In early 2016 I conducted my first interview for Cool Try.
It was with Frank Bello of Anthrax some time around the release of their 2016 album, For all Kings. The interview ended up going up on the site roughly a month after it was conducted, I think.
Considering that the interview is no longer up anywhere I’m sharing it here.
At the time I was trying to capture a conversation. Still am, but I’m pretty sure I’ve improved on doing so when I did this interview.
This was originally just called “Interview with Frank Bello” (I think) but I’ve changed the title to be more in line with interview titling on Culture Eater as well as better reflect what I was trying to do.
There were some edits made (mostly spacing), but otherwise everything from “On the 11th of February…” onward is as it was.
Words in bold are mine.
Along with most of my review and interview work, this review is also on Culture Eater.
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Anyway, I hope you enjoy.
On the 11th of February I was able to interview Frank Bello of Anthrax.
They were on tour and also a few weeks away from the release of For All Kings, their latest album.
Unfortunately parts of the interview had to be written from memory, so unfortunately not all of this is as accurate as it should have been.
Hello, is that Frank?
Frank: Hi, who is this?
Frank, this is __ from Cool Try. How are you going?
Frank: Pretty good, what’s up?
Not much, not much. Just trying to enjoy the summer heat.
Frank: We’re in New Mexico in the moment and it’s pretty hot. We’d come from up north and it was much colder.
I imagine it gets hotter in New Mexico than Australia though.
Frank: Right now there’s a storm up north, so being here is nice.
I can only imagine, because if all you’re getting is bad weather, when you finally see sun it doesn’t matter how hot or cold it is; you feel so much more refreshed and energised.
Alrighty… well, let me start by asking… So you guys have a new album coming out on February 26th. Worldwide?
Frank: Yeah. It’s like letting your kids go into the world, you know? (laughs)
It’s great, because we spent so much time working on the record, so having a release date is incredible.
Well, it’s been roughly five years since Worship Music came out, which isn’t the same kind of time difference between that and We’ve Come for you all, which was eight or nine years, but even so, it’s a fair bit of time to nurture something.
Frank: With Worship Music – I say this humbly and thankfully – we did so many shows – well over 300 shows – for that record and we didn’t expect to do that many shows, to tell you the truth.
The good thing about the whole scenario is that the record has taken off so well with people that they’ve allowed us to do this.
To be really honest, it’s been a great run. We’ve worked very hard and I want to keep believing – that’s the way I grew up man – you work really hard; good things will happen.
This is a blue collar group and as honest as I can be with you dude – I think this is a hard working band. There’s a fire in the belly and we want to achieve our goals and we have a lot of goals we want to get to and I can see it by the way we’re touring.
The shows are killing live and there’s great reviews we’re tracking with the new record.
I don’t know if you have the record yet but the reviews have been nothing but 9/10, 10/10 – They’ve been the highest of highs. The reviews are going great.
I can’t wait to get it out to people – the fan-base – and let them hear it and it’s just a really great time.
Excellent. I do have the record to review but I haven’t touched it yet. I thought I’d try and get the interview out of the way first as I want a bit of perspective –
Frank: I can hear a dog.
Frank: I can hear a dog there.
I don’t have a dog.
Frank: I sweat to God, I thought I could hear a dog. I haven’t been home in a while and it sounded like mine.
It really sounded like you had a dog there barking right next to you (laughs).
Well, yeah, I decided that whilst you’re on tour I’ll find where you live and take your dog. Why not?
Frank: My dog! (laughs)
I miss my dog; that’s why I speak.
I haven’t been home in a month, so I miss and my dog.
I’ll see him soon, so it’s all good.
My son, my dog, my family, all good.
Ah, fair enough.
Tell me, did the writing for For All Kings change, was anything done differently or did you just get straight into it?
What was different and what was the same for this record?
Frank: To tell you the truth, on the road it’s hard to write with us, so what we did was Charlie, Scott and I, we’d get together once a month whilst off tour for a few days and we’d meet up with our producer and we’d come out with with some great skeleton ideas of songs, you know? Then we’d just keep feeding it and keeping it grow and nurture the songs really.
We did that for a bunch of sessions and then we had a good group of songs that we thought would work and we felt comfortable with. There is a point where you know you have the album, I guess by doing it for so long.
This time we know when we had the right album.
It took some living with and there was a lot of taking out and putting stuff in and the great thing is we had no rush so we could live with the songs… I think you have to be a fan to live this stuff.
You need that fire in your belly.
When you know that song is right, you know it’s ready to go then you go into the studio.
Did you mostly record it live or was it done bit by bit?
How was it mostly recorded?
Frank: We do drums first and then we’ll do bass or rhythm guitar – Scott or myself will go next – we switch on and off with that.
At this point it’s very much a live feeling.
Scott and I jam with Charlie to get his drum tracks done so it’s the three of us jamming in the studio. Then Scott will do his rhythm tracks or I’ll do my bass tracks; whatever we feel is best for the song at the time.
It’s a really good and easy process because it’s never complicated and we feel very at home in the studio.
So what you’re saying is you change it up based on what you think will work best for the song.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the song.
That’s the basis of everything. That’s what you’ll live on live.
This band has never been known to rush anything or put out shit or stuff that we knew wasn’t ready. That doesn’t make sense. We definitely take our time in making sure it’s the right album and I think we’ve done that with For All Kings.
You did say you took your time with it, which is a good thing as it allows you to sit more with the songs and be more clear with where you do and don’t want to go.
I read somewhere that there were a few troubles with the drumming; with a repetitive drumming injury. Did that come into play?
Frank: Charlie has this thing called Carpal Tunnel. It’s a deadening of the nerves in your hand. In his right hand specifically. He had to have surgery for it. Thankfully he’s better now, but occasionally he’ll just flare up so we’d periodically go through a bunch of songs and not push it.
It’s nothing that’s going to hamper the group, so when Charlie can’t do the road and is taking a break with his hand, we have another drummer called Jon Dette who is our friend who will come out and does some shows with us. We have a really nice thing that goes on to make it easy for everybody.
He [Charlie] was in pain but he had the surgery and he’s getting better, so that’s cool.
All you can do is hope for the best.
The fact that he was able to push through it as much as he could and actually get the album done is kind of an example of the triumph of the will.
Frank: Right now he’s on tour with us, so we’ll keep doing our thing, you know?
So, you’re on tour at the moment and you’re probably going to have a brief break before you continue on. Obviously the album’s gonna drop and you”ll be in tour mode for that.
Is there anything you guys do to cope with the pressures of touring?
Frank: We’ve been doing this for seven years, just touring in general.
There’s nothing to combat that. It is what it is.
This is the life we’ve chosen.
I love nothing nothing more than getting on stage and playing a show.
I’ve always wanted a machine that can get me home after the show.
If you have 23, 23 1/2 that are kind of, you know, a bit of a pain, and you want to be home with the family also, it would be great if you could go and play the show and then just zap back. It doesn’t exist yet, but I’m waiting for it.
Well, one day.
With that kind of perspective it’s going to be a lot easier to cope with because you’re aware that you’re not going to be able to do everything that you want, but what with you guys being a bit older and doing it for so long surely you’d be afforded at least some time off to explore around a bit more rather than being continuously rushed around.
I’d love to say that, but it’s so much harder now because record sales just don’t exist any more. It is what it is. People are illegally downloading records so you have to stay on the road. That is how you get your music heard, but that’s also how you make a living.
It used to be a lot different, but unfortunately it is the way it is now; that’s the music business, so you stay on the road and you play to as many people as you can.
Well, with that, maybe it gives not only an excuse, but a reason to perform a lot harder and make sure that you can always put on the best live performance that you can, night in, night out, even with or without difficulties.
Frank: Anthrax has always been – and I’m proud to say that – [a band where] nobody has ever phoned it in, to coin a phrase. We leave everything on stage.
As we do with our records, we leave it all out there, and I’m very proud of that.
I can’t phone it in man. I have to give it all, cause I know how lucky I am to make a living being a musician, so I think it’s my job to leave it all out there.
It’s understandable and it’s a very admirable belief and trait to have, to be honest, as every now-and-then you will see a band who might phone it in; they could have whatever reason they’re doing it for, bit they don’t address the audience about it. They’ll just let it happen and move on.
You guys seem like the kind of guys that, if you were to, for whatever reason, put on a bad performance, you’d at least acknowledge it to the crowd and apologise for it and still do your best regardless.
Frank: I think that there is no such thing as a bad performance if you give everything.
If you have technical difficulties, that’s nobodies fault, right?
Frank: If you’re leaving it all on the stage and you do everything you can in your fibres and give everything you have, I think that is a great performance. That’s all you can do in life.
It doesn’t have to just be in performing music. It can be your job. Just leave it all out there and then you’ve tried your best and you can be proud of it.
I have to do that. I have to leave it all out there to say I tried my best. That’s all I can do.
Well, I’m going to attempt to throw a quick curve-ball at you because why not?
Tell me, are you a fan of swing music at all?
Yeah, swing. Or any other similar style of music.
You wouldn’t believe the music I’m into.
I love music.
I love any kind of music people are putting out from their soul.
I really means a lot to me cause you’re a sponge.
You can take anything in.
I’m an old movie buff.
I love old films and I love the swing time, I love all of that stuff.
I love the big band era.
It comes in cycles and people try to bring it back once in a while and I always enjoy that.
So to answer your question, definitely.
It’s a whole lost art that I hope people revisit.
Fair enough. Well, that was going to lead to my second, hopefully curve-ball question.
With music being cycling in nature, it will come back in some way, whether it be major or minor, but do you think that, say, things like swing and cool jazz could ever come back and make a significant impact on main music or it’ll just be on the wayside?
Frank: Well, first off, I hope it does, of course and the older I get the more I see life has cycles to it. How things come about in a different way, you know what I mean?
It’s a taste of, say, like a soup. A “taste” of swing, but it’ll be in a different format.
Somebody will do it their own way, but it will still be a tribute to that.
There’s so much great stuff out there from the past that I love to revisit. I do.
I find myself going back and listening to a lot of music.
I love the old films so much and the music that was around in those days.
It’s a passion of mine.
I like listening cause I think music is a great… it’s a great pulse of what’s going on at that time. Just like music now; it’s a great pulse of what’s going on right now.
Unfortunately the interview cut at this point.
However, I had no remaining questions.
It was a pleasure to be able to speak to Frank Bello.
For All Kings is out now.