NBA AND HEAVY METAL:
An Interview with John Bush of ANTHRAX
Interview by Mike SOS - June 2003
The seminal NYC metal clan known as Anthrax have just dropped quite possibly their best album to date with "We've Come For You All," a 14-track affirmation that metal is alive and thriving.
Hot on the heels of the new release, we had a chance to speak with the
band's lead vocalist, John Bush, a man who is no stranger to successful metal bands,
being as he was also the throat for the legendary Armored Saint. Despite the
fact that this interview was conducted on the cusp of the NBA Playoffs (John's a huge basketball fan), he still took time out to tell us about the new album, his extensive career, and what we can expect from the masters of mosh in the coming months.
Rough Edge: Thanks for taking time out today. I appreciate it.
John Bush: No problem, but the NBA (Playoffs) is starting right now.
Rough Edge: Congrats on the new album, I think it's the best thing you guys did since "Sound of White Noise." It's really incredible.
John Bush: Well, thank you very much. We love the record as well; we think it's awesome.
Rough Edge: Just to let you know, I live in Queens, NY, and I grew up with Anthrax, and it's just so awesome.
John Bush: Well, good. It's a New York band. Even though pretty soon it's only going to be one or two guys in the band living in New York, it's always going to feel like a New York band, no matter where we're at.
Rough Edge: Why so long between "Volume 8" and "We've Come For You All"?
John Bush: Well, a lot of things happened. The record label we were at for "Volume 8" basically imploded three months after the album came out, and the idea of going and putting out and writing a brand new record at the time was something that we didn't want to do. We put our heart and soul into "Volume 8" and the last thing we wanted to do was write another record. So, we just figured to take a break ... actually, I don't think that we all thought about that but it just kind of happened that way. Everyone did a few different things and then when we were able to come back together, we were able to have a better focus about what we wanted to do and we had the ideas as well. It wasn't like we did nothing in years; we did a lot of touring. We played with Judas Priest in the states, we just toured with Motorhead in Europe and we did some other things individually. So, we were busy, but it unfortunately seems like a lot of time of nothingness for Anthrax.
Rough Edge: Gotcha. Now, we know you did the Armored Saint project during the downtime, but what else did you do to keep busy during that time?
John Bush: I tried to get a voiceover career going off the ground. I've been doing a lot of that actually. There's been a lot of auditions and things of that nature. At one point, I was promoting a night at a club, and I also was working with my recently married wife, about a year ago and working in her business, so you know, trying to keep busy.
Rough Edge: What makes this album different than any other Anthrax album?
John Bush: Well, you know, it's different because it's from a different time. I always look at records just as they are called, a record. It's a record of time and where you're at in that stage of your life. Because of that, I think that every record should be different. It's actually strange to me when people make the same record every record. I think that's kind of weird. Records should constantly show growth of where you're at, and because it's at a different time in your life. I think that every record sounds a little different, as they should.
Rough Edge: Cool. Definitely, this album displays a lot of growth.
John Bush: Well, from the very beginning, Anthrax was a band that was always willing to take chances and do things that are adventurous and, sometimes, things that the public doesn't completely grasp. But, without sounding too pompous, that's what being an artist is all about.
Rough Edge: What song came out the easiest to record?
John Bush: "Superhero" was the first song that we actually did, and it was the one that we demo'd to see if the relationship between us and Eddie and Rob (Caggiano, new guitarist and producer of the album) was going to be a good one. That song came together in a few days, recording it from the drums to the vocals, and the version on the album is the version from that demo, so I think that that is a good example.
Rough Edge: Which was the toughest?
John Bush: Hard to say. If you're talking about vocally, I mean, I wouldn't be able to answer that for Charlie. I know he worked his ass off on some of the ferocious songs that require some crazy drumming, like "Black Dahlia" and "Nobody Know Anything." I'm sure those songs took a lot out of him, but vocally, "Superhero" was hard to sing, it's pretty high. "Safe Home" was also pretty challenging; there's a lot of emotion involved in that song, and the pitch has to be perfect, but Rob and Eddie busted our balls and made us work super hard individually, so that's why the performances are as good as they are.
Rough Edge: Which one came out the best?
John Bush: That's hard to say. We just put it out, so at this point, we're in love with everything. Ask me in a year, and I'll have a more objective viewpoint, as you always do. At this point, I love everything on the record and if I didn't, there'd be a problem.
Rough Edge: Any b-sides or cover songs recorded that we should look out for on soundtracks or other offerings?
John Bush: Umm, well, we did an acoustic version of "Safe Home," we did a version of the Ramones' "We're A Happy Family", and we did "Exit" by U2, which is kind of unusual song. Frankie sang lead vocals on "Next To You" by The Police, on which he did an amazing job, and then there's a song called "Ghost" that is on the Japanese version that may rear its head here in the US.
Rough Edge: Do you still get some of the "new guy in the band" treatment from fans?
John Bush: Well, I guess. It's kind of funny now because Iíve been playing in Anthrax for eleven years. If it's a positive thing, then I don't have any problems. At this point, Rob Caggiano is the new guy in the band as far as I'm concerned. So everyone go and bust his balls! But, it's a good vibe. I never really had any negative vibes from fans. I guess if they didn't feel favorable about what we did, then they didn't tell me about it. There have been a few occasions where people comment or make gestures that weren't too supportive, but who knows. They're entitled to their opinion.
Rough Edge: Was it easier or harder to have Rob and Scrap 60 (his production company) produce the album?
John Bush: Yeah, well, he's been a huge fan of the band for years and he also has a good idea of what Anthrax should sound like, and I think he had a great idea of what Anthrax should sound like. I think that it was a big plus.
Rough Edge: Tell us how you got all of the guest appearances on the album to happen.
John Bush: Roger Daltrey and his wife are friends with Scott's girlfriend Pearl and his mom and her family and they went out to dinner one night, and Roger expressed interest in doing the record, and we couldn't be more amazed. We thought that "Taking The Music Back" was the most appropriate song fro him to sing on. Dimebag (Darrell from Pantera) has played on both "Stomp" and "Volume 8" and this particular time he said he'd do a freebie for us and we couldn't pass up that opportunity. And Anthony from E-Town Concrete did the scream in the beginning of "Refuse To Be Denied."
Rough Edge: What is your favorite Anthrax album that you're not on?
John Bush: Good question. Probably "Spreading the Disease." I think that's the album Joey sounds the best.
Rough Edge: How do you feel about the current state of heavy music?
John Bush: I think it's strong right now. It's looking positive. Headbanger's Ball is coming back, Metallica has an eagerly awaited record, we've put out one of our best records in several years, and there's a whole new crop of young people that are ready to listen to metal, so I think it's good.
Rough Edge: What are you currently listening to?
John Bush: I'm listening to the NBA Playoffs right now. I like The Datsuns record, it's not really considered a full-out metal, but it rocks. I like the White Stripes record. Rob just turned me on to some weird offshoot of Candiria that sounded pretty morbid.
Rough Edge: Are we going to see another Armored Saint project?
John Bush: Itís all about Anthrax right now. Every bit of energy and soul we're putting into this record to make it fly.
Rough Edge: Do you ever catch any flak from Armored Saint fans for joining Anthrax?
John Bush: Again, it's one of those things where someone thought something or felt something, they probably wouldn't tell me to my face. There may be a couple of people that are disappointed, but this is about life, and it evolves and it grows and we have to do what's best for your own life, and that's what I did.
Rough Edge: When you find some down time, what do you do to relax?
John Bush: Well, I recently got married, and I'm a year into my marriage, so I hang out with my wife and we like to help her with her business. We like to read and entertain friends. I love sports; I'm a huge basketball fan. I like to play it a lot, and I like to drink. Although, I haven't been drinking that much on tour. But I did put a bar in my house, and that was fun.
Rough Edge: What bands influenced you growing up both musically and vocally?
John Bush: Well, anything from my early ages of my brothers exposing me to Zeppelin and Sabbath when I was nine to Priest and Maiden and Motorhead, who we're touring with right now, to Stevie Wonder and Earth, Wind, and Fire. I love Marvin Gaye and Al Green and that stuff is a huge influence on my singing style.
Rough Edge: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
John Bush: Be honest about it, love what you do, be honest about the music because this business can rattle and dishearten you so you really, truly have to love music. As long as you feel that way and are honest about it and really try to expose yourself to a lot of different types of music. It's really important to be well rounded, as it helps when you're writing and creating.
Rough Edge: What can we expect from Anthrax in the next six months?
John Bush: A lot of touring. The record just came out and we plan on touring, going to Europe in June, a show in Japan in July, and we plan on coming back in August and September to tour the states properly. We're going to be busy.
Rough Edge: What bands have you not toured with that you'd like to?
John Bush: Well, AC/DC would be a band we'd all like to play with, as they're probably one of the few bands we never played with.
Rough Edge: When you look back at your career, do you have any regrets?
John Bush: Not really, I try not to, man. I've had incredible experiences in my life in many great cities and countries and have met some really cool people and I focus on the positive. Quite honestly, I feel blessed.
Rough Edge: Do you have any aspirations to do any non-musical ventures besides the voice over?
John Bush: I'd like to get into some scouting and talent searching stuff. I don't know about producing, I don't think that's my calling. I've kind of done some scouting before, but we'll see. By the time I'm done, I may not want to do anything with it.
Rough Edge: What's the toughest thing about being in Anthrax?
John Bush: Just being away from home, especially during this point in my life, in my career.
Rough Edge: What's left for John Bush to accomplish?
John Bush: Ummm ... I don't know really. I guess continue having fun and keep making music. I mean I feel really lucky that I'm able to be a person that makes music that people still want to listen to, that makes me excited.
Rough Edge: Thanks for the time, John, and enjoy the NBA Playoffs.
John Bush: Thanks, man.
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