Joey Belladonna, 2006

 

Written & Photos by: Jason Perlman

 

For years now, Anthrax has been a huge influence on metal bands, and although you have toured Europe with some of your peers such as Judas Priest, you headed back to the states and this headlining tour has some of those up-and-comers who are influenced by your music. Do you find it at all odd to be like the father figure or the idol so to speak?
Joey Belladonna: Well, I don't ever really look at it that way. To be honest, I just don't think about that. But if that's true and they dig what we have done, I think that is cool and would love to know that we did something for someone; whether we made someone happy, encouraged them or just pleased them in any way. But throughout the course of the day, I don't think of Anthrax that way. I just think about the show, where are we playing and how good can we be tonight. But as each day goes on, you start to meet the people you are touring with and think, "Hey, these are some cool guys." So I never really think about the influence aspect, but if that is the case, then it really is an awesome thing. But on the other hand, they may not like me but I won't ever know that, either. Who know? I just have to focus on the band and the show every night. But if it's true, it is a great thing.

Anthrax has been around a while, you toured with Belladonna for a while, so you have played the same cities and same clubs numerous times. What is it like now, for you, to be traveling the same circuit for so many years?
JB: Yea, it's weird. Anthrax has played here several time, I played with Motorhead here before. Sometimes you walk in a club and are like, "Is this the place?" Then you will see something that sparks that memory, and you know you have been there before. Tonight, I remember that spiral staircase that leads backstage. But it just boils down to you have to have places to stop and play, and there are only so many places. So it's great that there are places that supported us and this kind of music for so many years. I mean you have the club here, the Al Rosa Villa, where "Dimebag" (Darrell Abbott) was shot. So that may be one place you won't see on the list anymore. And it's too bad it has been taking off the list for bands, because that one guy, that one asshole, is gone now, but there is that aura now and no one will want to play there. I had a friend there, upfront no less, and was lucky to get out in time. It was a sad thing that should never, ever have happened.

Now that you are visiting these venues for the who-know-how-many time, are you surprised that you have been able to continue this trek in music for so long? Whether it is with Anthrax or with the solo project?
JB: Well, I have been a musician long before I met Anthrax, that's all I did. So for me to be in this band, I didn't know what they had or what we together had to offer as I joined. I knew they were great, I knew we had potential, but the music was as bit different and I didn't know what we had to offer to the public. I thought we had a good chance, a fighting chance, but you just didn't know. When things started to get going, and songs started coming together for the album, I thought we could do something special together, which we did. But there is no way you can know, no way. But I personally would have continued no matter what, and if I didn't get as far was we have, I wouldn't have been disappointed, because most of the time it is about the music, and getting out there and cranking the amps even if its just in front of a few people. So as long as I get to do that and get into it, I feel like I am doing what I need to do.

Although Aerosmith and Run-D.M.C seem to get the hype of brining rap and rock music together, so many seem to forget about a little ditty by Anthrax and Public Enemy called I'm the Man. How did that experience affect you personally as a musician and performer, to be able to delve into a whole different genre and world?
JB: It stuck a whole new chord in everybody's genre and opened a bunch of new doors for each band. It gave us an opportunity to work with those guys, and at first Chuck D wasn't sure. As I remember, Scott (Ian) called him and at first Chuck wasn't sure whether to do it or not, but he decided to do it. And they loved it and learned a lot and we learned a lot. Aside from taking credit or anything like that, it really was just a great collaboration.

Whether it was a video on Headbangers Ball or even seeing the band live, there was always this happy energy that came along with the band. The band always seemed to be having a great time and then fans had to deal with your departure. Was the band really that carefree or was some of that a show to cover up other feelings?
JB: Well, we are like that now. We are as happy and good-natured as I ever remember the band being. In fact we may be nicer now because everyone has been through this, we are more business savvy then we were. We understand the day-to-day events and we are real conscious as to what is going on around us. I think maybe versus the band Anthrax had without me, with me the band may be a little wittier then they were, even though I don't know too much about what they did without me in the band. A lot of times people thought we were always goofing around, but we are serious players. We are really, really serious about what we do, and in fact sometimes quite serious. So sometimes when someone wants to goof around, we have to let them know its time to get down to business. But of course, we do have fun. I got to have fun. This is not a job where you punch in, even though sure, everyday we have a schedule and a place to be and a contract to do things, but you gotta have fun, or what's the point?

As I was waiting for this interview, I was talking with security and one guy was like, "I got a list of songs I hope they play." Now you are touring again with the line-up everyone wants to see, was it hard to put together a set list that can please the fans in 90 minutes? There is no new music to promote, so everyone wants to here their version of Anthrax's greatest hits.
JB: Sure, that is probably the case, but I really do think we hit a good portion of everything in this set list, or it's at least what we think we should be playing. We're digging deep, but of course we don't hit everything, we just don't have enough time. But at the same time, it is totally great to have the roster of music we have. There is nothing like have a roster to fill two hours. But it's fast and aggressive and after a while, can get hard to play. It's wild shit and there is a ton of shit going on in each and every song.

That is a lot of energy to keep up, not to mention we aren't spring chickens anymore!
JB: I know, and last night was so hot. It was just so stuffed in that club. You couldn't even breathe man, but it was so great at the same time. That is the way it should be.

I eavesdropped a bit on the last interview and heard you say you think the next progression for the band is to write some new music. How much has been discussed versus how much is just a feeling that writing new music would be the next logical step?
JB: Well, as a band I think we needed to go through some steps first. We had to go live, but we have to get in a room where everyone was cordial with each other. But we had to go live, we had to kick ass live, and we had to have people wanting to see us live. On top of that, everyone in the band needed to be comfortable together as a band again. We have done over 80 shows. We are getting great response, but we are so busy that we haven't had time to think about writing new music. But it does seem like the next move to make. I mean, how cool would it be? Because it seems like now, everyone we talk to wants to know what Anthrax is going to do, wanting do know if we are going to do this for real. It would be really cool to do. Personally, I love having a record that was new that people could get. I love a band's new record. I mean, when I like a band I don't want to listen to the same thing over and over, I love when there is new music to hear. But ultimately, we have to get in a room. I hope we don't take too long.

When you were contacted to get back together with Anthrax, how deeply did you believe it was going to happen versus how much did you just think it would be a meeting or two and you would be back to doing what you were doing?
JB: Deep down, I thought there was a chance. I didn't know how or exactly when, but I think it was just a matter of time. But you know what, they could have been totally content with the way everything was and never, ever looked back. And that may have happened, and I understood that may happen, but I think we are really good together. I don't know what happened enough that turned it around, whether they were really looking to do something different vocally or what. But in the end, what can you do? If someone wants to drive a different car, they are going to do it. I don't know if that makes any sense, but they wanted something different and it was time to move on and it was cool. But I thought we had a good system going and I think we can still pick that back up. There was no animosity, like I did such wrong things to these guys that they could never look at me again. I am not that kind of person to do any of that shit.

Even with all that, as an artist, how cool was it do be able to have a project that allowed you to control what you wanted to control when you formed Belladonna?
JB: It was awesome. There is nothing like taking the reigns. When writing a song, if I wanted to sound like this, or say this or just play with this guy, you can just do what you want. There was no looking over your shoulder asking, "Are you guys alright with that?" Because with Anthrax, there is a lot of checking in with each other. Even if I really like something, they will be like, "Nope, it ain't gonna happen." I didn't have to go on my own, it wasn't like, "He left the band to go solo." It wasn't anything like that. We just called it Belladonna because I hated to think of a new name.

When you think of making new music with Anthrax, do you have any ideas in your head of what it may sound like, or have ideas you want to bring to the table?
JB: It's going to happen only because it is going to come out naturally. You can't hammer it on the wall, you really can't. It is just crazy to do it that way. We are just going to sit in a room people will be like, "I just came up with the cool verse, check it out." Or, "How about this riff." Then someone will do something on top of that and next thing you know the beat is kicking in all of a sudden you have this cool tune. You don't know it's going to happen, you really don't. I know when I write I just write and most of the time am like, "Wow, I didn't know it was going to come out like that." But then we all are like; maybe it will sound better this way, so we change it. You just don't know.