UG editorial team. A group of people who are passionate about guitar and music in general.
Posted on May 26, 2014 05:13 pm
When the phone rings at Frank Bello's house in New York, it is answered by what sounds like a very, very young baby. In fact, a baby who doesn't even talk yet. After listening to several seconds of baby cooing, I figure the Anthrax bassist is holding the baby up to the phone and I inquire, "Hey, Frank." Silence. I then realize this baby talk is a message machine. I leave a message and say I'll call back.
I call back about three minutes later and Frank picks up. "I'm so sorry. I'll tell ya what I'm doing. I just got back from a London bass guitar show and I left my keys in my bag. So I had to get keys from my wife."
It's no surprise that Frank Bello is doing something bass-related. He loves the instrument and digs not only playing it and teaching it but talking about it. Here, he covers everything from being a roadie for the band he ultimately joined to new albums and new side projects including Altitudes & Attitude, the rock band he put together with Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson. When you first hear that Bello has assembled a group with another bass player you think, "Is this a Spinal Tap thing? Are there going to be two bass players?" But Bello explains he is playing rhythm guitar - an instrument he played before switching over to four-string - and Ellefson is covering the bottom end.
UG: Is it true you were a guitar tech for Anthrax?
FB: Sure. I was 16, 17 years old and I knew I loved the vibe of it all. I mean I knew I wanted to be a musician. I had just started to play around 13, 14 or something like that and I knew I wanted that kind of lifestyle. Somehow learning from it and learning about the stage and all that stuff and just being a musician. I thought that would be the best way for me to be part of it until I was old enough or just ready enough to get into a band. It just so happened my first band was Anthrax.
How did you know the Anthrax guys?
I'm related to Charlie Benante, the drummer.
I was there when he auditioned for Anthrax. We grew up together. When Scott(Ian) and Danny Lilker came over to the house, I grew up with Charlie so I was friends with those guys after that. It just became a thing and I became a tech.
Had you been playing in high school bands and that type of thing previously?
I was in high school jazz class. It was great and I had fun. I was playing a standup bass but a lot of the guys I hung out with in high school were all metal guys and especially my friend Johnny Tempesta. He plays for the Cult now; he's a drummer for the Cult. We would go to jazz class together and before everybody else got into the class, I would get this electric bass and he'd start playing drums and we'd be playing songs.
What would you jam on?
Maiden, Priest and stuff like that. Sabbath. We would jam on songs like that. Then my teacher, she wouldn't like that so much and she would ask us to stop, hah hah.
Steve Harris, Geezer and Geddy Lee were big influences on you back in the day?
Oh sure. For me, my heroes were bass players. I guess everybody needs somebody to look up to. I didn't grow up with a dad so my heroes I guess - or whatever you want to call them - heroes or father figures, guys to look up to that gave me a goal were my bass player guys. I call them Steve Harris, GeddyLee and Geezer Butler. Those guys made me want to play bass. And as far getting onstage, KISS made me want to play onstage. I saw that and I said, "Man, do I want to play onstage." So it was all these things. I really am very, very thankful for having music in my life because it's pretty easy to go a different way. I got locked into music early and I'm very thankful for my family. I went that way because they were very supportive.
Do you think that jazz technique was transferred to your rock bass playing?
Aw definitely. Great for my extension for sure. I knew my extension was getting better by playing the standup bass because it was a great stretch every day. It was a great workout for your hand strength. So that I knew was working. Before that I played trombone and a little bit of baritone [saxophone]. That was a natural bass kind of vibe - you know what I mean? So it all worked for me and it was just a progression.
You were never going to be a trombone player?
I always wanted to play the electric bass and that was really important to me. But in jazz class there were certain people who were allowed to. I wasn't allowed to because the teacher had favorites and stuff.
Did you listen to what Dan Lilker had done with Anthrax?
I'm still friends with Danny; he's a great bass player. He's a great songwriter also. He's all the above. He's just awesome; he's amazing. I was friends with him and still friends with him. He's got Nuclear Assault and so many great projects. He's just a great artist. Yeah, I watched everything.
You soaked it all in.
I watched what everybody does. I watched what Scott did and Charlie. We were all very young. I was the youngest I was, god, 16, when I was teching for those guys. Then it just so happened at 17, I know they were going a different way and they were gonna start auditioning bass players. I just told them, "Look, I'd love an audition" 'cause I knew the songs already of being around them. They were comfortable with me and I was comfortable with them. So it was a no brainer and it just worked out that way and the rest is history.
Oh yeah. Great record; great all around and just fun. After a while you're doing gigs and you know from the rehearsals, you just know them verbatim. So it was pretty easy.
Plus you'd been playing with Charlie Benante [Bello is Benante's newphew] all this time.
Oh, way before Anthrax because that's what we would do. Either he would play drums and I'd be playing bass or actually I played rhythm guitar first before bass. But I was playing the bass parts on rhythm guitar. So it was Charlie and my other friend Mike - a really good friend of ours - that said, "Dude, you're playing the bass parts on the guitar. Why don't you just switch to bass?"
Is that really when you made the transition?
It was easy as that. And then once I tried the bass, it was a natural click and just all made sense after that. I love it and it's my passion. That's what it's about.
When you started playing bass you were using an ESP?
Yeah, through the '80s I was an ESP guy all through that time. Then I switched over to Fender. My first bass was a Fender - a '72 Jazz. I actually found it recently and I'm probably gonna restore it soon. I just found it and it brought back a lot of great memories. Yeah, I mean I've been an ESP from the early days. I went to Fender all through the '90s. I still love them. The whole thing was very much family-oriented there. Good people. But it was time to try something new so we went back to ESP again.
What did you dig about ESP?
Well, it's the neck. The neck on my ESP that I have on my current signature model, is the bass I pulled out of storage from the '80s. I had it in storage - the one I used on "Among the Living" and all those records - it was that bass when I said, "Can you make me this?" I literally said, "Everything on this - the neck, the body, the wood - make this bass for me." And that's what they did.
Your current signature bass is a carefully-crafted replica of that '80s ESP instrument?
That's the bass I'm playing with ESP now [FB-4 and FB-204 models]. It's sort of like a reissue from that '80s-styled bass I was playing. It just felt right and the neck is amazing. I love it. Everybody tries that neck - all my friends who try that neck - they say they love the neck on that bass. It's an easy play. I look forward to playing this and I know it's gonna be right on for me every night. Yeah, it's a really good thing.
Well, it's crazy because I say this in my clinics that it was a very exciting but a scary time. It was a really scary time just because I knew how to play onstage and stuff like that but I never went under the microscope. We did "Armed and Dangerous" [EP] but this was a record. I think "Lone Justice" was my first song I recorded and I remember my hand shaking.
This was the moment you'd been waiting for?
I was so excited and the adrenaline was pumping. I remember the producer Carl Canedy - who's a great producer - saying to me, "Alright, just calm down. Let's play through it a couple of times" and he really got me through it. He really helped me out with it. I just relied on all my heroes and you could hear a lot of my heroes specifically in that song but that whole record. You'll hear a lot of Steve Harris influence, Geezer Butler and Geddy Lee. You'll hear all three of them. A lot of people say that about that specific record.
What was it like playing bass behind Scott Ian and Dan Spitz?
It was so comfortable. It wasn't anything because they're my friends. It was just like the natural progression. Just like, "Alright, we're gonna do this." Because it was the first real thing I was playing on it was intimidating but I love a challenge, man. I take on any challenge. It's like, "Let's do this" and taking that next step for me in my life so it was definitely that. I was young; I was ready; I was hungry - just like now, hah hah hah. I'm not younger anymore but I'm hungrier now and I want to learn more now than ever. I want to keep learning.
You brought in producer Eddie Kramer [Jimi Hendrix, KISS] to work on the "Among the Living" album. What did you learn from him?
It was great. Number one, we all had a million questions for Eddie because of his history and all the great stuff he's worked on. While we were recording, you could ask him all these great questions about great bass sounds he's gotten in the past. Eddie was instrumental in helping with the "Among the Living" bass sound.
How did Eddie help you?
We had to cut through the rhythm guitar sounds of Scott and then we had to get through the kick drums of Charlie Benante. So we really had to define ourselves on that record. So it was a little bit tedious but we got through it and I'm still happy with that.
Your bass sound on "Among the Living" was unbelievably good with this kind of growling, metallic tone.
Thank you. Thank you for the compliment. Everybody still to this day loves that bass sound and so do I and I guess I'm still chasing it, which is what I like. Because I like chasing [sounds] because I don't think you should ever be comfortable. I just wanna keep getting to that next stage where you have a foundation. I guess that's my foundation and I just wanna keep going and seeing how we can get it better and just progress. That's the way to do it now.
I've described it as growling and metallic - what would you say?
I call it a piano-like kind of vibe because there's a top end and a midrange that really mix in with the drums and guitar. Where you could actually cut through but it's still bass. It just adds a different tone to the top end of it. Eddie Kramer just told me this in the past and so did other producers - it's not only the sound but it's also the bass player's fingers.
I've always felt that that most of a guitar player's sound comes from his fingers.
It's about your approach and your attack on how you hit the string. On how you're plucking or picking the strings. It is that. Because one of my favorite sounds is Tom Petersson from Cheap Trick with his 4-string and 8-string approach. That is a true piano kind of vibe and piano-like sounding. So my thing is it's gonna cut through and yet it's still bass. It fills up the spot but it's really a piano-like sound, which I'm always trying to get. I don't think I've found it yet but I'm coming close.
You've been developing your finger technique all these years and understanding how to pump on eighth notes in the studio and make it even and articulate every note?
Of course. You hit it on the head. That's exactly it. I've worked with producers now and most of them say that and players - it's what you do with your right hand really. The aggression in it and you can bring it back and you can dig in on it harder if you want a more growly sound. If you want that top end thing, there's a definite way to slap off it. Not literally slap but just get your fingers to the point where you're hitting a little harder and then you can get that high-end tone in the attack on your right-hand fingers.
Yeah. I had made my connection with Fender and obviously everybody's a fan of Fender. I had some friends in the company and it was just an easy process. It just made sense and I was starting to use 'em more and more. That's what the music was calling for in these actual sounds. I think all of us bass players - all musicians - get this sound in your head that you want to get out. I think some of the basses I was using at that time had that sound. So it just made it all easy.
You covered Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" and your bass parts in that song really push the track. Is that the ultimate P-bass sound poking out in that little solo you do?
It is. Let's be honest with that - I'm not a soloist. I don't need the spotlight, hah. I appreciate all bass players and I love bass so much because I'm a student and I want to learn. But my thing is, I don't need the spotlight where I need to solo. I've done it but I'm just more comfortable in writing a tasty little part that'll add to the song. 'Cause at the end, it really is just about I want the best song. If I can add a tasty melody on bass to the song that was like a little riff or something that will add to the actual song and the song structure, that's what I feel my bass playing job is. Where you go, "Wow, that's a cool little part" or whatever and without getting in the way, that's my definition of my favorite bass players and the ones I grew up with.
What are your feelings about maybe the ultimate Fender solo-playing bassist: Jaco Pastorius?
Awesome. I'm a huge fan and I love watching. As I said I'm a student and I want to learn. I learn something from Jaco; I'll learn something from Geddy Lee; I'll learn something from Geezer. It's all different players all around and it's just amazing. Like my friends Billy Sheehan, I've become friends with Billy and we talk bass. He's a virtuoso and he's amazing. I learn something from every player just because I want to. I think you never stop learning in this field. Nobody should ever stop learning and all I want to do is get to the next level. What can I take like a sponge? What can I take and learn from this and put it into my playing to make me a better player? That's all it's about.
Anthrax delved into a bit of prog on the "Intro to Reality" instrumental.
Those are actually Taurus bass pedals. We tried them live for a while - you probably find some YouTube video - but let me tell you, the Taurus pedals broke down so often our techs just kind of gave up. They had a couple of versions out and they broke down so often, it just didn't make sense to do that whole section 'cause it was breakin' down way too much. I remember it was fun and different for Anthrax but the technical side was just terrible. In those days, we were travelling for two years at a time on tour so they broke down quite a lot.
Did you listen to prog bass players like Greg Lake and Chris Squire?
I have a Chris Squire Signature model Rickenbacker. I wanted that sound. Again we were talking about that piano tone, Chris was a great pick player, right? Obviously. But if you listen to his sound and hear the overtones, there is a piano-like overtone to his sound that is very appealing to my ear. It's part of the search - the never-ending search - that I listen to but that's all part of it. And I appreciate also he's an amazing player.
You are truly a student of the bass.
I'm a bass lover. I dig bass players and I'm such a big fan of bass players. I'm schooled on it and I just wanna learn from each one of them. It doesn't matter where you are in your life or what kind of bass player you are, I'll learn something off of you.
"We've Come for You All" is the first album with Rob Caggiano. How much did he impact the sound of that record?
Rob is a very talented person in every way. Not only a great guitar player, he's also a great producer. He's very family-oriented. I mean we're family. He plays with Volbeat now and we've been friends with Volbeat forever so it's great. It's a natural progression and I'm very happy for him that he's doing that because I think he fits great with that band. He's just very easy to work with. It's like working with my brother. It's really not an issue. Rob does work you hard, which I appreciate. He looks for performance and I appreciate that and I just he's got a great ear. He really does.
John Bush was the singer on "We've Come for You All." Was that a different situation than working with Joey Belladonna?
Oh, absolutely. Well, it's a different band. It's weird because I think in retrospect and you look at the band now and our changes, I feel like it was two different bands. That was a different band and I loved that part of the band also. John Bush is a great vocalist and he's my friend. It's all positive.
Anthrax has been able to transition between singers pretty seamlessly.
The great thing about where Anthrax is in 2014 is it's a very, very positive place. Like I said with John Bush, we had that band and it was a lot of fun. We wrote a lot of great songs I still love to this day. Then we came back with Joey and do "Worship Music." I know you're gonna get to this next but then we come back with this Big Four thing and it's a whole new generation of people that hadn't heard Anthrax before the Big Four. There's this whole young fanbase along with our fanbase and so our fanbase has grown so well again. It's like a whole resurgence of Anthrax and it's a really nice thing to be part of and we're very, very grateful.
We are going to get into "Worship Music"and the "Big Four."
No worries. I don't want to rush you. It's just when I was talking about the John Bush era, I think we've been very lucky that way because John Bush is a great vocalist. To this day he's still a great vocalist. I'm a big Armored Saint fan and I'm friends with all those guys and this is just a different Anthrax. So it obviously works.
In 2011, you toured with Helmet for a while.
Sure, yeah, again another thing through my friend Johnny Tempesta. He told me they were looking for a bass player so I went out to jam with Page[Hamilton], Chris[Traynor] and Johnny and it just clicked immediately. Page asked me to come out and jam with them and it worked out really well. I had a blast. It was pretty much a year-and-a-half to two years of drinking, hah hah hah.
You learned how to drink on that tour.
It was a whole lot of fun. Playing with a pick and playing with Page and Chris, they're great players. It was a different type of playing for me because I had to play with a pick all the time. I actually think it made me a better bass player just rhythmically. It made me lock in a lot more and maybe think of a different way of locking in than I was used. I just think it rounded me out a lot and it helped me look at bass playing a different way. And you know me - I always wanna learn so it was definitely a great learning experience.
From playing rhythm guitar, you were still comfortable using a pick.
Of course, yeah. And I have played with a pick for certain Anthrax songs. It just so happens those songs required a pick all the time, which is fine for me. I love the challenge of just having to play with a pick all the time. I thought it could add to what I want to learn and it was just a great vibe. The whole thing was great and I still love those guys and still talk to 'em. They're still good friends of mine so it's all very positive.
Do you think you brought some of that Helmet mentality back into Anthrax when you went into work on the "Worship Music" album?
Definitely. Everything I do and everything you learn, you bring it into your playing. That's what we were talking about before. That definitely put me a little more into a pull-back kind of vibe instead of being on top of it. Maybe back up on it on the progression. It made me think differently, which is great. I just put it into the computer that is your head and see what happens with it. Anything you can learn from different players and that's what I love doing - I love learning from different players. That's a good question also.
Any musician in this business needs a ton of luck and Anthrax has had their share. But along the way, the band has written great songs and that's really where the success comes from.
Thank you. The whole thing is you can't phone this stuff in. Look - we're fans. We're fans of this music and we cannot phone this stuff in nor who would want to phone anything in? I wanna write a riff that's gonna f--kin' hooky, heavy, all of the above. Just makes it stay with you. We're all looking for that heaviest riff of all time because we're all Sabbath fans, right? I love this music - it's part of my life that's been really good to me and it gets a lot of my inner angst out. I think we were all drawn to this music but for a reason. We all have this thing inside we have to get out and I think this music helps us get along with it. That's the best way I can describe it.
What you've just explained is certainly one of the main elements that has pushed the Big Four bands for so many years.
My thing is why the Big Four is still around is number one - it's a movement we all started way back that is still relevant. Again it all gets at something inside of us we all have and those songs you relate to them. That's the great thing about going forward to recreate and pushing it to the next level.
How would you characterize what you do versus what Robert Trujillo brings to Metallica?
Everybody's got their own thing. Robert Trujillo happens to be an amazing bass player. I've known Rob a long time since the Suicidal Tendencies days. I'm friends with Rob a lot of years. He's a great bass player and he absolutely belongs in that gig. When you sit down with Rob on bass, he's a funk player. He's an amazing - and I'm talking with a capital A - bass player. He's just fun to watch and a great, beautiful person inside and out. A great family guy and it's all the above.
You obviously have a lot of respect for what he does.
It's great because we all stick together. Like we talk about this Big Four thing, the bass players in that world are very close. Rob is a really good friend. Tom Araya? God, I've known Tom since '83. We're very close and we talk all the time and we're all family guys. Dave Ellefson, you know how close we are because we just did a side project. So we are very, very close and it's a community of bass, hah hah hah. It's all nothing but love and respect - it really is that. Everybody brings a different aspect to their band in every way and it's all very positive.
"Worship Music" was the next level for Anthrax?
We knew we had something people were gonna like 'cause we're such fans. But we just didn't know how much liking there would be out there 'cause we didn't know what kind of a fanbase we were gonna face. Then when the record did what it did and thankfully it was successful and it got praise from everybody and fans and critics and all that. You couldn't be in a better place. We released it on the day we played Yankee Stadium and the buzz was absolutely unexpected and it just felt amazing. And then touring for 207 shows after that, hah hah. We haven't done 207 shows - I'll be quite honest - since the '80s nor did we expect it. Every time we took a six-week or four-week break, we were backed up with another tour because people were asking and there's nothing better than that. There's no more compliments than that and there's not a better thank you than that. We love playing live and we're a live band so although it beat us up at the times, believe me there's nothing better.
Do you think part of the energy on "Worship Music" came from Joey Belladonna's return to the band?
Absolutely. Joey is an awesome singer. He came and put the cherry on top of that record is the way I look at it. Joey came in and number one, he has that amazing voice. This isn't a kiss off; it's just fact. The dude has always had a great voice and not because he's the singer of Anthrax but because I'm a fan of his singing. He just has a great voice and he comes in and he just makes it easy and seamless with his singing. You know it's funny after all these years, Joey came in and it was a natural lock-in with the music and his vocals. It sounded like that Anthrax. You understand?
I do understand.
It was that Anthrax and I think a lot of people hadn't heard that Anthrax in [a long time]. And no disrespect to any other Anthrax. It was just a thing people haven't heard in a while and really liked. Everything just clicked at once and that's what's so exciting about going to the next record. Because nobody knew what the next deal was gonna be and how everything was gonna work out. But from the overwhelming, positive vibe from the fanbase that we have - and us and the way we feel about the last record and where we are - yes, of course. We can't wait for the next thing. It's great looking ahead now.
You're currently working on a new album?
We're writing a new Anthrax record right now. And there's nothing better coming from that. We didn't need to take a break 'cause we were on such a high, we wanted to dive right into it because we all had some great stuff written. We're just putting it all together now.
What is the status of the record at the moment?
We almost have 12 songs already, which is unheard of for us with a new record. 'Cause we think we're in a good rhythm - you know what I mean?
So when that vibe is there and god - we haven't felt that since the '80s. With the band getting along really well, there's a whole new generation of fans we have along with our fanbase that happened from the Big Four. So everything's clicking, which is really nice.
When all those years of hard work finally come together, it must feel amazing.
It's like a well-oiled machine right now. The band is getting along really like I said, which is crazy after all these years. It's just a good time. But I'll go back to your question - this all leads to one thing: It's all about the song. I'm talking about all those bands from that era. You cannot forget about the song because after a while if there's no song there, nobody's gonna care. Period.
Does the new album jump off where "Worship Music" ended?
To be quite honest, the best way we can describe this - and Scott and I have talked about this in length - is we know it's a thrashier record absolutely hands down. It's got more intensity to say the least but it's definitely a step to the thrash side. No doubt. It takes a while for us to warm up into playing it because quite honestly it's hard to play.
Still looking for the heaviest riff?
Dude, I love that f--king challenge more than anything. Where you have to warm up into playing your own riffs. Dude, there's nothing cooler than going, "Here comes that f--king part." For me it's like, "Yeah, let's do this." It's like that adrenaline junkie. "Let's get this sh-t goin', man." Because if it gets us as fans of this music to that crazy, f--kin' atmosphere, we know it's gonna be intense for the fans.
You know what Anthrax fans want to hear?
'Cause we're fans. So it's bringing us right there and we know it's a thrashy sound because I think that's where we wanna go. It's so f--king cool. There's a lot of anger in the group and it's just a lotta fun. It's gonna be a good one. I'm looking forward to this and I can't wait to play this sh-t live.
Has new guitar player Jonathan Donais been a part of the creative process?
No yet. He'll definitely be part of the lead process on it. But the core of the band - Charlie, Scott and I - usually write the stuff together and bounce off of each other. Get the main structure in the song and then we'll have the lead section and we'll pick Jon's head and see what he's got. I'm sure it's gonna be great because he's awesome. He's a great addition to the band.
When Rob Caggiano left the band, were you worried about replacing him?
Well, Rob was a key member in the production thing and it's always been Charlie, Scott and I with the writing. So that would never really hurt anything. Rob was great in the production aspect and the leads but with the writing it's always been Charlie, Scott and I with Anthrax. I thought it was a great move just because Rob wanted to stay home more on production. But then I understand because he wanted to do more writing with Volbeat. It's a great group. It all fits and it's nothing but positive stuff. God, the last time I was hanging out with the guys in Volbeat when we saw Rob in L. A., we got loaded together. It was a great vibe so absolutely a good family friend.
Back in 2013, you recorded the covers EP, Anthems. There were songs by AC/DC, Thin Lizzy and a Journey track, "Keep On Running." Are you a Ross Valory fan?
I'm friends with Ross. So sure, of course. Everybody is and you should be if you're not. He's an awesome, underrated bass player. He's another underrated, great bass player who has a great melody in his bass playing. We're all Journey fans of course. Joey for that matter, I think one of the first songs he auditioned for Anthrax was a Steve Perry solo record. The song, "Oh Sherry" was the first time Scott, Charlie and I heard him sing. Joey went behind the mic and did that line [sings melody] "Should have been gone." We knew with our music and that vocal and that tone of voice was something special. We knew it from that.
It was such an interesting song to choose.
Anthrax is pretty much known for a lot of our B sides we've done because we like to have fun with it. Those are the songs we grew up with. Rush? I mean for god's sake, Charlie and I are diehard Rush fans. We grew up jamming to Rush so that's always gonna be around. AC/DC and all that stuff we've done on that is the stuff we grew up on and showed us the way.
Who's producing the new album?
Jay Ruston - straight up. He mixed the last record and he did vocals with Joey specifically. He's go easy to work with; he's one of us. He's definitely the next member of Anthrax. He's in with us and he's in our writing sessions right with a Pro Tools and editing things as we go. He'll tell us if we need a suggestion like, "Is that part too long?" he goes, "You should probably cut that part out." He'll just help us edit it where we need it, which is great.
You mentioned earlier that you and Dave Ellefson have a new side project, which is called Altitudes & Attitude. You sing on this one?
Yeah, you know what happened? Dave Ellefson and I have done a lot of bass clinics around the world. After a while you're just hanging out and Dave said to me one day, "You know what we should do? We should write a few songs and just do that at our clinics." I'm telling you, it was as easy as that.
How did you end up as the lead singer?
We were talking about it and we had these songs and when it came to the singing, Dave said, "Who should we get?" I said, "You know what, dude? Let me just do it" and thankfully Dave has liked my singing all along and he's always been pushing me to do more of it. I said, "Let me give it a shot. Let me get out there and instead of having to deal with another person, let's just keep it all within ourselves. And just do this project with you and I and Jay Ruston." So it was literally that and we got Jeff Friedl from A Perfect Circle on drums who Jay brought in who's awesome. It was easy as that.
Who's playing bass?
I played a lot of rhythm guitar on the record and Dave played most of the bass on it. I sang on it and it just worked out really well. It's got a nice little buzz on it so people are talking about it in a really positive way. We're just having fun with - nobody's leaving their day job. Let's put it that way. It's nice to have an outlet.
You're mainly playing rhythm?
Yeah, I played some bass and lead bass because we had some jamming to do on one of the songs on an 8-string bass. But Dave is handling most of the bass on the EP. It's so easy to say, "You want to play bass on this one? Alright, I'll play bass and you play guitar." That's how we work together. It's so easy and comfortable.
"Here Again" and "Tell the World" are very cool songs.
Yeah. You should hear the first one too, which is "Booze and Cigarettes." That's the one people are catching onto also.
I did hear that. Great song.
Thank you. We're having fun with it and now they're asking us to do more and we have 'em. So that'll be a nice, little side addition. It's something else we do just for fun. We're doing our first show March 22nd. We're doing an Altitudes & Attitude show in Chicago and we're having fun with it. Then we're doing Sweetwater[mail order catalog]. Dave and I are doing a master class there and we're doing some Altitudes & Attitude there.
Is Gus G involved in the band?
Gus G played lead on "Here Again." He burned. Jay sent him the track and they came back and we didn't have to touch it. It was so f--kin' awesome. He's amazing.
They released the Ronnie James Dio tribute CD This Is Your Life. You recorded a version of "Neon Knights."
We're very, very proud of that. It sounds so cool. Obviously we're such huge fans of Ronnie. God rest Ronnie. Ronnie has always been, God rest his soul, has always been great to Anthrax. He was always a beautiful person inside and out and he was always very friendly and plus he was a Yankee fan, hah hah hah. He was a beautiful man inside and out with a beautiful voice and a great talent. We miss him so it's a great tribute to him.
Did Anthrax tour with Dio back in the day?
Oh yeah. I'll tell ya, one of my favorite times with Ronnie was Anthrax playing with Dio in Greece. It just so happened Ronnie's birthday was July 10th and my birthday was July 9th. Everybody - all the band and crew - were up at this bar on top of the hotel. Ronnie and I were just talking and he goes, "Well, let's celebrate our birthday." Ronnie bought me a beer for my birthday and that was one of the best times in my life - Ronnie James Dio buying me a birthday beer because his birthday was the next day. He said, "Let's celebrate our birthday" and we looked at each other and said, "Happy birthday" and we just cheered.
What a remarkable moment.
That was one of my favorite times and as I'm speaking about it, I'm kind of reliving it. It's so cool you know.
In general, do you think the bass has become more important in metal than it used to be?
If you think about it, of course I think bass is very, very important. Yes, there's a whole new batch of bass players that understand you have to cut through. Which is great because the bass should be heard. When I tell you I love bass, my passion is that sound we're still searching for. It all adds to the song and it doesn't mean I want to pull out of the song. It means I want to add a certain tone and a certain little riff or melody on the bass or whatever you want to call it. A tasty little melody that will add to the song but it's absolutely a part of the song. So I always think it should be as important as any other instrument. There's a vocal but without bass what are you doing?
In a previous conversation we had you said, "I tell a story with my bass playing." You're writing the next chapter with the new Anthrax album?
That's exactly it. The players I grew up on - if you listen to their bass lines they do - they're all telling a story within the story of the song. And that's all it is. It doesn't mean you want to take over the song but sometimes you've got this little, tasty thing that takes you away for a second that adds to the song. It's like, "Wow, I like that little thing. What is that? That just added another cool layer to that song, man. I wanna listen to it again." It'll make you listen to the song for that part again and that's what it means to me. It's just another part of a song.
Everything else is good with you and the band and firing on all pistons?
Yeah, and you know what's funny? We have the whole production thing - pre-production with Anthrax and the writing of the record and it's going great and I'm so psyched. Now the touring starts where I'm hearing we're doing the summer festivals in Europe. Now they're starting to talk about America with some fun news for next year for the fall. So the machine is starting up again. We took a little break, which was smart because we needed it but the batteries are definitely charged.
You know you have the greatest job in the world, right?
Look, there's nobody more thankful than me and the band that we can do this for a living. I'm a blue collar guy that grew up in the Bronx. I know what it is to work and I've been very lucky. I understand it and I think God for it ever day. Believe me 'cause I know how hard it is out there.
Thank you for your time and honesty.
Thank you, man. Great questions by the way.
Thank you. Play all the good notes.
That's all I try to do, man. You know if you screw up, you just laugh at it, hah hah hah. We'll have a beer next time I'm out there.
Interview by Steven Rosen Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2014