Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna + Frank Bello Talk Guitarist Situation, Future Music + More
Continuing on with our coverage of the 2013 New England Metal & Hardcore Festival, we had the chance to sit backstage with Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna and bassist Frank Bello for a lovely chat. Topics of the day included Shadows Fall guitarist Jon Donias filling in for former guitarist Rob Caggiano, the band’s headlining spot on the just-wrapped 2013 Metal Alliance tour, new material slowly being jammed out for Anthrax’s next studio album + much more.
On our way up the stairs to visit Anthrax’s dressing room, we noticed an Anthrax logo on the band’s bathroom with the words ‘Bello’s Office’ written in Sharpie. As any professional journalist would do, we realized immediately what our first question for Anthrax had to be…
First and foremost, tell us about ‘Bello’s Office.’
Frank Bello: [Laughs] It deters people from going in there. ‘Bello’s Office’ — the bathroom — meaning that I have a little issue with my stomach.
Joey Belladonna: Yeah, we have that occasionally, you know?
FB: We’re eating all the good foods on the road, as you do. Not to sound like it’s toilet humor, but it’s been known that I’ve been in there. [Laughs] So it’s kind of become my office.
JB: Last night it was from Indian food and Kentucky Fried Chicken. [Laughs]
FB: We’re not home, you know? This is road life, so you tend to live in your bathroom. Some days you’re just not right. [Laughs]
You guys have Jon Donias from Shadows Fall performing with you on this tour…
FB: He’s playing? Is he that guy I keep seeing on stage every night?
Yeah, he’s playing guitar! He’ll probably be there again tonight.
FB: [Laughs] He’s awesome, we’re having a blast with him. He’s a great guitar player and he’s a lot of fun. We knew him beforehand, so it was a no-brainer. We’re having a blast with him.
Is it possible that he may become a permanent member?
FB: Of course it’s possible. We’re having a great time. I think our next thing coming up is South America, then a European run and then we’ll write an Anthrax record. Right now, it’s all working really nicely. Our band is really feeling good; you’ll see when we’re onstage. It’s just obvious that we’re having a good time. He’s a great player and a great guy. What else do you need?
JB: We really don’t want to go through the whole auditioning stage if we don’t have to either.
Have Anthrax actually written any new material for a new album yet?
FB: Nah, there’s just riffs everywhere. I’ve got some stuff on tape, Charlie [Benante, drums] I’m sure has got stuff on tape. Everybody has just got their own little world. We’re on tour, let’s face it, this is all that we’re about right now. Nobody has been home. We’ve been on tour for the last two years. You can see the itch starting though, which is nice. I’m looking forward to it. I can’t wait to see what we’re going to come out with. I’m a fan, I’m a total fan. Everybody is working really hard together, so I can’t wait to see the future of the band, and there is a great future for the band.
You’re about to finish your headlining spot on the Metal Alliance tour. Have there been any especially memorable moments?
FB: A lot of great shows. These shows have mostly been sold out, and if they weren’t sold out they’ve still been packed. One memorable thing is having Slash come out in Los Angeles…
FB: Chuck D came out in L.A. and did ‘Bring the Noise.’ Then the next Kirk came out and played ‘T.N.T.’ with us.
JB: By far, those were the highlights.
FB: There was a great buzz. I heard that Chuck D gave us a shout-out last night from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Your new covers EP ‘Anthems’ has been doing really well and a lot of people have been enjoying it. With your cover of ‘T.N.T.,’ I was wondering if you’d seen AC/DC’s Facebook post about the song.
FB: I hadn’t heard that it was up. What did you hear?!
The exact quote on their Facebook page was, “Not too shabby, boys.”
JB: Gary from Boston too.
FB: …the Cheap Trick guys. Everybody has been really cool with that stuff. The Journey guys…
JB: Yeah, Journey heard it, too, and they were a little shocked.
FB: It’s nice, it’s a nice complement. This is all a tribute to the people, a tip of the hat to say, ‘Thank you for the inspiration.’ This is the stuff we’d jam at sound check.
So Joey, of course you put your spin on each ‘Anthems’ cover song. Were you just trying to be Joey Belladonna singing these songs, or did you take some influence from any of the bands?
JB: I grew up with all those albums and songs, but I think when you hit the songs, you just try to keep them in the frame. I didn’t try to get too squirrelly with them, I just did whatever I felt and it just came out that way.
And Frank, on bass, any changes you’d make would be a but more subtle. Did you put any of your own style into these covers?
FB: I tried to stay pretty much where the bass players did. Geddy Lee — I wanted to learn every little thing he did. I’m a die-hard Geddy Lee fan. We wanted to pay tribute to these guys.
How did it feel the first time you saw your personal Yankee jerseys hung up in Yankee Stadium?
FB: I haven’t gone in person yet, but to see the picture, for me as a Bronx guy, you never think that’s going to happen. You never think you’re gonna play Yankee Stadium in your lifetime, I never thought that. Now we have something that’s gonna be there for a very long time, at least. It’s a great stamp on that [Big 4] show. There’s also Anthrax Day in the Bronx. It was a really nice thing, man. I’ll never forget that.
We all know guitarist Scott Ian is a big horror fanatic. We’ve seen him as a Wolf Man on Fangoria and we’ve seen him as a zombie in ‘The Walking Dead.’ In real life, if you were to compare him to one ghastly creature, what would it be?
FB: Gas Man! [Bello later referred to Scott's diabolical flatulence to explain.]
JB: The Creature from the Black Lagoon.
FB: Scott with that beard is scary enough, that’s his own thing. Just look at him, he’s got that beard going and it’s pretty scary. Between the eyebrows and the goatee, he’s his own character.