A Conversation With Anthrax Vocalist Joey Belladonna

Known as one of The Big 4, Anthrax was a band that helped launch the thrash metal genre of the 1980s. Vocalist Joey Belladonna was there for the classic recordings and rejoined the band a decade ago creating modern Anthrax classics. Recently, Joey took time out to talk about a new project he has, a band called Beyond Frontiers, the 40th Anniversary of Anthrax, and much more.

Please press the PLAY icon below for the MisplacedStraws.com Conversation with Joey Belladonna.

On why he started Beyond Frontiers, a Journey tribute band – I’ve always liked the band long before they even had Steve Perry. I love the whole vibe, the whole music, the writing, and Neal (Schon)’s playing and just the whole thing. I loved everybody in that band, and then Steve came along and I was like a total Journey fan forever I’ve been following it right up to today. So I always wanted to put a band together, or at least I have been doing Journey songs throughout the years in an array of cover bands that I’ve had, but not a whole night, so I just wanted to take on more music by a Journey. I thought it’d be great to just have a band that was awesome that wanted to play that kind of music…Well, I have, I don’t know if you’re familiar, I’m sure you are, with Lee Greenwood, I guess you wanna call him country, I have (his) band later, Doug Carter that I met on a cruise, and we decided to ask him if he would be willing to put a Journey band together and he was all for it. We did an actually unplugged show on the boat, and it went great. It was just us and two keyboards and me singing, and it was a 45-50 minute set of just unplugged Journey, the whole boat was there and they enjoyed it. Then when I got done, I said, “You wanna do a full band?” He goes, “I can put a band together in no time, I have the band already and we’ve been playing together for a while”, and it’s been that since then. But we only did one show because of Covid and stuff, so we just kinda put it on a hiatus. :52

On playing live with Beyond Frontiers – We’re actually gearing up and put it together for real. That show we did, I didn’t even know what some of the guys even looked like because I just haven’t had any time to play with them or anything. We showed up, I picked him up at the airport and we all drove together, of course, I knew Doug, the keyboard player. At that point, once we started playing together as it was awesome to play the night, but a bit of rehearsal would be really kind of a happy thing for us. So that’s what what we’re gonna do is start rehearsing a little bit and get it up to snuff maybe put some videos to gather some clips, people can see a little bit of what we’re about, there’s really no frills there either, there’s not a thing where I’m gonna try and dress up like Steve Perry. I want it to be a band that just kicks butt and some good music. My wife, she’s helped me take care of the whole thing, and she’s a part of it too, because she does all the work, so I can’t take credit for it. I always have to remember that sometimes it’s just people don’t realize what work it takes to put things together, there’s a lot of preparation. Right now, we’re still working on maybe getting some people to videotape it and also record some stuff too. I don’t know if I’ll release anything in particular, but maybe have music that’s at least online, so you can at least get a sound and connection to the band as we don’t have that right now, it’s pretty dormant in a way. 2:58

On his classic rock influences – I’ve been following all that stuff from the Beatles to start, and I jumped right into anything from Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Chicago, and then I’d start leaping over to Aerosmith and The Who, and then it would be Queen and Rush, and then Yes, and Kansas and all that stuff. So I’m plucked into that system and I’m leaving 30 or 40 bands out who I dearly loved and still do. But at the same time, I just love that kind of melodic rock. Unfortunately, sometimes of being in a thrash band you can’t cross that road and vocally, it’s a \vocal thing, and it’s a music style that I like. I know the band does too, Anthrax, they follow stuff that I probably wouldn’t have followed. Some guys might like Depeche Mode, I don’t know, it’s just a whole lot of stuff, The Cure, some of those lanes are not my expertise, should I say. 5:08

On if Anthrax would have done a 40th Anniversary tour if not for the pandemic – Oh yeah, I believe we would have geared that in high gear, it really would have been a cool moment. The only thing we really had a chance to do to celebrate that, other than these shows that we’re doing, we did a live stream and that was successful. Hopefully, you’ll get to see that if you hadn’t got to see it, maybe on a Blu-Ray, a great package with some great back story footage, all that kind of stuff. 6:32

On if he knew of Anthrax when he joined the band – No. I’ve never even heard of that. Let’s say Juda Priest might have been a cross, not comparing any of it, but a style of rock, Obviously, they had some power metal there, there was some good double bass, and was fast, that whole record (Fistful of Metal) wasn’t, but I had no idea who they were. I didn’t even know that album existed. I had no clue who I was going to meet or see. 7:19

On Anthrax introducing Rap to Metal – I know that Charlie (Benante), Scott (Ian), and Frankie (Bello) were living in the city, and even Danny Spitz when he was in the band on guitar, I think me and him were maybe the least of the rap side of it. It wasn’t like we didn’t like it, I wasn’t following it as much, some of the guys were. That was something that everybody felt that they wanted to take on and collaborate on together. That’s what we did, and we put a nice package together like that and made people feel good about some good guitar and drums and stuff, some extra singing going on. It’s just that whole collaboration, it was really cool, but not as much on my end. I love it even more now that I get it and I understand it. But at the time, I was a little unfamiliar with a lot of it. I wasn’t listening to it as much. 8:26

On the evolution of Anthrax with Persistence of Time I think a lot of that is just natural. You’ll get in to start writing, we really take our time on making a good record and something that works riff-wise and all the parts fit. Obviously, our stuff is not that straight ahead, easy, 4/4, and sometimes I wouldn’t even come in for minutes singing. There really wasn’t any kind of script for us. Obviously, that record was decent, it was great. It was an awesome, awesome record, a lot of good pieces on there, and just the elevation or evolving and the way we were. That’s the cool thing about us, you’re always gonna get something a little different, but we didn’t really kinda go off of and then a lot of to la-la land and lose everybody. That’s just my take on it. I felt pretty comfortable, I think we were just starting to get a groove at that point, even though we had great records beforehand, but you really start to feel good about what you’re writing now…There’s a conglomerate of style from starting to that point, all that mixed in. It takes time to really develop and God, you can write 30-40 songs and find you only really had a great six to 10, and some find their way into people’s like and playlists at times. We can never predict. I think when I do a record myself and I start singing, I have a pretty good idea what songs are gonna be really strong. As soon as I start singing, I’m thinking, “I got something here. This is a good key. This has got a great setup for me to sing, there’s a little bit of room or there’s room for a lot for melodic pieces to fit in” because I love layers. 10:47

On if Anthrax is working on new material – The last two records, I’m proud of those two myself, there’s a lot of work involved. At the same time was a real natural transition to get right back in, it was like I never left. If anything was better. There were a lot of things happening as I did them and the quick process with good ideas right away and continue on to something new for sure. There are ideas there, it’s just a matter of time and the process of actually pulling those days when you finalize these pieces and you go, “You know what, I’m good with this”, you get that green light and go, We’re done with this”. Once you get whatever, 6 to 10 or 12 songs and you go, “Alright, let’s go in and start tracking”, so you gotta get to that point so that there’s a little bit of time involved to get to that point. 13:50

On how the creative process works in Anthrax – There are definitely people bringing ideas together for sure, and then there’s also just a matter of getting together in a room. There’s that vibe when you turn it up and you play along with each other. There’s something about sending ideas, but when you do get in a room, things start to happen, a lot of ideas start to come about for me when I’m in a room, I’ll come up with stuff immediately and have ideas, and even if they send me stuff, I still have ideas all throughout it. I never stick to them until I go into the studio, because once they go in the studio, I have all kinds of ideas, and there’s a lot of room for me to just take on all these ideas and then start feeling really good about it because you start to get the groove. A lot of times I don’t even really go in and do any pre-production, I’ll come later and it’s just been working great like that, even though I’m sure I could have more ideas along the way, but as far as in the studio, it’s fun there. Although things are kind of buttoned-up in some way, so you have to work around that. It’s like you got a certain pave of the road, you gotta stay within those lines sort of. So that’s some of the drawbacks. I can’t say that they’re a full drawback, but those things tend to limit you in little ways, whether it be the key or the words or whatever that may be, but I make it work. Give me anything, I find a way to sing something on every record, and to me, that’s the magic of what I feel, what I do to the band because you can’t really teach that, you can’t show someone that you have to achieve it. You have to be able to do and feel good about it, so that’s the fun part of it for me. I’ll take anything on. I may say, “Jeez, we only could have or we should have”, that kind of stuff all day, but I’ll hem and haw a little bit, it’s just difficult, you have to squeeze it all in with the speed a lot of times…It’s a frenzy of a pattern for me. I love just (when) the whole day is just jamming and then sing it over something like, “Man, I think I got something right now”, and then you sit with it for like 8, 10, however many days and you go, “You know what, I don’t know, I think I got something here that sounds good enough to me, I’m good”. Because you can just nickel and dime something all day long. Sometimes you just never know and what you thought was good maybe isn’t as good for someone else or what you didn’t like is awesome to someone else. So that’s really, really a crapshoot sometimes too, but I think we have a good feeling of what we like, so least by the time we’re done, we have a good idea. 15:03

On Anthrax’s place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – I’ve never had a discussion with anybody, I don’t think anybody’s been. Maybe on their own time, they may have talked to someone or they had a discussion, I’ve never had any. Once in a while, I might have said it, somebody, “You wonder if by the time your time is up are you gonna get it?” At the same time, what is the Hall of Fame now? Sometimes, I don’t know, when they pick stuff, sometimes you got the Four Tops in there or an R&B band, there are all kinds of different genres. It’s like, “Who’s next?” There’s a lot of bands that we both can name who should be in but are not, and we’re not. Who is more worthy of it? That kind of stuff. I hate even thinking about that stuff, I mean, how Rush just got in there not too long ago. I wouldn’t wanna put myself in that position to compare anything. I don’t know how they pick, I’d love to sit around and listen to the round table, how they figure out who could be and what time is their time or whatever. We’ve done some cool stuff, if we were to get in by any chance, I think there’s a nice story there. There’s some cool stuff there. 18:24

On if he’s heard from former guitarist Dan Spitz – I have way back before I got back in the band, we talked. At that point, he just kind of vanished. I know he was working through the watch company. He’s quite skillful at actually making a watch, like building an actual watch. I give him all the credit for the time and effort to go through school like that. But musically? Nothing, I don’t know, I have no idea. Of course, Anthrax has had great guitar players along the way that just came in. John Donais is awesome, Rob Caggiano, no shortage of guitarists that have come in. But me and Dan and the band, we had a great, great run together, that’s for sure, and I’m glad that we have a pretty good full core of the same lineup. Which I think is neat, when we go out nowadays, people get to see the band, so many younger people come out and they go, “Wow, this is the band, and they’re smoking, they’re not just kinda mailing it in and limping through the set”, We haul ass through that whole set, every time. 20:10

On upcoming Anthrax plans – Next week we go to Fresno to a state fair, headline, and then we have Sacramento of the night after, which is Louder Than Life, which is up in the hills somewhere. I know the location, it’s with Metallica and plenty of others you can easily see online what I actually haven’t even looked at the lineup. I kind of like looking at it later and go, “Oh wow, Devo’s there”. In Chicago, we did Riot Fest and Devo was on, was kinda need to see that. That bumper to bumper with Body Count before us, so you never know with that, and then we got Daytona again, actually, that week also after Sacramento, we’re doing some signing and we’re gonna be at ComicCon Saturday in New York City, which is new for us the first time I’d ever done anything like that. We got the comic book out or comic out, that’ll be cool. Then Daytona in November, from then on I don’t know until next year, we have something October, like a Europe and run and stuff, but that’s the next year of October, so we’ll talk about that some other time. Mostly recording, and then some shows, it’s not like we can’t get up and don’t go do some shows. 21:31

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