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Anthrax’s Frank Bello Talks ‘For All Kings,’ Creative Process, Facing Adversity + More

Liz Ramanand, Loudwire
Liz Ramanand, Loudwire

Anthrax‘s Frank Bello was the guest on Full Metal Jackie’s weekend radio show. The bassist discussed his positive mindset, the band’s latest album, ‘For All Kings,’ adversity and separating politics from personal opinion when it comes to Anthrax. Check out the chat below:

What’s going on, man?

Loving life, we’re above ground, Jackie, therefore everything is good. That’s the way, at this age, I just look at it and say, ‘Look, everyday is good and just have fun.’ We were lucky enough to be involved with music and I really don’t take that for granted anymore. I mean, maybe I never did. I don’t think I ever did. I just realize how lucky we really are to be able to play music for a living and play to people. It’s a really cool thing, so I think we’re very fortunate.

I’ve always loved your positive attitude. It’s not always the case in hard rock or metal. I’ve got to imagine, it makes your life better too to have that mindset.

Yeah, it does, for me I learned it the hard way. You know, because negative stuff, where’s it getting you? To the brick wall. For me, there’s no reason to look at the downside anymore. There’s enough down to look, I mean, look at our politics. I don’t want to get into it but, I just want to look up. I have a child, I want him to look up instead of down, I want to move on, I want people to be happy. Look, we’re lucky enough to do this for a living, people living music, we’re living music. We’re lucky, so let’s just have fun.

The latest Anthrax record, congrats on all of the success.

Thank you, coming from you, you’ve been with us since the beginning too, so I appreciate, specifically coming from you… it’s not easy anymore. The bottom line is you can’t put out garbage and you really have to take your time with records.

That’s why it took us three years to write a record and to live with it, write it, live with it and make sure it’s the right one and thank God, it’s really connecting with people from what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing, so if anybody was to tell me 30 years ago that it’d be a Top 10 record and be relevant and all that good stuff that comes along with it, it’s really satisfying.

Worship Music turned out to be a pivotal album for the band both commercially and creatively. How did that album specifically set up the way you went about making For All Kings?

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 it 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, melody wise and I think we know what we like and we know who we are now as writers. So I think it’s really easy when you know who the singer is, you know what I mean?

It’s a lot easier when you know who you’re writing for. I think that’s really coming across and specifically from Worship, that was the pivotal record, you have Joey back, a lot of people were interested to see how it would sound, 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, I mean, you just get in the room and jam. We haven’t been able to do that in a really long time, so talk about comfortable. I think we could take our time and know. I think the band Anthrax knows who we are.

Creatively, what did you enjoy most about your role within the band when making For All Kings?

I love when creatively, number one, just making — the three of us usually get together, Charlie [Benante, drums], Scott [Ian, guitar], myself, we get together in a room and jam a song out. I enjoy that moment where we’re looking at each other and knowing it’s right. I get maybe we’re together forever, that look that we all know. And we all know it’s going to go, it’s going to be an Anthrax song, you just know it.

And then when the melody meets that riff, 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 going to 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 ‘yes, that’s the way we wanted it.’ Because we’re fans.

You’ve got to remember, you cannot stop being fans of this music because you want to connect with other fans. So we think if we connect with it, hopefully other fans will and it seems that they have and thankfully.

Like any band, throughout your career, Anthrax has had its share of its business uncertainty and difficult personnel changes. What makes adversity just as important to a band as success?

Well, I think you find out who you are with adversity. Maybe being a New York band, we’ve been through a lot. Family stuff, trauma from the early years of my family, our families, I think that you’ve got to fight them ’til you can’t, right? No pun, but the truth is you can’t be, you’ve got to 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 part of it and there was a lot of stuff going on that made it really almost impossible to do it, but you’ve got to fight through it. The van tours, the whole thing.

Look, we toured in Europe with Chernobyl. 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 want to talk to right now. If you really want it, you’ve got to go for it. You just gotta go for it, man, ’cause it’s in your gut and nothing’s going to put out that fire until you go for it.

Frank, how has family members playing together, and in your case Charlie, made Anthrax a better band?

Charlie, number one, I’ll start with his drumming. Charlie and I grew up together, as you know, in the same house. He very much started me on music and he was always playing music. He was always a great drummer. He played guitar before I even played guitar or bass. So he started me on it, then we went our separate ways and I went to bass.

He’s actually the one who told me to switch because I was playing the bass parts on guitar. So it was Charlie who is credited for that. Charlie is a great writer, he writes great with us. He’s a great artist, he does all of our artwork. He’s a great creative dude.

Everybody has trials and tribulations. Charlie, we’re like brothers. So there are some fights. Nobody is going to lie about that but we all know at the end of the day, it’s all about the band. That’s what matters and that’s why I think Anthrax is still around after all this time. I say this very proudly, relevant. I’m very proud that Anthrax is relevant and for people to say, and thank you all for saying it, a lot of people were saying this is our best record to date. Thank you!

All we want to do is put out the best music. Nobody is trying to fool anybody here. All we want to do is put out the best stuff that you want to rock to onstage, that’s it. Thankfully it’s coming across.

I think you guys have been delivering on that. It seems like these last records have just gotten better and better.

Again, coming from you, you know your stuff. Alright? Coming from friends, the people you trust, people can say it from the outside and that’s great. It’s the people you trust, that’s where you get the clear feeling inside. You clench your fist, ‘Yes!’ It gives you that little, alright, you’re on a good path so you know you can continue. It’s really satisfying to be in Anthrax and all we want to do now is, again, tour our asses off and make sure everybody hears it. That’s the idea.

Frank, some bands have canceled shows to protest LGBT legislation [in North Carolina]. Other bands have not. What’s the hardest thing when professional obligation conflicts with personal opinion?

The band is our obligation. To grow the band. If there’s a crowd that wants to see Anthrax. 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, I just want to go out and make people feel good. That’s my personal opinion in the band.

I get it, like a Bruce Springsteen not playing. I understand it and I’m all for it, but I’m not in that position. What I’d like to do, is just entertain people. I try and keep politics out of my music and what we do. Although we do have some political songs, you’re asking me personally? I just want to go out and play and entertain people. That’s what I do.

I think there has to 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, that’s me personally. That’s the way I feel. Other people can feel differently. Me, I just want to 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 going to play it, but everybody has their view. I just want to entertain people, so I don’t get involved with the politics side of it.

What aspects of Los Angeles lifestyle and culture have you come to embrace even when you’re home in New York?

You have to understand, I am from New York but most of my friends from New York are now in L.A. A good 75 percent, the ones I hang out with are in LA. I’m in LA quite a lot and I do love L.A. Not the Hollywood blah blah scene, and by the way, I have to ask you this Jackie. How is anybody going to play Sunset when there is nowhere else to play on Sunset if they keep tearing down these places and putting up more hotels? I know it’s off the subject, but it’s really driving me crazy because I just saw what’s going on. I was reading they are tearing more down.

I don’t know, it’s a really good question. When I was growing up on the East Coast myself, imagining living in Los Angeles, at that time the Sunset Strip was the place to be. I was watching The Decline of Western Civilization, watching Headbangers Ball and everything that was going on out here and I couldn’t wait until I was out there. Then, I moved to L.A. and the only thing that was left was Lemmy at the Rainbow. That was the only truth to what I believed what was happening in Los Angeles. Listen, music is still going to go on. The Strip might not be what it was, but bands are not going to stop playing. It’s about finding different locations to play.

It’s the will to play and I agree with that. I’m not only speaking for L.A., it’s New York too. They’ve gutted New York and I’m a New Yorker, obviously. Every great place is gutted and now it’s a high rise. They’ve torn neighborhoods out, so these big massive buildings can come in. If they have a corner, they’re going to put a high rise in. The Village, everything.

Where great art was once made, everything is just being stripped down. I wonder for the new artists coming out, I worry for them. Where is that next generation of great artists coming from if they have nowhere to go? I hope what you say is true. I hope they find a place they can call their own and make their art.

End of last year, I think, there was this stuff that was going on with the Hanukkah sweater. What became of that?

We had nothing to do with that. That wasn’t even our licensing. It was the merch company, we had nothing to do what that at all. We found out and said, “OK. It’s their thing.” Literally nothing to do with it. I think they got that settled way fast. I don’t even have one, [laughs]. I have no idea what the hell was going on. OK, that’s our merch company and we have nothing to do with that.

Things like this, look it’s a litigious world right now, right? I don’t look at anything differently anymore. Do you know what I do? I let the businessmen take care of that. All I want to do is go out there and rock and because there’s so much drama, I just want to people to rock and have a good time. That’s the way life has to be now because there’s too much stress in it.

Thanks to Frank Bello for the interview. Pick up your copy of Anthrax’s ‘For All Kings’ at Amazon or iTunes and keep up with all band activities on their Facebook Page. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.

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