a lot of that you don't have any control over. I came out with a hot sauce about the same time we were putting the tour together and the local radio station here in Los Angeles, KLOS, they would talk about the tour and then they would talk about my hot sauce. Well the brothers caught wind of that and they thought that I had my people, as they would say 'my people,' calling the radio station and telling them to pump my hot sauce on VAN HALEN's dime here or whatever and they finally asked me to have my people 'cease and desist,' I remember that distinctly. But I didn't have a damn thing to do with that and I have no control over what the radio station said. In fact, gee isn't this one of the benefits that you're supposed to reap from all these years of success that you can be able to go off and do something like that and promote something? They went on and they (the brothers) had their lawyers call every radio station that we were going to play at in every city and told them specifically they were not to mention Cabo Tequila or my Mad Anthony's Hot Sauce in the same sentence with VAN HALEN!"
On Eddie's son Wolfgang joining the band on tour:
"Oh it was great. I think he has grown up to be a great kid. I think he's a great player and he jumped up there on the drums a few times during sound check and shit the kid can play drums too you know!"
On VAN HALEN's failure to be nominated for the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame:
"I would have thought that we would have been nominated, voted in and inducted the first year that we were eligible, which would have been like 3 years ago or something like that. But for whatever reasons they have, maybe a lot of the people that vote you in are looking at the drama that this band has gone through and figured well, they don't deserve it yet. I don't know, but that's the only thing that I can come up with. Other than that it's like I have no idea. But I tell you it would be one damn interesting show when they ask us to get together and play for the induction ceremony. I know Dave; he'll be there a week ahead of the show just waiting."
On the last time he saw David Lee Roth:
"It was when him and Sammy toured together, what is that, four years ago now? He would kind of pull his hat down and just walk by me because I tell you one of the first shows that I did with those guys I forget where we were at but I had a few drinks and I went into Dave's dressing room after the show and I just unloaded on him, on what was his problem that we could not make this reunion work? And all he kept saying was, you're right, you're right. I told him, look at them out there; when you go out there and this is the beginning of the tour and he actually impressed me at the beginning of the tour but as the tour went on boy by the last show they didn't even do the last show of the tour that I was out there because they couldn't do it; Dave just started pulling shenanigans left and right. Most nights Sammy and I would pound on his door and say come on out and numerous times invited him to come out onstage and do an encore, all three of us together but it never happened."
On recording a new album with Roth:
"We were going to do videos for the songs [on the 'Best Of Volume 1'] and everything but Roth was really trying to take control and we finally just said, let's not even do the videos for these songs because he's going to kill the whole thing and so it fell apart. But yeah, before that tour yeah, we tried to make it work. We went into the studio and it was kind of funny because we first got together in the studio and we were all in the one room together and we did 'Hot For Teacher', 'Mean Street' and a few other songs and it's the weirdest thing because once we started playing it was like, son of a bitch, there it is, that's the magic! It was like a big déjà vu because it was the original band playing again and it sounded pretty fuckin' good too! But then of course the longer we spent in the studio, you know we had two or three different producers in there trying to work with us and Dave would just come in with tapes of the CHEMICAL BROTHERS, all different kinds of weird stuff and say 'Hey, let's do a song like this,' and Ed was having a hard time dealing with him, a real hard time dealing with him and Al was saying, 'Well, let's do a couple of things that Roth likes to do and then let's just do our thing.' I don't know if we had a complete album's worth of stuff but we were pretty damn close and unfortunately, there you go with Dave again and we just couldn't finish it and all those old reasons why he left the band in the first place they started surfacing you know. He went right back to his old ways. I mean even if you just wanted to look at it purely look at it from a money standpoint that guy was hurting for money. And it was like Dave, I mean he couldn't even put his ego aside if he wanted to go out and make $50 million and you know you've got a pretty large ego when you're going to give that all up even just because you don't get your way on something. I couldn't understand it."
On those new tunes with Dave:
"For the most part it was actually pretty good. I don't think Ed would ever let it out though. I've got some demo stuff at home, they didn't even really want me to take any stuff home but I ended up with some stuff at home anyway. I'd never do anything behind the other guys' backs with any of it so it'll just sit in my box in the archives and maybe one of my grandkids or grandkid's boyfriends will put something out one day (laughs) or steal it (laughs)."
On the "Best Of Both Worlds" compilation and those three new songs:
"You know when we did the 'Best Of Both Worlds' we had problems with Roth because of what he wanted and didn't want on the CD, how much he wanted to get paid and so on. So there was a point to where we were just going to say okay Dave, if that's the way you want it, we had some live versions of some of the old VAN HALEN songs and we were just going to tell Dave, 'Okay if that's the way you want it we won't even put you on this record, you won't make a dime off it!' I mean, he was being difficult on that thing and what we wanted to do was the one disc with Sammy and the other disc with Dave plus the three new songs and Dave was even making that difficult but in the end he folded. I think he was just trying to pull a power play. Bad stuff (laughs). I knew that we weren't going to do a whole new album with Sammy on this reunion thing. The time that it was taking in the studio to do these three songs it would have taken us a couple of years to do an entire album. And like I said, once it started to get put together Irving Azoff really pushed it, speeded us along to get us out there and so it just turned out to be well, let's just do these three songs. And to tell you the truth and I'll say this for the record: I didn't play bass on any of those three songs on there. I wasn't even in the band yet when those three songs were done. I came aboard and I sang backgrounds on them but the music was already done and I wasn't even back in the band as far as the reunion part of it yet when the music was done. So that was kind of tough for me but it's like hey, it is what it is and I don't think Ed really talked about it much but if anybody asks me I'm not embarrassed to say that I didn't play bass on them because I wasn't part of the band at that point."
On the difference between Roth and Hagar:
"There was magic with both of them. Once Hagar joined the band he brought a new level of musicianship to the band and like Eddie always use to say, he could play anything that he wanted now because Sammy could sing anything. He (Sammy) definitely had a better range. When Sammy joined the band that's when I really had to start working on the backgrounds; the background vocals were a little bit more, uh, not tougher but with Dave there was never any problem singing backgrounds because he didn't have a huge range like Sammy did. I think and there was still magic with Dave too because I mean a lot that we did back then was really cutting edge from Ed's guitar playing to all these little clones that Dave spawned...they were all there because all these guys wanted to be him."
On the current status of VAN HALEN:
"Well, never say never but we're currently in a state of limbo. After the reunion tour ended so abruptly we all went into our own corners and truthfully Ed doesn't want to tour right now or maybe ever again. I don't know what he's thinking at this point. So I would say that we're on a temporary hiatus that possibly could become permanent, you never know. With that said I realize that's not much of an answer but that's really where things are right now and tomorrow it could all change again."
For more excerpts from the interview, visit MelodicRock.com.