Anthrax on new album ‘For All Kings’ and touring with Slayer

Photo Credit: Nuclear Blast

Anthrax are genuine metal royalty. Part of the pioneering ‘Big 4’ of thrash that also includes Metallica, Megadeth and current touring partners, Slayer, the New Yorkers have been bringing the noise for more than three decades. With new album ‘For All Kings’ set for release in February, the band are poised to capitalise on the incredible success of 2011’s ‘Worship Music’ – their first album with singer Joey Belladonna in almost twenty years. We caught up with bassist Frank Bello to discuss the new album, touring, and some seldom talked about Anthrax history.

Hi Frank, how are you today?

I feel I’m kind of on ‘automatic’ at this point. It’s been seven weeks of touring, and we don’t do these tours anymore. I think we only had a total of seven days off, because Anthrax plays our own shows when Slayer is off.

Your new album ‘For All Kings’ is due out on the 26th Feb 2016. Are you excited to get it released?

I am excited. You know what’s crazy? After a long time doing records for so many years, it’s easy to just phone it in, but the great thing that I love about my band is we can never do that. We never did that one day in our life – not one record, not one note of a riff. I’m proud to say that because I like the fight of the band. I think we outdid ‘Worship [Music]’, and I think we tapped a good vein of writing.

‘Worship Music’ was particularly well-received. Was there a lot of pressure to follow it up?

I don’t think any of us felt any pressure. All you want to do is record the best stuff you could put out. When you’re writing you say; “would I like this as a fan and get off on it?” When we write a record we live with the songs – we listen to them over and over, pull parts out, put pieces in, and if it’s not sitting well, it won’t be an Anthrax song.

We wrote a lot of songs for this record – more than ever, but these eleven songs, we put them together the right way on the record to really make the album live. It’s a flow, and it takes you on a ride. There’s a lot of heavy fast stuff, there’s a lot of crunchy stuff, and lyrically it’s heavy. Whoever liked ‘Worship [Music]’; if you liked that, I think you’ll be really happy with this.

Was the secret to ‘Worship Music’s success the return of Joey Belladonna to the band?

We always had a great record, and Joey coming back added the special cherry on top. We always had great songs, and just having Joey come into it and putting his tone and his voice on it just made it what we needed it to be.

This current Anthrax right now, I’m really excited about. In a weird way, it feels like a new band, because I think we really tapped into something that people caught on to, and that’s just a natural thing – you can’t fake that s**t. It’s a really good time for Anthrax right now.

I want to take you back through a little Anthrax history, starting with ‘State Of Euphoria’. It’s an album that largely gets ignored.

There’s definitely some great tracks on that record, but I don’t think that it’s finished. I don’t feel that we had enough time to live with the songs. If we had more time to cultivate and get those songs the way we really wanted them, some things would have been changed. I think every band has that in their career; at least one record where they had to really nurture it, and I wish we had nurtured that record a little bit more. That said, I still think that’s a ‘good’ Anthrax record – It’s definitely not my favourite, but it’s a good record.

Moving forward, the ‘Stomp 442’ album also seems to have slipped through the cracks.

When we put out ‘Stomp’, the record company lost their funding. It was a tough time business-wise because the record companies were so up in the air. It was a bunch of ugliness and we had to get our business affairs sorted. We had a great record there, but it just didn’t have the promotion, quite honestly. When we lost all the funding that means the
promotion went out, so nobody knew the record was out to begin with. So it was a really hard time for us then.

How do you feel about ‘Volume 8: The Threat Is Real’? Scott Ian has said that it is his second favourite John Bush-era Anthrax album.

Yeah, I could say that. ‘Sound Of White Noise’ is probably my favourite Bush-era record. It’s always ‘Anthrax’ because three of us [Bello, Ian and drummer Charlie Benante] have always been there, but I always say, for me, I feel like there were two different bands. And there’s nothing wrong with that – I love both bands because, at one time or another, it was a great ride.

The song ‘Pieces’ from that album was particularly poignant for you. Was it a difficult track for you to record?

Absolutely, in every way. I was crying singing it – it was the worst. I love the song because it was just cathartic. I needed that song. It’s not an Anthrax song by any means. It’s a hidden tribute to my brother. My brother was murdered at 23 years old, and I didn’t know how to deal with it. This is why I thank God for music because cathartically I needed that ‘out’.

It was a message to my brother, period. You hear it in the words. I hear myself crying in that – I couldn’t keep it together. Paul Crook was producing it for me, and Charlie played the guitar. I didn’t play anything on it, I just sang it, and it was just really talking to my brother.

Back to the present day, and new single ‘Evil Twin’ was inspired Charlie Hebdo attacks in France earlier in the year. With recent events in Paris, has the song taken on a new
significance?

It makes me sad that we still have to talk about this. It means more than ever, but I don’t want to promote my song because something tragic happened. Scott wrote the lyrics, and I agree with him on lyrics, but look, religion for me – and I talk for myself – is about peace and love. I don’t see how killing innocent people helps your cause in any way. We sing that chorus every night; “you’re no martyrs”, and there’s a new gusto going on there because I don’t understand how anybody feels good about killing. I just don’t get it.

Finally, you’ve toured with a lot of bands over the years. Who have you enjoyed touring with the most?

That’s a crazy hard question because we have a way of getting along with a hell of a lot of bands. This tour right now is easily one of the best because it’s very family orientated. Us and Slayer are very close. After our show we’ll go shower, then watch a little Slayer, then after their show we’ll all go into their dressing room and drink, and talk and laugh. We always have a great time with Slayer.

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Eamon

Music Journalist and classic rock / metal enthusiast.