ANAHEIM, Calif. While they still won't say who's behind the mic, Van Halen promise a return to their classic sound on their next album.
"It's Van Halen," bassist Michael Anthony said Saturday. "As opposed to the last album, Van Halen 3, it's more oriented toward the early Van Halen-type sound."
Speculation that original vocalist David Lee Roth is back in the fold has been building since shortly after the group's third singer, former Extreme frontman Gary Cherone, left in late 1999. Sources close to the band said in March that Roth and Van Halen were working together, but added that it was a leisurely arrangement with no long-term plans.
The band has made no announcement regarding its next frontman, and a Warner Bros. spokesperson on Friday would not confirm or deny that Roth is back in the band.
"We will be making some announcements very soon," Anthony said. "All I can really tell you is we're in the studio working on new material, there will be a new Van Halen coming out, and it sounds great."
The band is eyeing a summer or fall 2001 release for the album, which is not yet titled, the bassist said. A tour is planned in conjunction with the release.
Anthony said he and his bandmates are antsy to return to the road, noting that the past two years has been their longest hiatus from the stage in their nearly 27 years together.
"That's the lifeblood of this band we're all itching to go back out on tour," he said. "Of course, with the personnel changes, whatever, that's gone on with the band, we just want to make sure that it's the best we can do when we come out."
Anthony was at National Association of Music Merchants trade show at the Anaheim Convention Center to sign autographs and commemorate his new signature Yamaha bass, a reissue of a BB Series model he played in the early '80s. He said he has been using the new model occasionally during the recording of Van Halen's new album. "I just wanted something that actually created soundwise what would work great with Eddie and Alex," he said. "The most important thing is what will make everything gel."
Anthony, guitarist Eddie Van Halen and drummer Alex Van Halen formed the group with Roth in 1974. "Diamond Dave" was aboard for some of Van Halen's biggest hits, including "Jump" and "Panama," but parted ways with the band in 1985.
Sammy Hagar subsequently signed on, helping the group maintain its success for another decade. The band briefly regrouped with Roth in 1996 to record two tracks for a greatest-hits album, but the union fell apart when the original foursome appeared together at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards.
Van Halen 3 debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 albums chart but did not sell as well as the band's previous albums, and received mixed reviews.