Anthrax's Frank Bello Talks Motörboat Cruise, New Music, and Hanging with Bieber

Frank Bello, left, slaps the bass during an Anthrax show.
Frank Bello, left, slaps the bass during an Anthrax show.
Photo by Amy Harris

At the end of this month, the loudest party on the high seas will chug its way from Miami to the Bahamas, leaving a trail of head-banging dolphins in its path. Motörhead's annual Motörboat Cruise is departing on September 28 with bands like Slayer, Crobot, Anthrax, Exodus, and — we sincerely hope — Motörhead.

Recently, Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister has been sick, forcing the band to cancel a string of gigs. There's a heartbreaking video online of Lemmy cutting a show short in Austin, Texas, on September 1. "I can't do it," he says three songs into the show before walking offstage.

I actually had a chance to interview Lemmy before Motörhead left for this current tour. When I asked him about his health over the last few years, he said, "I feel alright, you know. I’m not as strong as I was but I’m alright. I’m not dying."

Luckily Lemmy appears to be on the mend, recovering from what the band said was a lung infection, and Motörhead have resumed playing shows. Thus far, there is no indication that Motörhead won't be on the boat, so that's a good sign. 

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But one band who will definitely be there is Anthrax, one of the cruise's headliners and a group that's been at the forefront of metal for over thirty years. We got on the phone with Anthrax bassist Frank Bello while he's still on dry land, and chatted about life on the road, the band's new music, and how he accidentally found himself hanging out with Justin Bieber.

New Times: What was your favorite part of Motörboat last year?
Bello: It is a catch-22 with that question just because there was no time. I brought my family out last year, my son and my wife. It was very strange. I thought I’d have some down time, have a drink at the bar, or spend time at the pool. I’m telling you, there was no time to do anything — in a positive way. There was always a great band playing, always something to check out or maybe somebody was doing a talk at a forum. The comedy show was awesome. There was so much going on. That was probably my favorite thing. I did not expect to have that much to do which is good because you can choose not to go see the bands and sit down for a while but why would you want to do that? It was non-stop. I didn’t get any sleep.

Anthrax recently played one of the last shows at House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. What was that experience like for you?
Here is the real story with that. Three weeks before that show happened, we got a call from House of Blues asking us to be the last Metal show at House of Blues Sunset, which is a real privilege because that place has been a mainstay with so many great shows we have seen and played. So, of course, we were worried about having two and a half weeks to sell this thing out. And I am telling you, the tickets just flew out and it was sold out within two weeks with no problem. Everything worked out so right. Playing the place with an insane crowd. Even before we went on, you could hear the crowd outside. It was an event. It was more than a show. When I was playing, I was looking out to all the spots in the venue from the stage and I was thinking that I wasn’t going to be there again. I could spend all day there and just look around. I have had some great times there. It is sad. How many hotels does Sunset Boulevard actually need? To have another great place to play be torn down...I understand that it is all money. I get it. All these big, luxurious hotels in California, especially on Sunset, to go see Hollywood and stuff, but they are tearing down all the places to see music. It really drives me crazy. 

Is there somebody early in your career that helped mentor you that is really special and helped get you started?
Yeah, I grew up without a dad. My dad split when I was ten years old. I have to say, bass players. I say this in my bass clinics. Bass players were my heroes, like Geezer Butler. Also, the band Kiss. That was my out. That made everything alright in the world making me want to do this and want to do something with my life.

By now you must have met a lot of those guys.
It's a privilege being friends with a lot of these guys. My favorite e-mail for my birthday that I got this year is from Geezer Butler saying “Happy Birthday Frankie.” To think about that, the little kid came out in me, and you don’t know what that meant to me. That’s what makes it all worthwhile.

You always look like you are having the best time on stage. Do you still really enjoy it, like everyday getting out there and doing it?
You know what, I love it. The stage is an addiction. It is a different energy with Anthrax as opposed to other things I do. We are talking about Motörboat right now, that is the next stage. We are in the studio. The studio and creating is great. I love writing and all that good stuff. But to be able to share that live and have that connection with fans, there is nothing like it. 

When can we expect the new music? We have seen the videos of you guys working in the studio. Are we going to hear it soon?
Yes we are releasing it in January. In two weeks, we are going to start mixing it. I am so excited about this record and we are all a big fan of this music. You can’t just let it out. You have to really nurture it and make sure it is the right record. Nobody was rushing us. We didn’t have to have a record for anybody. I am psyched. When you see it played live, it is the ultimate high for us.

There are so many songs in the Anthrax catalog. How do you guys prepare a set list for the show? Do you do the same stuff every night or try to mix it up every day.
We try to mix it up. We do try to mix it up, but god forbid you don’t play those certain songs. I understand because I am a fan. If Anthrax doesn’t play “Caught in a Mosh” you hear about it. I get it. I understand. I love the song and have no problem. I love playing it. Then you hear the other side asking to change the set list. You have to strike that balance. During that House of Blues show, that set list, I think there were some songs we have never played. “Lone Justice” from the second record, I can’t remember the last time we played that. There aren’t many times in our career we have played that live. That set was over two hours long and if you look at the set list of that show, there are a lot of songs that had people freaking out. 

I saw you were recently hanging out with Justin Bieber and I was a little confused.
Here we go. Here’s the deal with this Justin Bieber thing. I didn’t realize how powerful social media is until this happened. For the House of Blues show, I needed new sneakers so I could play. My friend Dominic owns a skate shop on Melrose Avenue. I go there for shoes and he tells me to stay there for a second because there is someone that wants to meet me. He pulls me to this skate ramp in the back. I said, “Hello Justin how are you?” Kid was nice. He didn’t know anything about the band. He said “I know you are heavy but I don’t know any songs. I’d love to come check you guys out.” We just started to talk. It was a very surreal thing. He was skating. He was doing some crazy things on the skateboard. We just stayed there for a half hour talking — me, Dominic, and him. My friend Dominic, we are pretty sarcastic, and I was busting his chops, as us New Yorkers do and Justin was joining in on that and was quite funny. That was all that was.

Do you have a greatest rock star moment?
Do you mean me being around rock stars?

No I mean you being a rock star.
The problem is that I am not a rock star. I just got lucky. I love music. I got lucky enough to be able to play in a great band. It’s humbling. I still feel like I have a lot more I want to do so I don’t consider myself a rock star. I just got lucky with positioning in life. A rock star moment is being acknowledged. I will tell you a quick story. I went to see U2 when they were playing Giants Stadium. Our old security guy was with U2, he brought us back. The band was there and I am a big U2 fan from way back and these guys are a big deal to me. I was talking to Bono and had a really nice conversation with him, and for him to say The Edge has your record — that was my Rock Star moment. I talked to Edge and he did in fact have our record. That was my Rock star moment and it was such a cool thing a band I liked would have our record. That exchange was really cool. I don’t consider myself a rock star. I don’t know what that means anymore.

Motörboat Cruise with Motörhead, Anthrax, Crobot, and more. September 28 through October 2. Cabins cost $749 to $1,149 plus fees. Call 877-438-9438, or visit Sign up with New Times promo code to save $75.

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