Interview with Scott Ian and Joey Belladonna of Anthrax: Back Where They Belong

Interview with Scott Ian and Joey Belladonna of Anthrax: Back Where They Belong

—by , September 14, 2011

Often regarded as one of the originators of the thrash metal genre, Anthrax has seemingly been getting more and more popular as the years go by. From touring across the globe to selling more than 10 million albums worldwide, it’s safe to say that Anthrax has done it all. And on Wednesday, Sept. 14, the band will set foot inside Yankee Stadium alongside Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth. The concert, which has been dubbed The Big 4 Show, will only be the second show in the U.S. and the first on the East Coast.

NYC natives, Anthrax have accomplished a lot but it definitely hasn’t come easy. Since their inception in 1981, the band has worked with several different vocalists, including current singer Joey Belladonna, who was with the band from 1984 to 1992 and then again from 2005 to 2007, before reuniting again early last year.

“When we’re together and things are on the up and up, it’s as good as it gets,” Joey recalls. “Unfortunately, it took so long to decide whether it was time to do it again.”

Along side Joey is founding member/guitarist Scott Ian, as well as drummer Charlie Benante, bassist Frank Bello and guitarist Rob Caggiano. Worship Music, their first album since 2003, was released on Sept. 13. Worship Music is the first album since their 1991 offering, Persistence Of Time, to feature Joey on vocals.

“It was a really different experience this time around because we actually didn’t record with Joey,” Scott notes about the recording process for Worship Music. “He went into the studio with the producer, Jay Ruston, here in Los Angeles and we just left the two of them alone to do their thing and basically to let Joey do his thing and make his choices. It was never like that before, it was always kind of like we were all in the room together and everybody would give notes or make comments or suggestions. We just really wanted Joey to be able to have that freedom to go in and just do what Joey Belladonna would do on this new Anthrax record, and I think it just really shows in his performance.”

“You know what, it was a nice, easy process because nobody was there to bug me or put me in a position where it was awkward to record,” Joey says. “It was just me and Jay Ruston working hard on our own, making it happen and just really focusing on the songs. We did about four or five songs a day and it happened pretty quickly. We didn’t really spend a lot of time on one song.”

If you’re trying to figure out what Worship Music sounds like in comparison to their other albums, Scott won’t be able to tell you. He has a theory in that he likes to let the media and the fans break it down for themselves.

“I’ve never compared records. Ever,” Scott explains. “I can’t. I’m too close to it because I’m not the guy that sits and listens to the record and analyzes it after and then would say, ‘Oh, you know, this sounds like this, or that sounds like that.’ The record’s done and I’ve already moved on. I’m figuring out what songs we’re going to play live.”

As far as the Big 4 shows are concerned, they have been a smash hit so far, and why not? It features some of the biggest names ever in heavy metal, and it’s the only time you can see some of the world’s most renowned metal musicians all in one place. The Big 4 Live From Sofia, Bulgaria, was recorded on June 22, 2010 before eventually making its way to DVD later that year. The DVD features more than five hours of footage and it went double platinum in the U.S.

“It’s hard to put it into words because you’ve got a great pack of bands that have been together for a long time, known each other for a long time and have really, really worked together well,” Belladonna stresses. “There’s no friction and we’re all different in our own way. Metallica puts on a hell of a show and everything. The organization, the facilities—it’s just an awesome afternoon. We get to go out there first and light it up, you know. It’s awesome.”

Somehow, Scott seems even more excited about the shows than Joey.

“It’s been amazing, the best,” he laughs. “The shows are great. We’re all super excited to be doing it and obviously the crowd is super excited about seeing it because every city on the planet wants the Big 4 to come. It’s been amazing, just an absolute privilege to get to go and do this and the fact that so many people around the world care so much about the music that these four bands make is just awesome in every way, shape and form.”

If you’ve ever seen Anthrax performing at one of their headlining shows, expect this concert to be something that you haven’t seen yet. Both Scott and Joey agreed that their own shows differ greatly from the Big 4 shows.

“One thing about the headlining shows is that you go in there and you make the rules up for what you want to play, how long you want to go and all that,” Joey says. “Then the Big 4 shows, you got either 40 minutes or an hour depending on the show so you just have to get to it and make it work and not worry about having to play a whole night of a paced set. You really just get out there and bang and bang it hard. And we rip it pretty hard.”

“It’s completely different,” Scott agrees. “We’re kind of underneath this Metallica umbrella, which certainly makes things just that much better every way around. They tour on a level that most bands on this planet will never get to see. They’re on that same level as AC/DC and the Stones and U2.”

Anthrax will be playing this extraordinary show in front of family members, hometown fans and people that have never seen them before. Both Belladonna and Ian seemed to be thrilled about getting to play at Yankee Stadium.

“You never get a shot to play at a place like that. It’s usually never available for anything like this type of style or music,” Joey says. “It’s either Paul McCartney or Beyoncé or something like that. But we get to play there and everybody is Yankees fans and it’s hometown turf for everybody so that’s definitely quite the adventure and treat for everybody to be able to play a successful show and be able to be in that building and have that adventure.”

“We’re a New York band and the only New York band on the show and this is our hometown gig and we happen to be doing it at the most famous [stadium], maybe next to the Roman Coliseum, in the world. And, most of us are lifelong Yankee fans,” Scott muses. “There’s a little bit of added pressure for that fact that, for us, it’s basically hallowed ground. We’re going to get to do our thing in the same place that our heroes have for the last 30 years. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited and more nervous about a show in the history of the band. I thought headlining [Madison Square] Garden was a big deal but this actually is just so much bigger than that.”

Scott Ian goes on to describe how the atmosphere at this Big 4 show is going to be something like he has never experienced before.

“I would like to think that the first U.S. East Coast Big 4 show will be the craziest of all the Big 4 shows because that’s just my New York pride coming out. I want it to be the best, I want every band to walk away from Yankee Stadium going, ‘That’s the best gig I’ve ever played in my life.’ That would make me feel great as a New Yorker. I try not to get my hopes up ever before shows because the last thing I want to do is be let down, but obviously I have huge expectations for this gig. I mean, for fuck’s sake, it’s Yankee Stadium with Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. It’s like the fact that I even get to say those words is amazing to me. I really do have high hopes and I hope it’s a sick fucking show.”

If you’re one of those people that are preoccupied by schedules with work or school or what have you, there is no need to worry because Scott has a special message just for you:

“Doors open at 2:00 p.m. and we go on at 4:00 p.m. We’ve been doing our best to let people know that we have given permission to everybody in the Tri-State area to take off from work and take off from school that day because there’s a more important history lesson being taught at Yankee Stadium that starts at 4:00 p.m. Everyone should show up at around noon or 1:00 p.m. and start tailgating. Think of it like you’re going to a football game. Get there early, tailgate, and be in that stadium as soon as the doors open so you can support the New York band.”

 

Anthrax will be playing at the Big 4 Show at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, Sept 14. Their new CD, Worship Music, is available now. For more information, go to anthrax.com.

 


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