April Lisante of the Knight Ridder Newspapers recently spoke to VAN HALEN bassist Michael Anthony about his BBQ sauce line, and his love of hot food — and to find out exactly why rockers are so into these sauces.
Q: How did the recipe come about?
Anthony: "This is a sauce that I didn't want to just slap my name on it and have a company sell it because it was a quick way to make a buck. I really wanted the flavor to be mine, so the company (the Hard Rock Cafe) actually came to me with a basic sauce, a starting point, and then we sort of went back and forth. . . . I wanted a different flavor. I don't like it too sweet. I like a little bit of a smoke flavor to it. . . . Basically, the flavor is exactly the same between the mild and the extra hot. The only difference is in the hot, we add habanero powder. A little bit of a kick. There's one thing I've learned through all of the years of eating hot sauce. It's that you don't want it to be so hot that you can't finish your meal or it overpowers the meal entirely. We tried to make it so it pops, but it's not the first thing you taste when you eat it."
Q: Do you barbecue at home?
Anthony: "All the time. I live in Southern California. Whenever I'm home . . . the cover's off the barbecue. And whenever the weather is halfway decent we'll go out there and barbecue everything."
Q: So what kind of food do you like when you're out on the road?
Anthony: "My main food of choice is Mexican food. And anywhere in the world that we've ever been, the first thing I'll do is I'll go out, or I'll send somebody out, and try to find a Mexican restaurant. And it's really interesting the number of variations I've found on nachos or a certain dish. . . . Everybody has their own take on it."
Q: Have you started selling your sauces at Sammy Hagar's (VAN HALEN's lead singer) restaurant Tres Agaves in San Francisco?
Anthony: "Actually, we don't have the barbecue sauce there (yet). . . . We just hooked up with the Hard Rock."
Q: What do you and the guys eat when you go on the road?
Anthony: "Actually, the VAN HALEN guys are easy to please on the road as far as food, you know. . . . Sammy and I really have that one thing in common when we're touring — food. I mean we'll search out, like if we're in Europe, we go to wherever the locals like to eat."
Q: Why do you think a lot of rockers are going into the sauce business?
Anthony: "I don't know. A lot of rockers are into hot-rod cars and stuff, too. I don't know. With me . . . I really can't say it's a rock 'n' roll thing for me because I love hot sauce. I mean Southern California is like a mecca for hot food, especially Mexican. I have an older sister and two younger brothers, and we're all into hot foods. They were great subjects to try the sauce out on. Every weekend I'd be like, 'OK, this is the latest thing — try this sauce.'"