ANTHRAX Singer: ‘I Try To Perform The Songs As They Sound On The Record’

Get Ready To Rock! recently conducted an interview with ANTHRAX singer Joey Belladonna. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Get Ready To Rock!: Is performing [material from “Worship Music”] in a live environment is the same as performing the classic ANTHRAX material from, let’s say, “Among The Living” or “Spreading The Disease” — material that was originally recorded with you in mind?

Joey: As far as difficulty is concerned or just like…

Get Ready To Rock!: …as far as emotional connection is concerned.

Joey: Well, the only thing with new stuff is that until you feel it and know it well enough, like there are certain songs like “In The End”, “I’m Alive”, “Earth On Hell”, “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t” that we know real good, but those songs are so different than, let’s say, “Among The Living” and “Indians”, because people know them very well and some songs live are evident — big and large and well-known and that is the only difference, really. Otherwise, you take them all the same but none of them are the same, because they don’t have the same magnitudes. “Indians” is a totally different song to “Caught In A Mosh”, you know — they don’t even compare. They are both really good tunes but when you see them being performed live, they do not get the same reaction from people. So you’ve got to take the reaction that you get for the song and roll with it. I think that this is kind of what you were asking, in a way. We are also pushing ourselves by putting new material on the set list like “The Constant”, which we never did before; this will be the first time that we will play it since I sang it on the record and I didn’t even know it when I did it then! I literally just walked in each day and sang one song without even hearing it or even seeing any lyrics and by the end of the day I was done, so for me to do this now it felt strange as I didn’t know it, but I knew it without knowing it. So to play it live it will be completely different because it just hasn’t yet sunk in — it hasn’t been felt all the way through yet. It takes a little while for some of the songs to really kind of develop and sometimes they just never get to a point where the expectations are what you would think you want and the crowd could love it, but you yourself may not get the same reaction from it. A song like “In My World”… (from 1990’s “Persistence Of Time” album); it doesn’t come across as big as another song, but to me it is fun to play, yet it is quite straight-ahead — one of those fist-banging songs. Some songs just [don’t] work all the time and the same is with the new record. I mean, we are doing five songs as it is: I don’t remember us ever doing five songs from a new album except perhaps at the very beginning during the “Spreading The Disease” (1985) when we basically started to do new songs straight away, you know?

Get Ready To Rock!: When you perform certain songs live, do you find that sometimes they are “asking you” for a different interpretation of them? Do you ever find yourself thinking things like, “Maybe I can change this or add that next time we will play this one live,” and to that to the point when a songs starts coming across as a slightly different entity?

Joey: Oh, definitely. I mean, I obviously try to perform the songs as they sound on the record; I will naturally start singing that way. Sometimes it’s the feel of it; trying to find a part that just because it is a live performance it can be performed faster or it can be done in a different way, you know? In the studio you might just have enough time to let each part develop, you know, as you don’t have to do it all at once but live…I always add a few things, constantly doing something different. Anyway, being able to do something live and just letting it happen…it is what it is, you know? But I love doing new stuff; I am constantly throwing something new like throwing a few notes in between verses and even in “In The End” I do a few of my own things with it and same with “Earth In Hell” — I just try to do what I can live with it because I want to have fun with these songs. I love doing stuff spontaneously, but there are certain things that you just cannot change without messing things up or putting yourself into jeopardy with missing a part. There’s overlaps and lyrics that I find that I cannot finish on time in order to get onto the second verse and so into the next line as there are two different parts interacting and they would not have worked if you did them like you did it on the record…so you have to change them a little bit.

Get Ready To Rock!: What is the strangest thing that you’ve heard with regards to “Worship Music”? Can you recall something that particularly annoyed you or something that you found to be strange?

Joey: My vocal thing is obviously the one thing that I am focusing on… I don’t know. I know that they (the other members of the band) have changed the style of their writing; the tuning is a little bit different and some of the arrangements are a little bit more structured, you know, before consumption, should I say, as people might want something a little more “intact.” I kind of came into something when they were going to find what route they were going to be taking and they pulled some old ideas and thoughts with new ones and then all of the sudden I came in. I sound different, which, to me, is great again, as if you got something that you did not expect and you like it, then that is cool. My big thing was: can you live up to the expectation of long ago? To me, this is different but not too far off, so it’s all there — it’s just how different it was for you to either dislike it or like it. That was it but when people say, “I love the way you sound on it,” and for what little time I’ve put into it… that is my favorite part of it. I literally did four to five hours a day on it and that was it to be done with a song. I did not have four or five days to be pounding it out and trying all different kinds of shit or farting around with too many different ideas and burning out as a result. Nobody was there either! That was one of the biggest things; I didn’t have anybody there — it was like being in detention! You felt like you were under the microscope all the time, but it sounds good too! The sonic aspects of it, the sound is one of my other favourite things about it. [Producer] Jay Ruston, I don’t know, just made us really come to life. That’s a cool thing because over time we did work with some really good producers but sometimes…you just sit and hear this album and you know what is right and what is not.

Read the entire interview from Get Ready To Rock!.