Pioneers in metal and referenced as the very first Thrash metal band, Anthrax has continued to crank out hard hitting tunes. From the first release Fistful of Metal (1984) through 80’s hits as “I’m The Man” to the newest release For All Kings, drummer Charlie Benante has been a driving force behind the bands 35 years of success. While playing a trio of festivals in the Mid-West, Charlie discusses with me his South American travel secrets, his Anthrax wardrobe, and his other true passion in life….
Maximum Ink (MI: This is the bands 11th studio release (http://anthrax.com). Both you and Scott Ian (guitars) have been with the band since the very first record. You design the bands album artwork, ads & merchandise, plus you’re also the bands historian. Anything unusual in your private Anthrax collection?
Charlie Benante (CB): It’s funny you asked because I was doing some cleaning and I found two “after-show” robes. One of the robes is from the Arsenio Hall Show. As a gift, they gave us these robes with the logo, which I thought was pretty funny but pretty nice too. So, that is a little weird.
MI: You guys are touring in support of your new release For All Kings, you played both the Chicago Open Air Festival and Rock USA in Oshkosh WI. You’ve also played Madison as a headliner, which kind of crowds do you respond to best?
CB: For us, we are so used to the European type of festivals, where it’s just a sea of people and there are no seats. The show we just played in Cadott (July 13-15), there were seats in front. It was uncomfortable, because up the middle was this section of people standing, yet the people up front couldn’t move. We love the energy from the crowds. That’s the nature of how it works. We work, they [audience] work, we work, back & forth. We make that experience a high energy show. When the crowd can’t response to our energy, it’s like wearing a tuxedo with flip-flops.
MI: You write a lot of the songs for Anthrax including those on For All Kings. When you compose songs for the band, you do a lot of “riff-work” on guitar and you even recorded some songs where you played the guitar on the 1995 album Stomp 442. As the drummer of Anthrax, do you have preference when it comes to writing songs on guitar versus preforming on drums?
CB: The thing about writing a song is that 9-times-outta-10, it’s coming from a guitar; and maybe there will be an idea or two about the drums. But, for the most part, it comes from a guitar point of view. I’ll go into my studio and start playing guitar and record. Then I’ll listen back and pick and choose what riffs or chorus ideas sound good. Then I build a song around that. I’ll do a demo, and send it to the other guys and get their vibe. When we get together they help arrange it, or just play together. The goal for this record was to write 20 songs and I wrote 20 right-on-the-head. Of course, some of those ideas didn’t make the record, but they could be used later for other things.
MI: Anthrax was the very first metal band to be played on Mars. In 1990, the Mars probe Curiosity got a wake-up call to “Got The Time’. Do you believe that the Government is covering up proof that aliens are hand-bangers thanks to you guys?
CB: Well, we keep getting these orders for shipments to be sent to Mars, so we wonder where these t-shirts are going? We can’t pronounce their names, but there is a lot.
MI: Anthrax has recorded and worked with everyone from classical composer Angelo Badalamenti (who provided music for the song “Black Lodge”) to Public Enemy “Bring The Noise”. Is there anyone you would still like to work with down the road?
CB: I would love to do something with Jack White. I think he is someone who is very gifted, and someone who “gets it” in the music world. There was that thing he did with the White Stripes, at the time, was just him and a drummer. It was blues and something totally beyond that. It was way ahead of its time. I was listening from afar and I heard him [produce] a Lorretta Lynn record which I thought was just [expletive] awesome. Early on for me, I looked to England for inspiration. Whether it was the Beatles, Zeppelin or Black Sabbath. The style on how to write songs, always came from over there [England] it wasn’t until Kiss or Van Halen that rock got that American feel. The late 70’s was a great time for music. I think Jack has his finger on the pulse.
MI: Speaking of collaboration, Anthrax has released is own craft beer: Wardance (https://wardancepaleale.wordpress.com) and you have collaborated with Dark Matter Coffee, to come out with your own coffee called ‘Benante’s Blend’ with two different varieties: “Be All End All” and “Forever Metal” (http://charliebenante.com). Beer, metal, coffee. The true calling of a rock veteran.
CB: The coffee thing is a labor-of-love. I’ve been doing it for a few years. I’ve done everything from designing the bags to deciding on each blend and how it’s roasted. Dark Matter makes great coffee and for them to make my coffee is such a win-win. The thing about making coffee at home, is that you are in charge of the experience. So, when I’m not out on tour – I wake up, get stuff prepared for my daughter to go to school, then I’ll grind the beans, and get the coffee going. I’ll take my daughter to school, come home, get my coffee, put a little cream in it and zone out. I’ll watch the news and just enjoy my coffee in my house and enjoy my quietness.
MI: Any difference if you are out on tour, as you are now?
CB: If I’m in South America for instance, I’m more enthusiastic to explore new places to experience new coffee, whether it be in Costa Rica, Peru or El Salvador. Last March when we were on the [Iron] Maiden tour, we were with Maiden on their plane. We didn’t have to deal with any airport security. Customs would just come on the plan and stamp our passport. I wasn’t rolling up bags of coffee beans to bring them back, but it a great luxury to have time to explore different kinds of coffee.
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