ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, SEPT. 2, 1993
By Steve Newton
The metal world got quite a shock when it was announced last year that original Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna was leaving the band after 11 successful years. It got even more of a jolt when former Armored Saint vocalist John Bush jumped in to take Belladonna’s place.
“When they parted ways with their previous singer, they were looking for somebody that would complement their music with an aggressive approach,” says Bush, calling from Columbus, Ohio, on the tour that brings Anthrax to the 86 Street Music Hall—the show has been moved from the PNE Aquastage—next Saturday (September 11). “We did a couple of jam sessions, and the first couple were basically just jokin’ around, doing cover songs and stuff, but it led to a camaraderie that we built up. One thing led to another, and here I am.”
Even before he became a certified Anthrax member, Bush fostered a fondness for the heavy noise that his future bandmates—guitarists Dan Spitz and Scott Ian, bassist Frank Bello, and drummer Charlie Benante—brought to the metal arena.
“I was always fond of the band’s aggressive style,” says the 30-year-old rocker. “The live shows had a lot of power and energy. I guess if there was one area that I was probably least fond of, it was the vocals, so it almost makes it fitting that I’m the singer. I always thought that the vocals kind of hindered them, but that’s just my opinion as a fan—that’s not taking anything away from Joey Belladonna, because obviously he did contribute a lot to the group.”
Although he has only played Vancouver one time before—back in ’85 on a bill with Metallica at the New York Theatre—Bush hasn’t forgotten that gig, mainly because his band’s lights died during the show and they had to use the house lights for the rest of the night. Back then, Bush had no idea that his tourmates in Metallica would reach the peak of the metal heap 10 years later.
“I don’t think anybody—and I can say this with conviction—I don’t think anybody thought they were gonna be as huge as they are. They are the biggest band, as far as this music goes, in the world.
“I’m very happy for them,” says Bush. “They’re great guys. We’ve been friends for years and years, and I just think they deserve it all.”
And what about Bush’s old band, Armored Saint? Although the group released several fine hard-rock albums—including 1991’s excellent Symbol of Salvation, which was produced by Dave Jerden, the man behind the controls for Anthrax’s latest, Sound of White Noise—Armored Saint never managed to hit supergroup status.
“Obviously we had to hope that that was gonna happen,” says Bush. “The music business is a pretty wacky thing—there’s nothing certain, there’s no real rulebook. You just give it your best shot, do the things that you think are right, and sometimes it flies, sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t think we had a whole lotta luck on our side, and maybe our timing wasn’t perfect, either, and I think you need all those things—besides just talent—to make it happen these days. As a matter of fact, I know a ton of talented musicians that haven’t gone anywhere.
“But you just gotta be happy with the music you make,” he adds, “because if you’re doing things to try to become successful, and it doesn’t happen, then you’ll look back with regrets, saying, ‘Well, gosh, I didn’t even do what I really wanted to do, anyway.’ So you should do what you believe in. That’s why I look back on Armored Saint with fond memories, because we always loved the music we were making and we were doing it to please ourselves.”