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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews


Interviewed by Mike Korn
Interview with Joey Belladonna of Anthrax from September 2005
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 4 at

Let me ask you right off the bat, you are now indisputably "the man" as far as Anthrax lead vocalist goes?
Well, right now, we take it little by little. I'm coming back into something that is already rolling. It's weird enough leaving it and not being able to finish it. Now I'm coming back in after 12 years, which is quite a long time...I'm not really in a position where I can dictate anything to the other guys. I'm doing well ...they're digging it, we're all digging's all going according to what we would like to have happen. We're definitely on pace.
MSJ: Is that how you look at this, finishing something you started?
Of course, I'd like to continue where I left off. I don't want to put any limits on it, we wanna keep rolling as long as we stay healthy and focused, keep the good music flowing. With this line-up, any record we write will be very different, if we ever get that far.
MSJ: Are there any ideas for new music starting to fly around? At this point, you seem to be satisfying your old fans.
Well, we're also satisfying ourselves because just to be able to do this again with the five of us is a thrill. There's a chemistry there that wasn't with the other versions of Anthrax.
MSJ: A year ago at this time, could you have foreseen where you are now?
You know, I just sensed it somewhere in the back of my mind. I just knew that somewhere along the line, they were going to hit a point where there would be some kind of shift in the wind. I just had a good feeling about it. At the same time, if it didn't work out, that would have been a shame. The reason for us getting back together is: why not? There's no reason why we couldn't do it because we had no problems. Physically and mentally, everybody was cool when we split the first time. I didn't have a problem. It was just a different style they were looking for.
MSJ: You played some dates at the end of Gigantour. What was your assessment of that, did it give you a pretty good feeling for where the band is at right now?
We were already doing some shows in Europe and that was kick a**. We did six weeks over there ...all those huge festivals. That was all I needed right there. In fact, even in Australia, by the time we got done, we knew we were in good shape. Hell, even in Chicago, those first two shows back was awesome. Right there and then, I felt just like the old days.
MSJ: The name Anthrax was mentioned in connection with the Ozzfest this year. Are you glad you avoided that mess?
At the time it started up, we thought there might be a chance. There were more rumors going around than even we knew of. Of course, we still would have liked to have been on it, because we're back together again, but now looking at things, it all worked out. There was a lot of politics, man.
MSJ: One of the last things John Bush did with Anthrax was an album where he sang some of the songs from your era of the band. Will you be returning the favor at some point?
Personally, I'd rather not, because I don't want to sit there and try to battle people's perceptions of that music. I think at some time the other guys would have tried it, but you have to remember, I think those songs (from Joey's era - ed.) were that strong that they had to do it. I'd hate to have to tackle John's songs because it would almost be like cover songs instead of the real thing. He came in after me so it wasn't as difficult for him to do my stuff as it would be for me to do his. I can't say that the other guys wouldn't try to throw a few tracks from those album's at me live but I'm not sure how it would turn out.
MSJ: I'm reminded a bit of Kiss. When they got back to their original formation with the make-up, they passed over a huge chunk of their history without the make-up that actually contained some pretty good music. Your situation is not the same, but Anthrax does have a really deep history to it.
Yeah, that's the thing. If we ever do continue, it's always going to be in the background. Will the other guys be cool with it and let it roll or will they feel like they have to revisit those songs? It puts you in a bind. I knew John had a great attitude and he had no choice but to do the old stuff live when he started. He probably wanted to avoid it but had no choice but to keep going and doing the old stuff.
MSJ: Did you keep pretty close tabs on the band while you were out of it?
Enough so I knew where they were playing, when they'd have a new album out. I'd know some of the new music.
MSJ: Is your own band Belladonna now history?
It's a revolving door and from day one that I had it, it was just one of those things where I knew I had to do it. I wasn't going to sit around and not do anything. I like playing music. I enjoy having a band. If I wanted to go back, I could easily put it back together with three different people. I did find a pretty decent bass player that I like who lives pretty close. I was playing drums and singing both the last year and a half in Belladonna!
MSJ: What part of that band's history are you most proud of?
Just the actual progress of being able to get the right people where I wanted them and being able to write songs enough to actually bring them to the road. That's all you can ask for, really. I wasn't looking for big sales or big labels...I gave up on all that. I didn't really care.
MSJ: It's hard to make money these days even if you're getting a huge push.
I gave up on all those expectations. It was enough for me to get into a car or a mini-van and drive to a club and play. If I sold 5 CD's, I didn't care. I just love playing so it never bothered me.
MSJ: When you were the lead singer of Anthrax before, the main things associated with the band seemed to be comic books, skateboards, Stephen King and rap metal. Are those things just as valid for Anthrax in 2005?
There's a lot of different things that come into our story. You gotta lot of comic book stuff...we've got some new Judge Dredd drawings which the guy did for us that's gonna be on the shirts. As far as Stephen King goes, there's more stories to come some day. I don't know where that lies. Of course, we're interested in what's going on in the world, but if we write any more songs like "I'm the Man", I don't know.
MSJ: At the time you started playing with that, it was very fresh and unique, but it has grown into an ocean of mediocrity with all these bandwagon bands.
I don't even think I see it as much as I used to anymore. We had our own take on it, too. We didn't get really deep into it where we did it from album to album to album, with five or six songs per album. One or two tunes was just enough to really excite people.
MSJ: Was the metal scene back in the 80's a lot more fun and exciting than it is now?
Times have gotten a lot more tricky. There's so much more music out there, there's the Internet, downloading and everything. I think the scene is coming back around. It's not as broad and consuming right now as it was then. I just think you have to keep plugging to keep it alive.
MSJ: The band you are playing with tonight, Judas Priest, has been a profound influence on the metal scene.
Oh yeah, last night Rob came up to me and said "Joey, do 'Painkiller' for me!" It's so funny just being around those guys. They're very welcoming to us and I still get off on Judas Priest at all times.
MSJ: I talked to Ian Hill a couple weeks ago and he sounded just like a regular bloke.
Yeah, really! It's amazing how times change but you stay the same.
MSJ: Are there any newer metal bands that you are impressed by?
I'm still an old-schooler for sure. There are some good new bands. Sevendust is really cool. I like Fear Factory, it was nice playing with those guys on Gigantour. Another good one is Dark New Day. Foo Fighters are cool...there are quite a few new bands that are actually good songwriters.
MSJ: Nevermore...
Yeah, Nevermore is one!
MSJ: It seems anymore that it's not hard to get a record out, but it is hard to sell a lot of copies of it.
You need a good set of songs. That's what I like about Anthrax, our old songs still have a persona to them. They really hang in there as a strong piece of material.
MSJ: The songs are not interchangeable. You listen to certain types of albums today and the songs are very much interchangeable. When you listen to Among the Living, the song placement is very important. Each song is placed in exactly the spot where it needs to be.
That's what's cool about certain records. I could pop in 2112 and play that straight through.
MSJ: When you look at stuff like 2112 and also the concept albums by King Diamond or Queensryche, they were a total package. If you just pull one song from those albums off the Internet, what kind of experience is it?
Yeah, even like Boston's first record, that was meant to be played all the way through.
MSJ: What was the last CD you got for your own listening pleasure?
The debut by Dark New Day, because I just happened to run into the Sevendust guys and with Clint taking off to do Dark New Day, we talked about it. So I picked it up at Borders when I saw it there.
MSJ: Pretty good, is it?
Yeah, it's decent. There's something about it. I really like the record a lot. I met those guys not too long ago and they were really surprised I liked the record. We hit it off pretty good. It's nice when you hear from a fellow musician that somebody likes your record.
MSJ: What was the last live gig you checked out just for your own interest?
The last show I saw was Toto. I got to hang out with those guys.
MSJ: Was it good?
I saw 'em do two shows in one night at B.B. King's about three weeks ago.
MSJ: Do they still have Steve Lukather?
Yeah, Luke, Bobby Kimball, Simon Phillips is playing with them now. They've got a new keyboard player. Even Porcaro is still playing with's almost the original line-up. I like a lot of stuff, so to see these guys and be on the stage with them is great. They are great musicians.
MSJ: Out of curiousity, have you heard the new tribute to Pink Floyd's "The Wall" that both Lukather and Porcaro are playing on?
No, what song did they do?
MSJ: They did several tracks on that one.
Well, I'm gonna have to get it then.
MSJ: In your long history of live performance, what would you say is Anthrax's Spinal Tap moment?
We were going to Slovenia. We got on the plane and three of the crew guys couldn't make it. We had only a ten-minute change-over and we had forty pieces of gear for the tour. Usually you get off the plane and you go from gate to gate. At one gate, there is a full security check...passport, border, you name it. Our three crew guys didn't get through. We get on the plane ourselves and we just barely made it. We looked and said, "man, they didn't even get all our stuff on"! The personnel there just took the rest of our gear and wheeled it away. We were like "wait, wait, wait, we gotta have that stuff!" We managed to get it back, but when we loaded it on the plane, we actually didn't have enough room so we bought some pieces into the passenger area and buckled them into the seats! I couldn't believe it. They actually held the plane a half hour for us.
MSJ: A lot of answers to the Spinal Tap question seem to involve Eastern Europe (laughter).
You wouldn't get that sort of thing in the States. We got out of Hungary pretty easily when we were over there, but some of the stuff we saw was ugly. All along the road, there were these girls just living in shacks, throwing themselves around like something out of "Deliverance". My God! Or we'd see a donkey go by in the back of a truck. (laughter) Our whole gig over rained like hell. We pulled our truck up 20 feet from the stage and it just sunk to the axle in mud. We had to get a bulldozer to pull us out. Stuff like that, that's definitely Spinal Tap!
MSJ: What kind of a show can we expect tonight?
Just straight up, man. An hour where we just f***in' pound it out, one after another. We got to work these people because there's different kinds of crowds. It's good for us to work for it. I don't mind seeing people just watching...they don't have to mosh to be into it.
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