APRIL 3rd 2013
FRANK BELLO INTERVIEW
By Ruben Mosqueda
Six months ago Anthrax rolled into Portland headlining the third North America leg of their ‘Worship Music’ tour with Testament and Death Angel in tow. Fast forward to March 29th, 2013 Anthrax are back in town and once again they are headlining; this time it’s the ‘Metal Alliance’ tour. The last time the band played the Roseland Theater and you couldn’t squeeze in another person with a shoehorn. This time around the venue was the Crystal Ballroom; which is a larger venue, elegant, and pristine locale—though not the best place to see a metal show. The show wasn’t a sell-out however it was ¾ of the way to full capacity. Prior to the show we caught up with a very enthusiastic Anthrax bassist Frank Bello who spoke to us about the departure of Rob Caggiano, their new EP, Metal Alliance and recording new music.
Ruben: You guys have been on the road for a longtime. If I recall correctly you’ve been playing live shows prior to the release of ‘Worship Music’ which was released in September of 2011.
Frank: It’s been a crazy run—you’re right it’s been over two years now. We played our first show the day before the album’s release September 13th of 2011 or something like that. We played the ‘Big 4’ show at Yankee Stadium—so it’s been quite a run for sure. We weren’t going to do another run but ‘Metal Alliance’ came up with this killer package and here we are. We’re having a blast. We’re doing the entire ‘Among the Living’ record and the shows are either selling-out or close to it. It’s a really nice thing.
Ruben: I spoke to Charlie about a month or so ago for another site and I asked him if there was a particular song that was giving him trouble in rehearsals, because there are songs on ‘Among the Living’ that you’ve never performed live before. What’s a song that might have bit a little troublesome for you?
Frank: For me I think “Imitation of Life” gets a little tricky. Like with everything else it’s like a muscle one you flex it things become a little bit easier. When revisit these songs and you relive them you remember what was going on when you recorded them, when you wrote them. You relive the whole experience. Then we’re playing it live and seeing the fans’ reaction to it makes it all worthwhile. The one thing that I will say is that there is some serious energy between the band and the audience in the few shows we’ve played. That keeps us going and it’s absolutely insane. <br/>
Ruben: A minute ago you said all these memories kept coming back to you guys as you rehearsed for the ‘Metal Alliance’ tour. Is there a particular memory that stands out for you?
Frank: When we were writing the songs for ‘Among the Living’ we knew it was a special record. We knew then. It was raw. We had some great songs there that were special and the fans knew it when they heard it. I’m just glad that the album stands up to today’s standards. It’s interesting because there’s a whole new generation of kids that are into Anthrax that are 13-14 years old. That’s amazing! This new generation discovered us through their parents or older brothers or sisters—that’s a serious passing of the torch. That’s what we’re seeing right now—younger fans combined with an older crowd; it’s a nice balance. It’s an amazing vibe. Let me tell you this I’m looking outside my tour bus right now I’m looking at 15-20 kids none of them are over 17 years old—that’s amazing for this crowd. They’re just hanging out waiting for the show and when I step out I’ll sign some stuff you know? How great is that? It’s a whole new generation of fans. That isn’t just in Portland, Oregon it’s all around the world. We couldn’t be more thankful and happy for it.
Ruben: To be honest in my opinion ‘Worship Music’ was a make or break album for Anthrax. In the Bush era you stretched boundaries beyond thrash metal. You might have been ‘too this’ or maybe ‘too that.’ I said this to Joey (Belladonna) when I spoke to him last year; if Anthrax was so bold as to perform ‘Worship Music’ from top to bottom I don’t think anyone would complain.
Bello: Thank you for saying that! I would love that! When we released the album all these great reviews started rolling in. Critics were calling ‘Worship Music’ the album of our career—that was all good. The truth is that we’re just better song writers right now. I think that we are at a point in our career where we know what we are. There are so many songs that I’d like to do off this record to be quite honest with you. I’m with you I’d love to one day be able to do the entire ‘Worship Music’ record live.
Ruben: You have a new EP titled ‘Anthems’ that includes a series of covers which Anthrax has been known for. Whether it was a KISS song, The Smiths, Thin Lizzy or Cheap Trick…
Frank: Dude, I love your knowledge. Thank you for doing your homework! I really appreciate that dude! You mentioned The Smiths cover—thank you!
Ruben: You’re welcome though I have to say that my brother is a huge Smiths fan and I was very familiar with their work. So I was familiar with “London” before you guys covered it so there you go.
Frank: Very cool. This ‘Anthems’ thing is us not forgetting where we came from. These songs are from the bands that made us who we are. Charlie (Benante), Joey (Belladonna) and I are huge diehard Rush fans. Geddy Lee is one of my biggest influences on bass, Neil Peart was one of Charlie’s favorite drummers growing up—so covering Rush was a no brainer. If you sneak into an Anthrax sound check you’ll probably hear us jamming to a Rush song if we’re not trying to work out the bugs out of an Anthrax song from the night before. Cheap Trick—oh my God we could do the whole Cheap Trick catalog and I’d be fine with that. As you know we did Rush, Journey, Thin Lizzy that’s all stuff that’s near and dear to us—why not pay tribute to them?
Ruben: This brings up the question of when we’ll be hearing some new original music from Anthrax? I know the fans are chomping at the bit to hear new music—myself included. You’re locked into this ‘Metal Alliance’ tour, then I’m sure you’ve got some festival stuff in Europe. What’s the tentative play for writing sessions?
Frank: (laughs) You sound like my manager you know that?! (laughs) We have a South American tour after ‘Metal Alliance’ and the offers just keep coming in. Like you mentioned we have a European festival run this summer then we’ll get deep into full Anthrax writing mode in September. You can see that we’re getting the itch to write new music. Guys are starting to get ideas recorded which is how it all starts.
Ruben: In this cycle of interviews for the promotion of ‘Worship Music’ I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to everyone in the band some twice that is with the exception of Scott (Ian). The guy has been illusive but when I catch up with him it’ll be killer. I spoke with Rob (Caggiano) on a couple of occasions and the two times I spoke to the guy he seemed genuinely stoked about being in Anthrax, the ‘Worship Music’ album and touring. Then a few months ago he up and quit the band. There was a recent quote from Rob where he said something to the affect that he wasn’t all that into the music? He certainly fooled me. I saw a couple Anthrax shows on this tour and he looked ‘into’ it.
Frank: I love Rob—I’m at a point in my life where I just want people to be happy. If you’re not happy somewhere then move on. I think people would assume that there would be some animosity but there isn’t. I don’t feel that way. I feel very fortunate that we have Jon Donais from Shadows Fall stepping in on guitar. It’s all good—I love Rob we’re still friends. If you’re not happy somewhere then move on. I thought he had left to do more production but then he joined Volbeat. That’s a great band. We’re all good like I said earlier I just want people to be happy. <br/>
Ruben: From an outsider’s perspective it didn’t appear like you guys hit the panic button when Rob decided to leave the band. If I recall the dates were announced and the tour was booked. Did you guys freak?
Frank: Not at all. We had Jon available and we know him well---it was a no brainer. At this point in our career we don’t panic because we’ve been around the block a few times. We know things will be fine because we’ve been there before. I guess it’s our New York mentality. Panic? It’s not even in our vocabulary.
Ruben: Rob was with you guys for over a decade. Have you thought at all about a replacement at this point?
Frank: Yeah he was in the band for 11-12 years. No not at this point—Jon’s playing with us and we’ll see how this goes. I don’t think anyone’s even thinking about that right now. We’re having a great fucking time man. We’re getting well with Jon he’s a fantastic guitar player and we’ll just see how it goes when it comes to writing for the next record. We’ll approach the next record who we’ve done records in the past. Charlie, Scott and I will head into our rehearsal space and bang out some song ideas—that’s how it starts.
Ruben: You stepped aside from Anthrax for a little bit and watched someone take over your role in the band. How weird was that for you?
Frank: Well as you know I went on and played with Helmet for a couple of years. We needed a break from each other. I think that made us stronger as a band. That was a great time for me in Helmet—I had a blast and I just love those guys. Page (Hamilton) is a great guy and Johnny Tempesta played drums. I think that experience made me a better person and a better bass player and all of the above. It made me realize that I’m a lucky guy and that I love playing bass. Then the reunion with Anthrax happened and that was great. Here we are now—it’s been non-stop fun since. It was a fun time man, it was all positive. Joey Vera one of my best friends was playing bass in Anthrax. When I was on tour with Helmet I actually went to see Anthrax with Joey playing bass in the band. I had a day off and I took in the show—it was a blast. It was absolutely amazing to see them. It was just needed thing—that’s all.
Ruben: Last question—at any point will we hear some solo music from you? And if so what direction is that music leaning toward?
Frank: Yeah there will at some point. I have some stuff recorded that I’m working with some friends. It’s stuff that specifically wrote for myself and not Anthrax stuff. I keep it separate. Right now it’s all about Anthrax though but eventually I will do a record. I’ve been told that it sounds in the vein of Foo Fighters.