Marko Syrjälä of Metal-Rules.com recently conducted an interview with ANTHRAX guitarist Dan Spitz. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
Metal-Rules.com: [Did you fire] Joey [Belladonna, vocas] [in 1992] or did he [leave] by himself?
Spitz: "We had just signed to Elektra, which was huge for us. Finally we were on the biggest record label in the world. They gave us all the money in the world that we need and we just didn't see, the way heavy metal was at that given point in time, that Joey's voice would fit. That boy can sing JOURNEY, that boy can sing BAD COMPANY, that boy can sing opera, he's feeling confined having to sing 7000 words in one line of a song where he can't utilize his voice properly, so he's feeling constricted as well as I was a little bit. At the same time the band's trying to show him, 'You have to sing this, here's the music, we're finished now Joey, here's the melody line we hum for you and here's the words.' Joey's not so educated school-wise, so it's a difficult process, very lengthy difficult process. It was just clashing all the time to the point where we just... In this band majority rules, three people vote, we can do anything we want, any three people, it's a band, it's the way it always was, we learned that from VAN HALEN, split up all the money even, majority rules on everything. So majority rules, not my vote, was to let Joey go, I vote the other way. Same for John Bush, 'Get John Bush in the band!' I voted no."
Metal-Rules.com: You never liked him too much then?
Spitz: "A few things. One, I think we didn't try enough singers. Two, it was a preconceived notion of some people in this band that because he had turned METALLICA down in the early days, he'd be the golden boy and he had the golden voice, and the direction that the music was going to in that time period, a lot of Seattle grunge just kinda ending and fizzling out, no one wanted to hear someone who could sing. ANTHRAX music was getting heavier or aggressive even, it was just what we had in us, it was just a changing of the guard that I was not happy with at all. John is a great guy personally, killer guy, but as far as my music, fuck no. I write dynamic, he has to be able to sing."
Metal-Rules.com: Still the album sold pretty well.
Spitz: "Every album except 'Fistful of Metal' is platinum in the United States alone. But worldwide 'Sound of White Noise' and 'Among the Living' are all pretty close at the top, maybe two, two and a half million records sold worldwide. That's not counting the black market. 'Sound of White Noise', the music, fucking great album, I was right there for that. 'Only' is probably the best song we ever wrote in the history of this band, I kept telling Charlie [Benante, drums], 'Slow down, slow the fuck down, just for some parts.' That's where me and the singer can shine the melody, you know, leaving space is as important as the music that you write.
"I remember with Joey, we were in Japan in a van, me, Charlie and Scott going to the show, the three of us, and we said, 'Joey, no more Joey,' and Elektra Records freaked out. They had just signed a big giant check for ANTHRAX and then we called them that we let our singer go home, so a lot of problems."
Metal-Rules.com: How was is with you then, what was the reason you left after the "Sound of White Noise" album? Was it because Joey was gone?
Spitz: "Partly, that was a big reason, but mainly also going on at the same time I had a private life, you know, I was married and the only one in the band with two children at home so it was very hard for me to travel after fifteen years of the way we traveled, put out and album and tour for almost two years consistent without going home, so it kind of got to me. And my children were crying, like, 'Don't go daddy, stay some,' so I stayed home. I spent about a year writing that 8-ball album that they put out, whatever that's called — I don't even know — after 'Sound of White Noise'..."
Metal-Rules.com: "Stomp 422".
Spitz: "For me it was during that year to year and a half during the writing of the 'Stomp 422' album in Yonkers. I spent about a year writing that album, that's what people don't know. I would go every day in the beginning and by the end once a week I would come and it was on purpose because my business people told me that you can't legally just call and tell you quit, because it's your band. I had to let everybody see that I didn't want to be there, I wrote the whole album and we just talked on the phone from the recording studio and it was 'Bye-bye.' That week I enrolled in school. It was at the same time scary, but at the same time Joey was gone, we were still huge, so I wanted to do something completely different."
Metal-Rules.com: You don't have any credits on that album?
Spitz: "No, but I have all the tapes of all my leads, all my rhythms, basically what you listen to on the album is all my leads copied by my roadie Paul Crook and Dimebag, note for note. If we ever have to go to court for real in front of the judge, the tapes can come out."
Metal-Rules.com: Paul Crook also wrote most of the songs for Joey's first solo album...
Spitz: "Yeah, you have to remember I had a roadie for about ten years, he's name was Artie and when he left I got Paul, he was my roadie for at least a year or two on the road. He's a real friendly outgoing guy, unbeliavable guitar player, he's like a walking jukebox, he knows every song, the opposite of me, I never learn songs, ever, because I like it to sound like me, so I don't wanna dwell on any one person. So he can adapt and he's funny and he's a jokester kinda guy, so he's friendly with Joey, Joey was doing something after the ANTHRAX and Paul'll play with anyone, anytime and anywhere, 'Have a guitar, will travel' kinda guy."
Metal-Rules.com: Would you like to say your honest opinion about the "Greater of Two Evils" album which includes re-makings of your classic songs?
Spitz: "If you'll give me a lighter, I'll burn it in front of you, how about that? I spit on it. I call it a last chance effort to do something to be honest and brutal, I'm not gonna sugarcoat stuff. To me it's a cover band doing songs that I wrote, it hurts me and I know that it hurt Joey the most, more than me, for me it's a cover band, if it sells a million then send me a check in the mail, but for Joey as a singer, oh boy, whoever thought this idea up, if it was a manager or somebody, not a good idea. I don't think the fans kinda liked it either, not the true fans we'll say. The true fans are fans like you who will show their cousin, their younger children BLACK SABBATH, IRON MAIDEN, this is really heavy metal, it comes from them, not a record company, this is the band you go to see, would you go send them see that or the reunion of ANTHRAX, what's real? It's like IRON MAIDEN, with the other singer, not Bruce, him doing a bunch of old IRON MAIDEN songs, it's a cover band."
Read the entire interview at Metal-Rules.com.