When Van Halen tours the world in 2001, their as-yet-unannounced vocalist won't be the only newcomer onstage: bassist Michael Anthony will be sporting a signature bass inspired by Yamaha's classic BB3000. Anthony is finetuning the specs as the group completes its 12th album, but he gave us a few clues about what to expect.
You haven't endorsed many instruments. Why now?
When I heard Yamaha was reissuing the BB3000, I wanted to be part of it. It was as if someone started building your favorite sports car again and you had a chance to be involved. I played a prototype BB3000 a lot during the early '80s. Yamaha eventually discontinued the model, but I kept playing that bass.
I liked the sound, the feel of the neck, the position of the pickups, the way it lays against my body. I eventually moved on to other instruments, but now I'm making full circle back to what I used to play.
What were some of your requests for the new model?
I'm very particular about cutaways because I like to use all the notes. A lot of manufacturers make it hard to play on the higher notes-it's like slamming your hand into a brick wall. But I had Yamaha keep cutting away until I could play all the way up the neck. The first model will be neckthrough- body, though we may also do a more economical bolt-on-neck model.
What will the pickups sound like?
We won't finalize that until I have a chance to listen to prototypes in the studio with the band. I've learned that an instrument can sound great when I play it at home, but not necessarily with the band, especially since Ed Van Halen has such a fat sound. But I do know that it will have two passive pickups with two volume knobs and a tone control, plus a 3-way toggle switch that lets you combine the pickups without losing gain.
How about the look?
No gold hardware! [Laughs.] And I'm really into spicy stuff, so the fret markers are going to be chili peppers-the food, not the band. We're also working with some exciting new finishes. The first prototypes were too clean-I'm going for more of an aggressive, industrial look. It was Ed Van Halen who taught me that guitars can be too pretty. Back when I was playing the BB3000, he looked at me one day at rehearsal and said, "Man, your guitar is too clean." Then he took a screwdriver and made a big scrape down the middle of it. After I calmed down, I said, "Okay, let's go for a different look." I went home that night and did a custom hack job with a soldering iron. I still don't like instruments that look like showpieces. Don't get me wrong-this will be a classy guitar. But it's going to be tailored to my style onstage and offstage.
So who's your new singer?
I can't tell you-we're saving the announcement for the right time.
All I can say is, it's going to be huge. It's a name people will know.
Can we assume it's not David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar?
[Laughs.] Don't assume anything!