30 + years after the band formed in New York City, Anthrax are once again on a roll. One of the “Big Four” of metal, alongside Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, Anthrax are putting the finishing touches on their currently untitled follow-up to 2011’s Worship Music, an album that many saw as a return to the classic melodic thrash sound the band helped pioneer in the 80’s. Worship Music also featured the return of original vocalist Joey Belladonna, recording with the band for the first time since 1990’s classic Persistence of Time record.
With Belladonna once again on-board, and with new guitarist Jon Donai (Shadows Fall) in tow, Anthrax are currently in the midst of a 6-week tour opening for Danish metal band Volbeat, who now count ex-Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano as a member.
We spoke with Anthrax bassist Frank Bello by phone to get the scoop on the band’s upcoming record, their current tour with Volbeat, and why he’s never seen a single episode of Breaking Bad.
For all upcoming tour dates, visit http://www.anthrax.com.
How is the new Anthrax album coming along?
Well, I just finished my bass tracks, which is wonderful. The rhythm tracks are pretty much done. Joey’s killing it on vocals right now. Our lead guitar player Jon Donias, his leads are almost done, I think he has three or four songs to complete. But we’re chugging along. We wrote about 17 songs for this record, which is more than we’ve ever done. So there was a good amount to choose from. It just happened that way, we just kept going, because it just felt right. It’s going to be difficult to choose. There’s some really killer stuff, and it’s going to be hard to choose which ones to go forward with on the record, and which ones to keep back for something else. Just seeing them all come to life, and when we put the cherry on top with Joey’s vocals, man, you’re working towards this goal because you know what it can sound like, and when it all comes together there’s so much satisfaction. I’m a fan of this music, so it’s great when we write the songs, and when you hear it come to fruition – and these aren’t even the mixes, these are just the rough mixes. I’m pretty stoked. There’s a lot of energy.
A lot of people saw the last album, Worship Music, as a return to the classic Anthrax sound– is the new album going to follow that path?
You know, I just think we are in a groove. All I can do is be honest with you. I feel like we’ve taken that next step. Everybody has to promote their record when they have a new record out, but I can just speak as a fan. I’m very proud of what we’re doing right now. It’s a bit thrashier than the last record. That’s the best way I can describe it. There’s some songs that are a bit thrashy, but I think there’s a great mix of heaviness and melody, because we also have Joey Beladonna singing. The thing that I’ve always cherished about Anthrax is – I’m in the band but I’m still a fan – is that we have this heavy music, with this great melodic stuff on top with the vocals, so I think it’s a really nice balance. I’m really psyched to play this stuff, you know what I mean? I’m excited to play it on-stage, and just getting into it again. I’m looking forward to the new album cycle.
When you were getting Worship Music together, there was a lot of uncertainty about whether you were going to have Joey Belladonna on vocals or John Bush – what was it like going through that process?
Well, to be really honest, we didn’t really know what was going on, or what we were going to do going forward. The bottom line is, we knew we had a great record. And that’s all that really mattered. Again, we’ll go back to the fan thing – as fans of the music, you can feel it if you have something special. I feel like that on this again. Just having this band now, going forward – Joey’s been here since the beginning of the writing of the record. We’re a full-on band.
I feel like the band is in its fifth year right now, and we’re just riding along on a really good, straight highway, and we’re pushing 95, 100 miles an hour. And it’s great, because to go forward – I’m looking at the calendar as I speak to you, because once you’re in studio mode … I have to tell you this – in studio mode, it’s like you have the microscope out, you’re doing your bass lines and stuff like that, you’re writing and recording the record, and then all of a sudden, I’m looking at the calendar a couple of weeks ago, and I’m like, “The tour’s coming up!” So I’m getting out of the studio mode, it’s a rhythm, and playing live is a completely different thing. I’ve been in the gym, you’ve got to get your air up for the stage and all that stuff, and get in shape, quite honestly. It’s a different game, but it’s something that I cherish, and I know how fortunate and lucky I am to get to do it. So I want to do everything I can to make it the best I can, you know?
What’s the first day like when you start a new tour?
Well, you know, we’ve been doing it for a bit (laughs). But there’s one thing you do start with – put it this way – it’s the technical stuff you kind of worry about, to be honest. Like, I have a new bass tech on this tour – he’s a professional guy, but I’ve never worked with him. So we’ve been talking about everything we need to do over the phone and by e-mail, so just getting used to working with somebody new after working with somebody else for so long, because my old bass tech is doing something else, you want to make sure everything is right. Because at the end of the day man, you want to give 100%, because people are paying good money – and this isn’t me just saying this – people are paying their hard-earned money, and I just want to be right. I don’t want my bass to go out or something. But dude, when you walk out on the stage, that’s home for me. That’s the payoff right there.
How do you feel about the music distribution model these days? Are you into the streaming sites, or do you prefer to have a physical copy still?
I like both, quite honestly. I like physical – you’ve got to remember where I came from – I grew up through the 70’s and stuff, getting albums. I still do that, I go through my albums … even CD’s I miss at this point. They’re still cool because you have something to look at, to put on and read credits on album sleeves, and stuff like that. There’s something cool about that, that I hope is not gone forever, you know? Because that got me more into the music, it gave a story to the music. As you’re listening to the record, you put it on and look through it; it was part of the experience. So I hope that doesn’t disappear, because I think future generations should have that, it’s part of this great thing of music that we have in our lives.
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