|Located in the middle of Wrigleyville (the area surrounding Wrigley Field where the Chicago Cubs play) or the area that some of us Chicagoans refer to as “yuppy-ville,” is a musical gem. Originally built in the late 1920’s as a Swedish Community Center, now is the Metro - one of the country’s hottest music venues.
When you walk into the Metro it’s dark and a little edgy, even despite the sports-centered neighborhood. It’s the quintessential place for hard and heavy rock and roll. And on December 5, 2003, in front of a sold-out show of rabid fans, Anthrax put on one of the best shows of their entire career – and the best part is that they got it on tape. This April Sanctuary Records released Music of Mass Destruction on both CD and DVD that capture the magic of that concert.
“We were happy to do it in the Chicago area,” commented Anthrax vocalist John Bush in an interview with Sass. “We promised the people of Chicago we were going to do a live record there a couple years back when we toured with Judas Priest. And then it came to reality that we were probably not going to have the opportunity to do it right because we were supporting them and playing shorter set. We figured why would we do a record in an opening slot, why don’t we do it when we headline? We nixed that idea at kind of the last minute and we felt bad about it, so we always figured that Chicago was going to be the place we did it. Then we realized why are we going to do just a live record instead of a DVD too? And it turned out to be awesome.”
But why Chicago rather than more familiar territory like New York, or Los Angeles where Bush is from?
“Chicago just for whatever reason for us is always just a notch above. I’m sure everybody has great gigs in Chicago but we just feel a real kinship there. Charlie [Benante] is moving to Chicago now, he just married a girl from Chicago. It just feels like a great place to do a show and the Metro is awesome – it was packed. It was just, all around, a great thing, so I’m glad we captured it.”
Recording it at the Metro however, was not part of the original plan.
“Actually, the last few times we played Chicago we played the House of Blues – which is a great House of Blues. The one in Chicago is one of the best ones. It turned out it was booked up - there was some confusion. I think it was originally booked then the day we were going to play – maybe a week or so prior to that, it became available again.”
“I’m kind of glad we did it at the Metro, it’s just a little rawer, you know – street vibe. House of Blues is a great venue, we shot a video [there], which was cool, but it was good to do the DVD in a different venue. Metro’s just a little more down and dirty, and I mean that in a very complimentary way. Believe me, I’ve played plenty of bad-dirty, that’s not describing [the Metro] – strictly in attitude.”
The Music of Mass Destruction DVD is an 18-song collection of some of Anthrax’s best tunes, along with behind the scenes footage and segments on the band members as well.
“I think it’s awesome, the production of it is great as well; all high definition and it sounds cool. It looks good and great angles, and they did an excellent job [filming the concert], I’m really happy about it.”
Bush continues: “People are going to be real excited, there’s plenty of crowd shots and a lot of people are going to see themselves, and everybody liked to be a ham to some degree. Nothing gets people more excited than a camera in their face,” he chuckles.
Also in the works for Anthrax is the Metallum Maximus Aeturnus, or MMA, project, where the current members of Anthrax are re-recording some of the classics that were initially recorded with former members of the band.
“We still need to mix that, do a few little things to it, but the problem is we’ve had a few things distract us from it – getting ready for this tour and some other items. But we plan on having that out, hopefully, by the end of the year, maybe October. We’re going on tour to Europe in June, and a lot of places in July and August, and we’re going to be busy but we’re going to get the chance to finish it because we need to mix it.”
“Originally we were going to do this record that was like live in the studio, and then the DVD idea came up and that just ended out first. I think it’s going to be cool, we’re not trying to go back and redo those records that those songs were on because those records obviously stand on their own, and they were records that were taken the time to be made with. This is more like a real raw version of those songs and have kind of a live thing in the studio - with my vocals on them. Just kind of a different version of it really is how it should be viewed. We’re not trying to redo the band’s catalogue; it’s just a different take on the songs. With the anniversary of the band last year – 20 years – it’s kind of something to celebrate that as well.”
But for now, Anthrax is hitting the rock and roll highway.
“We’re going to Europe, we’re doing a combination of a bunch of festivals and headline shows all through June and July, and then we’re coming home for like three weeks, and then we’re going back and doing another two weeks of dates. It’s going to be cool; we’re going to the old Yugoslavian nation and playing Serbia and Croatia, Belfast. We’re doing another UK tour; we’ve played Britain like four times in the last two years. It’s real cool there’s like this resurgence for Anthrax in Europe, and it’s great for us. It’s good to go in summer when you’re not freezing. It’s a combination of festivals and club dates.”
Even after years of performing experience with both Armored Saint and Anthrax, Bush still admits to getting a little nervous sometimes before playing the huge festivals.
“It’s definitely a bit overwhelming so you have to raise your energy level up a bit. It’s not often I actually get butterflies or stage fright, it has happened and it’s happened over the last year on a few occasions. It’s not something that scares me it just motivates me. But these shows can be pretty serious. We’re playing the second stage and I don’t know how many people exactly will be there when we’re playing but we saw Metallica there last year, we just went to one of the shows when they were on tour there and they played this stadium of like probably 50,000 people, and then there’s the second stage and they usually get 30,000. It’s crazy; it’s a big giant thing. They really love festivals in Europe, it’s a big thing to do and it’s fun. [For] the first show there I’ll probably be a little like, ‘Whoa!’”
Speaking of Metallica, at one point several years ago before hooking up with Anthrax Bush was ask to join the band.
“Before the band made their album Kill Em All they were still pondering getting another singer and my band at the time, Armored Saint, was starting to happen and they knew me from that and they tried to recruit me, I guess. It was a weird time because the guys in Armored Saint and I – we started together, I mean, we were 19 years old. I wasn’t going to join another band; I didn’t even know these guys. I knew kind of who they were but I was into my own thing. But a lot was made of it through the years, Metallica went on to be the band that they are, and James [Hetfield] went on to be the amazing vocalist that he is. It’s just a circumstantial thing that every few years it’ll come back up again. I don’t know if people want to bust the guy’s balls that got offered to play with Metallica and declined, but it wasn’t quiet like that at the time. I don’t think it was my destiny.”
In regards to destiny, Bush being the third vocalist for Anthrax has proven to be the charm for the band. However, whenever there are personnel changes in a band, there is always a percentage of the fans who are not very accepting of the newest member.
“It’s hard when a lead singer in the band changes when they’re very established. I realize that because as a fan I’ve had to deal with that myself. It’s just the way it is sometimes, things change in this business. In 20 years of playing music, man, I’ve seen a lot of things that like blow my mind and things I never would have anticipated or expected. Nothing ever surprises me anymore, that’s just the way it goes and I’m just happy for the opportunity.”
So what has 20 years in the music business taught John Bush?
“In a sense it’s been my education. I didn’t go to school after high school; I was driven by rock and roll. It’s enlightened me in so many ways. I think it has really been something that I could never put into words; it’s really opened my eyes. Obviously I love music very much and being able to make music and have people buy the records I’ve been associated with, it’s very rewarding. It’s just a great day and I feel lucky and blessed that I’m able to do it. It’s strange to me when people complain and they have a good career and have had years in it, there’re very few down sides. I mean, believe me – there are some, and this band in particular has gone through some real difficult times in the last five or six years in regards to business, things that really hurt spirit and morale, and it has but at the end of the day when you’re up onstage and you’re playing and people are enthusiastic about your playing – that’s your big pay-off. All the other stuff is crap. There is part of the business that’s really frustrating and you have to just juggle that and know that the other things are going to be the pay off.”
“But that’s life; that’s everybody’s life. It’s really not that different than any other person. I don’t think that musicians are special. There’s this weird association with entertainment. Entertainment seems bigger than it ever was with all the tons of magazines and shows, there’s such a giant eye on people who are in the entertainment world, I think that’s overblown. It makes me sick sometimes. The things that people focus on from entertainer’s backgrounds pisses me off. I don’t care what you ate for breakfast, you do what you do and that’s great. It’s great that you’re an awesome actor or musician or artist, but who cares what toilet paper you use. You’re not a special human being – you’re not, it’s just what you do for a living. I think it’s the power of the media that that’s what we’ve become accustomed to now. It’s the power of the media with all these outlets: television, radio, and obviously the Internet, it’s just huge. You get a lot of information and sometimes for me, at least the way I deal with things, I just want to remain somewhat mysterious and somewhat subdued in that way, like I don’t want everyone to know everything about me. That’s the way I do it, even a couple guys in Anthrax, they’re a lot more interactive with the Web and I think that’s great but it’s just not necessarily for me. I’d rather keep certain things private and that’s the way I am. But I think there are people who are interested in that and that’s cool, and then there are some people a little too interested in that and they’re a little weird.”
“[I’ve had] a few stalkers and a few people who take it past the band thing. But it’s like, ‘Look, you’ve got to understand I’m just a person like you. I really appreciate and respect that you love my music and the band and that’s fine. But when the show’s over and after we talk or I sign an autograph, I’m going on the bus and I’m going to read a book or watch a movie or Sports Center – probably just like you. So let’s know where there’s the separation line.’”
As far as new material from the band, we might have to wait just a little while longer.
“We haven’t begun yet but it’s in the back of our minds,” Bush laughed. “Sometimes Anthrax tends to take a long time making a record. We do know that we want to speed up the process, of course not to sacrifice quality but it’s in our minds, it’s just a matter of getting together. As much as everyone talks about trying to write on the road, at least for this band, we find it to be pretty difficult. Like the last thing you want to do after doing interviews, traveling, and playing is, ‘Oh, let’s go write a song.’ It’s just never worked that way for us. But this band has a ton of ideas and I’m sure when it gets right down to it, we’ll be fine.”
Interview by Melanie "Sass" Falina, find Sass at RockstarSass.com