Michael Anthony is revisiting his split from Van Halen in a new interview with Eddie Trunk. Anthony was famously removed from the Van Halen lineup by guitarist Eddie Van Halen sometime in 2002 because he remained friendly with Sammy Hagar after his stint in the band.
"I think it was actually when Sammy asked me to come out and guest at some shows when he did the Hagar-Roth tour [in 2002],” Anthony tells Eddie Trunk. “I don't think that sat too well with some people. [Laughs] And it was really odd, because I thought that I'd be out there… Sammy asked me, 'Hey, you wanna come out and maybe jam a couple of Van Halen tunes?' whatever. Not do the whole tour, but just do a few shows. And I thought, 'God, that'll be great. I'll go out there and I'll wave the VH flag high. And I'll also let people know that I'm not dead, that I'm still around. And, unfortunately, Eddie didn't see it that way.”
"What actually happened was I hadn't really decided to do it, and Eddie and Alex [Van Halen] knew about it, and Eddie called me,” he continued. “And I really don't wanna get into that conversation, but to put it in a nutshell, he didn't want me to be a part of that circus. But then Van Halen wasn't doing anything, and I was just so frustrated because I was tired of sitting home on my hands. My wife wanted me out of the house, 'cause I was driving her nuts also. [Laughs] But I just wanted to get out and play. And I thought, you know, it's, like… OK, he's not in the band, but it's, like… I don't know… I guess it was more of, like, 'You're with us or you're not. You're in or you're out.' There's no area… It's cut and dried. And what happened was [Eddie] actually kind of backed me up against the wall and he gave me an ultimatum: Are you gonna go out and you're gonna play this or whatever?' And it really upset me; he pissed me off. And I said, 'I'm gonna go out and play.' And that was kind of the end of that conversation. Then I got a call back from Alex about a half hour later saying, 'Oh, well, you know Ed. You know how Ed is. He's like that,' or whatever. And at that point, I was just, like, 'You know what?! I'm…' As much as I love those guys and the band and whatever, we had just all of a sudden been through so much, after Sammy was out of the band, and I think all of the drama with Gary [Cherone] and whatever, I wanted to get out and play. So I don't know if you would call that me quitting the band or just…? I was backed up against the wall. And I wanted to get out and play."
When Hagar was invited to return to Van Halen for a 2004 reunion tour put together to support the band’s ill-planned greatest hits package, “The Best of Both Worlds”, he agreed to participate only if Anthony joined them. The situation caused Eddie to force the bassist to take a pay cut and sign over his rights to any future use of the VH name.
Anthony tells Trunk that he has had no contact with the Van Halen brothers in the past decade.
"You know what?! The last time that I actually spoke to either one of 'em was the last show of our 2004 tour,” says Anthony. “And it's really sad too. I've heard from different people… I know a lot of people that work with them, like the crew guys and stuff like that. So I always hear stuff from them.
You know, 'I talked to Al today,' or 'I talked to Eddie,' and I know that Al would like to still have some kind of relationship or whatever, but I think maybe because of the way Eddie felt that Al didn't wanna ruffle his feathers by calling me or whatever."
Anthony was eventually replaced by Eddie’s son, Wolfgang, in the Van Halen lineup in 2006, just in time for the return of original singer David Lee Roth.
The bassist has since gone on to work with Hagar in Chickenfoot and continues to appear with Sammy at his solo shows from time to time.