Anthrax’s Frank Bello Is Proud to See How His Memoir Is Helping Others Deal With Abandonment + Loss
Anthrax bassist Frank Bello was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. While the band has been working on new material over the last couple years, Bello was busy with additional items, including his recently released memoir, Fathers, Brothers and Sons: Surviving Anguish, Abandonment and Anthrax.
The book was an emotional one which opened up past wounds that Bello admitted he wasn't properly prepared to address, namely his abandonment issues that stemmed from an absent father as well as the struggle his family had to endure as a result. Still, recollecting these difficult moments of life proved to be cathartic and Bello has also seen the positive impact it has had on readers who have had to face similar obstacles in their own lives.
The bassist also touched on his debut solo album, which is still a work in progress, and spoke about what it felt like to finally get back onstage with Anthrax last year.
Your book revisits times and events that were either comforting or traumatic. In what ways did you prepare for the outpouring of emotion that would come with writing this book?
When my co-writer Joel McIver and I started writing the book, I didn't prepare myself and I probably should have [in order] to [be able to] open myself up like that. He's great at triggering memories and then they just started pouring out. I didn't realize I went over the edge with it and some of it was pretty traumatic to relive my brother's death and some of the ugly stuff I've gone through in my life — abandonment, all that stuff.
Chapter 13 [deals with] my brother Anthony when he was murdered. I literally had to have a box of tissues with me. We took multiple breaks because I was really having a hard time. I felt like I was reliving it.
The people that are reading this book are saying that it feels like they're living it with me. It's really cathartic now that it's out and it's not mine anymore. Just like when you do songs and when you write a record, it's no longer yours anymore, it's everybody's.
Everybody knows it's your story, but everybody has it and they understand. I'm getting a lot of great letters and emails from people who it's helping with abandonment issues and loss.
There's also a lot of great rock 'n' roll stories from Anthrax — all this stuff hanging out with Metallica and Slayer, all this good stuff... So there's a nice balance of both.
As you mentioned, telling your story can be cathartic and revealing, especially to one's self. What did you learn about yourself by sharing your past?
That I want to pass the torch and I want to help people. It's weird to say that. It doesn't sound honest, but it really is honest. I have a 15 year-old son and I really want to pass the torch and say, "This is how dad did it. These are the mistakes I've made. If you can learn from this, if it can help you to get into your life and have a better life. Try not to make these mistakes..."
Also dealing with loss and everything I've dealt with is [knowing] how to brush yourself off after you've fallen down and how to move on tomorrow. That's important. A lot of people are getting that out of this book, which is really, really great for me to hear, so I've learned that a lot about myself. It's a good feeling that I'm getting.
Throughout the book, you repeatedly state a desire to help people by sharing your story. Why is it so important to you to positively affect other people's lives?
Because I know how it feels on the other side. Let's take the abandonment issue — my dad took off when I was like 10 years old. I was the oldest of a family of five. I had two younger brothers and two younger sisters and I remember the hollowness and that hole that he just wasn't there anymore. There was no money. My mom didn't have a job, she was a homemaker. All she did was cook and she didn't know anything to like skill wise [to be a licensed trade worker]. I remember being in that house and there was nothing there and all of a sudden the house got taken away from us because there was no money.
I remember no food. I remember seeing that one box of Rice-A-Roni that was left when there was no more money left and seeing my mom's tears as she's trying to make it last for five people — five kids and that one box of Rice-A-Roni.
That's a very honest and true story that still strikes me. I never wanted anybody to feel like that in life. I don't care what you do, what or who you are — I don't want anybody to feel that emptiness that I felt. I don't think anybody should ever feel that emptiness. So, I just tell my story and this is why I'm a proponent of great fathers and great mothers and strong women.
It's a family book too. It's it's about brushing yourself off and being with your family and making yourself strong again.
In addition to the book, you've also been writing music for your first solo album. What's exhilarating and scary about creative projects that come solely from you.
You have two sides of your life — the Anthrax side (it's really the specific music you write for that and all takes care of itself) and you have other songs that are really not Anthrax and you put it to the side and you say, "What do I do with this? This sounds like something from inside me."
I've done that with a collection of these songs and for people who haven't heard this before, David Ellefson and I did a side project a couple years ago called Altitudes and Attitude. This is more like a continuation of that. I wrote a lot of this stuff on that with Dave and this is just me. This is the next step of those songs.
People really that dug that and really like that music, so I think they will like this. I don't know when I'm going to put it out. I don't know if it's going to be an EP or a full record, but I have them put away and I'm still writing as we speak.
Last year Anthrax was able to play at least a few shows. How did not being able to play for an audience make you more appreciative when you finally could be onstage again?
We were lucky enough to do nine shows and they were all festival type shows and they were great. You don't realize what you have until it's gone.
I remember the first show back. I was very weird about going onstage, because I didn't know if i was in the right shape [to perform a set]. When you're on tour, you get in a certain kind of shape — your body is not going break down. Although I work out at home, it's not the same as being on tour and doing the repetition. I was really nervous, but after two songs I was fine and I really, really missed it and I still miss it.
I can't wait to actually have a tour. On one of these shows, there was a tour bus there. I hadn't seen a tour bus in a couple of years. I facetiously said, "Wow, what is that?" It's just such a different way of life of not doing what you do and just seeing shows.
It's a long time coming, but I do think, when all this stuff calms down, that people are going to be ready to rage as we all are. Not only as a player, but also as a music fan, I can't wait to go see great shows. I look positively and optimistically toward the future.
Thanks to Frank Bello for the interview. Get your copy of 'Fathers, Brothers and Sons' here and follow Anthrax on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.