Interview conducted March 4 2017
Interview published March 21 2017
"So it's a different
day. Record companies have not caught up yet. They don't know what to
do with this streaming and everything. They don't know. They have no clue."
New York's veteran thrash/heavy
metallers Anthrax are out celebrating the 30 year anniversary of the milestone
record Among The Living and soon after the band's arrival in Stockholm,
Metal Covenant seized the opportunity to talk to bass player Frank
Bello about the current tour, the latest record
For All Kings and the whole situation around today's music scene.
"I never put a limit
on anything in life. Look, why? What am I going to do? Go to some elderly
Tobbe: So you're out on another Among The
Living tour, if I may say so, and how did that idea come into realization
in the first place?
Frank: It came from
Look, we haven't done
a proper headline tour in 10 years. People have been wanting it, and
I understand, I'm a fan, you know, about this metal thing. The problem
has been, and it's a good problem to have, every time we planned a headline
tour another great opportunity came up from another band that is bigger
than us, that had bigger audience than what we can make of Anthrax fans,
so of course you have to do that.
Because at the end of the day you wanna get to
the most people that you can to make them hear your music and that's
what we're here for. So, it's been up to
that and now we finally had this bunk of time and "Okay. This is
the headline tour! What are we gonna put in that headline tour? What
do people wanna see?". There's our promoters, all the managers
and a lot of stuff. "Let's do something special!" and it's
Among The Kings tour.
what you see in the Among The Kings tour is, what I think, two sets.
You have first 50 minutes that's just like classic and even newer songs
from Anthrax and just a really cool, compact set and then you see a
5-10 minute break where the crew sets up the stage and then we come
out and just pound them with Among The Living. The whole record in its
entirety and I tell you, man: This has been a crazy, crazy, packed tour.
This has been fun. People are just feeling good after they leave this
It's a lot of time in the show, but the pay-off,
from what we see, My God, the reviews have been great, people are coming
out in droves, so we couldn't be more happy. It's a great thing. This
is the fourth week. Like, put it this way: This is our fourth in a row;
I need a day off. Tomorrow will be a great day off. I'm just gonna be
in my room and just be disgusting with food. [Laughs] So that's what
I'm gonna do tomorrow, so.
Tobbe: So is Among The Living your most
appreciated record over the years and maybe the record that influenced
Frank: Well, that's the record that broke us,
so this thing is a payback to the fans and to say "Thank you!".
You know, 'cause we currently have For All Kings out and that's doing
really well and a lot of people wanna hear a lot more songs off of that,
which is great to hear. And look, at the end of the day, just a little
over a year ago we came up with For All Kings for people to review it
and a lot of them are coming back and saying that's our best record
There's something really special about that,
and really gratifying, and it makes you wanna do more. It gets you hungry
for more, 'cause we feel like we've hit a really good writing vein within
the band. We're in a good writing place and we have a lot more to say.
So we're looking forward to the future. I tell you: Anthrax is a hungrier
band now than I think it's ever been, like since the early days, because
we taste it now, and it's on the rise, and you feel this, the ground
is swelling, and a lot more people are showing up to the shows, and
record sales. All that good stuff, so it's a really good place to be
Tobbe: So what did your last record, For
All Kings, have to offer for the old school Anthrax fans?
Frank: Good songs. You know, at the end of the
day, you say old school/new school, what the people want, I'm a fan
so I think I would know this just as much as you would know this: "Never
stop being a fan!". What do you want? I want a good song that makes
me feel something and you wanna connect with it. I'm a fan, when the
bands that I love
when Iron Maiden writes a record I want it to
connect with me and that's what they've always done and that's what
I want from Anthrax to do with the other fans.
one of the writers in this band I wanna connect with fans to make them
feel something inside. And that's what's really important, so when they
come to a show we can have this great energy together. 'Cause I don't
think it's about just the band; I think it's about the fans, and the
band, making this one great energy to make a great show. That's what
I think it's always about.
Tobbe: And I think the previous record is
also, like, in the same vein and
Frank: Yeah, Worship Music. A lot of people say
that we have come back with two great records, but I don't think we
were ever gone. It's just I think we're in a really good place and it's
a time of our lives. Metal's in a good place right now. I think it's
vibrant and strong and I think it's a great fanbase that's there and
there's a new fanbase coming up, which is great to see, for the future.
Tobbe: What about the front cover on For
All Kings? Is that delusions of grandeur?
Frank: Well, the way I look at For All Kings
is really about being the king of your own kingdom. It can go with any
walk of life. Being responsible for yourself and being the best you
could be at what you are and what you want in life. Going for it, right?
And going for what you want in life and being the best you can be.
Tobbe: You know, it's been like 5-8 years,
ever since '98, for a new record from Anthrax coming out, so are we looking
at, like, 2021 for the next release?
Frank: I hope it's faster than that. You know,
the crazy thing is with Worship Music we did well over 300 shows and
we're gonna come close to that on this one. But look, again, you know
what the great thing about this is? That people wanna see your band.
And I'm very humbled by all this, I'm very flattered, it's great to
see the world and all that, but don't forget we all have families at
home and you gotta remember you need some family time. But this is a
But it won't be 5 years, 'cause I don't think
anybody wants it to be 5 years, but we're booked until January 
right now and what I'm hearing they're gonna start booking January too.
Then we'll start getting the edge. You know, to start and maybe putting
some stuff together.
Tobbe: When you guys started out, the competition
in music wasn't as big as it is now, so what does a band like Anthrax
do to attract younger people and not only the old fans?
Frank: The thing is: We did this Big 4 tour,
with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, and that brought a lot of younger
fanbase. Metallica is the biggest band in the world, arguably. I think
they're the biggest band in the world and they were great enough and
gracious enough to bring the other bands that we grew up with. Look,
we all grew up together, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, so it
was nice to celebrate this thrash movement.
think that brought a big chunk of younger fans in, with a different
fanbase that had maybe heard of Anthrax, but never saw them. Then when
they saw them they became our fans, which is great. So what happened
was you see anywhere a demographic now from maybe 12 years old to 60
in our audience. And everybody is welcome. We love everybody coming
in and just having a great time and getting what you want out of it.
So I see that happening now, man. That's caught on and we're having
a really great time with it. It's fun seeing what's going on right now.
Tobbe: Regarding Metallica. It was a sad
moment after you played in Stockholm 1986 with them and Cliff Burton.
Frank: Well, of course. I mean, we were just
talking about that and it was a very, very sad time. We were very close
with Cliff, and obviously Metallica. So you try to move on, and rest
his soul. Cliff will never be forgotten. He's one of us, he's part of
the family and I always think "What would he be doing now?"
and I think he's making great music in heaven. That's the way I look
at it. Makes me feel better.
Tobbe: So if you look at today's record
sales numbers, which words out of these 3: sadness, disappointment, anger
is most suitable for you?
Frank: Reality. Another one is reality. Look
at the music business and what is the music business now, really? [The
interview is taking place at the Spotify office in Stockholm and we
both look at the walls and the ceiling before Frank continues.]
Yeah, Spotify. I have Spotify and I listen to different bands now and
I listen to different musics. If a Spotify song can make you go out
to buy the record, I use that. I think it's a great thing. If you hear
it once, you're trying it through Spotify and it can make you go buy
an Anthrax record, then I'm all good with it. So it's a different day.
Record companies have not caught up yet. They
don't know what to do with this streaming and everything. They don't
know. They have no clue. They're still back and that's why they all
went out of business and they still try to catch up and it hasn't even
come close to it yet. But this is a part of it. At least people are
hearing music with Spotify and hopefully it makes them buy a record
and I think that's really important, so.
Tobbe: It's hard to know, but if you talk
to your younger fans, like kids 15 years old or something, do they actually
buy the physical product still or is it only Spotify?
Frank: It's interesting because I think there's
a movement now. Look, you can just go to Spotify or iTunes and listen
to songs and stuff like that, but I find that people want physical.
I'm seeing it more and more. Maybe they see from their big brothers
and fathers and stuff like that? Having a physical item like this album
I mean, there's a vinyl resurgence now, which is awesome. I used to
love the experience of opening a record. I remember I got Iron Maiden
- Killers. I remember opening that and I couldn't wait to open it. "Man,
this is gonna sound great. It's gotta sound great! 'Cause look at this
whole experience when I put it on and what that meant when the album
came out so great. That was my joy. Think about this fucking great album
cover. The next thing is I wanna go see this band, you know. I mean,
I remember Kiss - Alive, I did that. That was a great experience of
opening a record. And the whole time. Putting it on the turntable, the
needle, and listening. It was just a great experience. That was my time.
I loved it.
Tobbe: And you didn't have the competition
back then from, like, cell phones and great video games and stuff, so.
Frank: Yeah, yeah. Well, again, you gotta remember
that also. There's a lot more distractions out there. Look, let's face
it. Music, to me it's important, but not to kids as video games and
stuff like that. There's a lot more distractions out there, so it's
got more competition now music. Look, music will always be here and
thank God for it, but there's a lot of more distractions.
Tobbe: You were active long, long before
the internet age arrived, so if you compare today to back then, was it
easier to run a band in the 80's, even if technology has helped you later
Frank: It wasn't easy. I don't think anything
is easy. Look, at the end of the day nobody ever handed us a gold record,
you know what I mean? We had to work very hard. I remember the days
of the van tours. Living on $5 a day. No money and playing to a small
amount of people in a club. Again, hard work. You want hard work to
pay off. I don't think that's ever been more true with music, and especially
Yes, the technology is there, but still, it's
so much harder now for young bands to get started. I feel bad for them.
It's so hard to get started. Yes, you have the technology and you can
put it on the web, but what does that mean? It's so much harder to get
the actual people to listen 'cause it's so much competition, you know.
Tobbe: You know, Charlie [Benante, drums]
has started a business around coffee and several other metal musicians
all around the world start up different movements to get a living, so
is the time almost over for a metal musician to solely live off his music?
Frank: Well, I think you gotta be creative.
Look, that's why we are on the road so much more. At the end of the
day, in general, for every band, album sales aren't there the way they
used to be, so you have to make income other ways. So I understand people
going out to businesses and stuff. We stay on the road a lot longer
than we'd like to, but it is what it is, and look, the bottom line is:
people are coming to the shows, they're asking you to play, you go play
them! But yeah, it's not as easy as it used to be. Again, we're all
big boys, you know. We are all big boys and we have to go with reality
and this is the hand we've been dealt.
When you were young, musicians and the fans were very much more separated
then they are now and a lot of things are now out in the public too, so
is it stressful not being able to concentrate on the music to a hundred
percent and instead also have to set time aside for social media and stuff?
Frank: The music is always first 'cause without
the music the rest is all garbage. Social media is a way to get your
music out. It's a way to make people know that the new music that you
created is coming out. So I think it's a very important tool, in this
day, that we never had before. And it is what it is. You can use it
for what you want. That's the cool thing about social media. You can
use it for how you wanna use it. You know, it's still free, which is
cool. Still, we'll see.
Tobbe: Do you have people in your family,
or friends, who don't care much about music and can tell you about this
whole situation from another viewpoint?
Frank: Yeah, of course. Well, I mean, my family,
you gotta realize, 35 years with Anthrax; they've grown up into this.
We've all grown up into this band thing. Anthrax is definitely a family
member. Look, like in every walk of life, we all have it, in everybody's
job you have peaks, you have valleys, peaks, and valleys. Look, again,
I always go back to this: I'm a New York guy, I deal with reality all
the time, I'm a big boy, I wipe it off my shoulder, you know. We've
had our dips. Anthrax has had our hard times. Now we're on the upswing
again. It's really great to see. But there'll be more dips, but that's
I don't think because you're in a band it's anything
different. Bands go up and down. That's the way it is. We are persistent.
The thing I've loved about Anthrax, maybe it's a New York thing, we've
always been persistent and just: Never say die! And I think that message
goes out to a lot of people that like us and say "Never!".
You know, you gotta wipe yourself off and get on the bike again.
Tobbe: A lot of bands from America, like
Anthrax and Testament, like you said, in the last 10 years, are on the
way up again.
Frank: Thankfully. Look, it's been a great resurgence.
Again, you feel peaks and valleys, but it's one constant thing and it's
just that it's a time in our life. That's it. I ride the wave. I know
we're putting our best music out. A lot of people have told us we're
putting our best music out, 35 years in. I'm very flattered by that.
So to do a thing, like we're doing Among The Kings tour for our fans,
is very special to me to, like, give back to them and say "This
is for you. Let's all have a good time. A lot of different songs.".
I think it's a great idea.
Do you get inspired by touring with a younger band like The Raven Age?
They could be your sons actually.
Frank: Yeah. Absolutely. And George Harris is
Steve's son. And yeah, look, they're a great band. I only wanna help
young bands. This is a great shot for a young band. Steve Harris and
Iron Maiden have been great to Anthrax, so what I see this is "Why
not? Why not make our fans see a young and upcoming band who I wanna
see do well?". It's not just about that Steve asked us, but I think
it's a nice thing to see for our fans. Originally this was gonna be
"An evening with Anthrax.", but we thought this would be a
great idea to get them on here. And they're doing well, which is great.
You'll see tonight. They're doing well on tour, so. I want them to do
well. I'm pulling for them.
Tobbe: The musical climate is so much different
to when you were young, so what can you teach those guys in a live environment?
Frank: It's just "When it gets tough, the
tough get going!", really. It's that old line, because this business
is not easy. The one thing they're learning is you have to play, and
play, and play, and play. It's really about getting in front of people
and making people know. They have a record coming out [Darkness Will
Rise, March 17th.], so it's very important to just get in front of as
many people as you can. The same way we did and the same way Iron Maiden
Really, it's that same thing and they're learning
the ropes. So that's what you teach them. And if you don't have a great
show; look, wipe it off and move on to the next show. You have another
show tomorrow; go for it, you know. Tomorrow's show will be a great
show, so you don't think the negative. Just keep going. Forward motion.
Tobbe: If we're not talking money, what
has the touring life still to offer for guys like Anthrax?
Frank: The feeling. Taking a step on that stage
is the ultimate drug. I'll be really honest, I don't do drugs, but
no drug can do that feeling. It can make you have that feeling at the
first step on the stage. Your connection with the fans, that's the God's
honest truth, is why I still can do this, with certainty tonight, that
I'm excited for tonight's show.
Because all the rest of this, look, the whole
traveling, we had a 9-10 hour drive here, you know, and you get up,
off the bus, you brush your teeth, you get ready, come here to Spotify
for 3 hours doing this stuff and talk to people and all I'm looking
forward to is that hour and a half, I think we play almost two hours,
on that stage tonight. And that's the magic, man. That's the magic.
[The show went on for 2 hours and 20 minutes including a 15 minute
break in preparation for the Among The Living set.]
So you have that same kind of feeling for the whole two hours?
Frank: Always. Fuck yeah! Look, you need a breath
once in a while, but the energy of an Anthrax show with the audience
is just incredible. It's the ultimate drug and I look forward to it
every night. And even if you're feeling like shit, 'cause we're all
human, and if you have a cold, blah blah blah, you know what? The adrenaline
from that show just carries over. It's the best medicine, man. Even
though I look tired now, 'cause this is our fourth in a row, you'll
see! I'm not even worried about it. It's like an electric shock, man.
"Let's go!". I look forward to it.
Tobbe: And you personally are the guy with
the highest energy on stage. Absolutely.
Frank: Well, thanks. I love what I do and I'm
very thankful. I have a good time and I'm very fortunate. I'm very humbled
that I'm allowed to do this. I know how lucky I am to do this. I want
people to have a good time. That's my job. It's make people have a good
time at this show. Forget about your problem for two hours with Anthrax
and just have a good time. That's what this is about.
Tobbe: So, strange question. If Joey [Belladonna,
vocals] hypothetically would part ways with the band again, is it even
possible to continue with another singer once again?
Frank: I'd rather not. This is Anthrax. I can't
even think that way. It's just so tight now. The band is closer now
than it's ever been. It's crazy to say that after all these years. We've
learned a lot and we get along really well and, look, at the end of
the day we see each other more than our family. So, this is a family
and people have, you know, bumps and grinds sometimes, but who gives
a shit about it? That's all small potatoes. Live your life! We're enjoying
it, we're very lucky to be here and let's just have some great shows.
Tobbe: So for how many years to come will
we see Anthrax tour and continue making records?
Frank: I never put a limit on anything in life.
Look, why? What am I going to do? Go to some elderly home? I wanna have
a good time. The way I look at it, Anthrax is just starting up now.
So, I'm just having a good time.
Tobbe: Soon 50 years of Anthrax?
Frank: Oh, no problem with me. I'm ready. I'll