Joey Belladonna (Anthrax) interview
5th April, 2014
Metal All Stars show @Arena Riga, Latvia
Interview by Anna Dumpe
Interview photos by Aiga Leitholde
Few hours before Metal All Stars show kicks off in Riga, Latvia on Saturday 5th of April, 2014, Metal-Rules.UK team had a chance to sit down with the ultimate thrash metal legend Joey Belladonna and talk about all things Anthrax, being on the road with Metal All Stars and music in general.
Hey Joey! How are you finding Latvia so far and did you have a good Friday night here?
Hey! I gotta say, I’m pretty excited about being here. I’ve never been to Latvia before, have I!? (Laughs)
But so far it’s been really great. My Friday night at the hotel was pretty cool too. We had a lot of ‘good schism’ going on last night.
Let’s start with how did you get invited to join Metal All Stars and why did you think it would be a good idea to join in?
I just got a call and was asked if I wanted to participate in Metal All Stars or whatever it’s called. You know, obviously, the artist names have changed since the whole tour was first announced and throughout the days there’s been people in and out of this project, as it takes a lot of work get it all together and make it work. However, it sounded like fun to me and I had time to do it as I wasn’t in the middle of having to do a tour or anything else I have to commit to.
Metal All Stars tour is giving all of you a wonderful opportunity to hit the road with some of the most amazing musicians in heavy metal. How do you all get a along and did you know most of the guys personally before this tour?
Yeah, I knew some of the guys before. I knew Zakk Wylde from touring together with Ozzy and I have also known Ross the Boss, as he’s done some stuff with Anthrax before I even joined the band.
Of course, I know the Manowar guys really well, as they live 20 minutes away from me.
John Donais who now plays guitar in Anthrax is a member of Shadows Fall, so I knew Brian Fair before as well.
Obviously, I don’t know every single person on this tour, which is good, as I love that I get to meet new friends every day that I can just talk music with and have a good time on the road.
So you’d say the atmosphere on this tour is real cool and laid back?
Oh yeah, once we’re all checked in at a hotel and situated in our rooms, you can just downstairs and find everyone at the bar talking. Each day people interfere with someone who they didn’t talk to on previous days of the tour, so each day goes by and there’s some new stuff and conversations going on. Real cool!
You’ve done quite a few shows with Metal All Stars already. What’s been the highlight of it so far?
For me, the highlight is just meeting new people that are real happy about being out on the road. I think every show has just been great and a highlight in a way.
It’s been a bit of a freak tour – a bit different than most tours I’ve been on. There’s a lot of people involved and to attend to and it’s not just one band with the same people and same management. This tour is an ongoing process and a lot of work for the organizers who are definitely taking the best approach to get it right.
As you’re here to represent Anthrax, which songs of yours can we expect to hear tonight?
Oh, I’m doing a couple off the first record, like “Madhouse” and “Medusa” and a couple of covers.
How are things with Anthrax at the moment and what are you guys currently working on?
We’ve got about 15 songs for the new album ready at the moment. When it comes to vocals, I’ve been messing around with some stuff, but nothing’s set in stone just yet. I’m sure there will be more info about the album before we hit the road on May 27th to July the 12th to do all European festivals with Metallica, Iron Maiden and Slayer. I haven’t even looked at the proper dates yet, but I’ll get into it once I get back home…
So hopefully we’ll get to finish the album by the end of the year and maybe get to release it early next year.
In summer 2013 you announced that Jonathan from Shadows Fall is not only stepping in as a replacement lead guitarist, but is an official member of the band. How did you approach Jonathan Donais with such offer and how has he settled in the band by now?
I think Rob Caggiano (ex-Anthrax, now-Volbeat) either talked to John Donais or recommended him. We’ve taken Shadows Fall on the road with us before, and done some shows together, so everybody knew each other even before that. It was just one of those things when it’s a lot easier for us to ask him if he was interested in joining the band rather than organizing a huge audition, which would be interesting too, but it’s way more time consuming and a lot harder for us to make a decision. And even with John, we had to take him out on the road for some time to see how he feels and fits in. It just takes time to really understand who’s the right person for Anthrax.
And by now John has perfectly settled in to the band and I think it will be interesting to hear him play leads on the new album. Even though I’ve heard him play leads before, it’s way more interesting to hear how he’s going to put his own stamp on Anthrax sound and fit in with what we do. I’m really excited to hear that and we’re real glad he’s in the band and having a great time with us!
As tonight’s a big celebration for all things metal, you guys are going to perform some Black Sabbath songs for us. So tell me… Where would heavy metal be today if such thing as Black Sabbath never happened?
Well, I’m still on team Led Zeppelin when it comes to such themes, but I mean… Who knows!? That’s a hell of a question.
Who else was out there doing what they did to make such impact on heavy metal and put their signature stamp on the future? I mean… With such great style, the way they played and tuned their instruments and how they approached songwriting..! I guess it’s just great that they were a band that influenced a lot of people and still is to this day!
No doubt, they have influenced me in a way as well, with the deep heaviness of their music and that doom feel in its own way. It’s loose and real heavy. I like it.
So when you first joined Anthrax, could you foresee how big of an impact your music will have on the whole thrash metal movement and that one day you’ll be a member of the Big 4?
When I got into the band, I had no idea who they were and I didn’t even know their music, so I was taking a shot thinking that maybe we would be decent. Even before I joined Anthrax, I didn’t have any expectations. I just wanted to be in a good band and play good music.
I knew they were talented and I knew they were really good musicians, so I was happy to be in that band. I knew that maybe over some time we can be successful and we really had to spend some time to get to where we are, as we’re not a commercial band.
Obviously, we have our own way of being commercial, but we’re not a commercial type of band. I’m happy that what we’ve done is accessible.But The Big 4, oh my God..! Who knows when that becomes ‘The Big 4’ and who judges that sort of stuff? Obviously we’ve been around for a while and have played a big part in the world of metal music to get to say that we’re a part of The Big 4. And whether anyone’s debating on those four bands known as The Big 4, I don’t know, man…
We’re still doing and it and hopefully we’ll get to do more Big 4 shows again. Obviously it’s Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica this time around playing summer festivals together, so that’s the three of us going out on the road this summer. Either way, I’m happy that we’re still going and getting better. I mean, the band’s tight as hell live and I love it.
I can only agree, as I have seen you guys couple of times in the UK and the last time was at Bloodstock Festival 2013 this summer which was a great show, I have to say! You played a few covers from your Anthems EP and it was a genuinely fun show. And that’s what it’s all about in the end of the day – fun music at a festival for people chilling in the sun with beers in their hands…
Exactly! I mean – we’re all about making a good stand before we leave! That’s what all those festivals are all about and that’s why we always love being a part of them.
So what are some of those new and upcoming thrash metal bands that you hear and think that they got what it takes to make it and maybe be a part of The Future Big 4?
Well, talking about The Future Big 4… It’s really a long shot, as there’s longevity in that. That’s really all I can think of when it comes to Big 4 that there’s longevity before all four bands.
There are a lot of cool new bands out there, but I’m into a lot of weird shit. I don’t listen to a lot of metal, but I tend to listen to some newer stuff that comes out and has great vocals. It’s hard to say if the fans would approve the stuff I listen to daily and they’d probably go – “Really?! Is the dude from Anthrax listening to this shit!?” (Laughs)
But I’ve always listened to weird stuff from The Beatles to Sevendust. I love a lot of music depending on what mood I’m in, but there’s always got to be some vocal to it. I like a good voice, but I also like bands that are heavy and have powerful riffs and writing style.
And just to wrap it up… What’s the coolest thing about being on tour with Metal All Stars and if you had a chance, would you be up for doing this some other time?
We’d definitely all be up for doing this again and I think we’re not even doing as much as we’d like to at the moment.
I believe that everyone on this tour is having a great time and we’re finally settling in on how we do stuff and it’s just good to have a bunch of new musicians interact with each other and make it more special for the fans.
Usually, what you get as a fan, are three bands at a show and you already know the line-up, but with Metal All Stars there’s constant changing on the stage. Different musicians come on stage all the time, so it’s just a great variety of musicians playing a show together.
Hopefully that tonight and all the other nights people walk away thinking that it was a really entertaining gig, so I’m just happy we get to do that.
Thanks a lot for your time, Joey! Have a great show tonight!
Thank you guys! Always a pleasure.