Frank Bello is the powerhouse bassist of thrash metal masters Anthrax. With his high-energy onstage personality and sheer musical ferocity, Frank and Anthrax continue to revolutionize the world of metal with smoldering rhythms, infectious melodies, and unbridled passion into spectacular songs. For the band's 35th anniversary in 2016 Anthrax released one of the most-anticipated metal/thrash albums, For All Kings, which debuted at #1 on Billboard's Hard Rock Chart. A card-carrying member of The “Big Four’ along with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth , Anthrax defined the speed/thrash metal genre and were presented by the Epiphone/Revolver Music Awards the very first "Innovator Award" acknowledging the band's impact on music. Friday AXS spoke with Bello about the band’s upcoming DVD and round two of Anthrax’s tour with Killswitch Engage.
AXS: April 27, 2018 Anthrax will release the band's long-awaited live-in-concert DVD, "Kings Among Scotland." It is a two-part DVD, what will fans discover on it?
Frank Bello: The cool thing about this is it is almost two shows in one. There is the best of Anthrax and then you have the whole Among The Living record. I know I am in the band, but I am a music fan and I have to tell you that while we were editing this you could feel the energy from the music and the crowd through the DVD. I watched the whole thing through and it was like being right there at the show. I called everyone that was involved and told them they did such a great job. I am very proud to put this out. For any Anthrax fan or even for people who have never checked out Anthrax, this is the show to see. We have always been a pretty lively bunch on stage and the music is fun. It is the music and the crowd that drives us. We don’t do drugs in Anthrax, the energy during a show is our drug.
("Kings Among Scotland" is now available for pre-order, log on to anthrax.com for all purchasing information)
AXS: You, Charlie Benante, and Scott Ian have quite the chemistry when it comes writing songs and I understand you write the melodies. How did you fall into that roll and has it always been that way?
F.B.: That really kicked in around the time of Worship Music. I have always thrown stuff in, but when we got back with Joey I really got into it. Charlie, Scott and I have been together for ever and we have written a million songs for the Anthrax catalog. Melodies are just something that comes to me. I write most of them, I don’t write all. It really is a collaborative effort and it can get stressful at times, but I think that adds to the intensity of the songs. It definitely gets intense sometimes but it is all good for the music. After all these years of doing this I really think we are in a good place when it comes to writing.
AXS: Your 2016 release For All Kings was the first Anthrax album since 1990's Persistence of Time where the melodies were written specifically for Joey Belladonna’s voice. How was composing for Joey different than John Bush?
F.B.: Well there are a couple different things. First off it has got to be a good enough for a song. With Joey it is a different kind of vocals, it is a different kind of voice. They both have great voices, but Joey has a different kind of range we can touch on. For me it seems to comes easy, then you hear the riff and it is just married to it. It is so much fun to know we can do anything we want with Anthrax vocally. We have always been open to anything and it is always about the song.
AXS: Every guitar player brings their own special something to a band. Can you tell us about Jonathan Donais style?
F.B.: Let me just say one thing most people don’t know, our drummer Charlie Benante writes a bunch of guitar riffs, both he and Scott. But Jon Donais comes in with these great leads which just freak me out. When I heard some of the stuff he came up with on the last record I was blown away. I always knew Jon was a great player but he added a new element to the band. We have always been fortunate to have incredible musicians in Anthrax and he is a great cherry on top of what we are creating now.
AXS: A few years ago you joined forces with Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson for your side project Altitudes & Attitude. Any plans to revisit this collaboration?
F.B.: Thank you for that question. Yes. Dave and I have done a lot of bass clinics together, we work with Hartke bass amps. There was a lot of down time sitting around backstage. Dave comes up to me and said we have all this time at these clinics why don’t we start writing some songs. It was as easy as that and we began writing some songs. I took on the vocals and played rhythm guitar, he played bass and we had Jeff Friedl from A Perfect Circle play drums. People were really diggin’ it and it got great traction on the radio. People wanted more, we only put out a three song EP. But with both Dave and I being involved with our own bands we are on the road nonstop. We finally got together this past year and during our down time we put together a full-length record. It is due out this year sometime around September or October.
AXS: We will have to revisit you at that time to talk about your solo project.
F.B.: Please do! It is hard rock, it is not metal. It is hard rock with a melody. We are having a lot of fun with it and people are enjoying it.
AXS: How did you like switching things up by tackling the vocals and guitar for that project?
F:B: With Anthrax I do so many backing vocals to Joey it is not even a thought. I sing at home too. I live in NY and I go out to open mike nights. I will walk in with an acoustic guitar and sign up just like everybody else. I just want to test my songs out. It is so much fun to do and I love when I run into Anthrax fans. They are like what are you doing here! Because it is unannounced, it is not Anthrax, it is stuff that I am working on.
AXS: You are quite the Renaissance man, you act as well. Is that something you have always been interested in and how did you get into it?
F.B.: I have been studying acting for 20 years. Being from NYC, when Anthrax is off tour I would jump into an acting class or play in the city and do it for as long as I had off. For me acting and writing songs are the same. You are creating a character and you become that character on stage. The best part is performing on stage. I love performing.