Anthrax Singer Joey Belladonna Discusses Return to the Band, Mayhem Festival + More
Singer Joey Belladonna is back in the Anthrax fold again after a long time away from the band, and the vocalist says that times are better than ever with the band as they play the Mayhem Festival this summer. We caught up with Joey at opening day of the Mayhem Festival in San Bernardino, Calif., to get his thoughts on the touring life and how he feels about working with the band again on new music and covers.
Here we are back at Mayhem and there’s you and Slayer again, crossing paths like we’ve seen in recent years.
It’s all good. It becomes like a family reunion you know. We just kind of go out on the same hunting trip and it is just cool when you get to know people even more so. I mean we’re not around each other all day. Everybody’s all over the place and you can run into them in the morning, but you might not see them until late at night. It’s not like we’re riding together on the same bus.
Here at Mayhem, you guys are headlining the second stage. Obviously you’ve got the credentials for the first stage, but can you talk about the decision to play on the second stage?
I have no idea the politics of that. I just know if I could make up my own f—ing story, I would think that we got offered the tour and said you can have the main stage if you want to do the run, and we felt it was a great idea. We’re not hemming and hawing about where we’re supposed to be, cause there’s always room for more later, we could crawl up the ladder. I don’t know. All I know is that our slot is when it is and you just want to go out there and deliver. And then the rest is whatever the hell you want to do with the rest of the day.
You’ve had a chance to play many a festival over the years. Can you talk about what it means to be playing these shows, interacting with bands, and being a touring musician?
Overall, I just love being out on a tour and just meeting people and maybe venturing into [getting] just a phone number and chatting with someone about gear and what they do to stay on the road or what they like about being in a band. Anything, whatever you can think of. Or just trying a new meal a day. I don’t know.
You just try to make fun out of what you do. You can’t fret over the weather. You can’t fret over a lot of traffic. It’s just all that stuff. Some people aren’t used to being on the road and they can’t handle the whole hemming and hawing about it. See I just, I never get that way cause I’ve been in bands after I was out of Anthrax where I was driving in a van, and we drove all night long and got up and played and drove again and stayed together in a room doubled up. So this is by far way better than that, but that was awesome too. But I don’t think about it.
You mentioned being out of Anthrax and you’ve been back in for certain periods. What’s the experience like now touring with the band and has it changed from the beginning?
No, not at all actually. I just think that we’re more conscious of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it from day-to-day. Everybody’s matured, the band’s tighter and for me, speaking for myself, I’m way better than I ever was, so that makes it even more cool that I’m interested in being better, not that I wasn’t before, but it’s just even more so on my mind. That’s the whole part of it coming out. I’ve got the whole game face on. I just want to f—ing play hard and make it work … and I have fun too. You want to have fun and it’s not cool if people are bumming out, it becomes more of a hassle and it shouldn’t be that way.
Had a chance to talk with Scott Ian and Charlie Benante this year and they touted you and Rob Caggiano as the MVP’s of the ‘Worship Music’ record for your efforts. For you, they even mentioned how well you were singing and your input. How do you feel knowing they’ve got your back and are happy to have you back in the band?
Well, all I can think of is with the songs, I came in and they gave me the best opportunity to take a shot at something. It’s been so long. I kind of went in there with no expectations and just did what I did, and it was quicker than anything I ever have done. And nobody was there, so that was another really big plus. No one was there looking through the window, breathing down my neck and just like doubting or trying to tailor anything. So those are the big moments for me really. It was a delight to just be able to go in there and just focus.
Now that you’re back in the band, you’ve gotta be looking forward to being more of the creative process again.
Oh yeah, I did a lot of that anyway. The stuff wasn’t laid out as in laid out where I didn’t think or I couldn’t move. I didn’t take anything apart, but I also came in fresh with my own approach. I mean every note, every phrase. Just the way I went about it was my own thing, and I didn’t really try to dismantle anything either. There just wasn’t enough time to do it.
But yeah, I’d rather start on my own. You take like later songs like ‘In the End,’ ‘The Constant,’ or maybe not even ‘The Constant,’ but like the ‘[Judas] Priest’ tune, those are like fresh out of the box … It was like A-I-R when we did ‘Spreading the Disease.’ That was like the song that we did together, and that was the turning point of how we were starting to make a band.
I wanted to ask because there’s been talk of some covers. Is there a plan for releasing that material?
Well I would assume that with more songs, an EP would be optimal. It would be a possibility. There are some songs that are being recorded and have been recorded. Whether it gets done and finished, well you know how that is. You plan on something and then three days turns into four weeks, and then you’re like, ‘We ran late, we didn’t get to finish it.’ So the hope is to do it I guess.
I never planned on doing covers, even though I do have a cover band and I do that every time I’m home and whenever I get a chance I do every band that I love and more. I don’t mind doing it. It’s something to do. And we love making covers. Back in the day we’d make covers. During the day we’ll jam on covers that each one of us don’t know together, so if we do one it will be songs that we can all learn and do together.