An Interview with Frank Bello of Anthrax

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Read Time:41 Minute, 46 Second

It’s not every day that you get to talk face to face with a member of a band associated with the “The Big Four” of Thrash Metal.

I had the pleasure of talking with Frank Bello of Anthrax. This was such a surreal experience that I’m very happy to share it here with everyone. Among other things, we go over Frank’s early life as a roadie for Anthrax, and his eventual comeuppance as the long-running bassist, and everything in between and future.

Frank tells an encouraging story of hope, and positivity in a world which always seems to be shrouded in doom and gloom. We touch on his solo work, working with Page Hamilton, and Helmet, his influences, and some stories from on the road more of which you can read about in his book which comes out November 2nd — FathersBrothers, and Sons: Surviving Anguish, Abandonment, and Anthrax.

I won’t keep you waiting any longer so here it is! Frank Bello of Anthrax!

Anthony:
Frank, how’s it going?

Frank:
I don’t know, I’m just looking at how I look. Is this the hangover? Is that a hangover? It might be…that’s a hangover look. I’m gonna say it’s a hangover look. That’s fine. A bit of vodka in my diet last night. It was alright though. It was a Thursday night, party night. So, I apologize for the appearance, man.

Anthony:
That’s alright, can’t all look 100% all the time.

Frank:
I never do, so don’t worry. [Laughs].

Anthony:
Me neither.

Frank:
So, what’s going on?

Anthony:
Not much, it’s great to have you here.

Frank:
Thanks for having me man, fun to talk to people after all this wonderful stuff that’s been going on.

Anthony:
It is. Have you been busy with music at all these past couple of years with all this going on? I see you’ve got a book coming out.

Frank:
Yeah, the book’s coming out, November 2nd, FathersBrothers, and Sons: Surviving Anguish, Abandonment, and Anthrax. I’m very proud of it. Available on Amazon, or wherever you get your books, I’m very proud of it. I’ve been doing the whole press thing and writing songs with Anthrax. I’ve been writing solo songs for myself…just a lot of writing. You’re looking at the place I do pretty much all of these. [Laughs].

Anthony:
Yeah, I was just about to say, you got everything back there…

Frank:
This is…I’ve learned to live in my basement creatively. This is the way I actually wrote my book with Joel McIver, in this place, as we’re doing right now. This is where I wrote the book with Joel, and this is where I write music and record music. I do videos here too. It’s a small little basement, just had to make do, that’s what life is.

Anthony:
Right. That’s everything. You’ve got everything going down there, and just doing what you gotta do.

Frank:
Yeah, exactly.

Anthony:
So, I’ve dug into your book a bit. It seems to cover everything. Can you go into a little more detail about it?

Frank:
Well, the book is pretty much about abandonment. The story is when I was younger, I have a family of five, I was the oldest. Anyway, my dad took off, and so we lost the house, went into poverty, and all that stuff. I moved in with my grandmother, the same area where my drummer, Charlie Benante, was living, and he got me into music, and it became this thing that I had to do in my life. I found my thing, and it really was my outlet for all. The hole that the abandonment left really is…this book has a lot to do with that, and how I tried to fill that void, and look up to my heroes, which were all musicians, bass players, KISS, different bands. My favorite bass players, my heroes, I wanted to do that. I also wrote it for my son. I said, “You can brush yourself off, and no matter what curveballs life throws you, brush yourself off. It’s very important to do that, and you can make a better life for yourself, and never say you should have. I did it. You have to do it.” I guess…it’s a reflective time in my life. And there’s a lot of great Rock ‘N’ Roll stories in the book. Also, there’s a lot of touring. You know…Anthrax, everybody craves, all the stuff that you want in a Rock ‘N’ Roll book — it’s definitely there. So, it’s got a little bit of everything.

Anthony:
I’m sure you can go on forever about touring with Anthrax, and everything else you’ve done. If I remember correctly…I think you were even in an episode of Married With Children at one point. [Laughs].

Frank:
Yes, we were! Again, another fun part. I think I write about that a little bit in the book because those were great times in our lives. I write about…with this book, I wanted it to be like I’m sitting in a bar with you telling you about my life story. I just wanted it to feel like we’re just hanging out talking. So far…the people that have read the book…we’ve got some great reviews, and I’m very psyched, and I’m very honored and grateful. They say it comes across like that. It’s like we’re sitting in a bar and talking about life stories. I couldn’t be more psyched about leaving myself raw right now. I’m very raw because I have nothing left to give with my life story. It’s pretty insane to think that people know about you — the real you. It’s kinda crazy.

Anthony:
It’s kind of like having a different creative outlet other than music. Something so different than music, right?

Frank:
Absolutely. It is that, and it’s…it’s even crazier. It’s sort of like writing a song that you love, and you have to…but this is so much more personal. More personal than anything I’ve ever done, ’cause I’m literally putting my life on a plate here in black and white writing, and this is the whole truth. This is a look at my trials, and tribulations, my failures, my issues in my life, everything is pretty much in it. And a lot of people find it interesting. What I wanted to do, I guess, I’m at the stage where I wanna pay it forward. It’s like if people go through the loss as I have…my brother being murdered and how I dealt with that. With my family, we went through the trials and all that stuff — it was a very ugly time in my life. Again, it’s going back to…a lot of people say this book makes them feel good after they finished reading it. So, I’m very psyched about that. If I can help just one person with that…it’s not a self-help book, but if it makes people feel better, I’m all about it, man.

Anthony:
I’d say it does have a bit of a motivational aspect to it as well.

Frank:
Yes, it’s important to me at this point in my life. Why not make people feel good instead of feeling like shit all the time?

Anthony:
Yeah, that’s all you see around these days. Too much-bringing people down all the time.

Frank:
There’s a lot of negativity, and I’m not about to add to that ’cause look, I wanna bring people up and that’s the truth. I’m in a band, I wanted to be a musician. I wanted to write songs. I wanted to be a songwriter because I wanted to lift people up. I wanna make them feel good, and that’s the truth. And if this book does that, that’s part of the equation that makes you feel good — have a better day tomorrow. It’s all good to me.

Anthony:
You started with Anthrax very early on, you were…what, your early teen’s when you started as a roadie?

Frank:
I was seventeen, even earlier for the roadie stuff — maybe sixteen. At seventeen, I got in the band, went on a tour with them, and I have to say it’s been non-stop since then. It’s been non-stop. There are peaks and valleys with every career as in life, but my journey, my journey with Anthrax…the crazy Anthrax stories, the great bands we’ve toured with — KISS, Pantera, all the fun times we’ve had. There are a lot of good times, and a lot of great memories that my co-writer, Joel, got out of my mind, which I was very psyched about. All he had to do was kind of ignite the fuse, and the stories just kept flowing out. It was fun reliving those great Rock ‘N’ Roll stories — Metallica stuff, all the people I’ve toured with, all of my friends. It’s been a lot of fun to relive it, and say, “Man, I’ve been really fortunate, and it’s been a good ride.” That’s where I’m at right now.

Anthony:
I’m sure there are lots of good stories in the book. You’ve toured for a very long time with some very high-profile people within the Metal scene. Anthrax is considered one of the Big Four Thrash Metal bands along with Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth. You’re up there.

Frank:
I’m really proud of that. I’m honored to be part of that. There’s a lot of great bands out there and look — I’ve been around a lot of great bands. It’s an honor just to be here and to be talking to you as a musician who gets to play music for a living. I’m very grateful for that. Maybe, this is all part of it. I guess it’s a cathartic thing I’m going through right now, it’s like, “Man, it’s been a good ride,” and maybe this whole COVID thing we’re going through now has made me realize that I need to stop and think, and that’s why I think we had the time. We had the time, Joel and I, we’ve been talking about doing this book for years. We talked at the beginning of COVID and said, “maybe this is the time.” And there you go. It is the time. It was the time. And it worked out. We had a great schedule, and it was really conversational — “Yeah, yeah, and that, and that, and that.” It was back and forth, it was just a lot of fun. And some of it was very painful — the stuff with my brother…my brother’s death was very painful. And you have to live that. It’s life, man, this is life. And how you can bounce back…It’s important that people know as shitty as life can be sometimes, you can bounce back and rise to it again, rise to life. I think it’s important for people to know all that.

Anthony:
It seems with COVID..with a lot of bands that I’ve been talking to it’s been hit-and-miss. For some, it’s been good as far as letting other creativity flow. As you said, you were writing the book during COVID. It seems as if a lot of people have more time to write new music, or just to be able to stop and work on things that they had put on the back burner.

Frank:
Yeah. It’s important to stay creative. Look, you’re looking at the basement that I’m in — “Bello’s Basement” — whatever you wanna call it. People call it “Bello’s Basement” at this point. [Laughs]. It’s my basement, and I’m lucky enough to have a small basement that I’m confined in, but I’ll tell you something — it’s very comforting to know I have this creative outlet here, and I can come down…I have my wife and son upstairs, they do their thing, and I can just come down and get it all out, and literally, that’s what we did with the book. I do that with songs here, right in the same spot. It’s a very creative atmosphere just because it has to be. This is all I have. And I was getting…to be honest, a lot of people are getting stir-crazy, and I found music, and writing this book…it was my creative outlet. I was living outside this pandemic, it made me go somewhere else with my head. And I think it was very important. I hope other people could have that, and I hope people do have that. Music is really important, to have that…to get out of your head, really, and it’s just really…look for something else out there because it’s tough, this is a tough time in our lives, let’s face it, for everybody. And maybe they could get something…maybe people can get something from this book that makes them feel a little bit…a little bit better. And this is…again, it’s my story. This is the way I did it. You could read it if you like it. I hope it helps. Period. I just…that’s…it’s me.

Anthony:
As you said, it’s not exactly a self-help book, but if it can help people out there…that’s good.

Frank:
Yeah, why not. It’s out there. It’s not meant to be a self-help book, it’s my story, but what I’ve been told from people who have read this thing, it makes them feel good and that’s cool. In the end…yeah, the trials and tribulations, there is a lot of…some crying parts in this. Some people told me, they read the book, and they felt that they were tearing up and all that stuff, through this horrible stuff I’ve gone through, but you know what, at the end of the day, it’s a positive message and why not? Why not? ‘Cause that’s what I…I wanna…for me, I wanna stay positive. That’s the only way to be now. What else do we have, really?

Anthony:
There’s not much else out there. As you mentioned with music being a creative outlet, I actually just bought my first guitar a couple of weeks ago. So, I’m trying to learn that.

Frank:
I love that. Love that. How old are you, Anthony?

Anthony:
I’m almost thirty-four.

Frank:
Dude, c’mon, you win, and you’re starting now, that rocks! I look, and this is in my book. I’m not just pushing the book here, but it’s in my book! I tell my son, I always say, “Never say ‘I should have.'” Never say I should have because you’re thirty-four, dude, you could just pick up the guitar and get great at it, why not? You have this great outlet, how great is that, right? You don’t have to…just do it, don’t fucking think, just do it. Nothing should stop you, right

Anthony:
Exactly. Just do it.

Frank:
Just do it, dude, because what else? Instead of a fucking video game or something else that’s gonna take your time, how about just pick up…just fucking strum. Go to YouTube. I know I sound like I’m pushing, I don’t mean to sound like that, but I wanna see people…

Anthony:
No, that’s fine, it’s fine!

Frank:
I wanna see people have that light that I have, that fun…that exploring kind of vibe and that feeling. Once you play something that you love, dude, and you find it, it’s like, “Ah!” I want people to have that high, it’s so important, man, to have people have that high, that we’re lucky enough to have as musicians. It’s like when you play something you feel it. Dude, please play. Please play. Because that’s the way to go.

Anthony:
Yes, that’s definitely something I’m gonna be determined to do.

Frank:
Get that out, good for you man, I applaud you on that. Very cool.

Anthony:
So, Anthrax’s last album was, what, back in 2016?

Frank:
Isn’t that crazy how fast that went? It’s been like five or six years now, dude. Obviously, it’s insane. It’s insane it’s been this long. We have to give everybody the allotted 18 months to two years now with this COVID thing because I think for me, I feel like this COVID thing has taken time out of everybody’s life. It’s like we’re at a pause. So, the touring, music, everything. Life in general, for us, and for everybody else, it’s just…everything stopped. So, I fully intend to make up for that, and I hope everybody has that intention. I hope all bands, all music, everybody in their lives, and make up for this time. That’s the way I’m looking at it, ’cause hopefully, we’ll get past this, and let’s make up for the lost time. That’s my message to myself. It’s like, “Dude, I wanna go for it. Whatever that is. I don’t know what it is, music, whatever it is, I wanna go for it, and live it”.

Anthony:
So, when was the last show that you got to play live with Anthrax?

Frank:
November, 20219. It was at Mohegan Sun, in Connecticut, a casino show. I was loaded after the show, ’cause all my friends showed up. It was the last show of the tour. We had a great show. It was a great crowd, all good stuff. We knew it was the end of the cycle, of that cycle, For All King’s cycle. It was a long cycle. It was years. So, it went great, very successful, thankfully. And we knew it was the end of the cycle, and we’re gonna go away for a while, and write a record. Then everything went the COVID way, and therefore, it stopped everything. But after that, I remember, in the casino after that night, we were celebrating, and I had a bunch of my friends come up from New York, and we’re all just gambling, and having a bunch of drinks, and dinner. It’s just a great time, a great celebration. I look forward to times like that again. That’s what’s to look forward to, man. There are more shows out there to be had, there’s more fun to be had for everybody, ’cause I’m just tired of the negative shit on the TV, and everything else. Everybody, just remember, it’s one life. That’s it for me, man. That’s the way I’m looking at it. It’s like I’m tired of the negativity. I wanna move on. That’s it. That’s the way I’m living.

Anthony:
For sure! You started with Anthrax in ’84, correct?

Frank:
Yeah, man. I remember I graduated early from high school because they had this program, they would double up your credits in your senior year, and you can get out six months early. So, I went in like 8 a.m., and I just doubled up. I went to class, class, class, everything till, I think, 4:30 was my last class, 4:30 in the afternoon. Because I knew Anthrax was going on, and I was in the band. I auditioned for the band, I got into the band, and I knew they were touring. I really wanted to be able to do the tour. So, I knew I had this time. So, I talked to my principal, and the guidance counselor and they said, “This is the way to do it.” And I did it. And I graduated early. So, I say it was…yeah, I graduated early, and I went to the College Of Anthrax. [Laughs]. I dove right into it, man. It was crazy. And that ride is continuing.

Anthony:
How big was Anthrax at that time, ’cause they started in ’81?

Frank:
I don’t know what that word, “big,” means. I still don’t know what the word means. [Laughs]. I’m a musician. I’m a songwriter. I’m a musician. I just…I live day-to-day. I don’t know what “big” means. I wanna work hard. My work ethic is just to get to that next stage. I think you have to earn it. We’ve earned it — we’re still earning it. I think you never stop earning it.

Anthony:
You’re still writing and making music.

Frank:
We’re hungry, man. You gotta keep that hunger.

Anthony:
And one thing I wanted to touch on since you were around during that time — the whole “Satanic Panic” thing that went on in the ’80s. Were you guys affected at all by that?

Frank:
Dude, that was every week. That was every week. There were just politicians trying to get their names known. For me, that whole thing…come on, man. Let’s stick ’em [Parental Advisory Labels] on a record. It’s gonna sell the record more. That’s all it was. That’s obvious. It’s so…people who are just looking at things to pick on. Isn’t life too short for that? Aren’t there more things? There’s poverty in the world. There are people…there’s war, there’s everything else. You’re gonna concentrate on a sticker on a record? I never understood it, to be honest with you. I never…but I did know if people saw a sticker on the record that said, “don’t buy it,” guess what? [Laughs].

Anthony:
They’re gonna buy it.

Frank:
Of course. It’s the way of nature. So, it never made sense to me. I don’t get it, and I still don’t.

Anthony:
During your time with Anthrax, you’ve been one of the more consistent members…

Frank:
Well, for the most part, it’s been Charlie [Benante], Scott [Ian], myself, and Joey [Belladonna] who came in on the second record. And then we had John Bush for a while. But Scott, Charlie, and I have been all the way for a while. And even I took a break. I took a break and went to Helmet for a year.

Anthony:
Yeah. Helmet. I was planning to touch on that a little bit.

Frank:
That was fun. It was…again, all in my book that…I’m not peddling my…well, I am peddling. [Laughs]. It was a great time. It was a great time in my life because it came to a time where Anthrax and myself decided we just need a break from each other. I wasn’t fired. I didn’t quit. Let’s just take a breath. And we did, and it was a good move for all of us, ’cause I think it made us stronger as a band for now. And that’s why I think we know what we bring to the table. I think we all appreciate each other a little bit more now. I think it’s really important for the future of Anthrax, ’cause look, they’re my brothers. The bottom line is — we’re brothers, we grew up together. And yeah, brothers fight, brothers have disagreements, but at the end of the day, you come together and make the family. And that’s what’s important.

Anthony:
And you’re related to Charlie too, aren’t you?

Frank:
Yeah. Charlie…I grew up in the house with Charlie Benante. He’s actually my uncle. He’s my mother’s brother, believe it or not. But he’s only two, three years, two and a half, three years older than me. And I grew up with Charlie as a brother in his house. And we used to jam all the time. Great stuff…growing up with him in the house and jamming all the great Rush songs, KISS songs, all great, ACϟDC, the stuff we jammed on was just great. It was a great time. It was a great time of my upbringing, and again, music is so important to my life, even back then, to get away from, to really make me feel better about the negativity about it, the abandonment thing. I think that was an outlet that really saved me, to tell you the truth, it really made life bearable.

Anthony:
I’m sure writing that book was very therapeutic for you as well.

Frank:
Totally. Absolutely cathartic, and it leaves you raw, but you know it’s all out there now. The one thing I could say about the book, it’s all honest. I didn’t exaggerate. I didn’t lie about anything. I can’t do it. If you know me, people that know me, you know I can’t lie — I’m not that kind of guy. I don’t do that. I’m a straight shooter. And if you don’t like it, I just say, “Look, I’m sorry, I can’t help you.” That’s the shot, but I am gonna be straight with my life and be honest about everything and just tell you how it is really. Why not? I don’t wanna hurt anybody, but at the same time, why don’t I just be straight with people and be honest? The rest of it is all bullshit.

Anthony:
What got you into music, to begin with? Was it your upbringing?

Frank:
Well, just growing up and looking for stuff, after dealing with the whole…after a lot of therapy, this is how you come to know all this stuff because it brings it out in you. Why I went to music is because music made me feel better about all the negativity that happened from the abandonment. The therapists will tell you, “Oh, this is why you went to the music, it made you feel better, and you connected with the music because it was an outlet.” That’s what they do, the therapists, and many therapists I’ve had. And you say, look, “I’m very thankful for music ’cause it was that outlet and when I learned how to play an instrument and I’m still learning.” I’m still a student of music. And I never wanna stop being a student. I think you learn something every day. I think it’s really important to just keep that hunger and keep that outlet open. You’re starting guitar. Dude, I love hearing that for new players, ’cause you’re giving yourself a chance to have an outlet. If I have a bad day, if I have a shit day, I’ll come home and pick up a guitar, or bass, or piano upstairs, I’ll just get out of that mood and just play a couple of chords and play the song. Whatever it is, man, get me out of that zone, and all of a sudden, you start thinking, “Alright, things are a little bit better right now.” And that’s what matters. That’s the outlet of music for me. That’s why it works for me.

Anthony:
Were you self-taught, or did you take lessons? Or was it more just being around other people that did it for you?

Frank:
Yeah. You know, Anthony, I started playing myself, but I wanted to learn a proper way. In the Bronx, I went to two or three lessons, and I went to this store near my house, a local music store, and I felt like I knew songs, because I learned by ear and I knew songs. They were teaching me the stuff I knew, and I kind of felt like they were taking advantage, to be honest, and they were saying, they wanted to teach me certain easy stuff that I know like, A… I do this in my clinics and they teach me like they would teach me A, A, A, B, B, B, C, C, C. And that would be the lesson. And $35, I say, “This is a $35 lesson.” In those days it was very expensive for me. It’s still money. I was making $2 an hour at my uncle Joe’s Deli. So, $35 was a chunk of my dough, so it had to make sense. And when I felt like I wasn’t progressing the way I wanted to, ’cause I was playing Beatles songs, and Rush songs. They would say, “No, we have to start here on A, A, A, B, B… “ I said, “No, I know that. I wanna go on to the next stage.” And I kind of felt like they were taking advantage, and kinda draining me for dough. So, I just pulled out of that, I said, “Look, I’m gonna go all with learning by ear,” and that…and then again, in high school, I did…I went to Jazz class, I play trombone, I played baritone. It was a lot of fun. Stand-up bass, which was awesome, a lot of fun with my friend John Tempesta, who plays with the Cult…drummer for The Cult. We grew up together, went to high school. Mikey Tempesta, his brother, great guitar player. It was a great time. So, yeah, that was my training. I trained through my ear, and then after a while, you develop your own thing.

Anthony:
It sounds like your influences…like you were saying — TheBeatles, Rush, and all that. Who else?

Frank:
Rush, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, these great bands. And I grew up with KISS…they were a big influence. Bands like that. Look, I was into a lot of music, Zeppelin, I was into a lot of great different bands and I thought it was important because I picked out individual bass players. Paul McCartney on bass, incredible singing melodies, very influential. But Iron Maiden, Steve Harris, bass player, Geddy Lee, bass player, is one of my influences. Paul Stanley‘s voice, and songwriting from KISS, Gene Simmons, who wrote the foreword of my book, which I’m to this day so honored as a die-hard KISS fan, that Gene would write such a beautiful, beautiful foreword. If people haven’t read the book yet, Gene talks about his upbringing in the foreword that he wrote for my book. He talks about his dad, which I never knew about, which really hit me. Hit me in the heart. It was beautiful. It was honestly beautiful. When I first read it, I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. So, I’m very honored to have had Gene Simmons write the foreword for the book. It’s just a great piece of what I wanted it to be, and I’m very fortunate to have that.

Anthony:
I’m definitely going to have to dig deeper. This is probably going to be a hard question for you as you’ve been everywhere. Where are some of your favorite places you’ve played? Who are some of your favorite bands that you’ve shared the stage with?

Frank:
Pantera was one of my favorite bands to tour with ’cause they were like the Van Halen of metal. They were party all the time, just good spirits and good fun. I miss those guys with all my heart, and they’re always my brothers. Look, we did a lot of tours with Iron Maiden. We got to ride on the Iron Maiden Ed Force One plane. [Laughs]. That was incredible, one of the highlights in my life. Again, the Big Four Tour — Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Going around and getting to play Yankee Stadium as a New York guy, who grew up in the Bronx, as a Yankee fan. I grew up 10 minutes from the Yankee Stadium. I was there, I mean, when I was young, me and my friends were always there. To actually come out and be able to play…I never thought that was possible. I always thought the mecca would be Madison Square Garden. And we did that. We headlined Madison Square Garden with the Clash Of The Titans. I thought that this was it, that was the quintessential thing we’re gonna do. But Yankee Stadium…I didn’t even have that on my radar. So, when that came up, when we were able to play Yankee Stadium as a New York band, it was pretty special. It still freaks me out when I think about it, when I see pictures of it, that we were able to play Yankee Stadium, I’m very… I’m just humbled by it, I really am, because it’s bigger than I ever thought it could be. It’s just you can look back, and when I see pictures, there’s a picture in the book of me holding my son backstage of the locker rooms in Yankee Stadium, which was a very sacred place to me, that’s where the players are, all that stuff. To hold my son, and he was younger back then, he was like four or five, whatever it was, six whatever it was, and to hold him in my arms, and point at the picture now, and knowing that this picture is gonna be documented and that this is the time I’m gonna say, “Brandon this was a time in Yankee Stadium where daddy played and you were there, I want you to know that it was a very special time for music for our lives and that you were there, I want you to know that.” And so, it was a very special time, for not only me but my family.

Anthony:
Are you teaching your son how to play instruments and all that too?

Frank:
Yeah, he’s going back and forth with it. He’s actually a good singer. He’s got a good voice, but he won’t make that move yet with guitar or bass. I have basses and guitars everywhere strategically with me in the house to inspire him. So, I’m not gonna push him. I don’t wanna say, “you play this,” I’m not gonna be that guy, but I also want him to ’cause he loves the band, he loves Anthrax, he loves music, but he hasn’t connected that yet. His friends play, but he hasn’t done it. He sings more and he has a really nice, to tell you the truth, he has a nice tone to his voice. So, I’m letting it be, seeing where it goes, and hoping for the best.

Anthony:
Speaking of instruments, one of my favorite questions is what’s your main setup right now? What are you playing these days?

Frank:
Well, I’ve been with Hartke Bass Amps for a really long time, and I love them. They’re from New York. I love them. They have everything I need right now. For my amps, I play through 810s. There are four — two stacks of 410s, bass caps, high drive stuff. I love it. If you look at it go to Hartke.com, you could see my rig, I love it. I use the LH-1000 heads, very powerful, 1000 watts. I don’t think you’re gonna need more. And I played some of the biggest stages in the world with those amps. On The Big Four Tour, I used the LH-1000s, great stuff. As far as bass guitars, I have my signature models, you could look at them online, my basses, all of my signature models, my signature EMG pickups, which I’m very proud of. I use D’addario strings. I’m actually developing a new signature model with a new company right now as we speak. I’m very excited about it. I haven’t signed a contract, so I can’t say who it is, but I’m very excited about it. Yeah, I’m kind of a geek for the gear stuff, but I guess that’s what you could see in this house there’s a lot of guitars everywhere, so I kind of like to have that atmosphere, just if you have an idea, pick it up and pick the guitar up and go. For me, that’s what works.

Anthony:
And that’s your book right behind you too, right there, isn’t it?

Frank:
Yeah. Wow, you saw that huh? I strategically placed this there. [Laughs]. You know what, Anthony? When I got this in the mail last week, and when I opened the box, it really freaked me out because then it was real. I opened it up and you can write the book, you could say all these things, you do the press and all that stuff, but when you hold it, you’re holding your life. I’m holding my life, which kind of freaks me out right now, it’s not real to me, but the people that have read it, and have such high regard and give me such great reviews…I’m very, very thankful for that. That’s the payoff. That’s the payoff of it all, you know? Because all I can do is be honest. I was just honest about my life, and people are getting something out of it, and getting something for themselves out of it. What could be a better payoff than that? If people could identify with it, and put themselves in that place, and identify with it in their own world, and feel good about something that may have helped me in my life, then man, if that happens, if that happens to one person that reads my book, then we all win. That’s the way I look at it.

Anthony:
Well, it’s just great to be talking to someone from one of the more influential Metal bands of all time. It’s just surreal. I didn’t think I would be doing this in my life. [Laughs].

Frank:
Thanks, man. Where are you located now?

Anthony:
I’m from New York, but I’m in North Carolina now.

Frank:
Okay. Hey, I love North Carolina. It’s beautiful there. I have some friends there. Yeah, it’s an easy-going life. It’s like an easier kind of vibe. More laid back, and I kind of like that. I need some of that in my life.

Anthony:
Yeah, and I love the North. A lot of my favorite bands come from up there — Chicago, New York, Boston, and all that. A lot of my favorite bands come from that area.

Frank:
That’s cool, man. Pretty soon you’d be in your own band ’cause you started playing guitar, and you’re gonna start your own band. And I’m gonna hear about it too. For now, remember, it’s always for now. Tomorrow is another day, and you move on with it step by step, man. That’s the way it is. It’s not gonna come overnight, you’re gonna work at it.

Anthony:
No, definitely not overnight. So, are you working on a new album with Anthrax right now?

Frank:
We are working on new music. I promised my press agent for Anthrax that I’ll only say that. She won’t let me talk. She’ll nail me so much if I say any more than that! [Laughs]. All I could say, she said, “Literally, you could only say you’re working on new music, and that’s it.” She doesn’t want me to say anything more. But I’m very psyched about it. How about that? What I know is, it’s fucking heavy. That’s all. I’m gonna leave it there. And I’m very psyched about it. As a fan, as a band member, as a songwriter with them — I love it. So I’m very psyched. That’s it. I’m gonna leave it there. Nothing else with that.

Anthony:
Fair enough. So, when, and how did Helmet come into play?

Frank:
Helmet came into play when we took that break from each other, with Anthrax and myself. We decided we needed a break, and I was…I didn’t know what I was gonna do, ’cause I just needed to fucking clear my head as they did, and I thought it was a good move for both of us. And I was home in my house for a couple of weeks and did not have a plan. I just wanted to veg out. And my friend John Tempesta, my high school buddy, called me up, and he was playing with Helmet. He was playing drums in Helmet. And he called me up, “Hey dude, why don’t you come out and jam with us?” And at first, I was like, “I don’t know, man. Do I wanna do anything right now?” He goes, “Come on. Just fucking come out.” And so, he got me in touch with Page Hamilton, one of my favorite people. I was always a diehard Helmet fan, so I knew a lot of their songs, but he gave me a list of 37 songs to come out and jam with them on. 37 songs! So, to learn that…it was a couple of weeks, I think it was maybe ten days, or two weeks to learn that stuff, and I loved Helmet because the bass was always up in the mix, and it was always prominent. And doing that, we knew it immediately from the first jam — it was just working. It was locked in. It was a heavy rhythm. It worked. I’ve jammed with Johnny before, so we had that thing going, ’cause we jammed in high school, Johnny and I. We went to Jazz class, so we would jam in Jazz class all the time, so we had our thing, our friendship, and our rhythm thing. And so, that was evident when we came into the Helmet stuff. And then Chris Traynor, Page Hamilton were in Helmet. You could see it was just working with all four of us. And it was a fun tour, man. I went on tour with them, and it was a party tour. A lot of fun. A lot of shows. It was a different way of playing for me. I played with a pick that whole tour. I learned a lot on that tour. I think I became a better bass player on that tour because it took me outside of my comfort zone. It showed me a different way of playing. And then I have fun incorporating that now with my playing.

Anthony:
There are a couple of songs for Anthrax that you do use picks, for the most part, you just pluck, right?

Frank:
Yeah, I’m more comfortable with my fingers, to be honest. I’m a finger player. I feel it just comes through me, my body, from my fingers to the strings. I feel like I have a connection there somehow. But there was something really…there’s a tone to the pick that I just love, and it’s percussive almost, and I really love it. Not to get too nerdy with bass talk and stuff, but there is a percussion that I love from almost any player like Tom Peterson from Cheap Trick, that I love. It’s almost piano-like when he plays an eight-string or 12-string bass, which I have, and I love. I have those basses. And dUg from King’s X, dUg Pinnick from King’s X. It’s a tone that those guys have that I just love. Chris Squire, from Yes, is a great pick player I have always loved. Gene Simmons from KISS, there are certain things that he does, that I think are great for the songs sometimes. I did a couple of them on “Gung-Ho.” I remember the song, “The Enemy,” I played the beginning of that with a pick. Yeah, certain songs just need it, that’s all.

Anthony:
You have some solo stuff out as well, right?

Frank:
I do. I’m actually writing…I just recorded some more stuff that we haven’t…we’re holding up. We don’t know what we’re gonna do with MegaForce. We don’t know when we’re gonna release it, but I’m actually writing more stuff now, and The Altitudes thing I did with Dave Ellefson, my friend Dave Ellefson from Megadeth, or formerly from Megadeth. We wrote this record, and it was his own thing. I had a lot of songs, Dave had a lot of songs, and we put this thing together. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of people liked it. So, if you guys haven’t heard it — it’s on iTunes. It’s called Altitudes and Attitudes. So, it’s me singing, and I had these songs and Dave had some songs, and we put them together. It’s more of a Rock ‘N’ Roll vibe. A lot of people took to it, which is cool. It was a different side of us. It wasn’t Metal. It was just melody-based old-school Rock stuff. It was a lot of fun. I still enjoy doing it.

Anthony:
I bet it’s fun to mess around with different genres as well seeing as you’ve mainly been involved with Metal. It’s probably nice to go back and do something else.

Frank:
Totally. I love so many genres. I love music in general, no matter what it is. I listen to anything. I give anything a chance. And listen to it, and take it for what it is, and give it a shot. So, hopefully, it’s the sponge that is your head. You absorb it, and it comes out to something else that you write. I always think that’s the way to do it.

Anthony:
So, who’s on your radar right now as far as new music?

Frank:
Deafheaven. Have you heard of Deafheaven?

Anthony:
I have not.

Frank:
Check it out, dude. I love the new record. We’ve toured with them before. Great band. I’ve been listening to a lot of that, and I think that’s a great band. Crobot, do you know Crobot?

Anthony:
Nope. A lot of Metal is new to me. I’m just getting more into Metal lately.

Frank:
It’s okay, dude. Yeah, just listen to them, give them a shot. Really good stuff. Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of great bands that are coming up too. I think the future is bright for this music, so why not? Why not? There’s room for everybody. Come on, let’s do this.

Anthony:
I know you said Anthrax is writing, and recording a new album, and that’s all you can say about that. Aside from the new record, what does the future of Anthrax hold? Obviously, you wanna get back on the road…

Frank:
I think we all have to get past this pandemic, hopefully, sooner than later for everybody, and just to get life back for all of us. Life the way we know it. Look, I wanna go on tour. I wanna record a record. I wanna do all the good stuff. We’ve been able to do certain…Anthrax has been able to play certain festivals this year, which is a lot of fun, but when that festival is over, you have to go home, and there’s not a show the day after. Touring is when you get you get your feet wet, and you dig in. In those shows, you get momentum. I miss that momentum right now. I think everybody does. Even for people watching, coming to shows, you miss that momentum of bands coming into town all the time. So, I’m looking forward to bands getting back on tour. Look, I love going out and seeing bands that I like, and just saying, “Oh, they’re playing next week? Oh, the week after? Cool, man.” I want that back again for everybody. I want to have that excitement that…ready for the new record. I look forward to new music. I want to be hearing from other bands. Not only ours, but I look for other bands’ music. New music. And then being able to tour that. I look forward to seeing bands being able to tour their new music. I think that’s part of the fun of what we do. As fans also, I think it’s exciting — I wanna go out and see a band play their new songs. I think it’s important.

Anthony:
I’ve finally been able to do that after almost two years after seeing my last concert. I finally was able to see one of my favorite bands and that was Rise Against.

Frank:
Oh, cool. Yeah, good band, man. Where’d they play?

Anthony:
They played in Charlotte at the Metro Credit Union Amphitheater.

Frank:
Cool, man. How did it feel for you? How did it feel for you to be out again and see a show? I’m interviewing you now. [Laughs].

Anthony:
Yeah. [Laughs]. It was wonderful. It was great to be back out there. Just being stagnant all year…two years straight doing nothing, it was great to be back out there, and see music again. As you said, things are starting to slowly open up again, and we wanna see our favorite bands…

Frank:
Yeah. I hope it gets back to normal sooner than later, man. We all need it. And look, again, I go the positive route ’cause I’ve been to the negative side, and it doesn’t work for me, it just doesn’t. So, I rather look…I wanna look positively towards the future, and I hope there’s a bright future for all of us, man. Because what else do we have?

Anthony:
I think that just about covers everything. Is there anything else you want to tell the readers out there?

Frank:
Fathers, Brothers, and Sons: Surviving Anguish, Abandonment, and Anthrax is out on November 2nd. Pre-orders are available now. It’s on Amazon, but you can get signed books, which I signed a bunch of these books…I don’t know, 500 of them? I signed a bunch of books, and so you can get them from Rare Bird Lit. You can go to my Twitter, it’s on there, and my bio on my website too. And listen, and I wanna tell you, you started the guitar, a little bit every day, man. Don’t give up. Don’t give up, because next time we talk, I wanna hear a song, right? I wanna hear you jam. In our next interview like this, I want you to pull out the guitar, and just play a couple of chords for me.

Anthony:
Alright! So, thanks a lot, Frank.

Frank:
Anthony, thanks for hanging with me for an hour. It’s been fun, dude. Listen, have a good night, play some guitar and go to work, and come back and play more guitar, alright? Take care of yourself, bro.

Interested in learning more about the work of Frank Bello? Check out the link below:

Dig this? Check out the full archives of A.M. Radio, by Anthony Montalbano, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/a-m-radio-archives/

About Post Author

Anthony Montalbano

Anthony Montalbano grew up in New York and North Carolina. Anthony is a baker by day and a contributor to the Vinyl Writer cause by night. With a passion for podcasts, Pop Punk, video games, and more, Anthony brings a unique and fresh perspective to the team. Anthony's column is a catch-all for the things he loves most, and he wouldn't have it any other way.
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