Recently, former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony appeared on Eddie Trunk’s show “Trunk Nation” on SiriusXM. Among other things, the two discussed Van Halen’s somewhat overlooked and forgotten era with Gary Cherone as the lead singer. Known for his work with Extreme, Cherone was in Van Halen between 1996 and 1999 and has recorded one album with them, 1998’s “Van Halen III.”
As if the lineup and the situation wasn’t already weird at the time, there were a few other issues that the band was facing at the time. During the said interview, Anthony recalled (transcript via Ultimate Classic Rock):
“I remember Alex [Van Halen, drummer] was going through a divorce. And there’d be times where we’d start up in the studio and he … would record for a half hour, then have to leave to meet with his lawyer.”
Discussing things further, Anthony also recalled how the guitar legend Eddie Van Halen had a close relationship with Cherone. He explained:
“Gary actually moved into the guest house up there by Ed. And Ed would be calling him in the middle of the night, all hours of the day, saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea for this!’ And Gary grew a little old of that, so he finally moved out of the house there.”
One of the other issues here was the choice of a producer. The band went with Mike Post. And although far from a subpar producer, he wasn’t really aware what it means to work with Van Halen. Anthony said:
“He was trying to influence Ed on certain things, so it was just a really strange, strange, strange time.”
“One thing that was really kind of sad for me was that there was not even a handful of songs that the band actually recorded together in the studio. And before that, we used to record everything with everybody in the studio.”
When the album came out, the response was a bit underwhelming. After a streak of hugely successful multi-platinum albums, both with David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar on vocals, “Van Halen III” was just in the Gold certification territory. This would be okay for a new band back in the 1990s but it was a flop for legends like Van Halen.
Nonetheless, as Michael explained, there were still some great songs on this album. He said:
“They were a little bit more straight-ahead, what Van Halen sounds like. A couple of things — I can’t remember what the working titles were — there were a couple of things that we did not include on ‘Van Halen III’ that I thought were sounding really good, that ended up not being used.”
In other news, Michael Anthony will be joining forces with Bon Jovi Guitarist Phil X and Aerosmith’s touring drummer John Douglas. The bassist explained:
“Well, I wasn’t going to mention anything about it, but there is a little side project thing that I’ve kind of been speaking to some people, and might be doing a couple of things with.”
“I don’t wanna get ahead of myself and mention too much, but it might involve Phil X [Bon Jovi guitarist] and John Douglas, who you know as [the touring drummer] for Aerosmith right now.”
“I’ve known J.D. for many years since he’s worked with Van Halen… What a great guy. And we do have a singer. I don’t wanna mention any names, but a really, really cool singer. And we’re recording just for fun right now, some stuff. That’s all I can say.”
Now, needless to say, the news made some waves across the rock-oriented online media. But the issue of who’s the singer was still what many wondered about. That was until Jeff Scott Soto shared a post on his social media where he hinted that he was the one joining this group.
Speaking of Van Halen and the band’s different eras, Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen recently praised Sammy Hagar’s work in the band. This could be a sticky topic for Wolfgang since he played bass in the band in its final incarnation with David Lee Roth on vocals. Nonetheless, he had nothing but great things to say about the so-called “Van Hagar” period, explaining:
“That era [of Van Halen] doesn’t get any respect, I don’t think. And there’s a lot of amazing songs and just obviously brilliant guitar playing on a lot of that — on all of that stuff — and I think people don’t give it a chance ’cause they fall into that just exhausting ‘this singer is better, this singer is better’ crap, when it’s, like, just give it a chance. There’s some really good stuff in there.”
As far as Gary Cherone’s career goes, he’s currently busy with Extreme as they’re getting ready to release a new album. So far, they’ve released one song. Titled “Rise,” plenty of guitar lovers online have praised Nuno Bettencourt’s work on it. You can check it out below.
Photos: BellaLago (Michael Anthony-Van HalenwithHagar), Abby Gillardi (Van Halen-8597 (20643101375))