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Out On The Metal Highway - A Talk With John Bush of Anthrax 
Backstage Pass Special with Debbie Seagle


Out on that metal highway in the Rock N World, we met up with John Bush, lead singer of Anthrax.  Just finishing up a short tour for their latest CD, "Return of The Killer A's," they packed venues in each stop on the way with their energy charged antics. John talks about the past, the present and the future of Anthrax and gives us an insight into his reunion with Armored Saint.

Rock N World:  I’m here today to talk to you about the short tour that you folks are on.  You’re touring in support of "Return of the Killer A’s," and that’s kind of a greatest hits CD, but not really.  It has some added things to it, doesn’t it?

John Bush:  Well, it is, its just got a couple of twists.  We threw a couple remixes on instead of the original versions from the records.  The songs "Potter’s Field" and "Hy Pro Glo."  There’s obviously the track that Joey Belladonna and I did together, which is a cover of the Temptations song "Ball of Confusion," which has never been recorded by the band.  And you know, little nooks and crannies in there that we threw in like a little small portion of a song that we did on the "Stomp (442)" record that has like a minute of it.  You know, whatever.  We can’t do everything conventionally.  You have to always be a little bit unusual. 

RNW:  That’s kind of what makes you Anthrax.  That’s what your fans like.

JB:  Absolutely.  That’s right.

RNW:  So how did the tunes get selected for this project?  Did somebody come up with an idea for what they wanted and pass it by you?

JB:  No, it was a collective decision by the band and it was pretty obvious, for the most part, really, what the most popular songs were.  We actually probably left off a couple tracks that could have been on the record even.  But we filled up pretty much all the minutes on it.  There’s like 72 or 74 minutes on it so if we wanted to add more songs, we would have to add another CD and we don’t want to do that.  In my opinion, its the kind of thing where, even if you don’t own one Anthrax record, this is the record to get because its a historical view of the band throughout the years and combines the greatest hits, so to speak.

RNW:  And the remastering of the old stuff.

JB:  And remastering, that’s right.  And so that obviously makes the old stuff sound even better.

RNW:  Now this is a short tour that you’re doing now, a little over three weeks.

JB:  Yeah, its about three and a half weeks.

RNW:  Was that because everyone had other projects coming up?

JB:  No, originally, the plan was doing this dual singer thing that fell through.  I don’t know if you are aware of that, but I’m sure you are.  And we just didn’t really know how the public was going to take to it and we didn’t want to over extend ourselves.  We thought we were doing something different and unusual but we didn’t want to go out there and book eight weeks of dates and have it not go the way we wanted it to.  So we were taking baby steps in regards to that.  So that’s the only reason.  I mean we flirted with the idea of maybe going back out in April and doing more dates, I don’t know yet, we’ll see.  There’s a lot of the country that we haven’t covered.  We missed the whole state of Texas, the southwest.

RNW:  You jumped around quite a bit, I noticed on the schedule.

JB:  Yeah, we went from Milwaukee to Denver to San Diego. 

RNW:  But thank God (pointing to the blue sky)

JB:  You know, it might be a little easier to play in San Diego than it is in Milwaukee, although the crowd in Milwaukee was far superior to the crowd in San Diego.

RNW:  Well, I’m from the midwest, and we are a rock & roll area . . .

JB:  Absolutely!  People were asking me, "What do you think of the weather?" and I’m like, "Its January, we’re in the midwest."  Its not like I came here expecting it to be a balmy 80 degrees.

RNW:  The personnel issues with putting the tour together have been reported about aggressively and I didn’t think you wanted to talk about that again, so . . .

JB:  That’s cool.

RNW:  But, you know, Joey’s in, Joey’s out.  Paul’s in, then Dave’s in and you’ve got this stuff going on.  Have you noticed any kind of a difference in the reception from the audiences at the gigs you have played, than what you expected because of the personnel changes, or are they just so damn glad to see Anthrax out on the road?

JB:  You know, I don’t know.  The tour, we’re doing better numbers than we’ve done in the last couple of years, really.  I don’t know if that has something to do with people’s expectations of Joey Belladonna coming back or if its just better visibility for Anthrax right now because of our new label, or if its a good climate right now.  Or people missed us, I don’t know.  It could be all of the above.  I’ve asked the other guys, because I don’t think anyone’s going to come up to me and go "We miss Joey Belladonna."  I don’t think they’re going to tell me that.  However, I don’t think people are not coming to the show because he didn’t come.  I think that might have brought in a little extra enthusiasm in the beginning, but I don’t think that people are not coming because he’s not here.

RNW:  It could have gone totally the other way too though.

JB:  What’s that?

RNW:  You know, people coming out in support of the band.  I think things have been kind of mixed.  I’ve been trolling around the chat rooms and the message boards and basically, I think a lot of the fans are just saying, we’re here for Anthrax, you know?

JB:  Yeah, I mean, for me its whatever.  Business as usual.  I mean, I’ve been with the band eight years, and we’re going out and playing, you know.  The only thing that was going to be different, I was going to have to sing less songs.  I would have had a lot less hoarse voice than I do.

RNW:  That’s sexy, don’t worry about that.

JB:  No, but it doesn’t matter to me.  I think in the end, it was an error, but its over with now.  Its like whatever, I don’t want to talk about it.  I think that we had great gigs and we had great shows and its kind of onward and forward.

RNW:  There seems to have been a rash of these weird personnel things happening in the metal/hard rock genre, have you noticed?

JB:  A couple people have said that to me just recently.

RNW:  You know, since New Years Eve.  We’ve had White Snake, they lost a singer or guitarist.

JB:  You mean David Coverdale?  There was talk about him joining Van Halen.  I don’t know if that’s true or not.

RNW:  I don’t think that’s true because now I’ve heard that . . . well, never mind.  I’ll tell ya later.  Okay, Megadeth . . .

JB:  Yeah, Marty Freidman is out.

RNW:  Then we’ve got Third Eye Blind.

JB:  Oh, was there a personnel change there?

RNW:  Stranding their guitarist in Utah or something.

JB:  Really, wow, that sounds like it hurt!

RNW:  And then lately, Poison.

JB:  Poison, what happened with them?

RNW:  C.C. took off.  Allegedly the band wouldn’t let his other band open for them and he got mad and split.

JB:  Yikes!  Everyone’s fragile egos. 

RNW:  What do you think it is?  Is it the environment that the metal/hard rock genre moves in that causes a lot more friction?  You don’t hear that much, it seems like, outside of our circle.  Then all of the sudden, everyone’s just switching around.

JB:  I don’t know, I mean I have no answer for that, I really don’t.  I know in our situation, the Joey thing aside, because whatever, what’s up with Paul is Paul has never been a legitimate member of Anthrax.  I’m personally on the fence about it anyway because I love Paul dearly.  I think he’s an awesome person and he contributed a lot more to this band than we probably would even give him credit for.  But, basically he had to look out for himself, and we had down time in 1999 and everybody kind of wanted to do a lot of different things in that time, including myself.  And so did he.  And he got an opportunity to go tour with Sebastian and the tours conflicted a little bit and he made a commitment to him, and I don’t blame him, so he had to go do it.  It just seems ironic that Snake is a friend of the band’s, he’s a friend of Anthrax’s, particularly Frankie and Paul.  Paul was nice enough to make an effort to inquire about a few guitar players, and since it was only a few shows, we like the idea of somebody who had a name and getting somebody who could be like, "wow, cool, he’s playing with Anthrax" for a few shows, and I embraced that because I think it will be cool and Dave’s a great guy too.  Its just a coincidence. 

RNW:  Didn’t you extend the tour?  It wasn’t supposed to last until February 12th originally.

JB:  Yeah, it was originally going to end on the 2nd and we had some conflicts.  We had a couple of shows that conflicted with others that we didn’t want to compete with.  So we added it and we moved the LA date to the 12th, which ended up being better for us cause its a Saturday night now and we added Seattle, Vancouver, Portland, you know, Pacific northwest.  We could probably add four weeks if we wanted to, it just didn’t work out that way.

RNW:  But Paul was slated to go to his next gig already.

JB:  Yeah, he made a commitment to Sebastian before the Anthrax tour even got together, so that was understandable.  As to why all this stuff is going on, I don’t know.

RNW:  I have this secret theory that they are all gathering somewhere together and they are like . .  okay, they’ve got a couple guitarists now, they’ve got a singer . . .

JB:  You’re a big X Files fan, right?

RNW:  (Laughs)  Okay, they need a drummer and they need a bass player.  We’re going to watch and see what happens with that.

JB:  I think regardless, you should create this situation . . . people would love it!

RNW:  I’ll start a rumor and then I can promote the band!

JB:  That sounds good.

RNW:  Why do you think Anthrax is still able to get together after an 18 year history, put together these tours, put together the project you just did and keep going?  You know, 18 years is a long history for a band in this day and age.  What’s special about Anthrax and about the chemistry of this mix that makes you guys able to do that after all this time?

JB:  Well lately, what I’ve been saying is "Anthrax is legendary."  That’s my new saying lately, cause I believe that the band really is.  So, I mean, you know probably most of that, or a lot of that came prior to me being in the band.  So its not like I’m saying I’m legendary.  Its that just being a part of this, I feel that way.  I think because the band has always challenged themselves and done things not really caring too much about what people are going to say.  Sometimes things are done and the public doesn’t respond positively.  But regardless, the band did it.  That’s just the type of band this is and I think that’s the kind of thing it usually takes to have longevity in this business. 

RNW:  Taking those risks?

JB:  I think so.  You know, that’s what being an artist is all about.  You know, who wants to be safe?  I find that boring.

RNW:  Eventually, the listeners, your fans will too.

JB:  Yeah, they do too.  Especially nowadays, everyone’s got tunnel vision.  Everyone’s narrow minded - not narrow minded, but just say the attention span is a lot less.  Because there’s just a lot of things cluttered up.  I just think that this band is willing to do that and because of that, that’s why there’s longevity and it seems that people embrace it.

RNW:  With all the other projects the band has going on, what do you think the future is for Anthrax?

JB:  Well I don’t know.  We’ve got to sit down and discuss that.  Because we have a tendency to not converse as well as we should - its the truth.

RNW:  You mean sit down with your calendars?

JB:  Yeah, that’s probably what it comes down to.  Sitting down and making sure everyone is happy with whatever is going on beyond Anthrax and making sure all those things can be done correctly, without sacrificing anything.  We need to do that, hopefully within the next couple of days, maybe even tonight.  So you never really know.  We really need to address that because . . .

RNW:  You’ll scoop me on that, right?  If something happens tonight, you will take me aside tonight and let me know, right?

JB:  (Laughing) No, no, no, nothing dramatic or drastic is going to happen . . .

RNW:  How happy is your drummer?  (Laughing)

JB:  I don’t know, he’s not really ever that completely happy, really.  That’s what makes him real special . . . that’s pretty funny!

RNW:  I’m telling you, I’m watching this, looking for a drummer for my mega band . . .

JB:  That’s pretty funny . . .

RNW:  Is a studio album in the future for Anthrax?

JB:  I don’t know, sure, we need to make one.  Yeah, obviously we’d like to see if we can get one out by the end of the year I think.  That’s a goal.

RNW:  Okay, cool.  Going along with the theme that we were talking about, trying different things and keeping going, do you think Anthrax is evolving in their music?  In their approach to creating music?  There’s been a lot of evolution in the industry, style, media, promotion, even lifestyle.  Think about how our lifestyles have changed since the 80s.

JB:  See, that’s exactly what I always say.  When people say "Is your record going to be different" or "Why is your record different?"  I always say because I’m different.  You know, when you make a record, its getting old to me to say this because I say it a lot but it makes the most sense, a record is a reference of time.  That’s the way I look at it.  And you make a record based on what you were thinking and feeling when you were writing and making that record.  And then a year passes and you tour and you do this and you go on.  Who knows, maybe you get married, fall in love, who knows.  Whatever happens, you get into yoga, I don’t know, whatever.  Something changes your life, and then you make another record and your life is different, so your music should be different as well.  I think its constantly evolving and that makes sense to me.  I don’t understand why bands would make the same record year after year.  To me that doesn’t make any sense because I’m not the same person year after year.  I’m constantly growing as a person.  So that’s how I look at it, and I think that this band has  done that amazingly well and I think the best way to see that is to look at our greatest hits record.  You got songs like "Madhouse," which was awesome, and "Killer" in 1985 and "Bring The Noise" in 1991 and "Only" in 1993 and now "Inside Out" in 1998.  And you see progression and you see how they related to the time, but it all sounds like Anthrax.  So I think when you can achieve that, that’s the ultimate.


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