Cock Rockin'!: As Michael Anthony and his gang of hard-shredding royalty….

IT’S A SURPRISINGLY SUNNY WINTER DAY IN MANHATTAN, and Michael Anthony is feeling good.
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IT’S A SURPRISINGLY SUNNY WINTER DAY IN MANHATTAN, and Michael Anthony is feeling good. He’s just finished a long soundcheck with Chickenfoot at tonight’s venue, the 2,500-capacity Webster Hall. As he heads back to his hotel, he’s ruminating on his career, the business, and the chances that a veteran of the rock & roll business—with its epic highs and nasty lows—is still having fun, still playing, and still on the road. “Hell, man, at this point I’m in no position to complain about anything,” he says, beaming. “I love what I do and I’m luckier than most, so I’m just happy to be here. Don’t think I’m taking a moment of this for granted.”

Anthony sure has plenty to appreciate. Following the success of its self-titled debut, Chickenfoot—the “supergroup” that consists of Anthony, Sammy Hagar, Joe Satriani, and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith—went back to the studio. The results were such a giant leap forward that when it came to name the album, they skipped Chickenfoot II and went right for Chickenfoot III. There’s plenty for low-end aficionados to love: Anthony, a master of bluesrock and hard-rock bass, steps out of that comfort zone on tracks like “Come Closer” and “Dubai Blues,” while “Alright Alright” and “Big Foot” demonstrate his ability to thicken powerful guitar riffs and lay down killer backup vocals underneath Hagar’s signature rasp.

If this were the ’80s, Anthony would almost certainly celebrate Chickenfoot’s success in true rock-star fashion. For this 57-yearold, however, the days of marathon partying and Jack Daniel’s binges are a thing of the past. That means he’s got plenty of time to focus on what he does best: supporting a virtuosic guitarist, locking in with a hard-hitting drummer, and adding his sweet falsetto on top. With chemistry like this, and at the rate these guys are finding their identity as a band, don’t be surprised if they decide to call next album Chickenfoot VII.

Has your approach and your writing changed since the first album?

Yes. Recording Chickenfoot was the first time that we had all been in the studio together, but this time around, we had a lot of touring and playing together under our belts, which made us even more comfortable working together.

Is your role in Chickenfoot a lot different than it was in Van Halen?

With Van Halen, my job was to find the pocket and sit in it; toward the end of my time in the band, Eddie was doing so much on guitar that he wanted me to do pedal tones or specific 16th-note runs for certain parts, and I was restricted to keeping it pretty basic.

Joe and I do a lot of runs together, and we link up well. My job is still to lock in with the drums and lay the foundation so Joe can go off and do whatever he wants, but he never tells me what to play. I have total freedom to play my lines how I want to. Chad and I work together to write our parts and lock in, but otherwise, I do what feels best. In my opinion, Cream is the only band that was able to have all three guys solo at the same time and fall right back into the pocket.

You have such a big, round tone on this record. What gear helped you get that sound?

Doing the first Chickenfoot album [in San Anselmo, California] was the first time in my life that I didn’t record in Southern California, so I wasn’t able to bring in a ton of basses and amps to mix and match. I brought in this little Ampeg B-50R Rocket bass amp that I only meant to use for songwriting. But things went so well that we decided to record on the fly, and I ended up using that amp and the few Yamaha basses I brought with me. It worked out really well—I love the sound I got and the way my bass tracks sit in the mix with Chad’s drums.

Chickenfoot (from left): Anthony, Sammy
Hagar, Joe Satriani, and Chad Smith.
For the second album, I figured I’d be more prepared, so I brought a handful of amps and tested them all out. Sure enough, I went right back to that B-50R [laughs]. In Van Halen, I had stacks and stacks of amps and a hundred different setups, so it feels good to just bring in this compact thing and get down to it.

Rumor has it that you own around 150 basses. Is that true?

[Laughing] Yeah, that’s probably true. In Van Halen, Eddie had his one guitar, the “Franken-Strat,” so they wanted me to have different looks and switch it up. In the beginning I had only one bass for years, and then we got successful, and all of a sudden everyone was giving me basses. I never get rid of any of the stuff that I play. I’ve donated a few to the Hard Rock Café and other places. I have 15 to 20 instruments that are collectors’ items, and the rest are all ones that I’ve used on tours or in the studio.

Which are your most prized collectors’ items?

I have the third or fourth Rickenbacker 4000-series bass ever made, and I have one of the early Gibson EB-1 basses, which is really special to me.

At what point in your life did you know that you were a bass player?

Probably when my sister first brought home the second Blue Cheer record [Outsideinside, 1968]. If you open up the album cover, there’s a photo of them playing live, and on the right panel is Dickie Peterson with a Fender Jazz Bass swung down close to his knees and huge Marshall stacks right behind him. I took one look at that and knew that’s what I wanted to do. Playing- wise, when I first heard Harvey Brooks doing his slow walking lines and blues playing, it really sunk into me. I latched onto the blues lines and walking bass, so he was one of my biggest inspirations.

You also cite Jack Bruce and John Paul Jones as influences. What have you taken from their playing and incorporated into your own?

John Paul Jones was an amazing player in Led Zeppelin, but he kept things straightahead— he showed me how to be the foundation. Then I would hear John Entwistle, and he was a little flashier, so I would incorporate elements of his playing. Then I would take the blues and jazz playing of Harvey Brooks and try to work that into my playing, as well. When I’d go to write a song, I’d pull out some John Paul Jones tricks and mix them with a little of Brooks, and I’d ask myself what they would do.

At this point in your career, what motivates you to keep working so hard?

When you’re a musician, you’re a musician. After every tour, I put my bass back in the closet. I think that I’m done with it for a while, that I don’t have to look at it or think about it. But sure enough, a week or two later, I’m pulling it out and playing. I just can’t stay away from it. I love playing music and I need to keep playing. I’ll even put on our old Van Halen records and play along with them just to keep my fingers fresh. It’s something you can’t shake.

I would be remiss not to ask about your custom Jack Daniel’s bass. Will we see it out on the road?

The last one that I had made, Yamaha built it for me and we honed the body, but kept the shape. Now it just plays so much better. The first one was almost impossible to play. We’re working on the new edition right now, so it will probably be out with me on the tour we’re doing in May. I put it away after every tour, but the first thing everyone asks is whether I’m bringing the Jack Daniel’s bass back out on tour, so I always do.

What would you tell someone who wants to get to where you are as a bassist?

Love what you do. If you’re in it just to be a rock star, or for the money, you’re probably not going to succeed. Love the craft. Bleed music. And play your bass harder than I played mine.

HEAR HIM ON

Chickenfoot, III [eOne Music, 2011]

GEAR

Bass Yamaha BB3000 Michael Anthony signature basses
Rig Peavey VB-3 heads, Peavey VB 8x10 and 2x15 cabinets, Ampeg B-50R Rocket (studio)
Effects MXR Bass Octave Deluxe, MXR Analog Chorus
Strings Dunlop nickelwounds, .045, .065, .097, .107 (mixed sets)

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