You would think playing “The Big Four,” touring the world in support of their masterpiece “Worship Music,” and the departure of guitarist Rob Caggiano. would slow Anthrax down but it hasn’t. On March 19th, Anthrax is returning to their roots and releasing “Anthems” an EP of cover songs from bands that were a major influence on the group’s music. Additionally, the band will play the entire “Among the Living” album on the upcoming “Metal Alliance” tour.
How we’re these songs chosen? How has the departure of Rob affected the bands current plans? I talked with Anthrax bassist Frank Bello to find out about all this and a movie called “Dredd 3D.”
How did you decide what songs went on the EP?
These songs shaped the band. Cheap Trick has been a big influence on our lives and careers. Charlie and I jammed to Cheap Trick before we played in Anthrax. Scott too. Thin Lizzy, Rush, you can hear these groups in our music. I grew up playing bass to Rush. And how great is Boston? They had a lot of radio hits but they are great musicians, great songwriters, and wrote fun songs to play. This is the music that molded the band and the EP is a thank you to all these groups for inspiring us. This group of songs came out really well and we’re pretty critical.
Did any songs not make the cut? Or we’re any songs recorded but omitted?
We recorded a Tom Petty song but there was a timing issue so it wasn’t included. The stuff you hear on this EP is the stuff we play at sound checks. It’s rare to hear an Anthrax song unless we need to in order to do something with the sound.
Did each member pick a song or were the choices made as a band and everyone agreed?
It’s all agreed upon. The good thing about that is Scott, Charlie, Joey, and I all like this because it’s the music we grew up on. We’re all big Journey fans and having a guy like Joey that can handle the vocals makes it much easier to say ‘yes’ to a project like this. Joey really killed it.
Joey does look a little like Steve Perry. Hair wise.
(Laughs) Vocally, Joey nailed it. I’m really proud of him and what he did.
Are there songs you wish were on the EP or hope to include on future EPs?
With Anthrax it’s anything we jam. You’ll hear it eventually. This was one of things that felt good to do, especially when we heard the finished product. You listen to these songs and you can hear Anthrax in them. This is exactly where we came from. All this stuff made us what we are.
Rob is no longer your guitarist and left to focus on producing. Is there a chance he’ll produce the next Anthrax album?
I have no idea what we’re doing next. I don’t look that far ahead. This thing is coming out March 19th so that’s the last thing I’m thinking about. When you write a record it takes on a life of it’s own and you figure out what songs are good for it and who you want working with you on it. So, first we’ll have to write and hear the songs, then see what fits.
Is there an open invitation for Rob to come back?
I can’t tell you what we’re doing right now because we haven’t talked about it and I haven’t heard the songs we’re going to write, but I’m open to it. I know we’re going to write a record this year, but after that, I have no idea what we’re going to do. I know we’re really happy with what we’ve done with Rob in the past. I love Rob. We all love Rob and we know he’s a producer, that’s his love. He’s still my friend and lives only fifteen minutes from me so I’ll still see him.
It’s the anniversary of “Among the Living” and you’re going to be playing the full album live at Irving Plaza. Any chance Danny Spitz will return?
It’s crazy. I’ve got to start learning those songs again. We’ve got Jon (Donais from Shadows Fall) doing the whole leg. The great thing about this kind of stuff is it’s an easy call, Jon’s a great player, he knows all the songs well, and we get to hang with a good guy.
Did you try to get in touch with Danny?
Honestly, we went right to Jon. We had a couple of other people in mind that we wanted to talk to but Jon made the most sense. We love Danny, but it made sense for us to get Jon. There’s no bitterness toward Danny, we’re all friends. He just sent me a Christmas card.
Going through as many line up changes as you have, what’s it like bringing a new member into the Anthrax family? How does the make up of the band change?
Anthrax is Anthrax. We are who we are. The music dictates everything. I don’t think you have to adapt. We’re pretty adaptable. As long as the songs are being heard and played right we’re good. It’s not thought out that much, you just do it and you have a good time. I know I’m lucky to be making a living playing music and I don’t look farther then that. It’s a good hang; we have a good time on the road with good people and just enjoy the ride.
Can you tell us about your acting career?
Yeah. I did a film called Greetings From Tim Buckley last year. It was a great experience. I was filming it right around the Yankee Stadium show. I played a character named Richard Hell. I’ve studied acting for years. I went to acting school, done theater; it’s a lot of fun. I heard Tribeca Films just bought the film and they’re going to put it out next year. I have no idea how many theaters it’ll play in, but it’s always nice when Tribeca buys your movie. Hopefully, I’ll get some more work out of it.
“Dredd 3D.” Did the band see it together?
No, I saw it on tour. I don’t think it was that bad. It was pretty violent but better then the last one that’s for sure. When I heard the soundtrack I always though “this would be a good part for ‘I am the Law.’” But, it’s not up to me. We would do it in a second because that character belongs with that music. It means a lot to us.
The song really captures the essence of the Judge Dredd character.
I think so too. When you see the movie you’ll understand, there are a lot of parts where you hear the song in your head. We would’ve loved to have it in the movie. It did get a little slow for me but is better then I thought.
We’re you even approached about including “I am the Law” in it?
No, not at all.
Is there anything else you’d like to let your fans know about?
There’s always something going on in Anthrax’s world. We’re playing in Australia with Metallica and Slayer. That’s going to be good, clean, fun. We’re coming back for the Metal Alliance tour in March with a bunch of great groups like Exodus. It’s been a great run, we’ve been on the road consistently since before Yankee Stadium so it’ll be really exciting to hear what we come out with next. I think people are going to like this cover record, it’s a glimpse of where we came from.
Anthrax’s EP “Anthems” drops on March 19th. The Metal Alliance tour comes to Irving Plaza on April 20th and 21st.
A big thank you to Frank Bello for taking the time to speak with me.