Interview and pics by Arto Lehtinen and Marko Syrjala
Anthrax has been interviewed by this site several times during the past several years. The legendary NY thrash metal veterans’ 11th opus titled FOR ALL KINGS shows that the band still kicks strong and creates memorable riffs and songs. Metal-Rules.com sat down with the band’s bassist, Frank Bello, to discuss various topics, including what the new album means to him and the whole Anthrax combo.
HOW ANTHRAX GOT THE FINNISH TABLOIDS
Anthrax members managed to get into the Finnish tabloids by attending the Finnish independence day celebration after-party. Tell us what happened then?
I got a call; we were going to have a drink with Kerry King. Kerry came, just to watch football. All bars closed; his bar was open in the hotel. What I didn’t know is that the after-party to all these was happening there. So I went in with this sweatshirt, with jeans. I didn’t have a tuxedo, and all the girls were in dresses and stuff like that. We went in there; my God! It was so packed with people, people from corporations, people from the army with medals. Beautiful gowns, beautiful tuxedos. I’m like, what are we doing here? So I walk in, I walk in the place, and the girl from MTV comes up to me; Frank, How are you? I’m interviewing you tomorrow, and She goes; I want to introduce you to somebody, this is the prime minister of Finland, and on camera. Hello, nice to meet you. Really nice, she was really nice. So I said hello. So he goes, “you play in Anthrax, and you’re playing here tomorrow.” I’m saying, “how do you know this?” He goes, “I know everything” (Laughs).
Well, he wasn’t a prime minister; he was a foreign minister of Finland. “Laughs”
Okay, “Laughs.” So I said, would you like to come to the show tomorrow? We have free beer; come on. I’ll give you some passes and stuff. He was very nice. It was just fun, having fun. But then all these people were around, but we decided; you know what? There is a bar upstairs. Kerry is staying here, and we’re going to stay here and have a drink. So we did, and everybody kept talking to us all night. So it was just a really good evening. There was also a really popular Finnish singer and really nice girl, Elli.
Elli from Haloo Helsinki.
She’s a great, really nice person. I really couldn’t be friendlier, and she’s a bass player too. So we talked about the bass playing and… I forgot his name, but the bass player from Stratovarius.
He was there also. So he introduced me to her, and we were talking, three bass players, so we were just talking good times. It was just a nice conversation, but you would never think this would happen. She’s in a beautiful gown, he’s in a great tux, and I’m in jeans and a sweatshirt. It was just a really surreal night. Slayer’s tour manager is featured in the paper with him giving her a rose and the paper, and It was just a fun night that turned out to be that everybody is talking about it today. I guess it’s good for business. “Laughs”
Actually, I was about to start the interview by asking this one because it was everywhere in the Finnish tabloids and Finnish TV, and so on.
It was? Okay, good. I don’t know, and I just got up. “Laughs”
It’s funny that Kerry King was there at the after-party, full of politicians and Finnish tabloid people.
Yeah. I met so many people that night. People just kept putting out their hands and just people with medals. I said; a pleasure to meet you. A lot of the press knew the band and stuff, so they were coming to the show today too. It was just a lot of good people, really nice, friendly people.
Is this one kind of event for you to go to an independent party of some country like now in Finland? Has it ever happened to you before?
That never has… I have to say, in all the years I have been doing this, something like that, being in such a high-end party. Because there were security guys with the pieces in their ear talking, you could see they were looking at me. When we first walked in, they were absolutely talking about us. We didn’t look like we belonged there. I’m telling you, man, on this tour. This is seven weeks. All we wanted to do was have a beer and talk football; that’s all we were going to do. Walking into that, it turned into a completely different thing. But you know what? The people were so nice. I kind of went with it, and they were just so friendly and welcoming. Because at first everybody is like this, by then I knew it was cool. It was cool to hang out with, and everybody was really nice. Then everybody is talking about it, all our press people from Nuclear Blast. What did you do last night? My God! I went to have a beer.
VISITING FINLAND – HOW MANY TIMES?
I tried to calculate how many times you have been to Finland, but I lost count…
God! Yeah. I don’t even know?
You played in Finland for the first time in 1987 in Oulu and then ’89 Giants Of Rock Festival, an open door festival. That was my first Anthrax show.
Wow, cool. So you’re from ’89. I thank you, man, that’s cool.
I remember the show like yesterday, because of the incident that happened there.
Yeah. It was crazy with the weather. Was it?
No. Robert Trujillo used to play in Suicidal Tendencies at that time. Someone from the audience threw out a bottle to the stage and got smashed at the head of Trujillo.
I remember this, dude. My God!
Mike Muir then rushed to the audience and beat the shit out of someone. I remember that it was big news on Finnish TV.
I remember what happened; I remember that. So you’re reminding me of it, yes. That’s rough. It’s so scary that all that stuff happens sometimes, but Rob was alright. Do you know what I mean? That’s the whole point. But I don’t understand why people would throw anything.
At that time, security was lame, and it was more open-minded with no security things at the entrance. So you were able to get in with drinks and stuff like that. Nowadays, it’s impossible to do stupid things like that.
Now it’s completely, especially now. Right now, it’s completely different what’s going on. But it has to be like this time, just safety for everybody. I try to count how many times I don’t remember. I’ll look at that. I’ll talk to my manager, and I’ll ask him how many times we’ve played. Because our agent has been with us forever, so I’ll ask him how many times have we been to Finland. Because right now, we’re on the seventh week of this tour, and you can see I’m little, I’m having a little hangover from last night. But it wasn’t so bad. But it’s a little foggy right now, just because I go home on Thursday for the first time in seven weeks. This has been a long tour, a lot of shows. We did; it’s going to be 38 shows on this tour. It’s a lot of shows in seven weeks. We played five and six in a row. But it’s been great, and it’s been fucking great. It’s 95% sold out; it’s awesome. So it’s really, really good.
Are you going to have a long festival run in the summer?
I hear things, and we’re going to be back to tour a lot of them. I just got some news yesterday; all the things are getting signed for us to get a whole lot more festivals, which is great. Because we did this tour and we want to make people see us again, all that. So to do the festivals and then we can come back on a road trip or headline tour. That’s the plan after the festivals. When it’s the right time, I’m sure with John Jackson, our agent. As he’s telling us, so we will do the festivals, which is great. I hope to come back here. It’s always great for us here. So after that, because we have a new record. It will be a whole new cycle. So it will be the proper touring and… Because all these festivals are coming in now. So I’m really looking forward to it so that it will be a lot of fun.
FOR ALL KINGS AND ALL FOR KINGS
Let’s talk about your new album FOR ALL KINGS. To be honest, we have heard the album only once.
I’m sorry about that…
But let’s still go through the album a bit. The first song on the album is”Impaled.” Could you tell me something about that song?
“Impaled,” yeah. The whole thing about lyrics, I really like Scott to talk about it because he’s the lyricist for the band. But I think every song we did with this record, I want to say this to everybody, so they understand. We took a long time to write the record because we took the songs, wrote the songs, and I think we started like a few years ago. We started to write, but we’re still touring at the same time. So we finally took some time to write the record, write the songs. But we had to live with the songs. You put them away for a while and just listen and see. Even not listen to them and then come back, listen to them, and make sure they’re right. Because I think we write as fans because we’re fans of this music as you are. You cannot sell it short; that’s usually an American term. It’s got to be a 110%. You leave it all on the table. But you know what?
Don’t do it all. That’s what it’s got to be. We put out the single “Evil Twin.” People ask me about the lyrical content in that, of course, that song was written before all this other stuff. Just recently had it. But it doesn’t mean a whole lot more. Right now, to me, because it’s absolutely what’s going on, and it’s just the world we live in now. If you think about it, we’ve never had shows right after that Paris thing happened, and we were on tour on this tour. For the first time in all the years we’ve been doing this, this is how it affected us. We had the security come to us. We had a bunch of guys with big guns. Right after it happened, the next show was… I don’t know if we were in; I think we might have been in Brussels. So guys with big guns… So from that show, everybody is just, you don’t know what to think. So we see the guys with the big guns come in, and we see the dogs.
Bomb-sniffing dogs, walking around the place. We’re not used to that. But then here is a big one; after soundcheck, we’re doing soundcheck. Then our tour manager calls us on the stage to tell us, and the security wants to have in case there is an incident. This is what they said; in case there is an incident, there is an exit strategy for that. We never had this before. So that was like, what’s going to go on? Because they said; if an incident happens, you can get out this way, or you can get out that way. So they took us through the little path. So the day, that’s all I can think that night, and I don’t want to think I didn’t want to think this way. I said; can somebody slip by? Could somebody slip in with some because then we’re checking everybody out thoroughly? But that night, I think it took me a couple of the shows after that happened to get comfortable again. Now I don’t think, but I understand it. Because you start thinking, could that be the one? Could that be the one? I just don’t want anybody hurt. Could that be? But now, every night, I sing the chorus of that song, “you’re no martyrs,” which means so much more. Because you cannot make them win, you have to fight the fight. Because all they want is you to call up and not leave. So just taking this song “Evil Twin,” it’s very much… Go ahead; you were going to say something.
It’s basically the same thing that happened on 9/11.
I live in New York. So I live in New York, so for me, this is the way it is now. Unfortunately, this is the life we live now. When I go into the subway in Manhattan, I live 30 minutes out of Manhattan, but I can take a train to Manhattan. I’m visiting there three times a week. Every time I take a train, I sit down and look around because I have to. It’s not because I don’t trust anybody. I have to because I have a family, I have a son. I have to make sure I stay alive because I don’t know when the next crazy person is going to try to take a bunch of weapons and prove his point for whatever. Whatever his reasons are? I don’t know if it’s their religion or whatever the fuck it is at this point. There is no reason to fucking takes a human life. I have a big problem with it, whether it be religion or any other things. It should be about peace and love, and that’s life.
Live and let live; that’s my thing. So when I hear people do it, and they want to be a martyr for some religion, or whatever the fuck it is at this point, and life. Really? Is that going to make you be better and go to wherever you think you’re going to go to? You caused a bunch of pain for society and life itself. So that’s what’s going on now, but that is the life we live now. So that specific song means a lot just now. But as far as the lyrical content, I think you should talk to Scott more a little more in-depth.
As for “You Gotta Believe,” we got an impression it was like speed metal stuff when listening to that. But what do you want to say about “You Gotta Believe”? Is it basically about the same thing you would say for this?
Basically, it’s the same thing. I’m sorry. It’s the same thing, “You Gotta Believe.” It really says it all in the title. So what I do with this, I think I let everybody tell what you think. I want everybody to get their own ideas out of the lyrics from the lyrics because we could write the lyrics one way. But I want everybody to get their ideas out of it, and I think it’s really important to do it like that. So for me, with this record. Here is the story with Anthrax right now. We worked hard, and we worked a really long time. How long have we been together? 30 years?
Almost 30 years.
And you guys know this history, even since ’89. I don’t know. How long have you been a fan?
I found Anthrax in ’85 when I saw the “Madhouse” video on TV. “Laughs”
I have to thank you, and I sincerely thank you for that. For my sitting here for me, you understand how great it is to hear that and for people to say from WORSHIP MUSIC. In this day and age where we’ve come from, you guys know us all these years. Right! We did this WORSHIP MUSIC record, where the band came together again with Joey, and it did well. I thank God. The record WORSHIP MUSIC really did well around the world. We didn’t expect any of that. We thought it would be good, but we knew we had a special record. But how do you make you believe? How do you make you believe? But the songs were there. I think for this record, it’s why I want you just want to get into this. I want you to hear it, but you only heard it once. You guys, I know you’re ready. You like living songs; you like living the record. You listen to over and over, right. That’s what I do.
Basically, this album is old-school metal at its best, but it still sounds modern as well.
That’s how I… Because I believe this record breathes…
It’s a very diverse album.
Very, yes. What I like to do with interviews at this stage, I want to know… You also heard it only once?
What is your vibe? This I have to interview you because it’s interesting to me.
It’s a great old-school metal album mixed with some new elements. I liked “The Battle Chose Us.” It sounds old-school Anthrax, like SPREADING THE DISEASE stuff. There’s a bit of “Madhouse” on it. Then I liked “Zero Tolerance,” which could have been on AMONG THE LIVING. “All of Them Thieves” had some great melodies, and “You Gotta Believe” sounded like PERSISTENCE OF TIME for me, and that’s a positive thing. “Laughs”
People say that. I’m getting the vibe, and this is why… I don’t mean to start an interview; I don’t want yours. “Laughs”
The song “For All Kings” reminded me of the stuff from the Bush era.
That was just my thought. But then, of course, I loved those faster ones because I love the fast ones.
Of course, yeah. Sure. It has it.
Then I dig the acoustic song, which I can’t remember, but it was really nice. But all in all, the album is groovy, and you’re not only blasting through the album. And I noticed that this is the first Anthrax album, which includes loads of elements from the ’70s, including your bass playing, which is quite different now compared to any other Anthrax album.
I have to thank you for noticing that, just because…
So we talk about the ’70 stuff – Joey Belladonna has sung the Journey songs and stuff like that. It’s easy to hear that he’s a fan of those certain bands because some of his vocal melodies sound like that stuff.
This is so special for me here, and I don’t need to interview you guys. But you have to understand; we just like to go with this. We’re done. You work on it so hard, you take… We live with this record; before you came in, we were talking about it. You can’t just write us a record and throw it out. You have to live it because number one; you have to leave it on the table. You also have to edit parts, like after you hear it again; that’s not working for me; let’s put this and take this out. Put this and really make sure. So to be at this point where we’re, no record company could ever rush us. Nobody is ever going to tell you; I need this now. Anthrax will say; fuck you. We will say; fuck you. When we’re done, we’re done. We finish, we feel like we have the record right now. I’m so excited. The thing is, how do you let it go? Our baby. So for me to hear the gratification, you guys telling me this stuff, I thank you. Because it makes me feel like all that fucking hard work, and I’m telling you it’s not an easy journey. Because there are ups and downs with writing and between doing the tours. Sometimes you disagree in writing. You can hear the intensity, some of that… I’m telling you, man, the intensity of the Anthrax is sometimes disagreeing and getting to a point where we do agree. That builds the momentum. I tell you, that’s the truth in writing. It really is. You can have a great riff, but if one of your guys… Like Charlie, Scott, and I. We start writing together, and we get these songs together. It’s like a game, then you put the melodies, and you put the lyrics on top. It’s very much like that. Sometimes along the way, it’s not always smooth. I believe that makes the intensity of the music. So I love that you love that stuff, but I also love that we can have another song that would take you somewhere else. It’s not just always like this; it’s all about the song.
KISS – CRAZY CRAZY… FANS
One thing which came to my mind when I heard “Breathing Lightning” was KISS.
Yeah, that’s the other way we’re coming right there. That’s where we grew up; you know all these.
A little notice, I’m the president of Kiss Army Finland. “Laughs”
That’s fucking awesome dude. So when they come here, you go there representing us, freaking us. They love it; they fucking love that.
I saw your eyes rolling .”Laughs” I know Kiss fans; they’re all crazy like me. “Laughs”
Yeah, we’re all crazy. I know with all the years with Kiss. Paul and Gene, they know me since… Because I live in New York, and you probably… I don’t know if you know this or not, but they have their management in New York. So before we were in Anthrax or anything, we were Kiss fans. 15, 14 years old. We used to go down their management, so they played at The Garden. They played at Madison Square Garden three nights in December. We went down to their management because we knew they had to meet their manager and have a meeting there on that day. We waited in front of their manager, freezing, freezing for hours. Then there was no make-up, back then. So we didn’t know what they looked like, but we saw these six-foot huge dudes with big black hair. So it was; that’s them. So we got their autographs. We got their autographs and then asked them 1,000 questions. Yeah. It was just a special time. So when I hear that that made its way, the sound into an Anthrax record. That’s what I’m getting too. It makes me feel great because that is truly heart and soul. What I could say about the record is nothing that didn’t come from inside the fire. The fire that we grew up with, as you have, it’s in there. Everybody wants to sell their new record, of course, you have to sell your new record. But I think you have to live your new record. We fucking love this record and to let it out. I can play every song in this record live. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how we’re going to do this because I want to play every song. I think we’re going to have to leave it up to the fans, what they want to hear. How do you do that at this point? With all these songs we have in our career, and we have this record coming out. How do you choose the fucking songs?
INFLUENCES ON BASS PLAYING
Let’s talk a bit more about your bass playing on the album. As I said earlier, your playing is now slightly different from the past, and there are more elements from the ’70s. At times names like Dennis Dunaway came to mind. “Laughs”
That’s a great compliment; thank you so much.
I’m a bass player by myself, so I listen to that section really carefully. “Laughs”
I genuinely appreciate it; as a brotherhood, I really appreciate it. That’s so cool, man.
How did you come up with this different style this time?
I have been listening to a lot of different things. As a bass player, I don’t want to stay the same, and I want to keep learning. I don’t think anybody… Even when I have people say I influence them. I know I’m older, and I really appreciate that, but I feel I’m still a student. I have to keep learning, and you probably feel the same. I want to hear different players; I want to pull them out. It doesn’t matter, ’70s bass players. James Jamerson, for God’s sake, that’s the best stuff. I want to pull some of that, put it in the sponge and make it come out my way. Still, go to Geezer, still go to Steve Harris, go to Geddy Lee. All this stuff has to come and somehow to make up ours. But it’s really important to me that bass is heard on the records, and the bass lines can’t get into the way of the song. They have to have the song to tell a little story within a song. That’s a cool little part to add to make sure the song is Anthrax, and I think we do that. I think everybody in the band thinks that Charlie is a fucking beast. I love Charlie’s drumming. He’s insane for what he does in drums. Scott’s rhythm guitar, Scott, I think has played better than ever on this record. Joey Belladonna – The guy can sing like anything; you guys told me that you could hear the influences. Here is the new thing I can tell you guys; Jon Donais.
Yeah, we know him from Shadows Fall.
Exactly. We all know he’s a great player from Shadows Fall, but now he’s in the band Anthrax. I knew he was a great player, but after my tracks are done…Later on, he goes in and puts the leads on top as he does in the songs. I get emails when he’s playing about; what do you think about this? Everybody goes okay. What the fuck? Wow! I was fucking pleasantly overwhelmed. I didn’t even know that was him; it was a step beyond. Because he was telling stories in these leads, he’s always been a great player. He’s technically fucking great. But I think he really rose above what he’s done. He’s always been a great player. But my God! Jon Donais. I’m so psyched. I’m really psyched to hear him on this album.
The melody was always present on Anthrax, but this album sounds definitely sounded different from the past.
Another thing we want to talk about after the listening session is Charlie’s drumming. His style is unique, and that’s one of the key elements that make the Anthrax sound.
Yeah. Charlie drives the band, the drummer. Charlie writes, and Scott, and I. So it’s all the rhythm section. Charlie and I grew up together in a house. When we were younger, I was 10 years old, and my dad took off; my dad abandoned my family. So I went to live with my grandmother. I went to live with my grandmother, who was Charlie’s mom. So Charlie and I, Charlie is two years older than me. So we grew up kind of like brothers…
I can’t help asking about the song “Blood Eagle Wings.” I guess you know the TV series called Vikings. Is it inspired by it?
You have to ask Scott that; I don’t know where he got it from. But that song especially, I think that’s the anger of the record, is the anchor. It’s like a big; it’s epic. It’s a big epic song. One thing I did on the bass for that in that song, it’s a tribute to Cliff Burton. I did like the way, the solid bass, and you could hear the beginning of the song, and the next time you hear, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. I know you know. I thought of what part will be really cool, and I just love what Cliff has always done with the wah distortion. It’s always sounded so good. So Jay Ruston, the producer, says; try the solid sound. I said; can you get wah on that? Let me tell you, something man, I was almost nervous about it. You know when you feel good about a bass part, I felt good about that. I think Cliff would be proud of me for this. God rest his soul, he’s always a big influence, and I love Cliff, and he’ll be my friend forever. But I felt like I… After I finished that track, I said, “that’s for you, Cliff.” Just a little tribute; it’s a little piece. But it means a lot to me, just because I wanted to pay tribute to Cliff a little bit.
THE 30th ANNIVERSARY OF SPREADING THE DISEASE
Another current release from you guys is the re-mastered Anniversary edition of SPREADING THE DISEASE.
It’s out now, yeah.
It was your first full album with the band. So what kind of memories does it bring back to you when you go back to the album now?
Here it is, I’m going to tell you. It’s a scrapbook of my life. When you open pictures, and you can see we’re having fun. When I look at the record, you got to realize this. This was my; I did the EP with Anthrax. That was my first record. The microscope of recording was on me; I was very, very nervous. So remember I came from my bedroom into a studio; it scared the shit out of me. However, you could hear it in “Lone Justice,” which was the first song I recorded on that. I was so nervous starting to record Carl Canedy. He saw my handshaking, and he pulled me inside in the kitchen. He goes; have a shot of whiskey. We had a shot and so simmered down, and you could hear all my influences in that, because all my influences. Steve Harris, Geddy Lee, Geezer Butler. They were all in that song. I didn’t know what else to rely on. So they were all in that. But that I remember in a really fun way because that was the start of my musical career. I’m off from high school, 18 years old. So 18 years old. I graduated from high school six months early, and I double up on my credits. I stayed after school to double my credits to get in the band Anthrax, to tour. I graduated, I didn’t go to college. It’s was either Anthrax college or college. So I took the Anthrax throughout, but it’s been a good one. Yesterday I was hanging with a prime minister or who he really was?
… but he was a nice man, though. Some people were talking politics; I didn’t want to hear it. Who is mad, who is happy. It was very weird.
But they were speaking Finnish, so you wouldn’t…
Yeah. But you could hear their tone.
So politics are always the same no matter which country they are from or which language they speak. “Laughs”
Yeah. The same thing in America, but the good thing about it; everybody was very kind. Alright. I like talking to you guys; that was fun. It was like hanging out; we should have beers!
Maybe we will see later tonight 😉