Joey Belladonna: "We have something special going"

Joey Belladonna is back with
Anthrax. For good.
photo: Matthew Rodgers
Congratulations on a successful comeback for both you and the band. For you it's the third stint with Anthrax. How does it feel to be back and what is different this time?

J.B.: It feels really great! We have a good camaraderie in the band right now and everybody is working together. What different is that we don't take things for granted and we are really committed. We don't want to waste this time, because you never know when you might have such a great lineup together again. We feel that we have something special going. We write good music and the shows are as great as ever. We really enjoy ourselves right now.

And as a sign of such great times a couple of months ago you have released Worship Music, which is your 10th album overall and first original material since 2003. You have dubbed it "the Most Emotional One". What makes it so special? 

J.B.: Just being away from it for so long. Some people are asking how did we pull it off, but to be honest it seemed natural from the get-go and at the end it came out like that. We enjoyed the music we produced, wanted to share it with everybody else and hope that they would dig it. That's what it boils down to.

Worship Music album cover
The new album contains plenty of tributes: from Occupy Wall Street protesters, through World War II veterans to Ronnie James Dio and Pantera's Dimebag Darell. There is also a "Judas Priest" song. Why so many shout-outs at once? 

J.B.: I guess overtime you wanna talk about things that are or have been near and dear to you, that you can relate to on a daily basis. These thoughts and ideas accumulate over time and pop up in your head when you write the lyrics. It's good to come up with songs that carry some message and meaning. chose this album as the best of 2011. Other critics had similarly positive reviews. I am Alive was described as "catchy as hell", In the End as "pristine production and a chugging pace song". Which track is your favorite?

J.B.: It's gotta be In the End, because of that whole, different vibe and vocal approach. It's neat to do this type of thing and it makes this song fun to play live.

Album do singla - Fight'em 'Til You Can't 
Despite all that positivity the record was not born painlessly. First it was to feature Don Nelson, then John Bush, who openly admitted that "it conflicted him, since he was not a part of creating it". Why did you say yes? 

J.B.: I always thought that we should do it when we had a good enough reason for it. It took a long time for that to happen and to be honest with you I don't even know where all that time went. But at the same time I don't have any bad feelings. We finally got on the same page and once we decided to make it right it was easy enough from then on.

Back to lead vocalists - you have a history of frequent changes at your this role. Why is this so?

J.B.: I couldn't really tell you that. It's a big mystery to me as well. All I know is that it had nothing to do with me since I never wanted to make any changes. But even though it is hard to be on the other end of it I don't like to go there anymore. I try not to think about what happened, concentrate on what we have and good music that we produce. Right now we have what we need and what it takes to forget about the past.

But these changes did not always fair well with your fans, who at one time held a "Bring Back Bush" campaign. What do you say to them? Will they have a reason to miss John?

J.B.: I don't know anything about the campaign, but I also don't care about him. I have never even met him. We both are different and have our own unique styles, so maybe at that time it was what the band needed. But I am not going to dwell on it since I don't have any control over what happened in the past. Right now we are flying high and there is plenty of things for me focus on.

Anthrax in Warsaw in 2010
Photo: Andy Buchanan
You have been back with the group since the very first show of the Big Four Tour in 2010. Do you remember where was it held?

J.B.: Of course! Poland!

Great memory! What do you remember about this show and how do you recall polish metal fans, who previously received such high praises from e.g. Metallica or Pearl Jam?

J.B.: Oh, everything was incredible! I remember landing in Poland and the great reception we got at the airport. It was cool to get to know the area and learn some of the history of this country. The show itself was awesome and the crowd was just enormous. It really was some show! We were overwhelmed and realized how great it was when we left. We were like: “WOW!”

Back then in Poland Slayer's Kerry King said that only his band stayed loyal to a trash metal genre, accused Metallica of being a pop-band and pointed out that both Megadeth and Anthrax have some sins on their own. What was he referring to?

J.B.: I have no idea.

Left to right, back row: Frank Bello, Scott Ian,
Joey Belladonna. Front row: Rob Caggiano,
Charlie Benante.
Photo: Matthew Rodgers

Perhaps he meant your mutual work with such artist as Public Enemy? What is your take on Anthrax being pioneers in rap metal? 

J.B.: You know what? Now that you mentioned it it kinda did pop in my head, but hey, at that time it was cool to try all different things. It was not only Public Enemy, we did all sorts of things e.g. we’ve toured with Living Colour. It was interesting back then to test these things out and it's too late to worry about that now.

You might be able to ask Kerry that question this summer, because both of your bands will be touring the US with the Mayhem Rockstar Energy Drink Festival. Other big names include Slipknot and Motörhead. Looking forward to sharing the spotlight with Lemmy?

J.B.: I am totally looking forward to sharing the spotlight with him! He’s such an awesome guy – I have toured with him before with my own group Belladonna. This year we will be seeing each other a lot, because after Mayhem we will get to go to England with them as well in November.

At Mayhem you will be headlining the Jaegermeister Stage with As I Die Lying and Devil Wears Prada as your openers. What would be your advice for these new metal bands on how to be successful?

J.B.: Uff, there's a lot of things to take into consideration, but the most important one is staying true to your style and your band. You also have to be productive, put music together that has quality. Lastly don’t give in to something that might be causing you problems too easily. Keep starting anew, keep fighting for it, don’t back off from things too soon.

What's your perfect, best ever, all-star Anthrax lineup?

J.B.: Well, that’s gotta be with me! I don’t have anything against the other guys, they were both outstanding. In the past I had no preference, but right now I like Anthrax with me.

Do you still play drums? 

J.B.: Yeah, I have been playing as often as I can with my own cover band. It’s a good thing to be able to sing and play some drums for a change.

What was that whole hoopla with the name change when America was terrorized by anthrax-filled envelopes? 

J.B.: Well, it really was a though scare for us and a difficult situation to be in. We never wanted to change our name and we never did, but we had to deal with it in a freaky way. We altered our site to include information on the bacteria and we joked about changing the name to something more friendly like a Basket Full of Puppies. The media world took off with it, but we never really considered it.

Which Native American tribe were your ancestors from? Do you follow any customs, traditions?

J.B.: My mother is Iroquois. I don’t really follow anything, but I am very sentimental about it. I am always very happy to see someone showing interest in this important part of my life.

In the early days you guys were known as pranksters. So here’s a funny question for you - what color is Scott Ian's hair?

J.B.: (…hesitation…) Brown

Will have to google that. Speaking of Scott, how important is he to Anthrax?

J.B.: He’s very important to the band. He’s the original piece of the puzzle and a true base of it. I admire his ambition and drive to keep the band running for over 30 years now. He’s put in tons of hard work, which is very cool. I love that about him.

If there was a Heavy Metal Hall of Fame - do you think that he should be inducted?

J.B.: Himself? Hmm, I don’t know about it. I think it would be hard for the band to be there if such thing existed, let alone individuals. The band as a group might definitely have a better chance of getting there.

Who was it that came up with the band’s name? 

J.B.: I don’t remember exactly, but I think Ian and somebody else came across the name Anthrax at school studying biology. They thought that it sounded evil enough and that’s what we became.

You have mentioned that the band has been around for over 30 years. What are some of the obvious challenges with being/staying on top of the game despite the problems with metal genre?

J.B.: We have to stay together and focused. We have to put trust in our abilities and styles. A lot of it comes from experience as well: knowing how to get from A to B, how to be prepared to do this thing day in and day out. Nowadays you have to be sufficient in what you do.

The word is that some of you are Depeche Mode fans? 

J.B.: I think we all listen to them. We like their stuff. But I think Charlie (Benante, drummer – TM) is their biggest supporter.

Interview by Tomek Moczerniuk, Tuesday May 22nd, 2012

Come see Joey and Anthrax this Summer at Rockstar Mayhem Festival in the Tri-State area!

Dates are as follow:

July 27: Susquehanna Bank Center, Camden, NJ - buy tickets
July 28: First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown, PA - buy tickets
July 31: Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY - buy tickets
Aug 04: Toyota Pavilion, Scranton, PA - buy tickets
Aug 05: The Comcast Theatre, Hartford, CT - buy tickets

2 komentarze

Unknown pisze...

I'm an anthrax fan 23 years,when joey got sacked I felt sick,it was like losing a family member,I never got into john bush but still boight the records out of loyality,glad joey is back where he belongs,can't wait to catch the 2 shows in ireland
Bob mc laughlin
North of ireland

Chad Elliott pisze...

I started listening to Anthrax back in 1987. I bought the first album with John and it was the last one I bought until Worship Music. Anthrax isn't Anthrax without Joey. I saw them at the Mayhem Festival in St. Louis. It was awesome and I'm really glad I got to see them.

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