BELLADONNA On ANTHRAX: I ‘Still Have My Doubts’ About How Sincere Everyone Is About Reunion recently conducted an interview with ANTHRAX frontman Joey Belladonna. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. At what point did you realize you would again be rejoining the group on a permanent and full-time basis? Was there a particular moment or scenario where everything started to come together as a cohesive unit?

Joey: When I got a call from past management about joining again. I figured we were going to try and move forward. It was really just a matter of working a few of the details out. All I could do was take the call and venture in on a real level versus the [2005] reunion where it was like, “Let’s go out and do something for the fans, if you’re interested. Don’t get too serious here. Let’s take some baby steps.” Even while I’m in the band at this point, I still wonder how sincere everyone is. I can do the best I can and feel good about what I’m doing yet I still have my doubts about how sincere and how serious everyone is about being together, ya know? I think everyone is on their highest regard at this point, but it’s so hard to tell. You just think, “What happened back then? Am I supposed to think that way now?” I just don’t talk about anything that happened in the past and just try to stay on the positive side. It’s ironic how your involvement with the group has now effectively come full circle. Taking that into consideration, what were your overall impressions of the material they had already completed with [previous singer] Dan Nelson?

Joey: It really is. I’ve been away from the band for so long. A lot of people have asked me, “Did you just get rid of his vocals?” but I didn’t even see any of it. The music wasn’t even nearly quite ready to go yet. They were far from being ready. [In some cases], I was singin’ to just two tracks. They weren’t even full cuts of songs. The stuff wasn’t even put together. But it was just as well, really. I didn’t hear anything that was finished. I think a lot of the songs weren’t even close to being ready to record yet. I’d be damned if they put them together that fast before I got there. We wouldn’t have gotten any of these results if they had just laid down and left it where they had it. Again, they could have handed me something completely ready to go, mixed even, with me just needing to add a vocal and there still would have been plenty of work for me to do to make it completed and right. But that’s by far not what happened. There was plenty of work goin’ on. I keep tellin’ people that even if the record just so happened to be done, I still had to sing on it. It’s not as if it was all laid out for me to do great. In fact, take me off this record and put someone else on there and see what you get with it. Don’t even let them hear what I did; just go in and sing and see what you end up with. You’ll get a lot different record. It’s the same thing with anything else that happened a long time ago. Once the tour with DEATH ANGEL and TESTAMENT commences, what type of set list will the group be utilizing? Is it safe to assume it will be a “greatest-hits” collection buoyed with select “Worship Music” material?

Joey: That seems like the obvious thing to do. I don’t see us doing a set with “Enemy” (from “Spreading The Disease”) and six or seven strange tunes. It would be cool, but I don’t know if everyone would be interested in that. At the same time, do we all really know those deep songs? I’d be willing to try just about anything, but there’s just something about certain songs where they work really well live whereas something else that you just want to hear. People ask for “Lone Justice” all the time, but is it really one of those great “concert-y” songs? It is, but it’s also not “Antisocial” or “Caught In A Mosh”. It doesn’t have that. Songs like “In My World” (from “Persistence Of Time”) go over very well, but it’s now “I Am The Law”, so it’s hard. That’s the hard part of it. It would be nice to try it, but you couldn’t get away with it without people saying, “They were good, but I didn’t even know half of those songs,” so I believe you have the correct answer. Aside from “Only”, can the average casual fan expect any additional “surprises” from the John Bush era? Has the subject of you covering a certain percentage of the material from that era become a point of contention?

Joey: For me, and I’ll say this out loud for everybody, I’m not a huge fan of trying to counter anything that he did or capture all of the songs that he played and they did. When you go down that road, not only do I have to learn the song, but I have to do it in a way that is adequate to him. When he joined, he didn’t have much choice. They had one record going and he basically had to do what I did. When I joined, we did all of “Fistful Of Metal” except two songs. And at that point, I didn’t care because I had to do what I had to do and I ripped those songs up nicely. It would be interesting to take it on, but I always feel like I need to get the approval of the guys. It’s like, “Did I do it right? Did I cover it right? Did I sing it correct? Did I phrase that correctly?” I don’t want to sit around and mathematically put all that together. Now that we have a new record out, the last thing I want to do is look back. But I know somewhere in their minds, they’re thinking, “I wonder if we can get him to sing some more of that.” It somehow bothers me that I have to try and cover all that stuff, ya know? There’s so much other music that we could do. I don’t mind doing “Only”. “Only” was quite fine. It just happened to be suitable. If I don’t sound like him on a certain song and they say, “Go get that one,” I don’t want to go get that one because it ain’t me and then I gotta try to find me and make that work and then I’ve got a problem on my hands because people are writin’ in and the last thing about this and that and the last thing I want to do is get ridiculed for something. It’s a weird spot to be in. It’s something I try not to cross, if I can help it, but it’s a weird thing. And even if I did do that and somebody was writin’ in, the other guys are like, “That’s fine. The hell with them. You’ll be fine,” and I’ll be like, “That’s fine for you, but you’re not the one that gotta take it.” You just to keep ridin’ along. Believe me, I’ll find a way to not have to battle that. I just don’t wanna. Let’s face it; he didn’t get out of it squeaky clean when he tried to do my stuff. The whole things sucks because they have to sit there and battle a version of their songs. Whenever you do someone else’s stuff, it’s never going to be what it needs to be. People, and even the band at one time, said that they liked “The Greater Of Two Evils” [ANTHRAX‘s re-recording of Belladonna-era songs with John Bush on vocals] better, which just kills me. When Scott [Ian, ANTHRAX guitarist] said, “This is exactly how we envisioned these songs,” I was like, “Wow.” I got a real black eye over that one. I was like, “So you’re sayin’ that everything we did wasn’t quite good and wasn’t good enough and on top of that, you said that yourself?” That was brutal. It was tough, man, and I gotta tell you, I totally disagree. Let’s put it this way; I don’t think they could have even gotten those songs if he had been in the band at that time. It is just a hard topic.

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