The buzz on Anthrax: an interview with Frank Bello
The buzz on Anthrax: an interview with Frank Bello
Photo by Jimmy Hubbard

2016 is absolutely going to be the year of Anthrax. In addition to celebrating their 35th anniversary this year and releasing their killer new album in February, Anthrax is also doing what they do best - touring tirelessly, so expect these now legendary thrashers to take over the planet this year.

Scheduled to be unleashed unto the world on February 26, Anthrax's forthcoming album, For All Kings, is the follow-up to their highly successful 2011 release, Worship Music. Chock-full of thirteen new songs that push the envelop of what has formerly been the best of Anthrax, this album is loaded with grand hooks and melodies as well as some of the most vigorous thrashing of their career - - - and somehow it all just flows together perfectly. Anthrax has truly outdone themselves with For All Kings, and the music world will soon witness it for themselves.

Having just kicked off a U.S. tour with Lamb of God that will run through the middle of February, Anthrax has got a month of shows with Iron Maiden scheduled in South America this March, and then a slew of festivals and additional tour dates already locked in - and there's sure to be more dates added throughout the year.

Just before the opening night of the tour, Anthrax bassist, Frank Bello, took some time out of his intense schedule to sit down with and talk about the new album, what it was like being both a friend to and a fan of Lemmy Kilmister, and the benefits of yoga for someone who's quite frankly a madman on stage. Before we begin talking about the new Anthrax album, I'd like to ask you about Lemmy in light of his passing. You guys spent a lot of time with Motörhead in 2015 between the European tour and the Motörhead Motorboat Cruise – I'm very sorry for your loss, by the way...

Frank Bello: Thank you. What was it about Lemmy that left the biggest impression on your life?

Frank Bello: The great thing about Lemmy that I found – we toured with them a lot, not only the last year. We have the same management, so we've actually done a lot of touring with Motörhead and there was very much a family-vibe with them. We've gotten close and all that good stuff. But speaking for myself as a bass player, Lemmy was very, very kind in that way where I would watch – and I told this story to a friend of mine the other day – I would watch from the side [of the stage] as a fan-boy would. Just watching because he's Lemmy and a huge influence on all bass players, of course, including myself. From his sound and his tenacity and how he just pushed the bass forward in such a heavy way, and that great sound that he had. And he would just talk to me right after sound-check behind his amps, and just talk bass and I asked him all the things – where he started with the bass and stuff like that. I don't think a lot of people got to see that side of him, but I genuinely enjoyed talking to him. You know, I think people were intimidated about going up to him, but when you got past that point he was a very kind man. A very fun-loving, kind man. You know what I mean, when you can feel a good person? Lemmy was a really good person and you could feel that when you talked to him. And I'll never forget the first time I had an actual conversation with him, I felt that. I was just like, 'man, he's just a good guy.' And aside from being this amazing icon, he'd done so much for our music and just carrying the torch for metal and rock and roll. Hey look, the bottom line is that he started a great rock and roll band. And he'll be missed, he's one of those icons that will be missed forever. He definitely made his mark and a guy like Lemmy is once in a lifetime. Absolutely. So let's talk about the new album, For All Kings - it's an amazing album...

Frank Bello: Wow, thank you Melanie for saying that. You know what it is, I have to be honest because it's're a writer, you get this, when you have something for so long and you want other people to check it out and hopefully they'll like it, right? It's that thing that you feel so passionate about, it's letting go of your baby. And now that the record's in people's hands – oh my god – I have to say this, Melanie, it's very satisfying and it's a relief that people are getting it the way we wanted them to get it. You know what I mean? They're catching on. I just looked at iTunes yesterday – my friend texted me and said 'Dude, you're on iTunes Hot-List for “Breathing Lightning!'” Wow! I mean, Anthrax – Anthrax is on iTunes Hot-List – yes! There's a buzz on Anthrax and I couldn't be more excited. So to hear you say that, thank you first, but number two – it's a really good vibe. On this album you've got the thrashy stuff but then you've got these giant hooks – and it all just fits together really well.

Frank Bello: Thank you. For anybody who's ever liked Anthrax, and maybe the people who haven't caught on to it, the thing about us is that it's always been about the heavy music with the melody on top. It's always been that mixture that people have liked about Anthrax and I think this is a really great representation of that in its finest moment right now. I just think we're in a good place writing and I just think we know what we are, you know what I mean? I think we know what we are, I think we know who we are, and we tapped a really good vein of writing right now and I couldn't be more excited. I have to tell you, I can't wait to play these songs live. That must be difficult – on this tour with Lamb of God you'll only be able to perform the two singles that have officially been released, "Evil Twin" and "Breathing Lightning," but I'm sure you'd like to play several more off of the new album.

Frank Bello: [laughs] You know it's funny. Melanie, let me interview you for a second – you've heard the record and you know our band, so aside from the two songs out now, what do you think? I'm going to ask people, I have to ask this because – what songs do we play live? This is one of the questions – what songs do we play live? And thankfully, I'm all happy to have a lot of songs that we want to play live, but I have to ask questions. What do you do? What would you want to hear? I find it baffling to me, which I guess is a great place to be in, it's definitely going to be tough to pick the songs. Well, because Anthrax audiences love the thrashy stuff, you guys have to do the song “Zero Tolerance,” you have to...

Frank Bello: [laughs again] I like the way you said that, 'you have to.' That's the song for the hard-core thrashers and the kids that want to get in to the pit – that's the song that's going to make them nuts.

Frank Bello: It's also fun as s--t to play! It's awesome to play. So in regards to the writing for this album – Charlie was recovering from surgery and began working on material, so coming into this you guys already had a lot more on the table...

Frank Bello: Totally, and the great thing about it – aside from his injury – but the good thing is that he came up with some great riffs. So with Scott and I, when we came in with our stuff, it was a really nice blend. We just had a lot of good stuff, not a lot of throw-aways from the beginning. So we just got into this really creative flow and it really just started taking off. All these ideas just kept coming in together, a really nice blend of stuff. And like Anthrax stuff the melodies come on top and then the lyrics, and all of a sudden we had a good amount of material and not a lot of throw-aways, I have to say that. And that's the important part, there's got to be the quality stuff because you know when it's good. I think at this point we know when it's going to meet that fire in our belly. If it doesn't you just know, you won't acknowledge it, you'll just be passing it away. But man, to pick the songs on this record, it wasn't easy, but they kind of showed themselves – they made it obvious. I guess those are the ones [where we thought] this has got to be on the record. And then the sequencing – because we like to make an album breathe. And we take a lot of time in sequencing and making sure it's like a roller coaster, and it should bring you on a ride. It's very important because I want that experience. That's the way we grew up and I want our fans to have that experience, I think it's really important.

Frank Bello (continued): And now that we're doing the press for the record, now that people are hearing it and we let it out of our hands now, it's so gratifying to hear that people are digging it the way we wanted it to be, because we dig it the same way. With thirty-something years, there's a buzz on Anthrax now, it's humbling and it's gratifying, and it's crazy – it's a really good vibe. And I think what's really nice about this is that before Worship Music came out there was some question as to if Anthrax would still continue on as a band...

Frank Bello: There was so much stuff going on at one time and it was coming from all ends. And I have to say this, thankfully a lot of people are finding out how crazy that time was. And to see where we are now, it's so weird that that happened, because now it's such a tight-knit band. I think we all know what this is now, and to be in this place that we are right now – totally stoked and putting things in gear for this record and
f--king going for it – maybe we can appreciate it now because of that. From going through all of that nonsense, the legal stuff, all the craziness, and I choose to look at it on the next page which is where we are now. You kind of say, I'm just glad we pulled through that and this album shows it. It's the strength of the band and you brush yourself off, right? You brush yourself off and you move on to the next page. It's like that saying, 'You can't control the things that happen to you but you can control how you deal with them.'

Frank Bello: Exactly! In this day and age, where we live right now, all the craziness that's going on in the world, I think that's a really good phrase. You can't control it, you just have to live. In the last video update that the band released talking about the album, Charlie had mentioned that during the writing process you are the one who's really good at hearing the music and being able to convey how the lyrics should be sung in the song. Is that something that you've always just been good at or is this kind of a new skill of yours?

Frank Bello: Yeah, I've always done it, [but] it just comes a lot easier now. I think it's to the point where the last few records it's more accepted from me to do it, because I've always done it. But it's just been a good run, I'm really comfortable as a song writer. I love melody and I love heavy music, so I love putting those two together. It's a really good thing we have going on right now between Scott, Charlie, and myself – the writing nucleus – I think it's a good combination, what we have. And I think that's why we're at a good place in our music. And I hope it continues just because it's fun. It's fun to hear people listening to the song and getting it, and it's very gratifying and we're having a blast right now. It hasn't been the easiest road but we're all big boys here, and again you've got to brush yourselves off after falling and fight the good fight. So in regards to the other material that got eliminated from going on this album, will any of those songs ever see the light of day?

Frank Bello: You know, I think we have one or two actual songs, but there's a lot of different pieces and chunks of songs that weren't really fully developed, and I think that's what happened. Maybe they'll be revisited later on, maybe not. I'm sure we'll have a bunch more stuff for the next one, just because we're in a good place, but I like that, I like that we had extra stuff. But we knew this was the record. But I like the fact that we had a little extra something-something later on. It's always good to have a starting place, maybe that's the start of the next cycle, right? And we'll see where it goes. It's always nice to have something there. I heard in another interview that you were in an accident not long ago?

Frank Bello: [laughs] I laugh at it because it's so foreign to me, and it's one of the first times I've talked about it in the press. I went to my cousin's wedding in August, my cousin – she's like my sister, it's a very close family I have. And after the wedding I went to the parking lot, as people do, I went out to help my sister-in-law with her GPS because it wasn't working right. I was standing between two cars helping her, setting it up for her, and out of the blue I heard someone scream, “Oh my god, look out!” And the valet lost control of his car and backed it up into the car, so I was sandwiched between two cars. It was an honest mistake, the poor kid didn't know what he was doing. It was an accident, instead of breaking he gunned it with the gas, so he backed the car into the other car, crushing me between them. Thankfully, I have to credit this to yoga, because if I wasn't in half-way decent shape I wouldn't have been able to get out of it before I was really hurt. Only my legs were trapped, and I say that because it could have been a whole lot worse. I was hurt and I had to go to the hospital and all that stuff, but thankfully I got better faster than I thought. I'm really lucky, I'm fortunate. When the cops and [EMTs] saw it they couldn't believe that I was walking to the ambulance. How and when did you get into yoga?

Frank Bello: Well, it was a necessity. We have a pretty action-packed kind of show – we jump around and do all that good stuff and there's a lot of energy going on on the stage. So what I found over the years is that stuff started hurting that didn't hurt before. [laughs] My chiropractor was the one who said, 'you need to start doing yoga to elongate your muscles and make you more limber.' And quite honestly, my regimen I do every day, and I don't think I could do half the stuff I do without yoga. It not only keeps me balanced but it keeps my head in shape, mentally and all that stuff, and it makes my body just work. I just did it, I just came back from yoga. It's a daily thing for me that I have to do. On the road too?

Frank Bello: Yeah, I don't have a choice. Before every show there's a good 45 minutes of yoga stretches. Otherwise everything tightens up really fast. And the way I look at it, I wish I'd known about it earlier. Because it's an absolute thing that I need to do every day, and you know what? It works, it really does. It's something that you can help yourself with that makes you feel better, I'm going to push it on to people and say, 'Look, try it. Just go on YouTube and try a yoga class.' For me it's a no-brainer because it makes me feel better. Yes, it's a little strenuous at first but you get used to it, and the endorphins that it lets go it gets you on a high anyway. I'm totally into it. So you asked me about the songs on the new album, and now I'm going to ask you...I know you love them all, but if you had to pick just one as a “favorite” which would it be?

Frank Bello: God, there's so many crazy things. “Blood Eagle Wings,” how about that? It's a personal thing with me because at the beginning of the song I do a bass thing that I'd never done with Anthrax before so it sounds kind of cool. But also I just think it's an epic sounding song - it’s got a lot of different parts to it. But it's really hard to choose because then I could go right to “Monster At The End.” You can go to a lot of different places on the record depending what kind of mood you're in. Which I guess speaks well for the record because it's got a lot of different Anthrax on it, I think it's got something for everybody. I'm not trying to be the salesman, but I just believe that - as a fan of this music I think it's got a lot of different types of music on it, which is good for a record, I think.

Frank Bello (continued): And it's funny because I've had this record for awhile now, the mixes and all that stuff, and now I'm in the process of learning the coordination of playing and singing my parts. That's what stage I'm in, so I'm revisiting all these parts. You're playing different bass lines, and it's like repetition – that's how I work. I learn how to sing my parts with Joey, I do harmonies and all that good stuff, so learning the coordination is a fun challenge for me.

Bello indicated that he's excited about the tour with Lamb of God because not only are those guys good friends, but he welcomes the challenge of playing for some audience members who might not be familiar with the band - and winning them over as Anthrax fans, of course.

Anthrax will be on tour with Lamb of God through the middle of February and hitting Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, and many other markets. Not only do you need to get yourself to one of these shows, you need to hurry as several have already sold out, and more will surely follow.

The full itinerary is listed below, and click here to purchase tickets for Anthrax's U.S. tour with Lamb of God.

Anthrax on tour with Lamb of God (in progress):

15 Stage AE, Pittsburgh, Pa.
16 Electric Factory, Philadelphia, Pa.
17 The Fillmore, Silver Spring, Md.
19 Tabernacle, Atlanta, Ga.
22 Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Va.
23 Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, N.Y.
24 Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford, Conn.
28 Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, Mich.
29 Egyptian Room at Old National Center, Indianapolis, Ind.
30 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, Ill.
31 Orbit Room, Grand Rapids, Mich.

2 Arvest Bank Theatre at The Midland, Kansas City, Mo.
4 Revention Music Center, Houston, Texas
5 Bomb Factory, Dallas, Texas
6 Concrete Street Pavilion, Corpus Christi, Texas
8 ACL Live at the Moody Theatre, Austin, Texas
9 Diamond Ballroom, Oklahoma City, Okla.
11 Brooklyn Bowl, Las Vegas, Nev.
12 Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, Calif.