It’s a great time for Legendary Rock Interviews and for ANTHRAX….. When the band’s new album came out a few months back we talked to drummer Charlie Benante and a few days ago we brought you a brand new interview with Joey. We are stoked to be bringing you our SECOND interview this week with the guys this time we talked to bassist Frank Bello!! Frank, like his Uncle/Practically brother Charlie, is multi-talented. Mr. Bello has not only cemented his reputation as one of the best bassists in metal but with spots on Law and Order and roles in film has also slowly put together a nice little acting resume as well. His latest role involves playing legendary punk rock figurehead Richard Hell in the upcoming film “Greetings From Tim Buckley” which promises to be a seriously well-written and acclaimed movie. However, before Frank starts planning a trip to Cannes there’s the little matter of a kickass tour supporting the great new ANTHRAX album WORSHIP MUSIC which kicks off this month and features Death Angel and Testament. We talked to Charlie, Joey and now we are proud to bring you a very nice conversation with Frank Bello (who incidentally was totally on time). Read on…..
Legendary Rock Interviews: I’m really interested in this movie you’re in which is coming out about soon. I met Jeff Buckley before he died and he was just one of the kindest souls you could ever hope to meet. I wasn’t a fan of his but he struck up a conversation backstage at a Soundgarden show in Milwaukee and just seemed to be incredibly sincere and engaging.
Frank Bello: Wow, really? That’s pretty cool. The movie really involves Jeff quite a bit. At the heart of it really it’s about him not really knowing his dad and playing a tribute concert to him and it’s pretty amazing. It’s called “Greetings from Tim Buckley” and the whole thing was really a lot of fun to do. I play Richard Hell who was this legendary punk guy and I spent about a week shooting my scenes.
LRI: How did you get involved with acting to begin with?
FB: It’s something I’ve been doing and been studying for a while now. I just really enjoy the creative end of it, getting into character and the whole art of that. I find it to be fulfilling and similar to the art of creating and living through your songs in music. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.
LRI: Anthrax has always been one of those bands who exhibited a definite punk influence so it’s pretty cool and fitting that you’d be playing a guy like RICHARD HELL. Did the years of playing in a band help at all as far as preparing for this?
FB: Not really. As soon as I got the part I just sunk myself into doing a lot of research. I am a BIG Jeff Buckley fan and I really was familiar with his songs and I knew of his father Tim so I had heard of this Richard Hell character but I really only knew OF him. There was really a lot of learning I had to do because I wasn’t that familiar with all of his music and his personality. It was a lot of fun once I started researching it.
LRI: Richard Hell basically invented a lot of the asthetics of punk, the look and the feel of what ended up being known as “punk” and even the Sex Pistols acknowledge that. Did you get a chance to kind of get in his head in order to get into character?
FB: Yeah, I really sunk into it and put a lot of that into my performance and of course the director gave me a ton of notes on everything from the music to the look of the character. It was kind of cool to put their pieces of research together with mine and bring this character to life. I have heard they are editing it now and they don’t have a release date but it should be out sometime this year. There’s been a couple of runs of it and they are editing it all as we speak.
LRI: This new ANTHRAX tour is just a big slobberfest for all of us old school diehards because it’s not only ANTHRAX but you guys are also out with TESTAMENT and DEATH ANGEL. Jesus Frank.
FB: (laughs). That’s cool. It’s really a lot of fun for all of us because we’ve all known each other FOREVER. This is the second run, we did the first run before the holidays and we had such a great time which was also what encouraged us to go ahead and take this to other markets to let other people in different cities get a chance to see this bill with these three bands. For us it makes total sense because we get to go out on tour and play great shows with great friends. A lot of people have been showing up for this package so it’s all a really positive vibe.
LRI: Death Angel and Testament are so important to the history of the genre and such amazing bands in their own right, are you getting a chance to see their individual shows and the audience reactions to them?
FB: I am watching them EVERY night. I am a fan. Not only am I friends with these guys but I get into it. I like watching them every single time they’re onstage. I cheer them on and they come to the side of the stage and cheer us on, it’s really that kind of tour. It’s old school and it’s a lot of fun. The good thing about having Joey back and the band back on a tour like this is that it reminds us of how far we’ve all come and now we can all just enjoy it. We all stick up for each other and we’re all brothers and being a part of something like these shows only reinforces that.
LRI: If there’s one band from the genre that always seemed to legitimately have that casual, friendly or brotherly vibe it is ANTHRAX. I am so pleased as a fan that everything seems to be going well.
FB: It is really going better than we could possibly imagine. It’s going better than we could have hoped, the reviews, the response, it’s everything we could have hoped for and then some. It’s a great vibe between us and the band is back. This is ANTHRAX, this is the only ANTHRAX anybody’s ever gonna see. This is the band and this is what we’re staying with, nobody’s going anywhere. The response we’re getting is the reward. We did work hard on the record, every single one of us and it’s been a long time with a lot of trials and tribulations that come with that but the reward is people like you and everyone we hear from digging it the way they’re digging it. It really seems like people understand WORSHIP MUSIC from top to bottom and see every song as a different story which they are. I really appreciate that people get it.
LRI: Was the BIG 4 tour beneficial not only to the chemistry between the bands individually and their fans but also to the internal chemistry of YOUR band?
FB: Without a doubt, I think so. First of all it got us right back to where we wanna be, where we think we should be as a band. I think it helped us get the album together and really gave us the kick in the ass that we needed like “Hey, this whole thing is pretty special”. I honestly have to THANK Metallica for that wake up call and kick in the ass and I hope there are more Big 4 shows because I think they all went really well and the bands loved them, the fans loved them, it was totally beneficial for everyone involved. It was a great vibe and it was good for metal in general. It put things in perspective for us as ANTHRAX.
LRI: I remember reading all the press leading up to the Clash of the Titans tour back in 90 and all of the “bad blood” and drama and all that, whether it was all true or not it made headlines at the time. If someone had told you back then that there would be something as cool as the Big 4 would you ever have believed it?
FB: No. I think at this point it’s just a different time in all of our lives and everyone appreciates what we have, where we’ve been and what we started all those years ago. Maybe at this point it’s truly possible that we all appreciate it, I think that’s what it is. It is so incredible at this point to have those four bands on the same stage to packed stadiums every single night. If you really think about it from that perspective of thirty years ago it’s pretty crazy. All of these bands on our current tour and on the big 4 tour are all my friends. Imagine going to high school with your friends and all of you end up being in really successful bands, it’s very much like that concept John. We all genuinely hang out, that’s the truth and after all these years we all get along really well. I love Megadeth, I love Dave Ellefson as a bass player and they are fantastic musicians. Slayer? Kerry King is my drinking buddy so if you watch the big 4 you’ll see Kerry and I together constantly drinking Jagermeister and I am friends with all of those guys and we just have a blast. Metallica, they’re the creme of the crop. They’re the biggest band in the world, they didn’t HAVE to do the Big 4. They wanted to do the BIG 4 and I respect them for that and think you’ve gotta tip your hat to them for that. It shows you how really great they are.
LRI: I have said it a million times but WORSHIP MUSIC also just feels like a rolling back of the old PERSISTENCE clock. I don’t know how many times a day you hear people say that but to me it just feels like a continuation from that album from all those years ago that logically and seamlessly makes sense with Joey being upfront. Do you hear that a lot from people?
FB: Yeah, we hear that a lot and that’s great to hear. There’s nothing wrong with that and we can only hope to keep it rolling. We’re having a great time and after all these years of being in a band we just played YANKEE STADIUM in our hometown. It’s starting to sink in you know what I mean and it’s like…..there’s no way we’re derailing this now. It’s not a bad run we’re making right now. We’re pretty satisfied with what we’re doing. We do have a long way to go though and a lot of work to do, we still have a lot to prove yet.
LRI: My favorite song is still “The Constant” but it seems like everytime I pop it in I find myself picking a new second favorite song off of “WORSHIP MUSIC”.
FB: (laughs). Yeah, “The Constant” is a great friggin song. It’s funny you say that because everyone we talk to seems to have a different favorite. “The Constant” just got started really by the Scott, Charlie and I jamming. I think we had the middle part riff and then it just kept growing into a jam song. That was one of the earlier songs that we wrote together. I call that the “jam” song because that’s how I remember it, as us really jamming. I remember all of us in the room writing that song and then just kind of jamming on it and working it out to what it ended up sounding like. I love that song.
LRI: I also really like the old school sound of “Judas Priest” and “I’m Alive”
FB: “I’m Alive” is actually our next single coming up a LOT of people seem to be digging on that one.
LRI: The cover art of SPREADING THE DISEASE has always seemed really cool to me and I still feel that way. Do you remember them bringing in the art on that album?
FB: I remember everyone always thinking that was ME on the cover for some reason (laughs). It wasn’t (laughs). That was really weird to me like “Why would that be me?” Charlie is really the main guy behind a lot of our art concepts. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen any of his art that he’s done personally but he’s really talented at all of that stuff. I grew up with Charlie so I’ve always kind of known how great he is at art. I’ve always relied on him for things like that because he’s always had a great eye for artwork and visuals which is something I don’t have. Charlie usually comes up with these concepts and then works with another artist and it almost always hits home and works. It has, even in the early days like that cover.
LRI: A.I.R. is still one of the most amazing songs ever. Do you have any particular emotions or memories about that track or even a song like “AFTERSHOCK”?
FB: Oh hell yes. Adolescence in Red was one of the first songs I actually recorded with ANTHRAX so I have very clear and fond memories of that one! That song really sticks out for me from the SPREADING THE DISEASE album and I still love playing it because it is so strong and the crowd always sings the chorus and goes crazy. It is the epitome of old-school Anthrax and will always be special. AFTERSHOCK is another one like that I really think stands out to me again because I had just joined the band at that point. For some reason I always think of Lamours in Brooklyn whenever I hear that song, I remember singing the chorus to that song, another really FUN song.
LRI: The AMONG THE LIVING album is so important to the history of the band that you guys have actually played it in its entirety on recent tours. Yet another instance of VERY strong music and cover art.
FB: Yeah, the cover art is just…..when you put that on and listen to the music and then look at that art it all just makes perfect sense. It totally and completely fits the music, the lyrics and all of it with the Steven King and the Stand references. We couldn’t have HAD a better cover for that particular album.
LRI: Does A.D.I. stand for “A Danny Instrumental”?
FB: It might (laughs). I don’t remember that one, that WAS one of Danny’s songs I think (Spitz, guitarist). Was that like a guitar solo? I really don’t remember tracking that. That’s like the intro, the beginning part to “Horror of it All”. I had to think about it (laughs). I haven’t heard that in a while. I’m gonna have to go listen to that album again now, I may have to relearn some of those.
LRI: What about “Skeletons in the Closet”?
FB: (laughs) That’s funny, I was just on the phone in a conference call before you called and we might be bringing that song back. I love that song and it’s one of my favorite songs on the record. I love the riffing on that one and just think that’s why I have such a fondness for it, the guitars are just incredible and I enjoy the hell out of it.
LRI: So that’s NOT you on the cover of “STATE OF EUPHORIA” then?
FB: (laughs) Nope!! NOT ME. That’s kind of a great cover again, it really sticks out at you, it’s unavoidable (laughs). We had that whole gigantic background on the stage in those days and it all really worked out, the tour went great. You want to have an eye-catching concept for your record and that’s what that did. People definitely noticed it. We really haven’t played around with those songs from that record in a long while. I think after we get through the cycle of promoting this record we might start messing around with songs like “Now it’s Dark” or “Who Cares Wins”, I love that bass riff in that song, I always have.
LRI: Persistence of Time was a heavy album when it was released and listening to songs like “Time” or “Gridlock” or “One Man Stands” it’s STILL a heavy and dark to listen to today.
FB: That was truly a snapshot of where we were as a band at that moment in time. I guess that’s how it is for every album but it really feels that way when I look at or hear that album. It was a really important album for us too at the time and probably another few tracks on there worth revisiting. It’s so funny but when you’re asking me about these songs I really don’t remember a lot of the titles or any of them without actually listening to the riffs. You might know the song as “Gridlock” or “One Man Stands” but I totally just identify them all by the riff (laughs).
LRI: WORSHIP MUSIC still has a lot of that same heaviness and tone but it just feels even more triumphant. There’s almost a swagger about some of the riffs and songs.
FB: Thank you. I agree and I don’t want that to come off as arrogant or whatever but it’s just that we have been doing this for a while now and you just KNOW when you have a set of really good songs. We really worked hard and took a lot of time with the making of this album and I think we benefited from that ability to kind of take a look at those songs from a distance and figure out what it was that we liked so much about them and build on that. For us, we’re really still just really big fans of this music and after all this time we’ve been at it we’re still amped to come up with new songs that get us excited and we are all big fans of this material. This is still just as vital and important to us as ever.
LRI: I see you have a new signature model BLACK SATIN bass guitar being made by ESP. That has to be badass to have guitars designed and produced especially for you like that. I know that you’ve been real active with your sponsors as far as getting out to the music stores and doing clinics and you seem real enthusiastic and amped about it. Is this going to afford you the opportunity to get out there and do even more bass clinics at music stores?
FB: Man, I just love doing those things man, I don’t know why but it really appeals to me to get out there and talk and show some things to kids or adults or ANYONE who’s just really interested in learning bass or getting into music. It honestly feels good to go and do stuff like that and I can’t emphasize that enough. The new bass is really cool man and I am just the biggest fan of ESP guitars. They also did the new guitar for our lead guitarist ROB CAGGIANO and have new ones for JEFF HANNEMAN and KIRK HAMMETT so they are really on top of their game. I am totally digging it.