När Altitudes & Attitude öppnade för Slash i Stockholm pratade vi inte bara med Dave Ellefson utan vi passade även på att ställa en fråga eller två till Frank Bello. Han berättade bl a om hur hans samlande på KISS-prylar bekostat Gene Simmons hus, hur viktig terapi själva låtskrivandet är, om när han senast blev starstruck, att nästa platta med Anthrax bjuder på aggressivitet och hur han vet att han är lyckligt lottad med sitt musikerliv:
“I just feel very fortunate and I never take it for granted. Not one day. You have to put your nose to the grind and work hard every day. Even now. Look at this! We have to do this, man, so it´s a fun ride. Look, life is this short, take full advantage, dude… that´s the way I look at it.”
How have the shows been going?
Great. These shows have been surprisingly… ´cause we didn´t know what wer were walking into. We have this new group that´s starting to tour and Slash is a buddy of ours and he offered us some shows. He heard some songs of us, he liked it and gave it to his manager, they heard more and offered us these shows and of course we´re going to say yes. We´re not going to turn them down. We didn´t know what to expect and quite honestly, Dave (Ellefson) and I are used to these crowds raging and stuff like that and we didn´t know, but we´ve been getting them each night which I just didn´t expect. It´s a lot of fun and I like the challenge of going out there as a new band and just showing them everything you have. And to have that feedback that we´re having really feels good.
How do you pick songs to play? You play some KISS covers as well.
Yes, which you´ll see tonight (Stockholm). Todd´s (Kerns) going to come out and he´s awesome. I´ve known Todd for a while. Look how pathetic we are! (points to the KISS shirt he´s wearing) We don´t stop. Todd, Brent (Fitz), Dave and our guitar player Andy got together and it was non stop KISS talk and once we start talking it doesn´t end. First night in Paris and we just didn´t shut up about KISS, so that´s a very bonding thing. We did ”Detroit rock city” one night, so Todd´s going to come out and do some verses with me and play some guitar. That´s just fun. That´s the fun of being on tour. You look forward to that kind of fun.
What is it about KISS then? It doesn´t matter who you talk to, it all comes down to KISS some how.
It´s the foundation. You know what dude, there´s a lot of us that grew up in these groups and KISS was the basis of where I was when I was young. It was like ”Man, I want to do that!” I looked at that and said ”I want to do that!” It was a big impact on me to do music. Again, along with Todd, Dave… all of us, we liked the music that KISS put out. People saw the show, but no, they had these songs. You can´t forget about the KISS songs. Very important. It´s been that since day one and that´s why we all know these fucking songs. We all know these songs and we jam and have a good time and we relate. Some how you know, ”Ah, alright… a KISS guy right there!” It´s like a club, right.
Did you like ”(Music from) The Elder” (1981) back when it was released?
You see, there are some songs. I didn´t like ”Just a boy” and I would tell Gene and Paul that, but I liked ”The Oath”, a great song. ”Only you” is another great song. What else is there?
Ace´s ”Dark light”?
Yes, we were just talking about that one with Todd. (Hums the song)
Are you a collector in any way?
Unfortunately yes. I built Gene a house. (laughs) All the money I´ve donated to KISS in my life, I´ve built him a house. At least for a couple of those guys. I mean, we all have. At one time I had four copies of each record and we lost them all through moves and stuff. It happens. It´s been a great run with KISS.
What´s your most precious item?
Oh, something signed by them. I know KISS from the 70´s because I live in New York and I used to meet them at their management office all the time, so I have stuff from the first couple of times, as a kid… a 15 year old Frank Bello going to meet them in front of the management. I have a Gene Simmons signature and he wrote the S with the dollar sign and I still have that same signature and the paper is brown now, but it was just a really fun time and it brings me back right there. It was just a great time. These 6 foot 2 or 6 foot 4 guys in suits, they were not in make up and it was a very special time.
Meeting your idols like that. Do you still get starstruck these days?
The last time I got starstruck was when I was with Anthrax and we played this TV-show called Seth Myers and Robert De Niro was a guest on that. It was funny because you saw… on the writing on the dressing room it was Robert De Niro and on our dressing room it said Anthrax and I never thought I would see that, right. Is that insane or what? He knew we were diehard fans and he was gracious enough to take a picture with us and talk with us for a while and I was starstruck, because it´s Bobby D, man! That´s the guy! He was a very gracious man and that was the last time because now I think I´m over the whole game… I love music, but now I´ve been in this for a while. I mean, I met Geddy (Lee), Steve Harris is my idol and my friend, but Bobby D was a big point for me.
A&A then? Do you have more songs? Are you writing?
I´m always writing. There´s this one specific thing that I haven´t told Dave about. This next thing I want to do for A&A is… I have it on tape already and I´m doing the lyrics right now, but I´m always writing and I look forward to it because it´s a great outlet. The Anthrax thing on the side and we´re writing now, an actual record that I have stuff for, but the A&A stuff is my vocals and stuff and it´s another way to think, which is cool.
A second album?
Yeah, if they want it, I´m more than happy to do it. This is therapy for me, man, hence the title ”Get it out” and this is as honest as I can be with this. It gets a lot of the aggression out that I have in my gut. Still a lot of anger, so getting it out really helps. It really helps me maintain a level of not wanting to fucking go crazy. It´s the truth and you can hear it in the lyrics. If you can connect, man, that´s all I want. If what I wrote makes you feel better about your day and get you living again, it´s all good man. Just as a human I want to do that.
That has to be the ultimate thing. To write something and then later on have somebody sing it back to you?
That´s what´s crazy that I´m finding out about this because with Anthrax I don´t write lyrics. I write melody and music, but with this I´m writing the lyrics and people are finding their story in my story… It´s so fulfilling and I just say ”Thank you and I´m glad it´s doing something for you!” It´s important.
Is there a big difference in writing for A&A and writing for Anthrax?
Yeah and you know what it is. You know as soon as it comes out. This file and that file. You separate them and sometimes they cross, but you know what will work for each band and I like that. I like having the openness of it all. I think it´s really a lot of fun because everything has a shot. It´s important.
Do you come up with stuff that isn´t either A&A or Anthrax?
Yes and it sits in a file and it´s stuff I can see in a movie. Stuff like that, like a score. That´s what´s great about files. You put them away and I love going back, ”What the hell is this?” I love that factor and that happens a lot.
Could there ever be a solo thing?
Something that is totally different?
It is, but it would probably sound like A&A, but a different part of A&A. A different side because Dave´s involved with A&A. It´ll be similar, like that rock fun. I just like doing it, man. I´m lucky enough to do this and I know how lucky I am. I´m very fortunate. I make a living, not with A&A but with Anthrax and I´m very fortunate.
That has to be the ultimate thing, to get paid for the one thing you truly love doing?
And you love it. To this day… I can´t phony it and you can´t do that. I can´t even imagining phonying anything. I would piss myself off. I´d get mad at myself. That´s why I have to live it. It´s very important to me.
Anthrax then? Do you have any finished songs?
No, just starting and I´m liking what we´ve done so far. Expect aggression. I can tell you that. There´s a lot of inner stuff going on, which I think is great for an Anthrax record so I´m looking forward to it. It´s going to be fun.
Even before Anthrax, did you have thought about what you wanted to do? Were you thinking about a normal job?
No. I always knew I wanted to do this. I was scared that I´d better get a fucking job, you know what I mean? Because in the early days of Anthrax, like with everybody else, there´s no money, so you start thinking ”Should I have gone to college?, all that stuff. Remember, I got into Anthrax at 17, so I graduated early. It´s either college or Anthrax and I went for it and thank God, believe me, that we made a living out of it. But you still look back, ”Should I have gotten more education?” and all that stuff, but I mean, the education of life is here and this is a great education that we´ve developed. I just feel very fortunate and I never take it for granted. Not one day. You have to put your nose to the grind and work hard every day. Even now. Look at this! We have to do this, man, so it´s a fun ride. Look, life is this short, take full advantage, dude… that´s the way I look at it.
Were you a good student in school?
I was a good student other then in music class. I was in jazz class with my friend John Tempesta. He plays with The Cult. I grew up with John and we went to school together. We went to jazz class together. Every day in jazz class, instead of playing jazz, John and I would get there early and jam type Sabbath and maiden and the teacher would scream at us and throw us out. This was pretty much three or four times a week, but I was a pretty good student. I had honors in high school and graduated with honors and all that stuff, but at the end of the day it wasn´t me.
Why jazz class? Wasn´t there like a rock class?
There was no rock class. That was fun, because it was an easy way out so I put up with all that just to jam and I was on stand up (bass) there. She wouldn´t let me on the electric. (laughs) But it was great and I thought it was a great education, so it was fun.
What made you pick up the bass? Or did you start out on the guitar?
I started out on the guitar and my drummer Charlie Benante and my friend Mike… we were jamming together and they said ”You´re playing the bass parts on the guitar.” I hear bass first and for some reason I picked that out and once I switched to bass we just clicked in. It´s weird how that happened.
You tour a lot. How often does it happen that you wake up and have no idea of where you are?
Today! (laughs) Who cares? You look at the sheet. ”Where am I? Ok.” and that´s the truth, but the shows is what it´s all about though. It´s all about the show. Look, we have to impress them. It´s a brand new band and it´s not Anthrax and it´s not Megadeth, it´s us.
Back to the time before Anthrax. Were you going to a lot of clubs checking out bands?
Always checking out bands. At that time I was a roadie, a tech for Anthrax in the early days when I was 16 years old and that was the time of rock and all that stuff and you´d go and check out all these bands. It was a good time. Rock was big, so when you look back, it was a great time.
Did you go to CBGB´s and stuff like that?
Oh yeah! Sunday afternoon was hardcore day. Every Sunday we would meet Scott (Ian) and sometimes Charlie and it was great. It was a great aggressive kind of vibe. Thankfully people were cool there because we were the metal guys and all that stuff. It was just a great time.
Back then, was the whole music thing more honest in a way?
Remember, music was more important back then for people because there are so many distractions now like video games, that´s the big rock star and that´s the truth. I have a 12 year old son, so that´s the rock star. They own the game and then everything else trickles down. For this generation I don´t think music is as important, unfortunately and I´d like to see that turn around. It´s an in and out kind of vibe and it doesn´t sustain anything so you´ve got to make sure you really work on your songs.
Still, metal fans are the ones that buy the deluxe version and all that stuff.
Oh yeah! As we do. That´s why the metal community rules and I´m very proud to be part of it and I love it forever. That´s why I´ll always be a fan. It´s a very tight knit community that I never want to leave. I´m very proud of it and I´ve been a part of it all my life and I feel fortunate that I´ve been a part of it. It´s important to me.
You´ve done some acting through the years. I remember watching ”Calendar girls” and Anthrax showed up in it. How did that happen?
A casting director saw me read one time and she remembered me. She liked me but I wasn´t right for that role that she had for that part. It´s one of those games, you know. She called me up and said ”Would you be interested in the part of a musician?” and I said ”How about I bring my band?” I wanted to promote Anthrax of course, always thinking, ok. We did it and it was as easy as that. They couldn´t have been nicer people. Such cool people. It was supposed to be a one day shoot and they turned it into two and gave us some more lines. It was fun.
Was ”Married with children” the first time you were on a TV-show?
Yes. They gave us a script, a funny script with great lines from us and they really took care of us. A whole week of rehearsing and they paid for everything. We ate, we drank with the whole cast. I knew the cast so my favorite time was drinking at a bar with Ed O´Neill after the show. The best. Getting drunk with him. Dude, just talking stories about his acting career because I didn´t care about me. I wanted to know about him and he wanted to know about me and it was one of my great fondest memories. Talking stories and putting a few down with Al Bundy. In my book I will have that one day…
Will there be a book?
There´s always that question. Do you know Joel McIver?
We started and we´re going to get back to it because we have busy schedules. We started it and I plan to write it with Joel. He´s done great stuff and he knows my history probably better than me. He´s great at what he does, so we´ll probably work that out. He goes deep and he does it right. That´s what I like about Joel. He has a lot of history that I probably have forgotten.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen