Famous Firsts: Anthrax's Frank Bello on surviving smelly tours and loving Kiss

Frank Bello throwing the metal horns
Frank Bello (Image credit: Getty \/ John Lamparski)

Joining Anthrax after the release of their debut album Fistful Of Metal in 1984, Frank Bello has been through it all with the thrash titans – here he looks back on the early days of stench-ridden touring vans and falling head over heels in love with Kiss.

What was the first album you ever bought?

“Kiss – Alive!. When I opened up the record I saw these guys with make-up on and all I wanted was for the music to be as cool as this looks – and it did and then some. To this day it’s still one of my favourite records of all time.

“I thought Kiss had the package – they had the show, the gimmick, the look – and I think people don’t give them enough credit for those great old songs. They were very Beatle-esque, they were simple songs but great rock songs; simple riffs and simple melodies. I fell in love from then, and after that it was Maiden, Sabbath and all that stuff.

“Growing I didn’t have a dad, my dad took off when I was young – so I was looking for heroes, and Kiss were heroes of mine. I look back at that time very fondly, I can only wish for other people to have such a great upbringing through music like that.”

What was the first single you ever bought?

“It had to be Toto – Hold The Line because it had great guitar in it. This was back when I was really young. I just loved the heavy guitar in the opening riff. It wasn’t metal, of course, but it was the rock guitar that I think was my beginning of loving heaviness. It’s not a heavy song at all but the guitar riff is fuckin’ dunnn-dun-dun-dundun, and it introduced me to rock. It was cool.”

What was the first gig you ever went to?

“Kiss ha ha. It was Kiss in 1976 at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island. I was 1314, maybe younger, but it was that impressionable. I couldn’t believe they were alive doing that and playing those songs that I knew and it was all coming into one, and I knew that’s what I had to do.

“We had seats behind the stage, that’s how massive it was. One of the lasting impressions on me was Gene Simmons wiping his face down with a towel, rolling it into a knot, then tossing it into the fans. And I felt so bad for this one girl, ‘cause Gene threw it to this pretty girl that maybe he wanted to talk to, and I swear to god this one dude came over, punched the girl down and took the towel and ran off with it. Of course the guy got arrested but it was insane. Dude, it’s music, don’t hurt any body.”

What was the first gig you ever played?

“L’Amour in Brooklyn with Anthrax. My first gig was with with Anthrax I think in 1985 – it was the first time I’d ever played live on stage. It was a packed house on the first Anthrax record and I was shitting my pants. I was very scared and I think I just went with my gut on that. I played the songs, headbanged, and just went for it. It was fun, though! It seems to have carried on.”

How was the first tour with Anthrax?

“It was in a van with two crew members that we ran across the country for three and a half weeks. Like everything you pay your dues, but it smelled like shit. It smelled, it was horrible like BO, but that’s what everybody does. We paid our dues to say the least but that was the early days. I don’t know if I’d do that now, it was fun and you get to bond as a band offstage as people. I’m related to Charlie but I’ve known the Anthrax guys longer than any other friend in my life. It’s just a way of life.

“Literally, anything goes on your first tour. You have to just be ready and you have no money. We had five dollars a day for food, just five dollars to eat and drink. That’s including everything so you have to make it work and survive, and it’s all to get to a point to make this music go forward. That’s what it was about.”

Anthrax’s latest album For All Kings is out now via Nuclear Blast.

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Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.