ANTHRAX bassist Frank Bello was interviewed on the May 16 edition of “Whiplash”, the KLOS radio show hosted by Full Metal Jackie. A few excerpts from the chat follow below (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
Full Metal Jackie: [2011’s] “Worship Music” turned out to be a pivotal album for [ANTHRAX], both commercially and creatively. How did that album specifically set up the way you went about making [2016’s] “For All Kings”?
Frank: “Good question. Number one, Joey [Belladonna, vocals] came back. We were with Joey again. It was ANTHRAX that a lot of people… Look, I’ve always been a fan of ANTHRAX; I’m in the band, but I’ve always liked what we’ve done. Having Joey back was a different band, and that was a band from the ’80s. And I think with ‘Worship Music’, we turned it up a notch in our writing, and I think we found a really comfortable groove, riff-wise [and] melody-wise. And I think we know what we like, and we know who we are now as writers, and I think it’s really easy when you know the singer is. [Laughs] You know what I mean? It’s a lot easier when you know who you’re writing for. And I think that’s really coming across. And specifically from ‘Worship’, that was a pivotal record. We have Joey back. A lot of people were interested to see how it sounds. Thankfully, it did well. So coming back into this ‘For All Kings’ record, it couldn’t be more comfortable. I mean, we just got into jam as a band. Who does that…? You know, just get in a room and jam — we haven’t been able to do that in a really long time. So, I mean, talk about comfortable. I think we could take our time and know… I think the band ANTHRAX knows who we are.”
Full Metal Jackie: Creatively, what did you enjoy most about your role within the band when making “For All Kings”?
Frank: “I love when, creatively… Number one, the three of us usually get together — Charlie [Benante, drums], Scott [Ian, guitar] and myself — we get together in a room and jam a song out. I enjoy that moment when we’re looking at each other and knowing it’s right. We’ve worked together forever, so [it’s] that look that we all know, and we all know [where] it’s gonna go; it’s gonna be an ANTHRAX song — you just know it. And then when the melody meets that riffing, and you know it’s an ANTHRAX… really, it’s digging in on an ANTHRAX song, you know it’s a special thing and you know it’s gonna make the record, my favorite time is that time. And then, I’ll tell you my second best time is hearing it when it’s mixed, recorded… all that stuff. It’s so satisfying. Really, it’s, like, ‘Oh, yes. That’s the way we wanted it.’ ‘Cause we’re fans. You’ve gotta remember: you cannot stop being fans of this music, ‘cause you wanna connect with other fans. So we think if we connect with it, hopefully other fans will [as well], and it seems that they have been, thankfully.”
Full Metal Jackie: Like any band throughout your career, ANTHRAX has had its share of business uncertainty and difficult personnel changes. What makes adversity just as important to a band as success?
Frank: “Well, I think you find out who you are, with adversity. I mean, maybe it’s being a New York band, we’ve been through a lot of family stuff, trauma from the early years of our families. I think you’ve gotta fight, you’ve gotta fight ‘em ‘till you can’t, right? [Laughs] No pun. But the truth is you’ve gotta be tough; it’s gotta be thick skin here, man. This is no joke; this is the real deal. So, for me, I couldn’t imagine not going for it. Look, at the end of the day, in the ’80s, we were all there, so my thing is there’s no scene; this thrash scene wasn’t there yet. There was a metal scene, but we wanted to make it grow, and we were lucky enough to be a part of it. And there was a lot of stuff going on that made it really almost impossible to do it, but you’ve gotta fight through it. The van tours… you know, the whole thing. And look, we toured in Europe with Chernobyl. I mean, think about that. There’s a lot of adversity you really have to get over. But, look, if you want it…. There’s a lot of great musicians out there… young musicians I wanna talk to right now. If you really want it, you’ve gotta go for it — you’ve just gotta for it, man — ‘cause it’s in your gut, and nothing’s gonna put out that fire until you go for it.”
Full Metal Jackie: How has family members playing together — in your case, Charlie — made ANTHRAX a better band?
Frank: “Charlie, number one… I’ll start with his drumming. Charlie and I grew up together, as you know, in the same house, so he very much started me on music. He was always playing music, he was always a great drummer. He played guitar before I even played guitar and bass, so he actually started me on it and then we went our separate ways with that stuff, but I went to bass. He’s actually the one that told me to switch, ‘cause I was playing the bass parts on guitar. He says, ‘Why don’t you just play bass?’ So it was actually Charlie who is credited for that. But Charlie… look, he’s a great writer; he writes great with us. He’s a great artist; he does all our artwork. Charlie’s a great, creative dude. And look, everybody has trials and tribulations. We’re like brothers, so there are some fights, and nobody’s gonna lie about that, but all know at the end of the day, it’s all about the band. And that’s what matters, and that’s why, I think, ANTHRAX is still around for all this time, and — I have to say this very proudly — relevant. I’m very proud that ANTHRAX is relevant. And for people to say — and thank you all for saying — a lot of people are saying this is our best record to date. Wow! It’s the ‘wow’ factor. Thank you! All we wanna do is put out the best music. Nobody’s trying to fool anybody here. All we wanna do is just put out the best stuff that you wanna rock to on stage. And that’s it. And thankfully, it’s coming across like that.”
Full Metal Jackie: Some bands have canceled shows to protest LGBT legislation; other bands haven’t. What’s the hardest thing when professional obligation conflicts with personal opinion?
Frank: “Personal obligation… Well, the band is our obligation — that’s the bottom line — to grow with the band. If there’s a crowd that wants to see ANTHRAX… Look, politics aside… I tend not to bring politics into my life. I believe in what I believe in — whatever it is; it doesn’t matter. My thing is, I’m not gonna speak for people. I just wanna go out and make people feel good. That’s my personal opinion in the band. I get it — like Bruce Springsteen not playing… I understand it, and I’m all for it, but I’m not in that position; I’m certainly not in that position. What I like to do is just entertain people to feel good. So I kind of try to keep politics out of my music, out of what we do. Although we have some political songs and all that stuff, you are asking me personally. I just wanna go out and play and entertain people; that’s what I do. I think there’s gotta be some escape from daily life. And I think what we do, and what music does, is make you escape your daily life. That’s why I’m here. I’m not here to be a politician or anything else. That’s me personally; that’s the way I feel. Other people can feel differently, but me, I just wanna play to people and if it’s the right thing to do… Look, if there’s something really horrible that’s going on, we’re not gonna play it. But everybody’s got their view, man. And I just wanna entertain people, so I don’t get involved with the politics side. For me, it’s the way to go.”
Full Metal Jackie: At the end of last year, I think it was, there was stuff that was going on with the Hanukkah sweater [referring to a lawsuit that was filed against ANTHRAX earlier this year by a Detroit artist and businessman who claimed the band was selling sweatshirts featuring his blue-and-white Happy Hanukkah design]. What became of all of that?
Frank: “We had nothing to do with that. That wasn’t even our licensing. It was really the merch company. And we had nothing to do with that at all. So we found out… Okay, it’s their thing… We had literally nothing to do with it; it was the merchandising company. And I think they got settled, that whole thing, way fast, ‘cause I looked at… I don’t even have one. [Laughs] I had no idea what the hell was going on. So I said, ‘Okay, that’s our merch company, and we have nothing to do with that.’ You know, things like this… Look, it’s a litigious world right now — right? I don’t look at anything differently anymore. You know what I do? I let the businessmen take care of that. All I wanna do is go out there and rock. And because there’s so much drama, I want people to rock and have a good time. And that’s the way life has gotta be now, ‘cause there’s too much stress in it.”
“Whiplash” airs every Monday night from 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on the Los Angeles radio station 95.5 KLOS. The show can be heard on the KLOS web site at 955klos.com or you can listen in on the KLOS channel on iHeartRadio. Full Metal Jackie also hosts a nationally syndicated radio program, which can be heard all over the country.
To see a full list of stations carrying Full Metal Jackie’s show and when it airs, go to FullMetalJackieRadio.com.