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Exclusive Interview: Joey Belladonna Just Does His Own Thing With Anthrax

By David Carr, Contributor
Friday, October 14, 2011 @ 2:50 PM


"I donít want to start comparing myself or do any of that but this is what I do. This is what I know how to do. I sing."

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If you are a fan of heavy metal then you know that the band Anthrax has had more drama than the cast of The Jersey Shore and the Real Housewives of Orange County combined. Letís catch everyone up to speed in case you have missed all the action. After a set of trailblazing shows that saw the band co-headline a tour with the rap group Public Enemy in 1991, the group decided to part ways with their singer Joey Belladonna in 1992. Belladonnaís replacement was John Bush from Armored Saint. After a number of records released with Bush in the 90ís the band decided to reunite their "classic lineup" with Belladonna (and guitarist Dan Spitz) for a tour in 2005. After touring with the classic lineup of the band from 2005-2007 the band once again split with Belladonna. John Bush rejoined the band but only for the 2009 Sonisphere festival in the UK.

Confused yet? If not, please find something that will help you keep score. In 2007 the band announced that a relatively un-known singer named Dan Nelson would be the new lead vocalist for the metal group and that they would be recording a disc of new material with said vocalist. By 2009 after playing a few shows with the band and recording the disc Worship Music, Dan Nelson was officially out of Anthrax. John Bush again joined the band on stage for Sonisphere í09 and a few more overseas festivals in 2010. This led to the speculation that Bush would be back in Anthrax for another go round. All speculation ceased when it was announced in early 2010 that Joey Belladonna would be rejoining the band again! Belladonna showed up just in time to play The Big Four shows with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. It was also announced that he would be re-recording all vocals on the studio disc Worship Music. Depending on whom you ask, there are myriad reasons for the aforementioned game of heavy metal musical chairs. A few things however are clear; Joey Belladonna is indeed still the true voice of Anthrax and his performance on their latest disc rivals every singer in the genre past and present. Worship Music is probably the most consistent piece of music the band has done since the last record Belladonna sang on, Persistence of Time, released in 1990.

Joey Belladonna was gracious enough to converse with me about what a long, strange trip he has had as the band prepares to support their new record with a tour this fall.

David Carr: Joey I want to first ask you about the new Anthrax disc Worship Music. Your vocal performance is incredible. In many respects your voice seems to have gotten better and stronger with age! What do you attribute that to? Whatís your secret?

BELLADONNA: I am not sure. I mean, Iím not doing anything different. I just did what I needed to do. I did what I have always done. I had about 14-15 days to do the songs. The thing that helped the most was that I was alone when I recorded the vocals. I donít mind advice at all. I will take any and all advice but it was nice to not have someone breathing down my neck asking questions like, "Do you need this louder, do you need more drums or more bass?" It was good just to be left alone to get it done.

KNAC.COM: With the roller coaster ride it took to get you to this point with the band, did you feel a bit of pressure as you completed your vocals for the disc? Did you think you had something to prove?

BELLADONNA: I didnít feel like I had something to prove. I am just always looking to succeed. I know what I can do and I just went in there and did it. I was given the opportunity to do the record and it worked out fine.

KNAC.COM: Were you given the freedom to change around melodies or structures in order to fit your vocal style?

BELLADONNA: We didnít really have a whole lot of time to change a lot of stuff around. Some drums were re-recoded and some guitar solos. I took a few words out to make some phrases easier to sing and I added my own melodies to things but I didnít go crazy with arrangements. I wish we could have had six different options on how to approach these songs but we just didnít have the time.

KNAC.COM: Did you hear what Dan Nelson did on the songs to get an idea of how the songs sounded?

BELLADONNA: I didnít need to hear a lot of the stuff. I just needed the basic structures of the songs and I listened to some basic tracks. Itís kind of like doing a cover song. The original gets stuck in your head and itís hard to do your own thing. I was able to hear some basic tracks and talk through the songs, in order to make sure that as a band, we were all on the same page.

KNAC.COM: Most of the time when a band breaks up and reforms or loses and then re-gains a key member, the goal is to improve the communication between said band members. Would you say that communication between the members of Anthrax is better?

BELLADONNA: Everything right now is in working order as much as possible. Communication within the band is fine but I think mainly itís the idea of staying focused as a band. Thatís what we are doing right now and everyone is working hard including the band members, management, the record company; everyone is really working hard and getting things going.

KNAC.COM: So would you say the focus for the band has improved?

BELLADONNA: We are talking and really working hard with each other. We realize we have a great opportunity here with the new record so we are hoping for the best.

KNAC.COM: Ok, letís talk about another gentleman who has sung for Anthrax. The prevailing thought behind why Anthrax initially chose to have John Bush sing with them in the 90ís was because the band was moving in a different musical "direction". When you have heard the Bush era Anthrax tunes, in the back of your mind have you said to yourself, "I can do that, I couldíve handled that"?

BELLADONNA: I have actually thought it and done it! I have sung some of those tunes on stage with Anthrax. I donít want to start comparing myself or do any of that but this is what I do. This is what I know how to do. I sing. Unless itís something totally out of my league, I know I can do it. Again, I am not going to compare myself but I know, had I sung those songs it would have been fine, they just would have sounded different.

KNAC.COM: Anthrax has been known as a pioneering group in the world of thrash metal , but the band is also very unique when it comes to experimenting with different styles of music, lyrics that deal with social issues or even ground breaking tours. Did the group set out to be different or did it just happen organically?

BELLADONNA: We just do our own thing. We are a natural bunch of guys. We never really thought about it or had some type of plan. We just do what we do. There is nothing wrong with being different. Itís good to have your own identity.

KNAC.COM: Letís look at two ground breaking tours the band has been on. The Bring the Noize tour featured Anthrax and Public Enemy back in 1991. At the time did you know this was going to be a grounding breaking event?

BELLADONNA: That tour was awesome and we knew it was gonna be different! I would love to do something like that again. It was a very educational experience for both bands. We got to learn a lot from each other.

KNAC.COM: How about the shows you have played with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer? The Big Four shows were every heavy metal fans dream come true and one of the shows took place at Yankee Stadium! What was it like to play alongside your contemporaries in your home town?

BELLADONNA: It was awesome to be able to get into that building as baseball fans and play a metal show! Everything about The Big Four was great. Metallica always puts on a great show. It was great to be with all of the bands and then to be in our hometown, in that building was just amazing.

KNAC.COM: Do you know if there will be a proper Big Four tour in the US?

BELLADONNA: I have no idea about that. I suppose if it were to happen, it would happen next year, not now.

KNAC.COM: Joey after everything that has happened with regards to the back and forth and back with you and this band, are you happy? Are you having a good time being back in Anthrax?

BELLADONNA: I always have fun! Itís always fun for me. Whether itís this band or a cover band I am in, I donít let anything really affect me. I try to take it all in stride.

KNAC.COM: What do you think the future holds for you and Anthrax?

BELLADONNA: Hopefully we will do what we have always done, write music and tour. Iíd like to do both of those things a lot more!

You can catch Anthrax doing what they do best in these fine venues this fall:

OCTOBER

(with Testament, Death Angel)
  • 14 Orbit Room, Grand Rapids, MI
  • 15 Congress Theatre, Chicago, IL
  • 16 First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
  • 18 The Cotillion, Wichita, KS
  • 19 Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO
  • 21 Freakers Ball/98.9 Radio/Independence, MO (Radio show)
  • 22 Nokia LA Live, Los Angeles, CA
  • 23 Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA
  • 24 House of Blues, San Diego, CA
  • 26 Sunshine Theatre, Albuquerque, NM
  • 28 South Side Music Hall, Dallas, TX
  • 29 Emo's East, Austin, TX
  • 30 Warehouse Live, Houston, TX

NOVEMBER

  • 1 House of Blues, Orlando, FL
  • 2 Revolution, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • 4 House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC
  • 5 Fillmore Charlotte, Charlotte, NC
  • 6 The Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD
  • 8 Northern Lights, Clifton Park, NY
  • 10 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, PA
  • 11 Palladium, Worcester, MA
  • 12 Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, NJ
  • 13 The Paramount, Huntington, NY
  • 15 Town Ballroom, Buffalo, NY
  • 17 Stage AE, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 18 House of Blues, Cleveland, OH
  • 19 Rave, Milwaukee, WI


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