Having been welcomed back to the Thrash Metal arena what seems like a lifetime ago with previous release Worship Music the silence will soon be broken to reveal the next stage in Anthrax’s plan. Back in November whilst on tour with Slayer we had the absolute delight of speaking with Joey Belladonna. Focusing primarily on brand new scintillating effort For All Kings, we spoke to the singer about what the recording process was like when creating the album. Giving a detailed account of what we can come to expect from a singing standpoint as well as what it was like incorporating new guitarist John Donais on the new record whilst also discuss classic Thrash origins and returns. Set to take the world by storm with For All Kings to be released in just two days time we welcome the new age of our five kings, this is Anthrax at their best.
Either listen to the completely unedited interview below on Soundcloud or read the full transcript underneath. Thanks again Joey!
Hello today, Joey Belladonna!
Hello, how are you today?
Excellent! Thank you ever so much for speaking with The Metalist. How have things been going so far on the tour?
Great! I mean we get along together, we’ve been friends for a long time Slayer and us. It’s just a nice package, good Metal. It’s a long tour! Theres been some interesting stuff going on, you know obviously the turn of events but overall it’s been great. We’re coming to the end right now, we’re almost done.
How many dates are left on the tour?
Oh we have eight shows in what eleven days?
Is that European or just the UK?
No, this tour we landed in Amsterdam and from here we have been back and forth we did all kinds of Spain, Italy, we’ve done a lot of stuff you know? Oslo, Germany, we’re going to Russia…
Recently you released the brand new single for “Evil Twin”, could tell us a little bit of what the song is about? I know that Scott writes the lyrics.
It’s self explanatory in the video, sometimes I hate elaborating on something because not writing it I don’t know all of what goes into, what came about to get it started. Obviously the theme is pretty straight up but a lot of times I know what the songs are about I believe in all this stuff and it’s nice to sing it but mainly I’m just into the song and how to work the song and make the song sound cool. I’ve always been like that when I listen to music, I really haven’t paid much attention sometimes to lyrics. I’m aware of the lyrics but I’m more into the melody, more into the song, the writing part of it, the chord configurations. Everything that goes into the music part of it. Lyrics have always been, even from the very beginning a lot of the time I didn’t even know what the guy was sayin or the girl was sayin’ if I was singing something. I just sang it! I put as much attitude as I can into something that’s destructive or whether it be just about everyday life you know?
So is that more in especially the chorus in the new track, the delivery of it?
I don’t take anything, once I hear the song, they bring it to me and I see the lyrics and a lot of the time I just glaze over what it’s saying I just find out what I am saying to enunciate the words and how to fit em in. I’m more contained with that than I am, I’m putting as much attitude anyhow it’s not like I’m going to have anymore hand gestures or more emotions. I have plenty of emotions going into everything regardless of it its an easy straight up topic.
What about the new record, For All Kings, can you tell us about what the writing process was like behind the record?
Well the writing process was kind of the same, I don’t know who comes in with what riff at what time in the very beginning. I’m sure that everyone is passing ideas around like the old days and then they go into preproduction and button up the arrangements and all that kind of stuff. When it comes to recording we obviously do drums first then we do the guitar, then we do the bass, then we do the lead vocals and the lead guitar. Everybody is separate, there’s really no one way to do it you know? I know one thing, we don’t record live in a studio. Its everybody separate. Some bands could go in and bang out the whole cut together maybe in isolated divisions and stuff but its pretty much what we have been doing for a long time now.
Is that because of logistics?
No, its just isolation, separation, their individual time. Considering when you are doing drums you want to contain all the time where the mics are set up and how the sounds are coming throug. When you do it live you’re busy trying to do it all at once its a lot more work! Not that it wouldn’t sound any better it’s just the way that we have been doing it! I go in alone myself with the producer me and Jay Russ, we go in and pretty much sing just right there and by the end of the day we got the cut up. I mean the song is pretty raring to go by the time I leave there, then we mail it out to everybody and if they dig it then we’re good to go for the next song. Its pretty easy, I mean at the same time I’m sure you could do a whole lot more and a whole lot less you never know. When you’re doing this some songs are a lot more challenging they might be busy, a lot of words, as usual that’s pretty much the case. Some songs really offer you a lot of room others quite a few spots this time around I have a lot more room to sing. And other times just as a tight window to try to fit everything in. A lot of variety on the record you know?
Could you tell us maybe some of the themes that you picked up on when you were singing?
Well, themes I don’t know. I’m not sure of themes, I mean obviously there are some parts that are a little hookier than others a little catchier sometimes some give me a little bit more of a broader range to do harmonies and layers. To make the song blossom in a different way stuff that I like to do I love building a song, piling on some fabric if you want. Just to make it cool, I always try to find somewhere to make it really awesome as much as I can. Just to sing it, I always try to channel something cool on it. Some songs just don’t give you that shot you know? Maybe you might find out the one I didn’t think I would have a shot on you might find it better than something I thought was cool, so it’s really all a matter of opinion too.
How was it incorporating Jonathan Donais into the album?
You know what I think it was pretty easy, as a musician he understands our music. We knew him, he knew us I think obviously there was some kind of guidance and working together with Charlie and maybe even Scott, finding placements and making sure that things are in the right context of what we’re looking for. I think he got most of it pretty quick! I don’t think there was any problems at all in fact, I enjoy all of the stuff and I think it fits in well so I’m very happy with the results. It’s a good style for me, I enjoy his style.
Did he bring maybe a new look, not a look but a new style slightly to the sound?
I think if anything it’s pretty melodic, there’s quite good aggression similar to Rob if you were to try and look for some comparisons that we just had in Worship Music so he came pretty close to that kind of thing.
What about the artwork for the record?
I don’t know. I never see that to be honest.
I don’t see the artwork, I don’t hear about the themes no one tells me anything. I just get an email saying you gotta take a picture so we can do this for artwork and it seems a bit strange and a bit weird but that’s the way it is. I like artwork and I know I have quite good opinions but apparently I don’t get to voice those that often so, it’s been like that since the beginning really…
What about your influences? You don’t write the songs but in the delivery who would you say is a big influence for you?
When I go in to sing a record I don’t, of course I am carrying spheres of influences and stuff but I’m not really being influenced by anyone when I go in there. The gloves are off when you go in there and do an Anthrax record. There’s really no time to sit around and dwell. I’ve never sang with anybody in mind and I never will, I like to be original, I like to just go in and let it roll. Let the voice be the voice and let the inspiration be the inspiration. I don’t really have any influences, I got tonnes of influences but I don’t think any of those people are coming in with me. I don’t even sit around and think, well this song could sound like so and so and I want to sing it like him. I could never do that and I never would. That’s the neat thing I have my own style and that’s cool.
Ok! What about the big four return performance, it was in Sofia Bulgaria I believe?
We had I don’t know how many shows we actually ended up with.
But was that the first one?
Sofia? I think so.
What was that like to have the big four all together again?
You know when you get there it’s like wow this is really happening and what is this really. It’s a fuckin’ great show! That’s all I looked at it as, I don’t know about the big four thing, I don’t know who came up with that word maybe it was just the name of a tour you know? Because people can say, well how did you get picked as the four? We’ve been around for quite a long time, I’m sure we can clarify that in some ways and whatever that is I don’t know. I just think it was a great line up and a tour that people dug. I’m sure that we could make up twelve more different line ups whether it be this type of tour (Slayer, Anthrax and Kvelertak) or that type of tour, its just a great bill.
Where did you come up with the name Anthrax?
Scott I think, I heard something that in school and thought that it was a really great name for a band. So…
Wow, as simple as that?
Yeah, I think so! It’s one of those things you can hear it, if it’s open for the taking I guess you do it. If it sounds good to you. It’s weird picking a name for a band.
Yeah! Some things just don’t ring right, other bands you can’t even pronounce it or you can’t read it. It stuck I guess you know? It wasn’t my idea, it was something they discovered in school.
We briefly mentioned about the Big Four, that whole Bay Area movement,, do you believe that there is another movement in a more modern scene?
I dunno, its hard for me to say I hate to be the one to dictate any kind of movement or anything I always feel weird about trying to plant any seeds of that type of thing. I think that everybody is aware of their own little movement that, whatever you like and what you’re into. Are you talking about doing a packaging that type of thing?
More of how back in the day there was so much influence in that movement do you believe that there is something similar going on now?
Who knew that we were going to do what we did and that we are able to do that with anybody giving a shit you know? I guess it really depends, I don’t know.
I was going to ask, did you ever think that you might become one of Metal’s heroes?
Oh god I was happy to be in a band! I lived in a small town and for me to be in a band that was actually worth playing in and actually worth being around people because a lot of times in the year and that would be it for a band. I have a cover band at home and we’ve been together eight years now, it’s hard to find that type of people that are really reliable. So for me to be in a band that existed and that was fun to do and good to be in was a lot! Being in Anthrax, in a band I had never fuckin’ heard before was a hell of a thing! There’s no doubt, nobody knew we were going to do it, even I didn’t. I was kind of reluctant at first too because it wasn’t a style that I thought that I would be joining but I thought that they were quite good and it looked like it had quite the potential. They seemed pretty serious so I just took a shot.
I think it worked out!
We work pretty hard at what we’re doing, everybody is pretty serious! Unfortunately there was a lapse in time when I was gone I don’t know what anybody was looking for to make that change but I think what I have done with the band I think is kind of unique and I’m glad that we’re still doing it you know?
Definitely, moving back into the present what’s 2016 got line up for you guys, after you release the album.
Before it we will head out with Lamb of God in the United States in January and February then we go with Iron Maiden to South America in March. The album will be released before that and then at that point I’m sure that we will come over here for Summer festivals then from there on I’m sure that we could headline or co headline again or go to a different country just start touring again or keep touring should I say!
I was going to say it’s quite a versatile package the Lamb of God tour, you’ve got Deafheaven as well. It’s a very eclectic mix, it’s kind of similar to the tour now with Kvelertak. What’s it been like going on after Kvelertak.
I don’t even think about it! They go on and we’re getting ready so I don’t even pay attention half the time. You get done eating, they go on, we get ready. I don’t know much about the band, they’re cool guys and everything its just that we are so into what we are doing. We know Slayer and how they roll and how we roll and kind of just roll with that! It’s a cool package, theres no doubt! I don’t know what everybody thinks of the package it seems like they’re working really quite well!
As we are kind of nearing the end of the year now, what is a particular high point that you have had this year?
With the band?
I guess the highpoint is to be able to finish the record successfully and actually do a really good job again and making a great record you know. It’s not easy, I literally go in and just bang it out. I don’t know what’s going to happen and neither does the band, when they hear this stuff back they haven’t heard any vocals.
It’s almost as if me handing a song of my own to them. Even though they put the song together but they had never heard any vocals prior to me singing it. They get it like a gift in the mail with me singing on it and if they dig it that’s cool. When you do that and they dig it it’s a great achievement you know? I like that, we have to like it and hopefully you like it! That’s a hell of an achievement.
That’s fantastic so they don’t hear anything at all!
No, I don’t do any preproduction. I’m the only one and I don’t even know what I’m gonna sing when I get in there! We literally a fax comes out of the machine with the paper and I go in headphones on and start banging away. Haul ass on it you know, it’s cool it’s kind of a free for all really to me in a way. It’s kind of a jam, a hard nosed critical jam.
To finish up has there a record over the last six months to a year that you have been listening to?
That I listened to in the last couple of months? Oh I listen to all kinds of shit! I am all over the board. All over the board.
Anything in particular?
Out of the hundred things that I have listened to I dunno! No seriously! My iPad is loaded with just an array of stuff, it could be Sade, Seal, it could be Sevendust it could be Kansas it could be Yes, Rush it could be anything! I got so much stuff I like to listen to.
A bit of Prog on there!
What would be that for me?
Yeah! Yes and Rush?
Yeah I guess so! Those are like to me the old Classic Rock like Kansas all that Deep Purple. I’m into Classic Rock my cover band, we do so much covers of Classic Rock old school stuff, Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd. My mind is always twisting with ideas and it just depends on what mood I’m in you know?
Well thank you ever so much for speaking to The Metalist today.
It’s been a pleasure thank you!
Anthrax’s brand new album For All Kings is set for a February 26th release via Nuclear Blast.