Joey Belladonna is one of those guys that seems to have a ton of fun when playing a live show, his interaction with the crowd and general stage presence is one of the great things about Anthrax live. His voice though is still incredible after all these years and that was pretty evident on his return to the band on “Worship Music” back in 2011. 5 years later we see Anthrax return with one of the most killer albums yet, “For All Kings” and we had a chat to Joey about the new songs, touring and more.
Andrew: First of all, congratulations on the new album “For All Kings”. Absolutely fantastic stuff! You guys must be super happy with how the songs have turned out.
Joey: Yeah I’m really happy also and I just think, came up with some really good ideas and some nice achievements to take on this time around. Lot of good variety.
Andrew: Yeah absolutely. A lot of the songs take you back to some of the early Anthrax stuff and even some of the stuff you did on Persistence Of Time. What was the idea behind these songs? Was there a certain goal that you were trying to achieve?
Joey: I don’t know, I just think you just try to strive for something really good. You just keep striving and working hard at it. We had plenty of ideas, I don’t think we ran out of ideas and I think when we get together, you put us on a record together and we have a way of making things adventurous.
Andrew: What was your input on the album? How much did you have a say on the songs or lyrics and all that stuff?
Joey: I come in later after everything has been recorded and I just take everything that’s coming to me and make it work vocally. I don’t really have a problem doing it, we’ve done that for years now. Scott (Ian, guitars) will hand me lyrics and me and Jay (Ruston, producer) will go in and just throw it up against the wall, we just keep everything as flowing and more fun and adventurous just as well. I just try to make it killer as much as I can, I work hard at that and try to find an avenue to make it that interesting as much as I can. The songs are really in one way, finished as far as the recording part of it, you can’t move anything so that’s always an interesting task. You just have to work with your boundaries.
Andrew: What was your impressions of the songs when you first heard them?
Joey: I definitely thought there was some good moments in there, I knew there was going to be some tough corners. There’s always a couple of things on each song that have these tight corners to make things work. Even live when I’m singing the new stuff, it’s non-stop, there’s no rest man! It’s like a train, it’s pulling everything together. You can’t just take a break so it’s really challenging that way but the key’s are always moving, it’s definitely challenging no doubt about it.
Andrew: When you were laying down the vocals for these songs, and I guess this question can apply to some of the older stuff as well, but did you ever think about how you could apply these songs in a live setting and not just in the studio?
Joey: No, as I’m singing them I’m going ‘Holy hell, this is gonna be something’, because it’s hard now. But once you learn the stuff, you get it down to go, ‘Holy cow, I got it now!’ Even when I’m doing stuff live, I mean oh my god, there’s a situation where I gotta get it down. I’m too busy singing it and trying to do it live, I don’t even have the time to think about the crowd or anything. After a while it starts to set in but I know the stuff is going to be hard. There’s not a lot of easy things, it’s just a much more difficult thing than singing in…I don’t know, I don’t know how else to say it. It’s just tough and you have to be on your toes to make it work so I always try to get the most killer thing I can get out of it so I’m always just pushing for that next cool thing I can do to it.
Andrew: Which song on the album do you think was the most difficult to take on?
Joey: Maybe “Zero Tolerance” is a bit tricky. It’s a real swirly, very sporadic, kind of gun hoe-ish. You can’t even get it out! When I started, I’m like ‘Oh fuck man, this ain’t gonna be good’. I get fustrated at first like, ‘Ah fuck this, this ain’t no Smoke On The Water that’s for sure’, [laughs].
Andrew: [laughs] One of the things that really stands out on the album is your voice. Your vocals is amazing on this and it really blows my mind how your voice has kept up over the years, is there anything you do to maintain your voice?
Joey: Lately I’ve just been trying to strive for better things. I push harder, I really concentrate on trying to be really good. Not that I didn’t before but I’ve really just stepped up my whole process of just trying to be good. I don’t really know if there’s any explanation for it but I have been singing a lot more right now because I do have a covers band and I’m really busy doing that a lot. We do 4 hours a night so right there alone is more than anybody does in a week let alone a night. I’m playing drums at the same time and I’m doing stuff like Triumph and Rush and Zeppelin and Boston and Foreigner and Journey and stuff that’s not even low key, it’s up there and it’s right out there and it’s really sharp vocals and it’s in the right key too. So I just sing a lot, I don’t know. And again I just got my own method of just trying to be really good and I guess it’s just a matter of working at it.
Andrew: So is that Chief Big Way up in Syracuse by the way?
Joey: Yeah that’s right. It’s low key man, 3 piece. We have a blast! I put the stuff in my car and set it up and break it down and put it back in the car and drive to the next one. We don’t go too far but we play some small, small places where I get behind the drums and I can’t even get out.
Andrew: [laughs] Well the reason why I ask is because I know someone who lives in Syracuse who I believe you may know as Shellica?
Joey: Oh yeah!
Andrew: Yeah we met a few years ago in San Francisco when Metallica did their 30th anniversary shows and I believe she’s in the Syracuse area and sees you guys all the time doing the covers songs and all that.
Joey: Yeah she comes out, we played a bar that she was bartending at and she still comes out. In fact she’s flying out to San Francisco to see Metallica this week (pre-Superbowl – The Night Before show on February 6th).
Andrew: Yeah that’s right!
Joey: Yeah good for her man!
Andrew: So what have you got for touring plans for this year with Anthrax?
Joey: Lamb Of God finishes up next week, Iron Maiden [in] the month of March. We’re actually doing some one offs in April and May doing all these different radio shows and stuff and then we’ll head over to Europe end of May – middle of June and then come back again and do another month in August and then looking at maybe headlining in the States in September.
Andrew: I hope Australia can be included on that tour! I guess it’s been about 2 or 3 years since the last time we saw you guys.
Joey: Yeah it seems like it’s a different task to get over there, it’s just a matter of who’s going to offer you to come and make it worth your while. It’s a long way over there but sure, we would love to come over. We had a blast, that last time was awesome!
Andrew: Yeah I think it was for Soundwave the last time you were over here.
Joey: Yeah and it was hot! Wicked hot!
Andrew: [laughs] Hopefully you can come over and do a headlining tour because as much as we enjoy the festivals, I think a headlining experience is a little different than the bigger festival gigs I guess.
Joey: Yeah I think we did the first time around, we headlined some smaller venues. I remember those were quite good too. Whatever it is, I’m good with either one. It’s just a matter of getting an offer and getting it right so we can get up and get over there.
Andrew: Obviously you have a busy schedule ahead of you this year, what is the toughest thing about touring these days?
Joey: I just think the long process of being away from home. If anything I’m conscious of, it would be that. You just can’t do anything like you do at home but I’ve been doing it for so long that it’s not a complaint, it’s just if you ask me what’s the hardest part of it, that’s probably the hardest part. It’s easy being on the road for me because I know how to do it, I adapt and I make do with whatever I gotta do. You got people taking care of stuff, you’re trying to find the internet to get online to tell somebody to do something. I’m booking shows and if I’m not home, I can’t really do a lot of the things. You gotta call somebody to make sure this is right and just a lot of hustle and bustle but it’s not hard. If you ask me, that’s probably it, being away from home.
Andrew: Do you enjoy the touring as much now as when you did when you first started?
Joey: I would say I do, I don’t mind it. I mean I like it to be more fun but I can’t even have as much fun as I sing. I like to rest, I can’t stay up to 4 in the morning talking about something I could give a shit about. It doesn’t work for me so I have to really just not do a lot of things I used to do so that’s probably one of the harder things, but I don’t care because it actually works better for me because my days are a lot easier when I do that. So I just have to be under a regime so I do it right, eat better and do that kind of thing.
Andrew: Yeah absolutely, whatever works for you. As I said before, congratulations on the new album as it’s fantastic stuff and hopefully we can get to see you come down to Australia again at some stage. So thanks for your time today, it’s much appreciated!
Joey: Thank you very much man, it’s appreciated. You take care now!
Catch Anthrax on tour in the U.S. and Europe, tour details can be found at HERE.