Frank Bello: 5 bass players who influenced me

Bassist Frank Bello of Anthrax performs at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas at The LINQ Promenade on February 11, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(Image credit: Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Thrash metal is not known for its bass guitar players. There are too many guitar riffs for a start, played at ridiculous speeds, making the musical environment a difficult one for bassists. But then there’s Frank Bello, the most notable exception, whipping out super-melodic fills with amazing fingerstyle precision – and headbanging like a demon at the same time.

Bello plays an unusual style for the thrash idiom, which rarely has space for elaborate basslines. His fills and runs often expand around the main guitar parts, counterpointing the riffs and frequently shifting octaves to add dynamics. As well as his unique choice of notes and playing style, Bello is unusual among thrash bassists for his tone. "What most people don't understand is that your tone is really in your fingers," he says. "I love that Tom Petersson has a piano-like top end vibe, but I'll always have my sound because of the way I play."

All these years down the line, Bello is still aspiring to match the standards set by his bass heroes, he tells us. "We once cut a bunch of covers for the reissue of Worship Music and one of them was 'Anthem' by Rush. Now, I'm the biggest Geddy Lee fan, and I couldn't get this one lick in this song. It was bothering me so much, I was having sleepless nights.

"At four in the morning I'd go downstairs and get my bass and I'd be looking at YouTube and thinking, 'What is he doing?' while my wife and kids were asleep upstairs. I watched every live clip of that song I could find, and finally, there it was. Sometimes you can hear it but something's missing and you have to see it."

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Joel McIver

Joel McIver was the Editor of Bass Player magazine from 2018 to 2022, having spent six years before that editing Bass Guitar magazine. A journalist with 25 years' experience in the music field, he's also the author of 35 books, a couple of bestsellers among them. He regularly appears on podcasts, radio and TV.

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