ANTHRAX Guitarist Says JOEY BELLADONNA ‘Really Sounds Incredible’ On New Album

Adrien Begrand of MSN‘s metal music section Headbang recently conducted an interview with ANTHRAX guitarist Scott Ian. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Headbang: How much of a strain was that whole period where you went from Joey Belladonna singing, to Dan Nelson, to John Bush, and back to Joey?

Scott: It was definitely interesting. [laughs] I guess I can look back on it now and say it was like a series of tests we needed to pass in order to be able to graduate and finish our album. That’s kind of how we look at it now. When you’re in it, of course it was definitely daunting at some point and certainly frustrating, but music kept us going, and we knew there was a right way out of the tunnel that we were stuck in for a little bit. We just needed to find that way and that was basically asking Joey to rejoin the band at the beginning of 2010. Everything’s seemed to be going in the right direction ever since.

Headbang: How easy was it getting back to work with Joey back in the fold?

Scott: Extremely easy. We’ve all known each other a really long time, and having done that reunion tour with Joey in 2005-2006, we got the getting-to-know-each-other phase already out of the way. So this time when we got back together in New York we literally sat down over coffee and just laid it out on the table. “Here’s what we want to do. We want to finish this record with you, we want you to be the singer with the band, we want to go play these ‘Big Four’ shows. We just want this to be the band, are you into it?” And he said, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do.” It was that simple. It’s really easy to work together with Joey. And then once we really started getting into the music and the songs, re-opening the books on the record after sitting on it for a year… I don’t know that I even listened to it for almost a year. And then last fall we were on tour in the States with SLAYER and MEGADETH, and we spent every day in the dressing room working on the material and going through it, seeing what we felt still held up, what was still great, what we were totally in love with. And then other stuff still needed work. By the time that tour finished we had a really good idea of exactly what we needed to do to get the record finished. That enabled Joey to go in and start singing right after the New Year and start moving forward. It was just a really good time and a good place to be, because after having sat on the record, being able to have this sudden luxury of hindsight and go in and fix stuff that we didn’t feel was as good anymore, once we started doing that it was like all this energy, all this creativity that had been stifled because of the situation we were in was able to kind of explode. It just made the record that much better.

Headbang: How much work had to be done making the songs comfortable for Joey to sing?

Scott: That wasn’t really the case. It’s not that we worked on them to make them more conducive to Joey, we just worked on them to make them the best songs that they can be. We’ve never written an ANTHRAX album with anything in mind as far as who was singing on the record. When we wrote “Spreading The Disease”, Joey wasn’t even in the band. Obviously, from that point on, when we did “Among The Living” and everything, we never write songs thinking about who our singer is, we just write songs. That’s how it’s always been in this band. So we let Joey take them this time around. When everything was done he went into the studio on his own with the producer and was able to pretty much have his way with it, make his own choices and do his own thing. That’s his opportunity to throw himself into it, and it’s not up to us to write songs with him in mind. I think it’s the best thing he’s ever done. He just really sounds incredible. He really shines on this. A number of things he might be able to answer himself better, but in my opinion, I think him having the freedom where it was just him and Jay Ruston in the studio together opened a lot of doors for him. Back in the ’80s when we would make records, when it’d be time for the vocals, we’d all be in the studio like judge and jury, hanging around and making lots of comments, “Do this, do that.” It was very dictatorial as far as, “Okay, here’s how we want things done.” This time it was the opposite of that, just him and Jay, and we all stayed out of their way and let them create what they created. Of course, he had templates on some of the stuff, like, “Here’s some stuff but nothing’s written in stone, and if you want to change things and if you have a different idea, a different feeling for something, you’ve got all the freedom in the world. Don’t call us.” [laughs] I think it probably instilled a lot of energy and confidence into him, especially coming back in after all these years and then us basically giving him the keys to the car has got to feel good. He shows a range on this record, there’s stuff he does on this record, like the stuff he does on “Crawl”, on “Judas Priest”, I didn’t know he had it in him, truthfully. He’s’ completely opened up his range, doing more things creatively and vocally than I’ve ever heard him do on any ANTHRAX record before. Maybe that’s just 20 more years of experience. He hasn’t sung on an ANTHRAX record in 20 years, and he obviously brought a lot to the table going in. I’m sure that had to feel good, I’m sure he had a lot to get out of him and a lot to say in his performance. I just think it’s all on there.

Read the entire interview at Headbang.