Anthrax: Joey Belladonna: Sometimes You Can Go Home Again
Another person thrilled about the regrouping is Belladonna himself. In an interview with UnRated Magazine, Sass asked Belladonna, the sweet and laid-back musical legend, if he was tired yet of talking about the reunion, Belladonna replied in earnest, "If I felt that way then I'm in the wrong business."
"Charlie [Benante] suggested that maybe we should do something as a group. And it's the 20-year anniversary now. And - why not, you know? If we wait too long we'll never do it. And it sounded great to me; I was just waiting for the day for them to come around because it wasn't going to come from me. No way – they wouldn't have done it unless they wanted to," he explains.
And the excitement spread like wildfire. "Even when we put the shows on sale and no one knew what to expect, and we weren't even fully on board. I saw the shows going up and I thought, 'God, I hope we can pull this thing off,'" chuckles Belladonna.
But he recalls being a little bit baffled back when he was asked to leave the band, "Well, management called me and at that point I was like, 'Ok, this is interesting.' I didn't really think we had anything bad going, but if they want to make a change or move on to the new trend from that point on, I just said to myself, 'Just get cracking and do what you've got to do. Enjoy yourself and write some music, and go down that path.' Now I've been doing that for a little while and it's been a lot of fun. There have been some dead moments because I stopped, shopped around, sometimes I'd sit around and wait. And then the Internet thing kind of popped in my head – why not release something and put it on there and you can do it when you want? Like today, if I release something I could pop it right up – there you go. I don't have to call someone and go, 'Do you like it?' 'When can we release it?' 'Am I going to get this, this, and that?' I've been busy writing and I like playing out so I'll do about 40 shows or so a year and get cracking."
And then the suggestion of the reunion made it's way to Belladonna. "Management came up to me with it first. Charlie called management and then management called me and asked me if I wanted to take part in it, and I said 'of course.' So basically after we found out what everyone else was going to be doing it just looked like it was going to happen. No one had a problem with it and everyone was really stoked to do it. And I think musicianship-wise, we're up to snuff. It's not like, 'Dude, I haven't done it in 20 years!'"
As everyone knows, as we grow older the years go by so quickly. Sass asked Belladonna if he could believe that two decades had passed since the formation of Anthrax. "Twenty years, and 13 years since I've been out of the band – it's really amazing. I forgot about that because there's so much that's been done, even just everybody's everyday life situations."
However the re-induction of Belladonna has created the question regarding most recent Anthrax vocalist, John Bush's status with the band. Belladonna insists that he doesn't know either. "When someone asks me what's going on with John [Bush] and when they toured and when they recorded – I couldn't ever answer that. I wasn't there. Why isn't he here? I don't know. It's weird – maybe in time I'll find out a little bit more just through conversation."
So what kind of feelings were surging through Belladonna as the band was just about to embark on their reunion tour? "I'm not nervous like wondering if I can do it, but it's kind of nerves like everyone's going to be looking at each other like 'Ok, what's this going to be like?' I think everybody's feeling good and positive about it, but I think the curiousness of it all is where it becomes a real wonder. And of course, they're going to be taken aback by it because they're not used to doing it with the people who are going to be there. And where I've got to do everything on my own, I've been playing drums and singing right now – I've done it for the last year, and all of a sudden – BANG! I'm going to be up front, two guitars blasting, everybody just kicking it. So it's going to be really, really interesting."
When asked if he thinks the now-current lineup will record together after this tour is over, Belladonna doesn't rule out the possibility. "We're open to everything. I think it's really going to depend on how we view everything. If everybody's comfortable – but again, here I'm on the outside. Do Scott [Ian] and Charlie have like a book on their desk that says, 'At this time we're going to eject…' I mean, I don't know, I don't have any timeframe. People ask me about my thing and I say, 'You know what? I don't really think about that right now.' When I do stuff, I do it to keep busy and I like music and I like to sing and all that stuff. And whether I'm big or small doesn't matter so much to me. Like with those guys if they have something going, maybe they do or they don't – I don't know. They're up and running, they've got the name 'Anthrax' and they've got the machine behind them. I'm looking forward to having all the wheels and the wings moving – I hope we have just a great time and that it's smooth. This is a well run machine, the spirit's high – get it done, do it right."
As far as the material is concerned, Belladonna states: "I'm not worried about doing anything that I know. If I don't know it, that's trouble because I can't just pull it out of a hat. For instance, we've never done like the beginning of 'Armed and Dangerous' – only once and it didn't go so well. But me, I do it on the road all the time and it's awesome."
When asked if he's noticed just how feverish Chicago Anthrax fans are, Belladonna commented on the wide acceptance in the Windy City. "I've done a couple of shows not too long ago – like in the last year or so in a small bar up that way and it's so cool. I don't even know what people think that we think of Chicago – but it's so electric there, man. It's got such a vibe. We're from New York and not to offend any of our New York fans, but I tell them that Chicago's pretty damn awesome. It is! There are other places that have that vibe too, but Chicago's great. So cool!"
What has the past 20 years in the music industry taught Belladonna? "Being in a band, you just have to go through the ups and down of waiting. Your loyalty to the love of the music and the musicianship, and the effort of learning and getting better, and being patient to write stuff that may or may not be suitable for what you thought you should have done. Even switching gears from Anthrax to my own stuff, I've got all these comparisons. And of course, John being in the band and not me – you've got those comparisons. People try to evaluate who's better and who's not; it's almost unfair at times, we're so different. If you want to get into real heavy comparisons, let's just erase everything I did and start all over – put John in that position. You might not have gotten anywhere with that stuff – some of those songs might not have even come to life. I just look at what I've done and how I had a style that just came to life out of nowhere. The originality that took shape of the group is amazing, to see all that happen and not have any clue that we could have done that from the bottom - a new group and sort of underground too in a lot of ways. It's all cool - I've learned all that. And just sticking with it, sticking with what you like and not giving up."
Getting back to the Anthrax reunion, Belladonna stresses his excitement and optimism. "I'm open to anything. I hope that they're willing to try a lot of things. The sad part of it would be to put a limit on this. Right now, I can see a lot of things happening already."
As for the critics, Belladonna politely brushes away the skepticism. "Some people are just like, 'God, is this just a one-time only, money-making thing?' You know what? We're not going to make that much money to get crazy over. And, if we did, it's a business. You go out and you play and you make a living. But we're going out to please people, or like the people who never got a chance to see us. I've got young kids writing me all the time, 'I grew up on your stuff but I never got to see you.'"
...Now they can.
Anthrax currently has shows scheduled through the end of October of this year. Stay tuned to the band's official website to see if more dates are added.
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