Heart of Steel: Interviews

Anthrax Summer Scandinavian Invasion 2003

ANTHRAX Interview
With Vocalist John Bush

Interview by Arto Lehtinen
Pics by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjälä

Anthrax - the pioneers of speed "mosh it up" metal have returned back to the limelight with the brand new album We Have come for you all. Before the speed metal tornado went on in the nightfall of the Swedish landscape, on The Sweden Stage, it was time to have a nice conversation with the vocalist of the band, John Bush, who appeared to be a nice polite and great person to talk about metal music in general and of course about the brand new album… Caught In A Mosh! And They definitely blew the whole stage up… See the Sweden Rock article.




Return To Among The Living

Anthrax have returned from a four-five year hiatus….

Yeah five years.

Yes right, and you have a new album out called We've Come For You All and I have noticed there is a huge fuss around you as you have done more interviews than the time when STOMP 442 and VOLUME 8 came out. Are the media more interested in Anthrax or can it be that thanks to Nuclear Blast for this fuss going on?!?

Well thanks to Nuclear Blast, and I mean I don't think people lost their interest in Anthrax, well maybe some people did...but some people come and go, but it is more probably a compliment to the record company who is doing the job and getting the information out to the people about us. So it is given a compliment on that.



What kind of writing process was undertaken for the new album and how long did it take to get all the material 100 % finished?!

Well, a little long. I mean, probably it was little longer in the end than we would have wanted. But the reality is that when it is going to be 5 years, one or two months don't make any difference in that point because there is already five years. Our point was to make the best record that we can ever possibly make, to make it sound amazing, to make the best record that Anthrax has ever done and released and has state of mind and that's why it took a little bit longer.

Maybe we disappeared in the beginning, but again the goal of this band was not to hurry to get the album out quickly and get out on the tour, but the goal is to make a piece of art that we thought we could make, because the music is what we love and this is what legacy leaves behind. So we are still here and it took a long time and we haven't played in Sweden for seven years, we haven't played in Norway in seven years and we haven't played in Finland seven years...

Seven years !!!!!… That's a looongg… Time flies…

Yeah. We are gonna come out and rule that you will forget everything else..heh...



Hehe…Well …
All the things and crap you have faced because of one big strike in NY and in general other related things like this anthrax (biological terrorism) thing. Did all these setbacks and negative things bring any kind of extreme aggression feeling to you when doing the new material for the album?

Well I don't think these attacks hadn't anything to do with our objectives in writing this record. I mean the whole bands is from New York and of course the band felt close to what happened and know people in the city. But I live in LA and I was born and raised in LA, but these guys are from New York, but I have spent several months during the last 11 years in New York so I feel very close to New York, but we felt in the same way that a lot of other people felt, just violated. But I don't know if it really made a better record or more angry record because of that. Because I don't think that influenced us to do that. People like Bruce Springsteen - he made a record inspired by 9/11 and nothing against The Boss, he is amazing what he does, but my attitude is that when we aren't gonna write a soundtrack of 9/11. We aren't gonna say this our soundtrack to what happened. The written songs are more based on us, more about our feelings and things related to our life. Maybe a couple of things of 9/11 influenced, especially on a song "Refuse To Be Denied" a little bit.


What is the purpose of the use of Pentagram by the way?

I know we call it Anthraxgram. It is a funny thing that our webmaster said "Look if you turn this way and upside down there is A". And we were like that's cool which be can used as an icon for the band right now. Well right now it is just for fun. It looks cool.

Nothing against the ultimate hard core black metal fans?

No no, it is more like tongue in cheek and a little bit fun, that's all. We just call it Anthraxgram.



The front cover looks damn great, who did it anyway?!

He is the artist Alex Ross, he is a comedy book writer and very very talented and has done a lot of cartoon stuff. Our webmaster once again came thru and sent the email to ask for the doing of the Anthrax cover and he agreed and told he would love to do that. He did the amazing job as he turned all of us to superheros.. It's pretty cool indeed.



What about lyrics as being the most important thing in the whole Anthrax concept as well, for example "Safe Home" is about….?

No, it is like a love song quite honestly, written with a positive vibe, which is cool, cos we have written a bunch of songs which are quite negative, escaping the real life, cos it is easy to do that. It sounds easy to write a love song that's positive, that still sounds heavy and emotional and it is very changeling and good for us to do that. It is cool and great song.



Spreading The Metallic Disease

Do you think the retro thrash phenomena is bringing you back to the limelight because the new generation is getting more interested and discovering like "Wow Anthrax!"?

Well you know, it is gonna always happen. It is a cycling of the music that happens. We are in the point now that we have been around 20 years and new kids are trying to discover new bands to find out who those bands are influenced by and those bands are telling who their influences are and a lot of those bands were influenced by like Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth or whatever...the four big bands that came out in the 80's as far as blazing crushing metal. I think that always happens like for example we started discovering the music we were finding these bands which kinda influenced us like Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy, UFO and the stuff like that. So it is a big cycle passing down. So it is a good thing, positive.. Tonight we feel like one of the younger bands on the bill of the day…hah… I mean like Wishbone Ash.. Look… Nothing against them at all, it is funny.



Well Sepultura is a little bit…

…Yeah Sepultura, Blind Guardian… That's good.



So do you definitely follow the current metal scene?

Sure! We want to be curious about what it is going on, who's hip, who's good, who's bad.. Who we think. But we are just fans, just like anybody else and our opinions are strictly our own. The guys are fans. It's not necessary that I am John Bush this is who I think suck or who I think is great, cos who really cares after all?! I am just a person. If I think someone is good or sucks that's my opinion. Unless there is something good to say or something bad to say then I won't probably say anything.



When you joined Anthrax in the very early 90's there was some kind of fashion thing in the underground metal scene among the die hard black and death metal people by going around saying "Stop this light metal, stop this mosh it up thing" and other things which were considered a wimp, Did you ever notice that in a way?

A lot of people put a lot of emphasis to the way how some bands used to dress in the 80's...Shorts… That was really a couple of years that was really going on at that time, but people remember that because it was different from what was going on back then. But I think it was a short time in the band's career. Nobody really asked about what we were wearing a couple of years ago and tonight we are actually wearing a custom in sand because we are the single in one other that you will see on the stage. But we can do this, our thing, and we don't really worry about what else is going on. We follow bands and we like and dislike bands like everyone else, but we don't necessary let that influence what we do, how we dress, what we think, because we are Anthrax and we did that rather than going to compromise who we are and how and why the band is built to follow something.



To be honest, nothing against you, does it bug you that the old school thrash/speed metal people still keep comparing you and Belladonna together?

You know, there are always gonna people who feel connected to the first singer, just I like did for example as for Van Halen and especially Ozzy, it is difficult when Dio came in and Brian Johnsson, well of course Bon Scott died, so they (AC/DC) had to do something. So I understand that and… That's what I can do by saying that ok, hopefully you give it a chance and like Anthrax. Then you still like what we are doing because of the same philosophy in the style and the attitude in the band, but a different face. I have been in the band 11 years now, if someone has a problem that doesn't listen to Anthrax anymore, which is ok, well what I can do? I am not going to try begging that you gotta listen to it. You should give a benefit and listen to it. If there is somebody who doesn't think that we didn't come out with a real blistering record then they don't like metal as far as I am concerned. But I do understand that, cos it is difficult when a singer is changed. But it wasn't my decision, I didn't go around saying that they got rid of that guy and got me in. So why I am gonna do that? But hopefully people give a try and listen and give a better chance as we still make good albums anyway.



You have tried to cooperate with Belladonna for some tours, but it fell apart.

Yeah one tour we did it, because of the record company a couple of years ago in The States, and it didn't work out. He had a very demanding way of seeing how he is supposed to be paid as he wanted the money that we should have played in arenas and whereas Anthrax play in clubs and theaters and we told him what we are doing and making and this is what we are paying you and exactly paying ourself as well and he said "no I want five times or I am out". We were like, well we are not doing that and if we do that we are gonna loose a bunch of money to pay you and the places where we are playing don't justify us to do that. So he bailed out and didn't do that, and we thought that we are gonna do the tour anyway as we would normally. So we did it and he missed out on a chance to go out and expose himself, to inform people that he still around.



Now you are touring all around, Sweden/Finland/Norway and the rest of Europe..

Russia for the first time, Bulgaria for the first time.

I think Soulfly even went to Romania...

Cool… There were a lot of Romanian kids at the show in Budapest, Hungary.

So you toured with Motörhead, the typical question how was it?!

Amazing. Motörhead was incredible to play with. Especially here in Europe as they are legendary here, well legendary everywhere. But particularly playing with them in England was really cool and they are great guys and a lot of fun, a lot of fans, actually a lot of young people at shows, which was really surprising, they were all a bunch of metalheads. There were a lot of young kids at gigs which is definitely encouraging.




Nod To The Old School Metal

Does the name of Juan Garcia ring any bells to you?!

From Agent Steel, yeah sure I saw him a couple of weeks ago… Really nice guy!!!

Well have you ever thought of doing the US Speed metal attack Vol II ?!? Cos Overkill, Anthrax, and Agent Steel toured together in 86 or something?! Hah!

Haha… When their album is coming out ?!

Now it is out there and they are getting out to tour with Exodus, Nuclear Assault here in Europe…

Well I gotta keep that on my mind!!! But anyway, we would like to come back to Europe, but I don't know yet when, hopfully before the year is over.



Have you considered doing more of these old school festival tours? I mean for example Testament, Nuclear Assault, Death Angel have returned back and toured together in Europe, pulling a lot of people to shows?!

Well yeah something makes sense and something is right to do. We would love to do that, but hey c'mon we are playing after Wishbone Ash here. Yeah sure we do anything, whatever seems to be right to do, so we will do. But if Metallica takes us on the tour, then we will take everybody else on the tour… How's that ?!?

Krormhm…Arghh.. Death Angel opened for Metallica in SF and…

…..Death Angel opened three shows for us.

How was it?!




A couple of years ago you did this Thrash of The Titans benefit show for Chuck Billy and Chuck Schuldiner. Was it some sort of home coming feeling to play in front of the real old school hard core speed/thrash freaks and all these old bands were there like Vio-lence, Heathen, Exodus, Flotsam and Jetsam...?!

Of course, it is cool when you play with the people that you can and have grown up with like Testament, Death Angel... It is cool and always fun to play with these groups. It is good to do that, but when you put out a new record and your goal is to attract new and young people, because the reality is the older fans have become older and some of them have stopped buying records. It is the truth, people get old they stop buying records. Not just Anthrax records, but records period. There is always gonna be new audiences and new group of kids discovering Heavy Metal and we need to reach them too to keep the band going on. We want everybody come to see us. I don't care if someone is 80 years old and you are an Anthrax fan, that's great, we want everybody to come. But the truth is to keep the band going on and maintain the ball rolling to attract the new people. Yes that's great and fun and we love to do that. But the priority audience is those who buy the records.



But do you think that you could do more of these benefit gigs I mean like this TOTT and NY Steel?!

We are just doing the benefit for Anthrax, ha.. But the truth is that we are trying to make our living and we just put a new album out and now touring. As for benefit gigs, under certain circumstances, we do.



How did you personally feel when Paul Baloff of Exodus and Chuck Schuldiner of Death passed away all of a sudden? You knew them…

Truly sad… Well I didn't know Chuck that well, but Paul for sure. Paul died in a weird different way, but Chuck was really ill for a while, which was really bad, cos David Prichard, the late guitarist of Armored Saint, died of leukemia. I saw how he was dying the slow death, it was very, very sad. Paul died suddenly, which was horrible. But the legacy lives on the music!!!



To conclude the interview I can't help asking about the current status of Armored Saint ?!

Well we are now doing Anthrax…

So on hiatus ?!

Yeah right.



I thank you for this great interview and wish you a damn great gig!

Thank you I hope you will enjoy the show later...

Anthrax website: www.anthrax.com