Thundering bass lines, not to mention Michael Anthony’s instantly recognisable backing vocals, play a crucial role in the unique sound of high-octane rockers Van Halen, a band that has been Michael’s musical home since their formation in the mid ‘70s.
Born in 1954, Michael Anthony was raised in Chicago, later moving to California. Following in his father’s footsteps, his first instrument was the trumpet, which he started learning when only seven, but he developed an interest in guitar as a teenager, finally opting for the bass which he plays right-handed despite being left-handed.
Citing early influences like Jack Bruce and John Paul Jones, Anthony performed with local bands, one of which, Snake, happened to be playing on the same bill as one of the Van Halen brothers’ early groups, Mammoth. Drummer Alex Van Halen and Michael were both attending Pasadena City College - where Anthony was reading for a music degree - and, to cut a long story short, Michael was invited to join the band, who soon afterwards changed their name to Van Halen.
With Anthony leaving college to play full-time with the band, Van Halen steadily established themselves as one of the leading rock acts, and their debut album, Van Halen, in 1978 was a smash international hit, selling over 10 million in the US alone and remaining in the charts for over three years. Since then, the band have a further dozen albums to their credit - five of them chart-toppers - and can lay claim to the most No 1 singles ever on the Billboard Mainstream Rock charts - 11 in all.
In the mid ‘90s, a side project of Michael’s was Los Tres Gusanos (The Three Worms) along with drummer David Lauser and former Van Halen vocalist Sammy Hagar. They’d often play a club in Mexico, the Cabo Wabo Cantina, originally owned by Van Halen, and October 2002 sees a reunion there of Los Tres Gusanos at Hagar’s annual ‘Birthday Bash’.
Outside of music, Michael Anthony has a passion for hot rods, racing cars and collecting watches, and is a connoisseur of Jack Daniel’s whiskey to the extent that back in the ‘80s he had a bass built for him in the shape of a Jack Daniel’s bottle! Yamaha is presently in design collaboration with Michael to create a new version of this unusual and ‘infamous’ instrument. Watch this space!