FRANK BELLO, DAVID ELLEFSON Return With ALTITUDES & ATTITUDE - “This Is A Rock Record, Not A Metal Record”

January 15, 2019, a year ago

Aaron Small

feature hard rock anthrax megadeth altitudes & attitude

FRANK BELLO, DAVID ELLEFSON Return With ALTITUDES & ATTITUDE - “This Is A Rock Record, Not A Metal Record”

“If people think it’s just a bass record, it’s not. There’s a lot of everything in here. They’re rock songs with melodies that we’re really psyched about,” says Anthrax bassist Frank Bello, talking about Get It Out, the debut album from his collaboration with Megadeth bassist David Ellefson, dubbed Altitudes & Attitude.

The pair initially released a three-song EP back in 2014. Five years later and the full-length follows on January 18th via Megaforce Records. “This has been a long time coming,” admits Bello. “Just because our schedules – you see what we’re doing here, it’s nuts. Just to have the time, an actual window to do this… we really worked hard on it, along with (producer) Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Stone Sour, Steel Panther), and it’s all coming to fruition. I’m just hoping that a lot of people listen to the record, and hopefully dig the songs; that’s all we want.”

Let’s begin with the most basic, yet necessary of questions for a new band, where did the name Altitudes & Attitude come from? “David Ellefson brought it up to me one day, because if you look at us, we’re the ying and yang guys,” replies Frank. “We’re two completely different people, different playing techniques. This all started from doing bass clinics for our bass amp company, Hartke. David said to me, ‘We’re doing all these clinics, why don’t we do some backing tracks, so we have something to jam to?’ That turned into this whole thing where we started to put music together; we started writing real songs. There was no reason to keep them as backing tracks because these songs really felt good and from the heart. Honestly, to tell you the truth, I was waiting for something like this for a long time; just to get it out. And that’s why the record is called Get It Out. All this stuff has been inside David and I for a long time. Now, thankfully, with the great reaction we’re having from it, we’re humbled and grateful. So, the Altitudes & Attitude name, David said, ‘I’m the Altitudes guy, I’m always looking up. And you obviously are the Attitude guy – the guy from New York.’ We’ve been friends for such a long time, it totally made sense, the ups and downs. He has the Altitudes and I have the Attitude; it’s fun.”

Bello writes and sings the lyrics for Altitudes & Attitude, which he expounds upon. “I’ll be really honest, and David will tell you this, it’s my life. This is really my life, the things I struggle with. I find writing lyrics really cathartic. I use that word a lot because through a lot of therapy, and all this good stuff, it goes back to getting it out of me. It’s really helpful talking about it. At the end of the day, let’s face it, music helps people in life. I have a lot of abandonment issues from when I was young, and getting it out like this helps me. Even when I sing these songs, I feel it! It really feels good to get it out, and hopefully connect with people.”

Revealing such personal issues is a rarity, in any genre of music. In fact, the song “Out Here” is about Frank’s father abandoning the family when he was just a young child. “Exactly. Even as I say it, I can take a breath, and as I speak to you right now, it feels good cause all this shit is bottled up inside of you for so long – anger issues, the whole thing. You go to therapy, all this stuff. When you write it out, and just express how you feel… there’s a lot of people who have this type of issue in their life. If it can help somebody understand that we’ve all been there, and hopefully you work through it, as I’m trying to do.”

Another song, “Late” contains the line, “It’s hard to say I’m not the man I want to be.” Again, a huge admission. “I think you have to grow, I don’t think I’m done. I don’t think I’m finished. I’m not without fault, just as a person in life. I want to learn, I’m trying to be a better person in every facet of my life. Being a better husband, being a better dad. I think I’m okay, but I’m away a lot cause we’re on the road. So, I’m trying to make it all make sense before it’s too late; cause time doesn’t wait for you. That’s really what the lyric means - do it now. I’m not the man I want to be, I’m working on it, but I’m certainly not there yet. I plan to get there, at least close to it.”

“Slip” is an interesting song as it begins with the line, “Mr. Walters had it easy, always seemed to have it all. Never worried, never needed, never bothered anyone.” Who is Mr. Walters? “Okay… I’ll take you back to me growing up in The Bronx, New York. It’s a fictional name, his name wasn’t Mr. Walters. He’s a person who lived on my block in The Bronx. I cherish that block, that’s where I grew up. After my dad left, I went to live with my grandmother. There was this man who used to come home from the bar around the corner, stumbling, every day, and he used to sing outside. His name wasn’t Mr. Walters. I have to say that cause I don’t want any problems with that stuff. He was a nice man, and you’d think he had it all! But there were so many issues, cause he hid in the liquor. At 1:30 in the morning he’d be singing these wonderful old hymns, and he couldn’t get out of it. He went deeper and deeper into it. I don’t know what drugs it was, what kind of liquor it was… you saw him get worse, and I felt so bad about that. I remember looking down at the street from my bedroom window in The Bronx, and I’d just watch him. It really made an imprint on me, to see his life slip away. That really stuck with me. You could talk to him during the day, he was a nice man; then you saw the other side progressively get worse and worse, and he slipped away. Next thing I knew, he was passed. Again, all this stuff really gets me. I just wanted to tell that story cause I think he deserved it.”

Rhythm guitarist Scott Ian writes the lyrics in Anthrax, when it comes to words for songs, do you think you’ve learned from him over the years? “That’s a good question. Here’s what I think I’ve learned with Anthrax – it’s a great training tool. Scott, Charlie (Benante, drummer) and I, we write the Anthrax songs; that’s just the way it works. We all have our own thing: Charlie comes in with a lot of riffs, Scott comes in with the lyrics, I come in with a lot of melodies. We all switch around, but predominantly that’s what usually happens, and it really works. But I have learned what to do, and what not to do, in a respective way. What I do know is I can’t not come from where I live inside, with lyrics. I wouldn’t even try to talk about something I didn’t know; I have to live it. That’s what I’ve learned about lyric writing; I have to speak truth. As far as Scott’s lyrics, I think they’re all awesome! He’s an amazing lyricist, and that’s for Anthrax. And I’m proud of what we’ve done. Look, I’m a die-hard Beatle fan. I learned from them, The Eagles, and I’ll say it – KISS. I’ve learned a lot from these bands that I’ve grown up with. It’s important to say that and to know where we’re coming from; Cheap Trick – one of the most underrated bands in the world. Altitudes & Attitude has a lot of Cheap Trick in them; including the eight-string bass.”

Given Frank’s propensity for writing, has an autobiography ever been considered? Scott Ian’s done one, David Ellefson’s done one, will he be next? “That’s a great question. We were starting on one, me and my writer friend Joel McIver. We were at the very beginning, but it’s so busy right now. I’m really happy to say that, cause Anthrax is in a good place right now. But that is definitely in the chamber to happen; that has to happen. It’ll be a different take, obviously more personal with me. A lot of good stories that I’ll need to be reminded of, and Joel knows a lot of them that I’ve forgot, which is great. Along the way, that’ll happen.”

There’s one instrumental song on Get It Out called “Leviathan”. Did you ever try to write lyrics for that? “When I heard that, David came in with that just about fully done. I thought that was such a beautiful piece, especially after Satchel (from Steel Panther) came in, it was just incredible! The layers of guitar he put on it… I didn’t want to touch it to be honest. The guitars spoke to me, they’re so beautifully played. But I want to play that live! I think David is a very creative force, he’s laid down some of the best bass playing I’ve ever heard him play on this record; I’m very proud to say that. I’ve always known David as a great bass player, but he really came in with the goods on this.”

Upcoming tour dates for Altitudes & Attitude include a string of European dates in February; six of them with Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators. Drummer Jeff Fridel (A Perfect Circle), who played on the Get It Out album, will not be able to man the kit for those shows. “No, if you look at Jeff’s schedule, he’s just as busy, maybe more, than David and I are. We asked him, but he’s pretty booked up. We have Joe Babiak on drums and Andrea Martongelli on lead guitar; we’re going to have some fun with these guys, they can really play. I don’t really take on the lead stuff, I leave that for the pros. I know I’m coming from a rhythm standpoint, and really, it’s about the song’s foundation. We’ve got so many great guests on this thing. We’ve used the whole rolodex - including Jay Ruston, who came through big time for us. A lot of our friends: Nita Strauss, Satchel, Jon Donais from Anthrax; Ace Frehley for God’s sake! If you told the 15-year old Frank Bello that Ace Frehley – who’s one of my favorites of all time, a hero to both David and I – was going to play on a song that I wrote in my lifetime, I would say no way! It really is a feather in the cap right there. It feels good, and Ace said that he really liked the song. I was really stoked about that! There’s nothing better for me than that. There’s a very positive feeling going out right now.”

One guest guitarist that hasn’t been mentioned is Christian Martucci from Stone Sour, who plays on the title track, “Get It Out”. “Oh, yeah, he’s my boy. I love each and every one of the guys in that band. It’s funny cause we’ve hung out and had so many good times, then Jay Ruston goes, ‘How about Tucc?’ Oh my God, you know when something just slips your mind. Talk about killing it, that lead is incredible! I owe him a bass track whenever he wants it, put it that way. Payback will be there, no worries.”

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