Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna speaks to David Feltman during the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2012 in Atlanta. Watch and read along…
Interview by David Feltman
David Feltman here with Target Audience Magazine and we’re here today with Joey Belladonna, once and future lead singer of Anthrax.
So, tell me Joey, I know a lot has changed with the band since the 90s, what sort of adjustments did you have to make coming back to the band?
Well you just get in the flow of management, the business part of it. You just get into that whole system. You got to fall into it basically. Now it’s the same, same process all in all you know. I don’t really get caught up in too much. Music is the main focus. I mean if everyone kinda pull together as, as humans I guess you could say, as band members and those are the kind of things you want, you know. You want to make sure everyone is thinking alike about the music, same page. But it is a business. You gotta run it right as best you can…
So when you rejoined the band was there any bad blood you had to work out or was it like coming back home?
Nah, you know, I never had anything like that. I think when they made the change, and this is just my opinion, I think they were looking for something more grungey than my voice or something, whatever. They were done with what I was doing and, I don’t know, I haven’t really done anything different right now so I don’t know where the difference is. Um, but I don’t think there’s any bad blood. I’m very easy going. I don’t think I’ve ever burned anybody in any way. Um, so I’m just kinda very very level about everything. So, um, a lot of people are very kinda self-contained and they don’t say a whole lot so you don’t know what anybody, how anybody rubs anyone. But I didn’t say anything to be honest with you. I just thought…that’s the cool thing about it, I think. I mean, I’ve seen people shoot people or beat people up and still get together too, so, and we never had any of that kind of stuff. I think it would be a lot harder if anything like that was to have happened and try to come back in and say, “Hey, I’m sorry dude. I didn’t mean that.” You know it’s like, even a friend…”God, we’re friends how could he do that to you?” and “I’ll never hang out with him again.” No, we don’t have any bad blood.
You’ve been doing this over 30 years now, how do you keep care of your voice?
I don’t know, you know. I just, uh, I sing a lot. I’ve got a cover band too. We play four hours a night. I play drums and sing. As soon as I get off of this tour I’m doing almost a month, August, you know. It’s all classic kinda old classic rock stuff: Purple, Triumph, Rush, Zeppelin, Journey, Foreigner, Boston, all that kind of shit. You know, I don’t know, I just uh, just, just gotten better. I just work at it, but I don’t really work at it at the same time, you know. I don’t even warm up before I go out there. I just go up there.
Now I heard you guys were doing like a cover band supplemental, er, cover album kind of supplement for Worship Music and I heard you guys were going to do like Boston and Rush. I had a hard time picturing you doing those Geddy Lee vocals…
Me, yeah I can do, I drum and sing. I can do “Limelight,” “Tom Sawyer,” “Close to the Heart.” I can do, pss, it’s nothing to me. I mean, although “Anthem” is, uh, really it’s the older Geddy Lee where he’s out of, out of…he’s crazy on that one. It’s going to be interesting. I’ve done, like, “Bastille Day” and “Fly by Night” back in 1980. I did all that stuff. It’ll be fun. I mean, I do Boston now, all that kind of stuff. It’s kind of like I’m bionic up there it’s very challenging stuff. We’re just having some fun doing some covers. We, We did a couple already there’s two other ones we have in the box. We did “Neon Knights” too, which is going on the Dio Tribute album, which turned out really good. So, I like all that kind of bullshit. We just have fun. We jam a lot, so. Charley knows every other one of those songs too, so. I think it may end up being DP, who knows. Instead of it being on the album it may end up being pieces of it dropped into the album. Just completely supplemental.
Now, Worship Music was pretty much already created when you came in, what was it like to, to come in and work on an album that was pretty much already done?
You know what? Most of the albums that I’ve done with Anthrax in the beginning were already basically, the music was in tact, uh, there were even lyrics up. Uh, I just, I didn’t think anything of it because I still got to sing on it. I didn’t really pay attention to much that was going on. I didn’t come in and take things apart. There was no time to do that, nor would I want to do that. Of course it would’ve been nice to work on things a little sooner. But you know what? It worked out way better than anyone expected. Um, it was the most easy record I’ve ever done. I had no problems doing a song a day. Within two to three hours I was done. I came in and did it pretty quick. The manager would email the band the songs, you know, nightly. They dug it, moved on, maybe fix a piece here or there. It doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t have a problem. I can sing just about anything. Not to say that every song is going to wind up in the keys that you want them or the arrangements and stuff is, is just very impossible to sing over, because, like in the old days, the riffs, they were just moving so much the keys were never in the same place you know. Man, and it’s hard to sing in a key that’s moving all over the place. Hey, it was good that the album was around for a while, I suppose, they had the time they could like analyze and listen and listen and listen what’s maybe…what they were doing with it. Sometimes you do stuff so fast that you don’t get a chance to sync, take it in. But it was pretty instant, you know. I came walking in and doing it in 14 days, 12 songs almost a song a day. It’s not a problem really. Unfortunately, they had to go through all that time to get me to come in and do it, you know, um, long reproduction.
I’ve always wondered with Charley and Frank being related, does that family dynamic lead to more drama in the band or more chemistry?
Ha, that’s a whole different thing in itself. They’re, they are two unique young gentlemen. I find it really interesting, it’s kind of neat to be able to go tell someone that your home put this out. And we’ve even got a nephew out, who’s over there. He’s, he’s also running our tents. We’ve got a lot of family helping us. It’s kind of good, you know, all keeping people you trust. Uh, yeah without saying anything personal just that they’re unique, unique.
Now along with the cover band, do you have any other solo projects you still have going to keep you busy?
I have music, I’ve got a whole records worth of stuff and more. I just haven’t, once Anthrax kicked in, I just, I didn’t really just try to grab all of the things I can do at once, you know. Sometimes it’s hard when you try to take on too many projects. I just got so busy I didn’t really have the, I mean I have some time if I really wanted to, but they’re very small windows of time. You can’t try to pull other people in to start other things when you’re coming and going, so I kinda put it off for right now. I mean, obviously, I have Anthrax and that’s what I want to be doing. It’s not like I want people to think that I’m here just to get my own thing going. You know I did that before, once I was out of Anthrax. But I had to keep doing something new and the logical thing was to do something on my own. It’s not like there aren’t other bands, there are maybe, but it’s tough to join other bands. It’s hard enough putting a band together. I love writing music, that’s pretty much all I want to do and making some really good music. I plan to do something, but this is enough for me right now, you know.
Now this year at Mayhem you guys are doing a guerrilla-style show, can you tell me more about that?
A guerrilla show, that’s how it was described, for the stage show today.
Today? I didn’t hear anything about it. That’s news to me. I don’t even know what that means.
I heard it was going to be like, going to be no-frills, straight…
Oh it is no frills, it really is. I mean it’s a, what’s cool I mean it’s out in the open you know. You know, some days you just want a grass field and a hard song its just us and the fans and they pile over us. It’s a free-for-all. Yeah, it’s totally no frills, you know: no bounds, no lights, no anything, just PA and music.
Well, I can’t wait to see it. Thank you so much for your time.
You’re welcome. No Problem. Thank you.
See the complete live review of the Mayhem Festival by David Feltman with live photos by John Ward.