Interview: Joey Belladonna, Anthrax

Currently touring the US on the ambitious 'Clash of the Titans' tour, ANTHRAX and co-headliners SLAYER and MEGADETH, along with ALICE IN CHAINS, are recreating the thunderous stage show that jolted us last fall. Is the tour rife with stories of hot-headed feuds, ego explosions, and rivalry that dogged the past SLAYER, MEGADETH, TESTAMENT, and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES extravaganza? Joey Belladonna speaks to Marion Garden from his Indianapolis hotel room and lets us in on the intrigue…

Are the 'Titans' sharpening their verbal blow darts ready to do battle on the pages of the press this time round?

"Nah, this tour has been going since May and is going straight into the Summer, and so far it's been really fun. It's been a great tour. I think it is good. The tour has put us all together and we have all become friends. In fact later today we are all going on a sort of picnic."

A picnic?!! No spats at all!? No blood, no slander, nothing?

"No, really. This tour has been great. We are working together right now. Things in the band are clicking and the kids are really starting to react."

On the serious side though, Joey admitted playing every night on such a strong line-up can be a strain.

"I can't say for the other guys, but personally I try to sing just that much better every night on this tour. It's a real challenge being with the other bands on the same line-up…You want to do well."

To keep things fair the three headlining bands are sharing the limelight. They have been using an alternating order of three opening slots, three middle slots, and three headlining slots to avoid the problem of who is really topping the bill.

ANTHRAX have just released a new work entitled Attack Of The Killer B's (The longest EP ever). It is a collection of unreleased material and rare gems that the band has put together of their faves and often requested songs. Some of it ANTHRAX never expected to release for public consumption but steady demand by their internationally persistent fans has paid off.

"Part of the reason we put it out is because a lot of our US fans never got to hear Penikcufesin (NF EP), which was only out in Europe. We included some of that on here plus some other stuff that we liked as well. Fir example the song Parasite is a good one. We only played that in Europe. There was a demand for that one so we put it on. I don't see this as a filler EP between albums. We had the stuff to put out that we liked and so we did. It was a band thing. My own personal favourite songs was a THIN LIZZY cover but it is not included on the EP. Who knows? It may turn up on a B side some day. It's a possibility."

Amongst the EP track listing is a wacky variety of songs. There is a cover of DISCHARGE's brilliant Protest And Survive, a 1988-recorded version of the THE VENTURES' instrumental Pipeline, a tough new '91 version of I'm The Man, and a sugary sounding ballad spoof a la POSON, called N.F.B. (Dallabnikufesin).

"We did it in nineteen minutes flat. We didn't want to waste a lot of time on it. We just wanted to prove a point. It was really east."

Most notably on the EP is the extraordinary rap/metal number Bring The Noise, featuring Chuck D and Flavor Flav from PUBLIC ENEMY. Do you remember the publicity shot of Scott Ian posing around in a PUBLIC ENEMY T-shirt? Did any fans out there think, "ANTHRAX and PUBLIC ENEMY? WTF?" Well, sceptics, eat your shorts. The two bands have collaborated to do this song and it is simply stunning. Chuck D does main vocals on the first part and Scott does the main vocals on the second half. The other guys from ANTHRAX and Flavor Flav add their bits too. So how did union of styles and bands come about?

"We asked Chuck D if he would like to do a song with us, and he said 'yeah' he would. So we got in the studio together, and Flavor Flav was there too. We've been to some PUBLIC ENEMY shows and admire their work, but I don't think they've been to ours. Chuck D is also making a guest appearance in our video for the song as well, which we just shot last week. It has some stills mixed with some action shots. I think it should work out pretty good."

Because their playing time limit on the 'Clash Of The Titans' tour is approximately fifty minutes, ANTHRAX are trying to play as many popular faves and standards as possible. Joey says they haven't really played any of the Attack Of The Killer B's material on the Stateside tour yet. Of course playing Bring The Noise live would pose extra problems as the PUBLIC ENEMY crew add their own unique sound to the whole thing.

"It would be good to do it live. It's an interesting idea. Maybe when we do Madison Square Gardens in New York we can get Chuck D and Flavor Flav to come up onstage and do it with us."

A legendary gig that we British fans will probably never have the chance to see the likes of!

Here in Britain, however, things are looking good for ANTHRAX too. With NME voting their single as "Single Of The Week" recently and good reviews in other press, could ANTHRAX possibly have a hit single on their hands? Joey wasn't too sure how the single was doing here, but when the show Top Of The Pops was mentioned he burst out laughing.

"I don't know about that. We were asked before but didn't do it as we weren't too interested. I think maybe it could be fun. A lot of people in the UK would see us that wouldn't normally get the chance. It might be good to stick it down people's throats!!"

Could rap/ thrash be where ANTHRAX are now going following the success of I'm The Man and now hopefully Bring The Noise?

"I'm The Man to me was not a joke rap, as some people may believe. It was about us, yeah…and was done as seriously as Bring The Noise. Even the first words on Bring The Noise are sort of like I'm The Man. We just like rap and metal. It sure doesn't mean we are going to do all the stuff like this. Basically it's fun, and we enjoy doing it."

Joey went on to explain that ANTHRAX really are their own band. Over the years they have had image changes from the early days of thrash metal to the zany shorts and antics around the time of State of Euphoria, up to the more hard edge streetwise image they are projecting now.

Throughout these changes they have had flak from people about altering their look and attitude, but basically Joey is unconcerned about it all and sticks by the belief that it is their problem, not ANTHRAX's. ANTHRAX just so what they want to do. Joey thinks they have been early innovators in a lot of styles currently being emulated by others and that is not worth knocking.

The guys also have the attitude people should be able to do what they like, say what they like, and swear if they like. Startin' Up A Posse a song on the new EP is a direct swipe at censorship. Keeping this is mind, I asked Joey about Island label mates NWA and the censorship campaign over here which has virtually banned selling their new LP. He was incredulous at first as the LP is still available in "PMRC" America, but then labelled it a serious outrage.

"This whole music censorship thing is out of control. It is getting serious and when is it going to stop? Startin' Up A Posse is about things like swearing. It sounds like it is getting bad everywhere."

Unfortunately for us we might not get to see ANTHRAX for some time yet. With the 'Clash Of The Titans' tour continuing until the Summer months, and then the band taking a well-deserved break, Joey wasn't able to project a new British tour date.

"After we come off this tour we are going to take a break for the Summer. Then hopefully we'll get some writing done. I guess you could call us a commuting band. I don't like in the city anymore and Scott lives on the West Coast now, away from the rest of us. A UK tour may happen around December and we should have a new LP out next Summer if everything works out. "

Joey is very enthusiastic about the different rock scene we have here compared to the States, and assured me they weren't avoiding us and our soggy Summer.

"We really like Europe. The festivals there like Donington are great!! We don't really get any of that over here. I'd love to do Donington again! They're not up for those kind of events here. The 'Monsters Of Rock' didn't really work here in the US last year. I think people tend to go to safe festivals and events in the Summer with artists like STEVE WINWOOD and THE ALLMAN BROTHERS headlining. The 'Clash Of The Titans' is an unusually heavy tour for here."

The words 'mosh' and ANTHRAX seem forever linked, but a great deal of the venues they play now are seated ones. One can barely nod his head or stamp his foot at some of the London venues without being pounced on by a burly security thug, so how can a dedicated mosher get into the spirit of an ANTHRAX show?

"Unfortunately, sometime it is the only place in town we can play or are offered to play. In a way it is good. People have to watch us, see how we play and really concentrate on the band as a whole. Don't get me wrong. Moshing around at a gig is fun too, but I think fans see a different side of us when they stand at their seats. When it is possible stage diving is fine at our gigs too. Sometimes the barrier is too far away for them to do it though. I like to bring kids up onto the stage during the show anywhere."

Travelling across the US on tour would seem to be a good way to hear of and possibly check out some new talents that are noteworthy to mention. In a serious tone Joey spreads the word:

"Well there's a great band called NELSON, and there is a really good one called TRIXTER, and oh yeah SLAUGHTER…let me think…actually, no, I would have to say I haven't come across anything worth telling about."

Is this the face of hard rock and metal in America today?

"Oh, I hope not," he laughs. "I really hope not!"

Marion Garden
Riff Raff
August 1991
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