Interview: Anthrax's Frank Bello and a 30-year 'State Of Euphoria'

Saying that a band is still going strong after 37 years sounds cliche, but in the case of thrash masters, Anthrax, it couldn't be truer. From over 10 million records sold to countless tours to being the first metal band played on the planet Mars - Anthrax has done pretty much everything, and what they haven't gotten to yet is still on the agenda. Although just on a short break from touring with Slayer for their farewell tour, Anthrax is not only able to celebrate some of their own histories with the forthcoming 2-CD deluxe reissue of their fourth studio album, State of Euphoria, in honor of that album's 30th anniversary. But they're also looking ahead to the future of the band with work on the next Anthrax album commencing shortly after the new year.

AXS recently had the opportunity to catch up with Anthrax bassist Frank Bello and chat about balancing the touring band life with raising a family, 30 years since State of Euphoria, and how you should always remember where you came from. 

AXS: Since the 2016 release of For All Kings you guys have just been going and going from one tour to the next, and now on the Slayer Farewell tour. For Anthrax fans it’s amazing but I bet you guys are tired?

Frank Bello: Yeah, and Melanie, honestly, it’s been a long run. You and I talked when the album first came out and now we’re going on our third year for one record - which I find incredible. But look, I know how fortunate we are and you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, all that good stuff, but let’s face it - we all have families. I know how lucky I am to make a living from making music but at the same time, it's been a bit of a struggle. When I got home after the summer tour - Melanie, I’m not even joking - my kid grew almost an inch. I noticed he’s almost eye to eye with me and that’s how you really know you’ve been touring a lot and that’s what rips your heart out a bit. But like The Godfather movie, ‘this is the business that we’ve chosen.’  So you’ve got to balance it out. And this year our plan was to write a new Anthrax record but then Slayer called up and said we’re doing this tour - we didn’t know it was a farewell tour - but a big tour, and so you have to do it. You go on the road again and keep going like you said, and this has been great. And now we’re going to Europe and most of those shows are going to be sold out, but you have to do it - that’s the bottom line.

AXS: Sure, and with Slayer, everyone hates to see the end but Tom [Araya] has been saying for some time now that he’s tired of touring and wants to be home with his family. And you can’t begrudge someone for that.

FB: I totally understand it. We’re all tight friends - me, Kerry [King], Tom, but we’ve been talking for years about this stuff. But then when people hear that they start asking, ‘What about you guys?’ But I’m telling you right now, with the last records from Anthrax there’s an energy within the band - and I have to say this - straight out hunger - I think we’ve hit a good point of writing and we’re so f**king excited about what’s going to come out next musically. It’s a great place to be so as far as Anthrax goes I feel like we’re just getting started. We’re going to start writing the record in January and I just can’t wait to see what we come up with. We’re going for it and I think it’s going to be a heavier record than we’ve done. Just as a metal fan I want to see where we go.

AXS: Good! We don’t want you guys to go anywhere anytime soon!

FB: [Laughs] Well, I hope we can stick around, we’d like to. Hopefully, the fans will be receptive to it and our fan base is growing, which is wonderful, you don’t expect that after all these records and all these years. 

AXS: So you guys are releasing a deluxe edition of State of Euphoria to celebrate its release 30 years ago. Does it feel like that long ago?

FB: No, the way I look at life now, Melanie, it’s so quick now. You realize how fast life really is. I remember playing in the studio with that record, I remember when we were writing that record, but it doesn’t feel like 30 years it feels like it was yesterday. And to be honest, we play some of those songs live still and it’s still relevant. I can’t tell you the amount of people who come up to us when we’re on tour - on a daily basis - about playing different songs off the record. 

AXS: With working on the reissue and kind of refreshing your memory of it all, have you learned anything new or remembered anything from that time?

FB: Yeah, it’s nice to look back - we’ve been so focused on the future but going back it kind of reminds you of all the things you went through to get to where we are. And still going, still trying to get to that place where we need to be. That hunger, that drive that you remember when you go back to a record like this, wow, it was a great time - big stages, all that good stuff. And I’m not kissing up here but Anthrax fans really care, they really dig in, and that album has staying power. I’m really proud and humbled by it. All you can do is do better and do something that turns you on, gets you crazy, gets that fire in your gut for the next record. It inspires you to do better. You want to get that greatest riff and keep fighting for that riff.

AXS: And one of the best parts about reissuing a 30-year-old album is being able to bring it up to speed in regards to audio quality.

FB: Yes, there are so many things you can do now just to make the sound quality better, I’m glad we did it. And you know our drummer, Charlie [Benante] who’s a great artist in his own right, he has such great ideas for the inner parts of the record always making sure that the fans get something out of it. I really appreciate that as a band member. We grew up on KISS and we always want to do extra for the fans because we’re fans. So the packaging is very important and I’ve always appreciated the way he does that.  

AXS: With all these shows and then the album to write, how do you process that kind of a schedule?

FB: It’s all about the show, the show, the show, and we have to realize how lucky, a lot of people would love to be doing what we’re doing. And I know how fortunate I am that we have a six-week tour with Slayer coming up, and we’re making a living, thank god. Nobody’s rich here, we’re a blue-collar band, but we’re making a living. Yes, six weeks away from our families, but you know what? We also have to eat. [laughs] This tour is really special for the fans, it’s a really good package, and all our friends are on it. It’s a really good hang. So you just go with the flow, and January is coming up where we start working on the next album. And we’re being booked for 2019 so doing some shows in the middle of writing the album will really help the flow.

AXS: And how about your side project with Megadeth's David Ellefson?

FB: Yeah, our project Altitudes & Attitude has a new record coming out on January 18th. So we’re pretty excited about that - a straight up rock record, and we’ll be doing shows for that too.

AXS: So what would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned in life?

FB: Honestly, never forget where you came from - it keeps you grounded and makes it easier to deal with the highs and lows in life. And if you’re healthy you have everything, and that’s the truth. That sounds like an old term, I heard that from my grandmother - god rest her soul - but if you’re healthy you’re winning already. My thing is health means happiness.

Anthrax on tour:

Nov. 1 - Dublin 3 Arena, Ireland
Nov. 3 - London SSE Arena Wembley, UK - Grab tickets here
Nov. 5 - Cardiff Motorpoint Arena, UK
Nov. 7 - Birmingham Arena, UK
Nov. 9 - Manchester Arena, UK
Nov. 10 - Newcastle Metro Radio Arena, UK
Nov. 12 - Glasgow SSE Hydro, UK
Nov. 14 - Dortmund Westfalenhalle, Germany
Nov. 15 - Zwolle Ijsselhallen, Netherlands
Nov. 17 - Madrid Vistalegre, Spain
Nov. 18 - Barcelona St Jordi, Spain
Nov. 20 - Milan Mediolanum Forum, Italy
Nov. 21 - Zurich Halle 622, Switzerland
Nov. 23 - Vienna Stadthalle, Austria
Nov. 24 - Freiburg Sick Arena, Germany
Nov. 26 - Hamburg Barclaycard Arena, Germany
Nov. 27 - Lodz Atlas Arena, Poland
Nov. 27 - Munich Olympiahalle, Germany
Nov. 30 - Erfurt Messehalle, Germany
Dec. 2 - Berlin Mercedes-Benz Arena, Germany
Dec. 3 - Copenhagen Royal Arena, Denmark
Dec. 5 - Stockholm Hovet, Sweden
Dec. 6 - Oslo Spektrum, Norway
Dec. 8 - Helsinki Ice Hall, Finland