Having joined the band following of the sudden departure of Rob Caggiano to Volbeat back in 2013, Shadows Fall guitarist Jon Donais became a full-time member of one of the world’s most iconic metal band’s. Overdrive spoke candidly to Jon about the pressure of joining the legendary band, as well as jetting around the world on Iron Maiden’s Ed Force One.
OD – For All Kings has been out now for nearly seven months and the reception has been off the charts for the album. As this was your first recording with Anthrax, when you look back were you slightly nervous about the album’s release?
JON – Yea, totally. When I was doing the demo’s I still wasn’t completely in the band yet. That was actually the last hurdle that I had to jump, as they really wanted to see how I was going to approach the writing of the solos. Basically, they wanted to hear what I could come up with and see how I was in the studio. So I was still in a tryout of sorts and I was so fucking nervous about it. It was only after I had completed all the solos, that’s when they told me that they wanted me to be a permanent member of the band.
OD – How was the creative writing and recording process for you; as I know that Charlie (Benante, Drums) and Scott (Ian – guitars) do the lion’s share of writing? Did they give you creative freedom with the guitar parts?
JON – I’ve never been in a room with the guys when they are writing stuff, but with the solo’s it was all my own writing. They sent me the songs, prompting as to where the solos go on each track and I just began to start writing and laying down ideas before sending them off to Charlie, who would come back with some suggestions and I would re-edit and send them back again until everybody was happy with how everything was sounding.
OD – Do you feel that you are in a stable position in the band, now with so much road time under your belt?
JON – I love touring, so that’s one of the reasons why I love being in this band. I much prefer being out on the road than in the studio, where you basically end up playing the same fucking thing over and over again (laughing); to the point when it just get’s frustrating and I start getting mad. Out here on the road, it’s just fun! This is why I wanted to play music and be in a band. I feel really good about things right now and am just looking forward to playing as many shows as we can.
OD – Having been in Shadows Fall and then Anthrax, you have had a very fortunate career. I’m just guessing, but would I be right in saying that one of the highlights has been touring with Iron Maiden in Ed Force One and hitting those large crowds?
JON – Oh my God! You have no idea man! That was by far, the best experience of my life! Playing stadiums with Iron ‘Fucking’ Maiden!!! It was just insane. Also, those shows in South America were unbelievable. The crowds down there go that extra, fucking mile! They just love their metal down there man. It’s a pretty surreal experience playing in a stadium with that level of intense power coming from the audience. The whole Iron Maiden thing was just mind-blowing to me. So there I am playing in front of these amazing crowds, taking a piss on Ed Force One, with Adrian Smith waiting to use the toilet and I’m just pinching myself going “is this real life?” (laughing).
OD – Regarding your particular guitar style and the fact that the set list contains solo’s created by Danny Spitz (former Anthrax guitarist 83-95 /05-07) and Rob Caggiano (previous Anthrax guitarist who left in 2003 to join Volbeat) , have you found that the initial challenge of taking on another person’s style has broadened your own ability; or was it a bit daunting to start with?
JON – Yea, it’s was a little strange because I couldn’t stray too far from the classic solo’s that those guys did, so I had to learn them for the fans; who expect these classic songs to sound the same. Trying to do two different guys styles and techniques can prove to be a little tricky at times but after a while, it just becomes almost like muscle memory for me. There is a little bit of my own personal style in there; as I don’t do the solo’s note for note, but I try to come as close as possible, so people are not going “what the fuck is he doing” with each song. With all the touring, I feel so comfortable playing live now that it’s just a great feeling. It took me a while to feel comfortable playing their stuff and not second guessing things; if you know what I mean.
Sometimes I would be up on stage just thinking to myself “how does that part go again?” (laughs). Now it’s just second nature to me, like auto-pilot, so I can just concentrate on enjoying the show and the energy between us all on stage; as well as the energy from the audience. So yea, it took me a while with the live stuff, but also just hanging out with the guys and being comfortable with them took a little time. I knew them but not “living together’ knew them, which is basically what happens on the road. I definitely feel like this is home now (laughs).
OD – Anthrax has turned 35 years old this year, are there any plans to mark this with something special?
JON – To be honest, I’m not aware of anything in terms of a release of anything like that, as the main focus is just to tour For All Kings as hard as we can. There are so many tours coming down the pipe for us; which is just fuckin amazing! The shows and the tours we have already completed have been so good and the record is doing really well, with a super positive response from the fans and the media, so everybody’s happy right now.
OD – I know that Shadows Fall has been put on hold for the moment, but not officially done. Would that be the correct assumption?
JON – Yea, that’s kind of where it’s at right now. We left things in a really good place and agreed that if a great offer comes our way and it’s not conflicting with anything else that we’re doing – then yeah; there is a strong chance of a few shows. We are not prepared to go out there and lose money anymore. That’s why Shadows Fall came to a halt, as we weren’t making any money, we were losing money! Some of the guys in the band got married and have kids now, so we just can’t play that game anymore. Say like a festival such as Bloodstock or something like that, if it was a one off really special show and the offer was right and made financial sense – then yes; we would totally do something together. We basically just got to a point where we were too old to lose money, as we have bills to pay and families to feed.
OD – Considering that a lot of the bands that helped shape the very sound of metal are putting things to rest, it’s fantastic to see Anthrax continue from strength to strength. Since your involvement in the band, have you sensed a growth in interest from a younger generation?
JON – Yea man, I’m looking out at the shows and can see such a huge cross range of age groups. There are kids there that can’t be anything more than 14 or 15 years old and they have the denim jackets on with all the patches and stuff; which are just so cool to see. Actually, at our meet and greets, I’m witnessing fathers and son’s coming to the shows and sharing the experience. It’s like the Dad would have seen them back in the day on Spreading The Disease or Among The Living and now it’s a right of passage for the younger generation to be a part of it. It’s just so fucking awesome to see.
OD – Your last European run of dates with Slayer was a great success, however, will we be seeing Anthrax doing a For All Kings headlining tour in Europe anytime soon?
JON – Yea I’m pretty sure we have plans for the beginning of next year for a European headline tour, so watch this space. We can’t wait to get back over there and play a little more stuff from the new album; as well as just generally playing a bigger setlist. It’s gonna be awesome!
Anthrax is currently on a US tour with Slayer and Death Angel, check out the band’s website for more information.
Anthrax recently released the video to ‘A Monster At The End’ which you can watch below.
© OVERDRIVE 2016