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Frank Bello Talks Altitudes & Attitude, Upcoming Anthrax Album, Metal Masters 5 + More

Kathy Flynn, WickedGoddessPhotography.com

There are few guys that are as fun to talk to as Anthrax bassist Frank Bello. Always coming at you with excitement and enthusiasm, Bello consistently has great things to say, and this is no exception.

During our chat with Bello, the thrash legend spoke about Anthrax’s upcoming album, his Altitudes & Attitude project with Megadeth‘s David Ellefson + A Perfect Circle‘s Jeff Friedl, the fifth installment of Metal Masters + much more. Check out our exclusive interview with Frank Bello!

Altitudes & Attitude is an interesting project because it’s two bassists coming together to write songs. Does that inherently give the music a unique sense of groove?

I think because we’re bass players, the rhythm thing just comes in naturally, I think it just happens to songwriters in general. but specifically us, I think we think bass first. With these songs, quite honestly, they just came about where I thought it was good and Dave also felt that we were just going to put the bass thing together, some bass songs together for some clinics.

Sure, you’ve both got Metal Masters 5 coming up on Jan. 22.

Yeah, and you know, it’s funny, the list of songs that we have to play at Metal Masters grows every day. Every day you have new songs to learn because everyone has different songs they play. It’s really fun. I really think there’s going to be a lot of fun at that show. A lot of good times.

I remember at Metal Masters 4 you were so pumped to play with guys like Billy Sheehan and Gary Holt. Can you tell me your best memory of Metal Masters 4 and what you’re looking forward to the most for Metal Masters 5?

Yeah, I mean, if we can go back a little bit, just where Metal Masters came from, it all started from Dave and I — Dave Ellefson and myself doing a joint clinic way back. All of a sudden they started calling it Metal Masters. And then Charlie Benante and Mike Portnoy joined and all of a sudden it became this thing. People just kept talking about it and coming in and we kept welcoming them. It just kept growing and it really has its own life now. So all we do now, we have our brothers here. We all grew up together in this business. Even this new one, Chuck Billy from Testament was just added who is a good friend of ours. Phil Anselmo, Kerry King, Gary Holt — so many fun ways to jam, man. So many different songs we could play with it. It’s going to be a blast.

Back to Altitudes & Attitude, you’ve put a good voice to this project. Can you tell me about finding your voice for this type of music?

You know what’s funny with voice and stuff? I think it’s about confidence. And to be quite honest, I’ve been singing forever. I mean, I do open mics in the Village. I do a lot of singing. I write songs on the side. A lot of people have told me that I should step up and be the singer, be a singer of some sort with my own stuff and I guess this is just kind of that time. I have been touring for about 30-something years and I have done a few B-sides with Anthrax that I sang on — some lead vocals and that’s fun.

These are songs that I just felt needed to come out. It’s completely not what you would expect from David and I. We were just talking about singing and stuff and I said, “Let me give this a shot.” Jay Ruston, our producer, says, “Get up on the mic,” and that’s what came out and thank God it did. These guys are so nurturing, they’re really helpful. They said it sounded great. Thank God for that. I was really psyched that they were happy with it and I was happy with it, so it made it easier for us to just go up there and play these songs and sing. I’m having a blast doing it too. It’s a lot of fun.

There’s also lots of great shredding on this EP from Gus G. Is there ever a chance of the band hitting the road with him? Or hitting the road at all? Not just anyone can play like Gus.

He is awesome. Amazing. We tried to get Gus for Metal Masters 5. A&A, we call it that now, we are actually opening Metal Masters 5. We had asked him to join us for that show if he could make it, but he had some sort of clinic thing happening up in Hollywood that night. He’s a great dude. He’s a great guitar player. He can certainly play. He knows how to play that guitar.

Since A&A is going to open Metal Masters 5, who is going to play guitar for you?

David and I. The whole idea behind this is that we’re going to switch back and forth. I’ll play an 8-string guitar, an 8-string bass and a little bit of rhythm guitar. David will play a 4-string and we’ll switch back and forth according to the song. That’s the coolness we find with that, we get to experiment with it a little bit. We don’t just want to be tied down to the bass, it was a bass driven thing but David plays guitar also, that’s pretty much how we write songs. We write songs on guitar.

About Anthrax, I talked to Scott Ian recently to get his response to the 2014 Grammy nomination, but he was just so excited to talk about the new record you guys are making. Is this a really exciting time for Anthrax?

It is, and here’s why: For a guy who has been doing this for over 30 years, all these years, ups and downs. There was a time, let’s face it, we weren’t around for a while. We didn’t know for a while there what we were doing. A lot of confusion with singers and all that, but to come back as a group like we did, I’m just proud to be in the band, that we had the balls to just write a record like ‘Worship Music.’ Thankfully, people took to it, that’s what is important — the fan base. Thank God they understood what we were going through. That’s why we love our fans — not just saying that, it’s the truth.

They stayed around with us and we really appreciate it. And with the whole ‘Big 4′ thing, we got a whole new fan base, which is great for us. A lot of people never even knew about Anthrax or maybe just heard the name. Then at the ‘Big 4′ they gave it a shot. Thankfully, it all worked out really nicely. So going forward, we did 207 shows on ‘Worship Music.’ We hadn’t done that kind of touring since the ’80s. We were road dogs on that cycle, so coming from that high… dude, you have to realize we’re a bunch of New Yorkers who played Yankee Stadium. [Laughs] It’s a big thing for us.

We know, look, you never look a gift horse in the mouth. We know how fortunate we are, we work hard. There’s luck involved, but at the same time we work really hard, thats our work ethic. That’s the way we were made. We’re New Yorkers, that’s how we do it. I’m glad we have that work ethic. Never say die, man. Never say die. To come back and come from that high from ‘Worship Music’ and going into a writing process? That’s really positive. We’ve been jamming, we have like 12 songs now for the new Anthrax. I’m not just talking songs, these are ripping. There’s a lot of thrash elements and heavy stuff we’re really, really proud of. To be quite honest, it’s not that easy to play.

Scott told me that exact the same thing. He said, “I wonder why we do this to ourselves.”

It’s so true, it’s funny he said that. We get off on the challenge of pushing it to the next level. That’s the whole idea, you can’t stay complacent. Pushing to that next level — I think that’s what drives us. For me, I just want to keep pushing and pushing to what’s next.

Scott was also saying that he couldn’t possibly parallel this record to anything you’ve done in the past. Do you feel the same way?

I do. As fans of this music, all you can do is what you do. I can’t compare it to ‘Worship’ because it’s a few years after that. I just think we’re in a different place. This seems like it’s got more intensity and an urgency here. I can use the word ‘thrash.’ It just makes me go, “Wow, we haven’t done that kind of stuff in a long time.” It just comes out that way, that’s the cool thing about it. Faster or heavier, it doesn’t matter, it’s just there. That’s what I love about where Anthrax is now. You just do what you do.

That’s the way it should be.

You can’t force anything. You just feel it as a band, as a fan you want to hear this. This music drives you. Dude, I thank God for this music. It still makes me want to push the envelope and push it to the next level. A songwriter, musician, whatever you want to call it. It’s just a lot of fun.

Altitudes & Attitude’s debut EP is now available. To buy a copy, click here. Also stay tuned for more news on Anthrax’s next album and if you’re in the Los Angeles area, try to catch Metal Masters 5 on Jan. 22.

Anthrax's Scott Ian on New Album, Playing Metal Masters + More

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