Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna on “Worship Music”

2010 and 2011 have been a couple of great years for the band Anthrax. The band reunited with their original singer Joey Belladonna to participate in the Big Four shows with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth. They worked on a new album called “Worship Music” and have really turned things around. Can you call it a come back? Anthrax has always kind of been there, but when the Big Four shows were just rumors, even Kerry King was saying maybe Machine Head should be the fourth, because Anthrax was in shambles. Not anymore. “Worship Music” is a great, heavy, relevant metal album and the band sounds better than they have in years. Recently I got the chance to chat with Joey Belladonna. Enjoy.


Zoiks! How would you describe your new album “Worship Music” to the fans?

Joey Belladonna: I just think that…I don’t know, I think it’s really got some diverse type of tunes on there. I think we’ve broadened on the writing end. It’s as aggressive as any other record we’ve done. Sonically I think it is one of our bests.

Z!: Where did the title “Worship Music” come from?

JB: Don’t know, that was something that was already in the works when I came in so I can’t really explain where the idea came from (laughs). I know what it’s about, but I don’t know where or who’s idea it was to bring it in.

Z!: I know they had an album ready to go before you rejoined the band, is this that same album, but with you on it?

JB: No, there are plenty of new tracks. Lots of new recordings, all new guitars, all new bass, all new vocals, three or four different drum tracks, all new leads. The structure and the chords that were going to be the songs, some of the arrangements are the same, but at the same time, we just sort of busted it all up and put it back together again.

Z!: If it wasn’t for the big four shows, do you think you’d be in Anthrax right now?

JB: I don’t know about that, that’s a good question. There is a good possibility that they may not have asked me, which is kind of sad. I’ve never heard that one before. That’s a sure possibility, which is kind of frightening in its own way that you think that without an opportunity somewhere else they wouldn’t want to put me in there. Hell, let’s face it, if they didn’t have any problems with the other guy they may have just rolled with the record. I wouldn’t have even been a thought.

Z!: Did you feel any added pressure to deliver not just a good album, but relevant album being that Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth just came off of great relevant albums?

JB: There’s an excitement kind of pressure vs a scare, I don’t know if I can do it kind of pressure. You always want to achieve a great record, a good vibe that we were used to doing. There’s always a good pressure more than uncertainty. Obviously they’ve been sitting on something for a little while and people were getting antsy about what’s going on, when are you going to finish it. To come in and be the last guy out of the blue to try and reconcile all of that stuff, I hadn’t been in the band for a while, so there were some interesting thoughts like, am I going to be the burden here. Am I going to be the reason if it isn’t what it is?

I didn’t really think about it, once we got going I knew we were going to be fine. I didn’t know how good it was going to be, because you never can predict that. But I thought it was pretty…as I went down I was like wow. You start listening to stuff back, because they do stuff so quickly. With in a four-hour period we were done with a song. At the end of the day we’d listen back to it a lot. I was done for the day and we’d send it off to everybody and see if they liked it. We were ready for the next song the next day, which is what we did every day. I was cool with that. I didn’t have any doubts. If people were digging it and I was digging it, that’s all you can ask for when you’re writing songs and putting songs together. If you like it you just have to go with it. Unless somebody tells you this just doesn’t sound right, and that’s never been the case, but if you like it…that’s what I do. If I write something this afternoon and we record it and we love this stuff, we just go, if somebody doesn’t like it, what are you going to do?

Z!: It hasn’t even come out yet and it’s been critically successful so far, I love the album and I think it holds up with the newest Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica releases. What is the secret for you four bands too not only last this long, but remain relevant. It’s not like you’re touring on your classic hits, you’ve all got new songs and albums that the fans want to see live, what’s the secret?

JB: I think it’s just the world to be a musician and write good music. We’re constantly…I’m talking for myself and I’m sure those guys too, we’re always trying to make good music. We look forward to our own songs being new and fresh and well taken. That’s one of the main things that we look for. We don’t want to just sit on old material if you can help it. Obviously, live you want to deliver those classic songs, but it’s nice to have good, fresh new material that people feel we have to offer them.

Z!: Have you guys gotten a chance to play any of the new songs live?

JB: Yeah, just “Fight ‘em” right now.

Z!: How has it translated?

JB: Perfect, it really feels like an older song now, not that it is worn, it embedded nicely as a band. In fact we did it so often before we even recorded it, that was one of the inspirations for doing stuff over, because it was starting to come together. When I started singing, Frank was like I want to do my bass over now and next thing you know Scott wants to do more guitars. We got a good second look at everything.

Z!: You reunited with the band back in what, 2005? It didn’t last as long, what’s the difference this time around?

JB: You mean as far as keeping it together?

Z!: Yeah,

JB: What’s different right now, I don’t know. It’s just a matter of everybody staying focused together. You’ve got to make sure you keep things in tact as far as a group, the basics of working together and involving each person to the point where they feel needed and everything else business wise. You have to do it that way, unless you’re just a hired guy and you don’t have to worry about suggesting stuff and offering your opinions you just come and here’s your memo. It’s not like that for us, we just need to make sure everybody feels involved and is comfortable about being there. That’s what it is. I’ve been in and out for whatever reasons, it’s too baffling, like you asked about the big four, I don’t even know…after doing the record of course everybody was like, ‘wow, jeez, this is good, I’m glad we got a hold of him.’

You never know what goes through their mind. Good thing, if it was just ok and it wasn’t received that well it’d probably be like, ‘too bad the other guy didn’t work out, because he’s not working out.’ Those are the pressures, you think gosh sorry I even came into something that wasn’t even my idea or my style. Those are doubts, but I never really felt like that when I came in because I knew what I could do as long as they were open minded about it and then accept it. Now I got the thumbs up and I hope they feel that way in the long run.

Z!: During the Big Four jam when you guys all take the stage during Metallica’s set, if you got to choose the song that all four bands jammed on, what would you pick?

JB: Wow, that’s kind of hard, because it’d be up to Metallica. God, I don’t know. I’d probably pick something off the wall that wouldn’t be that appropriate, who knows. Everybody at once playing and it’s so quick. It’s hard to get too crazy. It’s still at the end of Metallica’s set, so they’re still playing as we leave. I don’t think anything to involved. That’s a good question, I don’t know, I’d hate to say anything out loud. It’d be cool to play one of their songs, I know we’re doing something that they have done, but it’d be cool to play one of their big tunes, some how you’d get criticized…’how come he’s singing that, James should be singing that.’ To me the idea is just to go up and join in on something and have fun and say here we all are, give thanks again and they finish up and say goodbye. It’s a nice gesture for them to let us come up.

BYLINE:

Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.

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