Exclusive Interview: Charlie Benante from Anthrax

By on February 28, 2013

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Anthrax have been touring relentlessly prior to the release of 2011 critically acclaimed Worship Music. The accolades continue in 2013 as Anthrax was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance.” Anthrax will be headlining the 2013 “Metal Alliance” tour which will also include Exodus, High On Fire, Municipal Waste and Holy Grail. If headlining this sweet package wasn’t enough, Anthrax will perform their 1987 opus Among The Living from top to bottom on the “Metal Alliance” tour. Rock Confidential caught up with drummer Charlie Benante for an Anthrax update on a recent line-up change, their upcoming tour and the Anthems EP, due March 19th.

Charlie, how did you guys get involved with “Metal Alliance?”

We have been approached about doing the tour in the past. We felt that if we were to do it we’d have to have a strong package. This will be a good show for the fans, I think, which is what we wanted if we were to commit to doing this tour.

You [Anthrax] have been working Worship Music hard, you started gigging prior to it’s release in September of 2011. I can’t recall a time that Anthrax done this much touring – it must have been in the mid to late 80s. It’s a strong record, the demand for Anthrax exists. So having said that you just have to stay on the road, huh?

I’ve never been one that has paid much attention to popularity contests.

You’re right, we’ve done a lot of shows. There’s a lot of demand at the moment but I think there will come a point where we’ll have to recharge our batteries.

You suffered a personal loss in 2012, you took a brief hiatus from the touring. Was it hard to get back into touring mode once you got your bearings back?

[pause] It wasn’t difficult. I hate to use the old cliché but it was just like getting back on a bicycle. It was easy. I needed the time to take of personal business and getting back on the road with Anthrax helped with the healing process.

I caught a couple of shows of the tour you did with Testament and Death Angel last year. One on the first leg in Southern California and one of the second leg in Portland. I found it interesting that people were surprised by your performance. People were like “Charlie’s a great drummer!” You seem to fly under the radar as far as thrash drummers go.

[laughs] Yeah, I know! I don’t know what to say about that. I’ve never been one that has paid much attention to polls or popularity contests. What I do know is that I enjoy what I do. If someone is influenced by it or they dig it—that’s awesome. As far as my name not being mentioned in a group of “great” drummers—that doesn’t bother me.

Photo by Jon T. Cruz

During the promotional cycle of Worship Music I’ve had the opportunity to catch up with Frankie [Bello], Joey [Belladonna], and Rob [Caggiano] on a couple of occasions. Rob has left the band. In a statement/press release it was stated that Rob wanted to concentrate more on the production end of things. Later it was announced that he’d be producing the new Volbeat album. Then a few days later we get word that he’s joined the band. Did you have any indication that he’d be joining another band?

[long pause] Nope, nothing. Nope, not at all.

What’s your thought on that? He was a member of Anthrax for about a decade at that point. I can understand the fact that he’d want to concentrate on the production side—but when you join another band? It’s like going out with another girl or something along those lines.

Yeah, I think that’s what made some of us feel a little bit betrayed. I think the word that I used in a previous interview was that it was kind of “sketchy.” [long pause] There’s two ways I can go about this—I can say good for him. Who are we [Anthrax] to say, “No, you can’t do that.” If that’s where his heart is, that’s where his heart is—that’s it. Then the other side of me that says, hmmm okay that’s a weird move. It’s done and we have to move forward. Anthrax is Anthrax and nothing will really change. This is the band anyway, whatever. We can’t dwell on that.

I know you’ll have one of the guitarists from Shadows Fall whose name escapes me at the moment. He will be filling in on this tour. How are things coming along as far as him learning the material?

Right. It’s Jon Donias. Scott [Ian] has been working with him in L.A. and he says that Jon is playing really good. Jon’s a great dude I like him a lot.

You’ll be performing the Among The Living album from top to bottom. How hard will it be to relearn some of these songs? I imagine there’s material that you’ve never played live or it’s been ages since you have played it?

Exactly. You forget them and now you have to revisit them and relearn how to play them. Yeah, it’s true there are song on that album that were haven’t played live—ever. It’s going to be a little bit of a test or challenge. It’ll be fun.

Is there a particular track or tracks on Among The Living that you might think might give you fits?

Anthems is Anthrax playing tribute to the acts that influenced us.

If I were to select one I’d have to go with “Imitation of Life” which we haven’t ever played live. That one might be a little bit of an issue but we’ll tackle it and it’ll be fine.

You have a new EP Anthems ready for release in March. Anthrax has always recorded covers during recording sessions. This EP is a collection of covers and the studio cut and remix of “Crawl” from Worship Music.

We had some of these [cover] songs recorded or partially recorded. We enjoyed hearing them and wanted to do a few more. So we decided to do an EP. At the end of the day it was just five guys in the band having fun playing these songs. It’s Anthrax playing tribute to the acts that influenced us.

There’s a few more [covers] that we haven’t finished. We’ve always been huge Rush fans. For us to attempt to tackle a Rush song was a pretty big task. We didn’t want to go with the obvious choices like “YYZ” or something. We chose “Anthem” because it was a song that sounded like something we could make our own.

You mentioned there are additional songs that weren’t completed. Is there a chance that work will resume on those or will they be placed in the vault?

Good question. We might dust those off and finish them up but we don’t know right now. I personally would really like to revisit them.

As stated you have “Metal Alliance” scheduled in the spring which will take you across North America. What happens after that?

I hear we have a South American tour in the works. I do think that we will work on some new material at some point in 2013.

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