Joey Belladonna och Anthrax gav 2011 ut det fantastiska albumet “Worship Music”. Personligen anser jag det vara något av det bästa de gjort. Ett nytt album är på gång och när Joey gästade huvudstaden som en del av Metal All Stars passade Rocksverige på att fråga lite om hur albumarbetet fortlöper, men även om hans tidigare uttalanden om bristen på vänskap i bandet, om en möjlig bok och ett eventuellt soloalbum.
You recently mentioned in an interview that you´re not close friends with the rest of the guys in the band? Have you heard back from any of them?
Yeah, Scott asked me “We´re trying to keep things positive, right?”, but what I say is what I feel. I don´t necessarily say that we´re not getting along, it´s just that it´s a different band. When I grew up playing with people in my hometown, we´d go out together, hang together and do things together and we (Anthrax) just don´t, but that doesn´t mean that we´re not doing what we need to do. My intentions were not to be not positive and make things sound like we´re just a mess. It wasn´t that.
I also guess that people have a very romanticized view of bands and that the members are always hanging out together. I know I had when I was a kid.
You´re very capable of doing it. I have a little cover band (Chief Big Way) and I always try to get people to hang out and we´re like 10 minutes away from each other and we still don´t. One guy is teaching lessons and another guy needs to go to work or whatever. It´s just not in the cards and I understand that. When we´re (Anthrax) on the road together we don´t hang out together even then. Everybody goes to their separate room with their computer to Skype or they just don´t want to be bothered or they need to rest. It´s not intentional, some of it might be, I don´t know and you´ll never know that. That´s why I´m always picking at people and trying to get them to open up and maybe talk. It´s just great to be able to be more conversational with other people. A lot of people don´t wanna do it and that´s fine, but I´m not that kinda guy. Sometimes you don´t even know what you´re dealing with until you talk with people. If you wanna find out what people are thinking, you´re just never gonna know and sometimes it´s good to know. Maybe you can get something off your chest and maybe something can actually be resolved by it. I meant nothing by that as far as “I can´t wait to tell people this story!” I have no idea even remember doing it or even having those intentions the way it turned out to be. And Scott was out on his promotional tour and doing his spoken word, so what a great time to answer questions! (laughs)
Have you seen his spoken word show?
Yeah, when we were in Australia playing Soundwave, we all went out one night. It was good. I can definitely do something like that. I´m full of stories! I´ll do a Q&A all night long and not even tell a story, you just ask me and I´ll tell a story.
What about the new Anthrax album then? Are you yourself writing stuff now?
I have stuff at my house on my Pro Tools and we have a lot of stuff. There could be around 15 or 16 at this point. I have 3 at this point, just finished and they´re actually getting better as we go and there´s some really good stuff. For once, since I´ve been in the band, we actually have more songs than we need. I don´t know if we´re planning on putting 16 or 17 songs on the record? Before we had 9 or 10 and that was it, so we´re definitely gonna have some stuff to choose from.
Is it in anyway similar to the stuff on “Worship Music”?
My opinion right off the bat so far, is that it´s definitely riffy, very intense and heavy. It´s still early, but my first impression is that it´s gonna be challenging. It´s hard to compare to something you just did and you don´t set out to try do something you did. You don´t know what you have when you´re doing it, it just happens and if it comes together and you dig it, then we did something cool. It´s hard to say that it´s gonna be like that song or this song. It could be crazier. I don´t know if the album actually has its legs like the other one, if it has all the elements that everybody was looking for on the last one. I don´t know since it´s so early at this stage. But it´s gonna be really intense and I don´t think we´ll let you down.
With an album, can you in any way tell if a certain song is really going to take off?
Yeah, when we were doing “Among the Living” and “Spreading the Disease”, I just knew the songs are gonna be the ones. I´m really good at picking stuff after I start singing it. Like with “In the End”, it came together so quick and I knew it was gonna be great and it was so perfect vocally. I had nothing in front of me except the lyrics and it was the year of Ronnie´s (Dio) passing too, so I don´t know if there was some magic coming in through the walls. Same with “Indians”, I just knew it was gonna be good and with “Madhouse” I just knew it was gonna have some impact. You can tell and then you have the other songs that lurk in the background and you know some songs are gonna be a bit deep for everybody and it´s not gonna be one of those songs. Like “Judas Priest”, that´s an interesting song but it didn´t find its way into the setlist or radio or something, but it´s an album track. What do you do with it? It´s an album track and there´s nothing wrong with it. Long ago it would´ve been a throw away. When I hear the new riffs, I know that this one´s got some action and this one is gonna be a bitch. You can start putting them in their pole positions. But ever since I´ve been in the band, every song is a challenge.
Any plans for a solo album?
I have stuff, but since I got back with the band I just haven´t really thought about trying to interfere with anything musically with the band or fight for position. I know some people who probably get in bands and go “Here´s my opportunity, man. I´m out of here. I´ve got my own career.” I never thought about it that way. I only had that career because I was out of the band. What was I suppose to do? Just wait around for them to call me again someday. No way! I´m a musician and I like to write and come up with my own stuff. I have some stuff and it´s really old school metal and just straight up, good stuff. I actually played something for somebody one day and he went “Is that the new Anthrax?” and I said “No, that´s just me.” I would love to have them (Anthrax) try some of my stuff, but they don´t get near or listen to it because they didn´t write it. I have some pretty good ideas, some demos, but I don´t have anything that I´m ready to put out yet.
You mentioned having a lot of stories. Have you ever thought about writing a book?
You have to ask Scott about that! I think he´s got one in the mix. (laughs) I´ve had people approach me and I´m sure maybe I would. I´d like to do something where it´s just more about fun, than he did this to me and I did that to him. I don´t know if I could get into something like that? Right now I don´t have any desire and I don´t really wanna air out anything or make anything controversial. But maybe it would be cool. I don´t know how to even begin, to be honest with you? I know for a fact that Scott´s got something, which is cool. He´s into literature and he was just bound to do one. I´d be on the lookout for a book from him. I talked to Wendy Dio one day because Ronnie was gonna do a book and stuff and she asked me if I´d be interested and we left it at that. I said that I didn´t wanna do one of those rotten books, not that I have rotten stuff, and she went “Oh no, Ronnie doesn´t wanna do that either!” I wanna do a fun book. Whether anyone wants to know about how you grew up in a small town and had no running water when you were a kid, I don´t know if that interest people.
I was gonna ask you about your hometown, Oswego, New York?
It´s up north by Lake Ontario. I could ride my bike to the lake, so it´s close. About 5000 people. I lived there for 28 years and I´ve only moved 40 miles away from there to a place called Syracuse. It´s more city like, but still not too big. Rush hour is not even close to say Sunday morning in LA. I don´t go back that often. I don´t have any desire and my parents are gone. I´ve moved on and I´m just busy doing my thing and I´m on the road a lot. I can see it from my house. New York is four and a half hour away.
How early on did you realize that you had a strong voice?
Right in my basement and playing loud as shit! My parents would let us play in there and we had no PA. We just had this little mic like you have in church, with tiny little speakers. My father hooked up a speaker to the TV-set so he could hear while we played. He was that cool about it and I had to yell at him, “We´re done!” I would sing and play drums and some of it was just making up shit. I sang all the time and nobody would sing like I did. Not to say that I was the shit, but nobody could do it. It´s just like with my own cover band now. We do anything from Rush to Zeppelin to Van Halen and Priest, all old school classic rock and it´s a blast. It´s like my favorite thing. Anthrax doesn´t even touch it. I don´t have anybody bothering me and nobody looking over my shoulder, we just go out and wing it.
Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
The thing is that I didn´t really write anything that much. We would always just make up stuff and we never recorded anything. Only time I recorded stuff was with Bible Black before I joined Anthrax and that wasn´t even really meant to be. I wasn´t even intending on going anywhere or even doing that song and somehow we just blew it out one day and Anthrax heard it and that was like the real first recording I ever did. We were like a cover band and nobody really wants to write and we just wanted to learn songs by playing. We were too lazy to come up with riffs. I always had songs in my head, but I wasn´t around anybody that really wanted to write songs.
You´re part Native American. What does that mean to you? Do you read a lot about history and so on?
I don´t. I know what it´s all about and do cherish having part Indian in me on my mother´s side. It´s all good, but it´s more of a spiritual thing for me. I´ve played Indian reservations and done tribe parties and I´m sure people are still gonna ask me to do stuff, which I´m all for because I´m honored and it´s always incredibly crazy. It´s just something about the whole spirit of the show when they come out to see it. If Anthrax ever plays anywhere near something like that, it´s all me that day. It´s the coolest thing. But I´m not pushing it and trying to get anyone to understand it. I don´t even know how to explain it? I´m also part Italian and I´m not telling people how to eat this and so on. I´m glad that I have that part and it just brings a whole other aspect of life for me. I play reservations now, casinos, and I don´t even get close to what actually going down there.
A final thing. Do you feel optimistic about the music industry?
I´m very optimistic, because I think what we do musically is very strong. We stay focus and write good music and we don´t get sidetracked. We´ll find a way. Whether thrash and metal is here or there or whether it´s finally come back around or if it´s not quite gonna come back around? I don´t think anybody´s thinking about that, otherwise we just wouldn´t do it anymore. We´re just ready to take on more and be better and that´s what I love. We just can´t wait to go out and crush the summer festivals again and make another record. I know some people don´t even know we have another record out and that´s fine. There are people that just don´t give a shit and that´s ok. I don´t care. I know what we´re doing and I can´t yell out to everybody, “Hey, pay attention!” Even playing with these guys (Metal All Stars), some of these people don´t even know half of what we do or whether who´s bigger in this room or not. I find it funny more than anything. Who cares if you´ve got your own room or you sold less than I did or you got more food than I did. It´s horseshit and I couldn´t care less! Look at Anthrax and what they did! They went out and got another singer and what were they looking for? What was going on there? Did I not fit the criteria of a thrash, hardcore, grunty, grungy kinda singer? I don´t even know what happened there and that fascinates me more than anything then all this other shit. I just do what I do and if I fit into what you want, fine. If not, I just don´t get too caught up in that. When I go out and play with my cover band, we play in a small room and I don´t care who´s there. We just play. As long as you stay true to what you do, you find a way. You just gotta be optimistic and love what you do and if you like playing music, you´ll find a way. Just make sure you´re doing a good job at it.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foton: Therés Stephansdotter