You've got to hand it to Michael Anthony: The dude is all about taking the high road.
While Anthony, Van Halen's original bassist, wasn't asked to participate in the band's long-awaited reunion trek with inaugural frontman David Lee Roth (see "Van Halen Reunite With David Lee Roth -- Tour Kicks Off September 27"), he doesn't seem all that miffed. Eddie Van Halen's 16-year-old son, Wolfgang, will be taking over on bass (see "Michael Anthony Says He Wasn't Invited To Van Halen Reunion, But Calls His Replacement 'A Great Kid' ").
So is Anthony disappointed? You betcha — but he's not going to let it ruin his fall.
"It's not like it was totally unexpected," he told MTV News during a recent interview, "only because of the strain from the 2004 tour and how everything's been since then." Anthony is referring to the band's 2004 reunion jaunt with Roth replacement Sammy Hagar, which grossed almost $55 million before ending on a sour note (at the conclusion of the run's final gig, guitarist Eddie Van Halen smashed one of his guitars and quickly walked offstage).
"That's the one thing that's really kind of sad," Anthony continued. "It would have been cool to get onstage with Dave again, but I'm not going to whine about it, because that's the way it is. Why waste my time trying to make a stink about it?"
Instead, Anthony is going to be hitting the road with Hagar this fall for a tour that kicks off in Biloxi, Mississippi, on October 19, and runs through November 17 in Sioux City, Iowa. The tour will feature Anthony's Mad Anthony Express, Los Tres Gusanos, the Other Half, and Sammy and the Wabos.
"I just want to go out and play for the fans," Anthony explained. "Sammy sold part of his tequila company and made a lot of money on that, so he doesn't have to do anything if he doesn't want to. But that's what it's all about — getting out there and playing. I'm not doing the Van Halen tour, so Sammy asked me to come out with him again."
He said everyone "and their mother" has been asking him why he's not doing the VH reunion run, and he's not sure what to tell them. Anthony dismissed rumors that his exclusion from the reunion tour had anything to do with his partnering with Hagar in the Other Half.
"I was touring with Sammy when Van Halen wasn't doing anything, and people said that got under their skin, and they felt like I was betraying them or whatever, which I really wasn't," Anthony explained. "I wasn't going to sit home and do nothing. My wife wanted my ass out of the house. So when Sammy called and said, 'Hey, want to come out and jam a song or two?' that's how it started. I don't know why I wasn't asked to do the tour."
In fact, he admits he hasn't spoken to Eddie since 2004 and agrees with many of the band's fans, who reject the notion that the forthcoming Roth run is a bona fide reunion.
"I know in the past there's been a lot of fighting and drama, but I'm not into all of that, especially now," he said. "And I'm not going to sit there and whine about it and call these guys mother------s and the whole bit. It is what it is, and if [Eddie] wants his kid to play with him, fine. But they're really throwing him into the lion's den right off the bat. This is going to be a tough enough tour for those three guys, having not played for so long, and then throwing [Wolfgang] in the mix? ... I hope he does OK. It's sad that the fans aren't going to see the original lineup."
But Anthony was most upset by Van Halen's reported attempts last month to erase him from the band's 35-year history. Fans lashed out at the band after photos of Anthony on Van Halen's official Web site were allegedly removed or replaced by an image of Wolfgang. The pictures were restored within hours, soon after fans took notice and began sounding off on various VH message boards.
"When I went on the Web site, that was probably more upsetting than anything else," he said. "On the first album especially, they replaced my picture with a picture of Wolfgang, and I was like, 'What's someone trying to do here?' I am proud of Van Halen's history, be it good or bad or whatever. I love everything about the band. I guess the fans spoke out, because the next day, they changed it back. I really don't know what to say to that. If that's the way they want to play it out, then that's the way they'll play it out."
The tour, he said, is "going to be interesting this year, because earlier in the year, Sammy did this cruise down to Cabo San Lucas, and he asked me if I wanted to play on the ship. I thought, 'Yeah, that'd be cool to do,' but I didn't want to get up there and just play with his band and do Hagar songs as I always do," Anthony said. "So I thought, 'I'll grab his guitarist Vic Johnson and his drummer David [Lauser], and we'll learn some early Van Halen stuff,' and somebody called it the Mad Anthony Express. We did a couple of shows and played the really old stuff: 'D.O.A.,' 'Atomic Punk.' I lead-sang it, and it was so much fun. So we did it again Father's Day weekend in Lake Tahoe, and I put this thing together. We opened the show, and everybody loved it so much, Sammy's going, 'Hey, we need to go out on tour and open with the early stuff.' So here I go."
Anthony said the tour with Hagar will run for about a month. Then there will be a brief break before the tour commences. They plan to keep it going up through next summer. He also said there's a chance he and Hagar will start working on music together and that it's possible the duo might release a record some point down the line.