THIS YEAR MARKS THE TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF ANTHRAX'S SEMINAL THRASH ALBUM SPREADING THE DISEASE. WHAT BETTER WAY TO CELEBRATE THAN BY BRINGING BACK ALL THE ORIGINAL MEMBERS, INCLUDING ORIGINAL LEAD SINGER JOEY BELLADONNA? NIGHT WATCHMAN TALKED TO JOEY BEFORE ONE OF HIS MANY SOLD-OUT SHOWS WITH FELLOW METAL GODS JUDAS PRIEST.
Night Watchman: How did the whole reunion thing come about? Who contacted who?
Joey Belladonna: Well, Charlie [Benante, drums] and management both contacted me and asked if I was interested in doing the reunion. It was just one of those things. I was totally into it as long as it was everybody together all flowing with the best ideas and the best intentions. It's been twenty years, so it was just a matter of time before we got back together. I was hoping it would happen someday, and it sure did.
NW: Were you ever worried about the intentions behind it?
JB: Well, not in our case, but Iím sure there are other intentions people have when they get together. They may do it just for money reasons, but we really want to do well as a band. When we left off, it was tough to leave. And I'm sure it was tough for them to make a change in vocals and stuff like that. It didnít feel like we got to finish anything. So we wanted to be as good as we were, and we certainly are. We left a good thing.
NW: When your involvement with the band ended, how did you feel about it? Did you take it as an opportunity to move on and do something else?
JB: Well, I wasnít ready to go anywhere being with a band that long. Thereís nothing like longevity, so I wasnít really in the mood to go anywhere. Unfortunately, with the times and everything, I guess my vocal style wasnít something they were looking for as the direction they wanted to go. Iím not necessarily sure that I was not capable of doing something like what they were looking for, but there was just something different-- a different style-- that they were looking for. I donít know. Itís quite baffling to me. (laughs) I feel like I could have sung as well as anybody could have on their records, and done them the way that I do them, not so much the way John [Bush, vocalist] would have done them. I just think we had a cool chemistry, regardless of how the vocals were going. It was just me. I donít think we were doing bad. Not to go into long details here, but what we were doing was cool, so I didnít see a big problem. But they wanted to change. But coming back in, I was hoping they were accepting of my style from previous times, and they really had open arms to it. I donít really think itís that odd.
NW: Do you think itís time for people to be able to hear old-school Anthrax again?
JB: Yeah, why not? I mean, shit, itís pretty unique. Weíre crushing. Weíre a good band and we play together well. Weíve got a good chemistry with the five of us and the way we do things. I was with them for a long time, John was with them for a long time. So now going back to it, Iím sure a few people are confused over the whole matter. But at the same time, we were the ones doing it beforehand. Nobody seemed to worry about it when I got let go. I got let go-- he didnít get let go. It was just one of those things where everyone is part of the family, and itís all still there. I donít even know whatís still left there, but overall I think we do well together. Itís nice to be together and be doing it for the right intentions, and just focusing on playing well and having some fun, you know?
NW: Yeah. Is this lineup the future of the band, or are you trying it to see how it works again?
JB: Itís hard for me to really answer that in detail, because I donít know. As time goes on you see things get better, so you hope that it might lead to the next chapter of things to do together. Weíre definitely coinciding at every event, and weíve been doing it with the right intention and itís remaining strong, so thatís a good thing. I canít say that we couldnít do some more things. Weíll definitely do more touring, and weíve got some releases out, but weíll take it one step at a time. I donít think you can do too much too fast.
NW: So it feels good and very natural?
JB: Oh yeah. Absolutely. There is nothing that feels odd to me at all. If anything is different, it's just that thereís more activity.
NW: I grew up listening to old-school Anthrax. Did you do much of the old stuff in Belladonna, your other band?
JB: Yeah, like twelve of the fifteen songs. I was doing Anthrax stuff because I still loved it, and because it was strong music. I felt that people would dig me doing it live since I had done it before. And why not? I had a different twist to it, because Iím not going to do it verbatim. You canít achieve the same style that someone else did. And no one that I got playing those songs did them like Scott [Ian, guitarist] would do them. I mean, it was close, but it just came off differently. I was playing drums for a year and a half before I rejoined these guys-- playing and singing at the same time. It was a three-piece... like ZZ Top thrash.
NW: Wow, that sounds pretty cool.
JB: It was cool. It was a totally different twist. But I still did everything that I did before without those guys behind me.
NW: You know, I always wondered about the live version of "Iím The Man", where everybody chants, "Joey fucked up!" I mean, you were behind the drums on that version. I always wondered how you felt about that being recorded for all eternity.
JB: We did it to Scott last night. I just happened to fall out of place that night, so they just threw it at me. But thatís just me. I was horsing around back there, got off the mark, and fucked up.
NW: I always thought Anthrax was great, because after the first couple "serious" albums, the bandís sense of humor and personalities really started to come through. It was really neat to have that kind of twist-- that kind of humor and the serious side come together.
JB: I loved that, because thatís just a normal day for me. To be able to do that onstage and not be like, "Weíre the band, and weíre better than you. Weíre bigtime." You know what I mean? Some people are so serious that they become standoffish, but weíre just inviting everyone to have as much fun as we are.
NW: It took a lot of balls to do that-- to actually be yourselves and not pretend to be something else.
JB: Yeah. Iíve seen a lot of it here and there, but I just donít get it. I really donít.
NW: I know that youíve always been a big proponent of metal, and that you were always fighting to get it on the air when it wasnít so popular. Do you think things have changed enough where people are starting to embrace metal in popular culture again? I mean, Headbangers Ball is back on MTV, and things like that are happening.
JB: Yeah. I mean, itís always seemed to be there. I just donít think you see a lot of it. You donít hear it as much, you donít see it as much, so you think itís almost not there. But I think a lot of people are still into it. I see it every night on the Judas Priest tour. There are so many people that are into metal. I just think it goes in circles and cycles, so you have a moment in time where things are starting to come back around. A good song will always remain. If youíve got a good tune, it will always be awesome for someone that likes that style of music, whether it be vocal or non-vocal or thrash or metal. It all comes down to the tunes. Whatever makes you tick, whatever you want to listen to, itís cool.
NW: I've got just one last question for you: in your professional opinion, do dogs have lips?
JB: Lips? As in L-I-P?
NW: Yeah. Lips.
JB: My dogís got everything!
JB: I guess they do have lips. Theyíve got that upper lip there. Yeah. (laughs) I donít know where thatís coming from, but yeah. What made you ask that question?
NW: It started out as a weird argument among the staff here at the magazine, and then we started asking everyone we interview.
JB: Heís got a muzzle, so thatís part of his lip, I guess.
NW: Great. Well, thanks for your time, Joey. Itís great to see you guys back together.
JB: Oh, you bet. Thank you.