Joey Belladonna (born Joseph Bellardini, October 13, 1960) is an American thrash metal musician, best known as the vocalist for the thrash metal band Anthrax. He is also the vocalist and drummer of the cover band Chief Big Way. Iron Serbian had the pleasure, of speaking with Joey prior to a sold out Killthrax show at The Fillmore in San Francisco, California.
IS: How ya doin’ Joey?
Joey: Right on, Man it’s a good day to see ya. Nice day in San Francisco, there we are.
IS: A little breezy for you?
Joey: Nah, I live upstate. I live up on a hill, and it snow and windy like heavy, you know. So, I’m used to the wind not that I want to feel it today. I was hoping maybe not, no wind. But, I get a lot of wind so I’m used to it.
IS: So where you live shoveling snow is part of a daily event for you?
Joey: Yeah, we get it as early as October, mid October, but not a lot. Take you right up to April sometimes.
IS: Sounds extreme to me being here in California.
Joey: Oh yeah, for sure, no doubt…That’s why it’s even hard to say it’s a beautiful day today cause it’s not what you want, right? You want less wind and more heat, right?
IS: : No, actually I’m from Sacramento, I’m in the valley where it gets really hot. So, San Francisco is always a nice break cause it’s always either 10 degrees warmer or 10 degrees cooler so…
Joey: Change of seasons, I get it, I get it. I like the change of seasons.
IS: In the valley, when it’s summer…it’s 104 degrees for 6 months or something like that.
Joey: Wow, that’s nice.
IS: How did you first get into music and did you ever like Doo-Wop, Funk & Soul?
Joey: Nope. I can do a little funk maybe here but that’s more like a branch off of Blues more than anything. It just doesn’t appeal to me. If somebody has it on, you might be into it…But, not very often. No musicianship along with it. I’ve never jammed in a band or sang that kind of music.
IS: No Doo-Wop?
Joey: Nah, It just didn’t appeal to me. I don’t know why. I enjoy it. But, not for me as a singer, no.
IS: But, you are a drummer, as well, correct?
Joey: That’s correct. Yes, I do play in a band right now. I have my own cover band and we do classic rock, blues, hard rock kind of stuff. I sing and play drums, so, no doo-wop.
IS: Was…The drums the first instrument you came upon and stuck with or was it maybe a fluke – or maybe…
Joey: No, I was always a drummer. Basically, drummer/singer. No one sang where I lived, so, but, if they did I didn’t prefer them over myself (laughs) Sure, absolutely So yeah, I felt really good, I wanted to sing but I loved playing drums so I did them both.
IS: Did you sing in church? Did you have to go to church as a youth?
Joey: I have gone to church and I did go to church. But, I sang cause I walked up into the organ area where they were doing choir. But, I wasn’t really familiar with what they were supposed to be singing. I thought it was just cool to go up and sit with them and I chimed in here and there but I didn’t sing in choir. I did in high school – I walked in just fluke like one day I was looking for someone and the guys to me, “Do you sing?” I said, “Yeah” so I came in for a few choruses, but nothing really that really taught me anything that I couldn’t do myself….Really I didn’t get any extensive training or any of that kind of stuff.
IS:Did it endear you to do more vocals after that? Or…
Joey: No, nothing it just…I was in the house singing to records. I liked doing that. I just like singing with bands, you know I love just being able to be on the mic…Lot of times I didn’t have a PA so we would sing in my basement without a PA and I played drums, I mean, you couldn’t hear me that well but I sang. Just never owned a PA for quite some time so there was no way to hear me.
IS: You’ve been in Anthrax during the glory days of thrash and the PMRC, was that at all a frightening time being targeted by the government?
Joey: No, you know I never got too involved like that…you know, just everybody has a piece of mind to talk about things just like everyone else would so,, I didn’t want to mix it too much with music wise, you know…just a day to day thing…sometimes people sing about stuff doesn’t mean you’re really going to interact like that and do something crazy.
IS: Very cool, Did you play in a band in school and is that where you got into drums at school , as well?
Joey: There was a jazz band, but I didn’t participate in that. I knew there was drum sets there and stuff but I never really was in a band in school. I did a variety show with friends but that wasn’t anything, it was one night only kind of thing and I barely remember it or my band played in the high school auditorium many times as a “night dancey” type event. But, not in any bands as far as school related.
IS: How did you like doing your own thing when you left Anthrax?
Joey: You know, it was like being in a band like I was when I first started Anthrax, you know…you just pick up the pieces, you put the bands together, you put the time together to do what you need to do and you venture out and do your best to try to see if you can make something happen. Um, it was a little different after coming out of Anthrax, going back into a different situation…You know, it wasn’t very easy, it’s never easy…it’s not even easy now…you know, at times there are always moments that are just beyond control or just kinda have to do it. I had fun doing it, I never wanted to leave…I was just, I think, they just wanted to move on to some other style or some crap. Nobody will ever know.
IS: Were you…Did you come out of your cover band into Anthrax?
Joey: Yeah, I was in a couple different little things going on, so yes, there was a cover band prior to coming into Anthrax, yes.
IS: In the Twisted Sister movie/documentary they talk a lot about what the scene was back them, for them and it was primarily a cover band circuit. Were you a part of that experience what they discussed in the movie, at all?
Joey: Oh yeah, I mean, there’s nothing like that…it was always just cover bands and, I mean, we did play some originals but no one really had the time to put that thing together, nor were we interested cause we could play cover music and we liked playing cover music.
IS: Got paid relatively…
Joey: Well, it was OK. None of the pay was really anything to go crazy over. We just enjoyed playing. And, if we had a place where we could play and people come watch us – Like even now, I play small places, you have to move the table after dinner to get them in there to watch the band and it’s fun. People dig hearing a live band and if it’s decent it’s even better you know, if we can get a whole bunch of people to come out and enjoy those songs it’s all good, man.
IS: Totally. I recently tried out for a cover band in Sacramento. I had to learn some Radiohead, The Offspring , Daft Punk…
Joey: Wow, yeah you’re diving into some other music that I don’t even do. You know, I don’t go into that genre. Yeah, but I like pop. pop, to me could be a lot of different music, you know so I guess, when you’re doing covers you wanna do stuff whether you’re a singer, drummer, or whatever you do, you wanna be close to being capable of doing it or it’s something you feel good about doing. Because a lot of people are in bands and they get sick of the band because they don’t even like the songs that everyone’s chosen. And, now they break up because that guy wants to be in another band or it could be money related. But, I don’t like when I’m in a band where people don’t like the songs were playing cause then its just a doomed situation there. It’s not very long where people just get tired of it.
IS: I’m in a band in Sacramento called The Ellusive Fur’s and while I like the majority of the songs that were written, there’s one particular song I just can’t stand…Hopefully, not liking that song doesn’t spell doom for me, in that band.
Joey: Yeah, well, I don’t love everything I do, I do like all of it…there’s just songs that maybe vocally there just isn’t enough there to go, “Man, I can’t wait for people to hear me do this one.” You know but they’re always good ones because they’re different styles, different types of vocals that people are willing to hear me do different styles, I like that, it’s a change of pace.
IS: I’ve been kicked out of bands myself and I had lingering resentments due to that. Did the resentment trouble you? Did you have resentment? We all get resentments from time to time.
Joey: I don’t think I’m happy about any of it, no…because you do everything to be in the band and somehow there’s some differences that people have that they wanna throw at you that you can’t do anything about because they just feel better about doing what they wanna do and that’s it – and you’re like, “Wow” I didn’t even get a chance, you know, so now that’s it, you know. I wouldn’t back in this band if I was really that kind of resentful, you know….People probably think I’m crazy even come back, you know.
IS: Resentments can be a bitch.
Joey: Yeah, I can’t live that way. I gotta move forward. I’m not a mean kinda guy to go that crazy…I remember, and I try to find a way to correct it but I don’t need to be going there.
IS: No doubt. I know, I’ve been kicked out of one band that me and the drummer had started, an ahh, we were like bros, then I was kicked out, but then somehow I got back in, but once I got back in the brotherhood sorta changed, the whole dynamic had sorta changed and we ended up kicking him out of the band…but it really wasn’t so much…it was a musical thing, he was a drummer and had timing problems….but it changes the dynamics coming back into it, the dynamic changes.
Joey: Oh yeah, It’s funny how bands work and how crazy the genre of trying to be together as friends yet vs. the band, the musicianship and all that kind of thing, it’s tricky.
You know, people all want to be in doing what you’re doing and well, I’m like you sure you wanna do it cause there’s a whole lot to it. You know, it takes a lot longer, I mean my cover band we’ve been 9 years now almost 10. I’ve never been in a band that long, cover band, they always fall apart. There’s always something, comes together too quick, you don’t really know the people, things just change…quick.
IS: Have you learned something from the past? More give & take? What is it thas keeps this band together?
Joey: Oh, you gotta give & take you know, but at the same time there’s not a lot of communication…it’s just everybody, we’re in touch, we don’t practice much so there’s not…you don’t have to be there every Wed. night, Fri. night, Sat. night to rehearse or we just show up…I don’t what it is. I just think, you just, luckily find the right guys that are willing to go forward and just be set with that, cool with it. I mean, if they have to leave – you understand. There’s always something that comes up and other people have other projects too. I think that keeps people…and that gets scary too because sometimes that other project starts up and they’re going to get conflictions and they want to be in that one more and then that’s it and then you gotta get somebody else new…nothing like trying to replace people…that’s really a tough thing.
IS: It must feel good that the fans only want to hear the old songs with you on them?
Joey: I guess so, I dunno, I assume that. I don’t even pay attention to the other thing they did. I don’t have any desire, it doesn’t involve me. It’s just weird…No, it’s great if people wanna hear the old songs, I think we have a alot of good songs. Especially the new stuff so I mean, we’ve got plenty of music for you to kick back in, there a lot of new fans now. They really haven’t heard us live so it becomes more interested in hearing it.
IS: There are father’s obviously your original fans, father’s and son’s – and probably grandson’s cause I see the whole three generational shift coming to the metal shows now.
Joey: I sure do, Yeah, they’re there, they’re there. It’s awesome man, it really is, you’re never really too old for this stuff you know – If it’s it loud you just put ear plugs in or you know…I don’t know, people are funny, they say, “Oh, I used to listen to you” and I’m like, “Oh wow, no more, you don’t listen in the car or anything?
IS: Maybe got bumped in the head…
IS: Do you get bothered at all by artists or musicians who share their opinions about politics and what not and if you disagree with them, does that change your love for their art?
Joey: No, I don’t really – I don’t interact with kind of stuff, even like if it’s just a neighbor. I know my neighbor likes certain things that I don’t. But, me and him get along…So, I just keep it right out of that. I don’t really have to…that’s for him and what I like is for me. I don’t know…Some small stuff you know, easy going stuff – I don’t wanna get in….Look people argue over bands, I’ve seen people, people are really hostile about bands enough but like politics, that ‘s a whole other thing and who knows what people know when they’re talking about it if they even know what the hell they’re talking saying I don’t know, no seriously I mean , because if you can look at the news you might get one opinion and that may not be true or whatever…there’s so much to consider you know, when you’re talking about that stuff. I just try not to.
IS: You’re probably right – the majority of people probably don’t really know what they are talking about.
Joey: Did you ever see some surveys on the road, they’re like, “Hey, what do you think?”…they’ll answer something and they don’t even know what the hell they’re talking about or it’s not even true and they’re answering the questions…I just try to stay out of it, really.
IS: That’s good practice. For All Kings, 12 songs, bonus tracks. There’s 12 songs, the juices were flowing?
Joey: Yeah, yeah…Well, we have plenty of good ideas…I mean, I think we got a lot of good things going on, I mean, everybody’s got an array of good ideas, you know. We can cover many things as a band as far as, a style. We don’t have any problem taking our songs and like really broadening…the just…anything you can imagine – like even vocally I haven’t really had any chance to do a whole lot that I’d like to do , you know – little by little I start to get a chance to sing more and make a layer about a song, you know, make it cool – you know, I think we’re fine with the tunes, you know, we really have a lot of ideas.
IS: Favorites on the album? Why? Track listing, how much time and effort goes into having song 2 before song 7?
Joey: Yeah, I think that’s probably, I didn’t do it, so that fine you know. Probably Scott or Charlie might have – maybe collectively the track listing came together, but ahhh, I didn’t really have much say in that matter…Um, tracks, I mean, ‘Breathing Lightning” and “Blood Eagle” are really kinda special tunes, they got some cool hooks and they’re some real nice nifty vocal ideas on there and just definitely newer for me overall, compared to some of the other albums.
IS: Do you read reviews? Do you go to Blabbermouth? Do you go to sites like Blabbermouth?
Do you read up on who sold his house and who is fighting with who?
Joey: Blabbermouth pops up on my phone whether I like it or not, you know.
IS: You can’t delete it?
Joey: Well, no, I don’t mind it…I just, sometimes it will come up like I just seen something on there yesterday about me with somebody. I didn’t go to Blabbermouth and look for it, it just pops up or someone sends me something. I try not to read too much because for some reason my mind starts to drift a little bit, thinking…is it…maybe…I can’t change that opinion, you know, what am I supposed interact a lot, go what a minute now, I don’t have time for that. I don’t even know who they are and where they’re opinions are on a value level, I don’t know. So, I’ve been playing a lot of, I don’t know anymore. I’m interested in things sure. Somebody’s passed away or I didn’t know someone joined a band maybe some stuff that interesting to me but – I don’t want someone to say…that…like say last night we did “Carry On” with a keyboard player, what if somebody says, Well, I didn’t like when they brought the keyboards out, I don’t like keyboards. I don’t want to read that. I really don’t care. We did it. I thought it was cool. It was awesome, it was fun. But, then somebody says that and it’s like damn, was it really that bad? You know, It’s like what do you, what do you say, you know.
IS: It’s like you want to respond, sort of, in your gut you want to respond because it’s there but I mean it becomes pointless, in a way.
Joey: It was even harder back when I was out of the band when you had John in. I couldn’t help read a little bit cause I was way outta the loop and then I was like, Ahhhh, I can’t read this anymore cause you got all these people bouncing, going back and forth. It was like a rally of opinions, I just was like forget this, I don’t need this, I really don’t.
IS: You did Clash of the Titans tour with Megadeth, Slayer & Alice In Chains, do you have fond memories on that particular event?
Joey: Yeah, no doubt. I mean, It was a great tour. It was a good package. And, who knew Alice In Chains was gonna be who they were, you know, they were a new band that people came to like a lot and they became big. It was a great tour, I love the package. People talk about still, you know, that’s cool.
IS: Witnessing Alice In Chains, did you see some sort of tide coming or anything like that? Did you think they were odd for the package cause they weren’t a heavy metal band for the most part?
Joey: Yeah, I mean they were different there is no doubt about that, the one thing I knew. But, I think everybody think slowly as the day went by whether you were occupied doing something and you go Wow, those guys sound pretty good, got some good stuff….cause you’re so locked into what you were doing – you got the three bands and were all comfortable, we all knew each other and then there’s this new band and BINGO it was good. We’re all friends with everybody and that are still around. I knew Mike. We knew everybody, it was really cool.
IS: What are the three most important things in life for?
Joey: Ahhh, my family and friends, this is important too cause I do it a lot and I’m around everybody so it’s very time consuming events, everyday so you really have to keep that in perspective but just being a good musician. I just love being successful or at least for people to hear some good music and be out there, you know.
Transcribed by Tina Mattis