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Anthrax Interview

A Conversation with Drummer Charlie Benante

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Anthrax

Anthrax

Megaforce Records
Updated April 27, 2013
Anthrax just wrapped up the Metal Alliance Tour with Exodus and several other bands, where they played their classic Among The Living album in its entirety. They also just released Anthems, an EP of cover songs. I caught up with the band’s drummer Charlie Benante at their Charlotte stop on the tour. They were playing as a four piece that night after guitarist Scott Ian fell ill and had to miss a couple of shows. Jon Donais from Shadows Fall, who was recruited after longtime guitarist Rob Caggiano left the band, temporarily handled all the guitar duties.

Chad Bowar: What has the response been to you guys playing Among The Living in its entirety?
Charlie Benante: The first side of that record, we usually play most of those songs anyway in the set. It’s the second side where we get into the deeper cuts of that record. A song like “Horror Of It All” is a long song, and we can see people digging it, but they are not as excited as they are about the other songs. It’s one of those songs where there’s a reason we don’t play it live, because it doesn’t work in that situation. But here it is. We’re playing the whole album, and you’ll probably never get to hear this song again.

I understand in the set you play side one of Among The Living, then some other material, then come back with side two.
Yes. I just felt that we should split it up instead of just doing the whole thing. So we split it up in the middle to add some more songs, and then get back to it.

You released a DVD several years ago. Would this be a good tour to film another one?
There’s talk about filming a show in South America, so that may happen.

Now that this tour is getting towards the end, what have been your impressions of the other bands on the bill?
I know Exodus very well. They have always been one of my favorites. Their first album is a classic. I was starting to get into High On Fire, and then they left the tour. I’ve been watching Municipal Waste, and they remind me of an‘80s thrash/crossover band, which is fun. Holy Grail are really nice guys who play a more traditional type of metal. I think they are cool.

Jon Donais from Shadows Fall is filling in on guitar after Rob left. Sounds like he’s been getting good reviews.
Jon is awesome. Last night, if he had anything to prove he did it. (By playing solo since Scott Ian was ill). He’s a good guy, too.

Were you shocked when Rob left the band, or did you see the handwriting on the wall?
We were shocked.

Were you more shocked when he quit, or when he joined Volbeat a month later?
It was a bit of both. We kind of accepted the idea of him leaving, and then that came up. But we love Volbeat, especially personally. We love those guys a lot. The other night in Chicago they came down and we had a great hang together. I have no animosity at all toward Rob. One door closed and another door opened. It worked out well for both ends.

Let’s turn to your recent covers EP Anthems. How did you decide on which songs you were going to do?
Some of it was recorded already when we did Worship Music. We did the Cheap Trick song and some other tunes. There was talk about releasing Worship Music again and putting a bonus disc with it that had some cover songs. We wanted to do some other ones, and started to do that. One day I was wearing a Boston shirt, and Joey said, “What about doing a Boston song?” “Smokin’” came up, and that was it.

We talked about doing a Rush tune, and went way back in their catalog and found a song that we loved (“Anthem”). It was a song that we could actually play that didn’t have any keyboards in it. We did the Journey song (“Keep On Runnin’”) and it just started to spiral. That’s how it all came about.

Without us really knowing it, most of these songs were originally recorded in the ‘70s, and it was a lot of classic rock that we were recording. These are the bands we listened to growing up. We really tried to stay true to the essence of what these songs were; just trying to hit it on the head while throwing a little bit of ourselves into it, too.

As a drummer, was the Rush song the most challenging of the cover songs?
It was challenging in the sense that I really wanted to hit all the little things he (Neil Peart) played. I wanted to keep it as close to the way he did it and pay tribute to him. That was it, basically. It was going back to when I was younger, playing along to these songs with headphones on. But here I was again, but actually recording it this time. So I wanted to hit on all the little bells and whistles that he included in his performance.

You have a South American tour and some summer festivals coming up. After that are you going to start thinking about the next album?
We’ve already started thinking about it. I usually come in with a basic idea or framework of a song and everybody starts to add to it and Scott writes the lyrics. That’s how a song comes about, but at the end of the day everybody has a hand in it.

You guys have been at this for 30 years now. As the drummer, you have the most physically challenging role in the band. How much longer do you think you’ll be able to keep it rolling?
I have no idea. As long as the music keeps you young, you need to follow the path you set out to follow. As long as you can do it physically, then do it.

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