Interview with Charlie Benante  
Exclusive Interview with Anthrax's Charlie Benante

Exclusive Interview with
Anthrax's Charlie Benante

by Michelle Oberg

Talking with one of the “Big Four” is not an easy feat, most notably due to the madness that ensues whilst attempting a conversation with the band as they’re traveling between shows. This interview took two phone calls to complete as, while mid-interview, the band packed up their bags, causing a puzzle theory of how to fit the luggage in the van.

Bigger now than they were 30 years ago, Anthrax fans have had children and those children have had children, expanding their following tenfold (note: it’s an expression, don’t quote the growing brood). But the music hasn’t changed and society is re-embracing those times as if they never left. In the age of indie and alt rock, metal has made its way back into our hearts and, ahem, ripped out our souls. Anthrax’s latest album, Worship Music, has a sound reminiscent to the dominant ‘80s genre, but truly is the album fans have waited-since their conception-to hear. RUKUS caught up with Charlie Benante, the hand and foot power behind Anthrax, who had some interesting dialogue to share. Here is his story...

RUKUS MAGAZINE: Worship Music is definitely a breath of fresh air but it’s been 8 years since an album release. Why did you opt to wait so long?
CHARLIE BENANTE: We didn’t want to wait so long but it was just circumstances beyond our control that we had to wait so long. There were a lot of things that went into those 8 years that held it up. As of last year, around this time, that’s when the record really started to take shape again and it was 100% going into it. That’s when everybody really started to get excited again about the record.

RM: Is that typical for instrumentals, vocals and production?
CB: We were still crafting songs and we didn’t go into a studio and record all at once again. I did some stuff in November and January and then it just went from there. It took quite a bit of time to get it to where it needed to be, you know?

RM: It’s definitely one of your best yet, so I can’t argue. The album was half done with instrumentals before Joey came into record the lyrics. Who wrote the lyrics?
CB: Thank you. See, that’s why it took so long. Scott [Ian] wrote most of the lyrics on the record.

RM: Where there any unsettling feelings knowing that half the album was completed with instrumentals before vocals took shape?
CB: [When] Joey started to sing, that’s when we knew how great the songs were or were going to be. We thought the record was really good and then it all came to sound like it did today. Joey’s vocals are just awesome.

RM: The first track on the record really captures what you’re about to step into for the album. Whose idea was this?
CB: It’s a little intro I put together. It was my idea.

RM: What are the voices saying?
CB: [laughs] What voices?

NOTE: At this point in time is where we lost each other due to the luggage debacle. But a super apologetic Benante asked to call back in 10 minutes. That is exactly what happened…

RM: Are we settled in now?
CB: Yes, so sorry about that!

RM: That’s okay, life of a rock star. This album seems to embrace more of an emotional side, how has that changed from the past 30 years?
CB: Most of our stuff [and] our lyrics have been on the serious side of things but our whole philosophy of the whole thing is we want to have fun. We want people to have fun, we want people to come to our show and leave in a fucking bag. We want them to sleep on, “now I feel good.”

RM: Thirty years is a long time. You have fans from the beginning and now younger fans. How is the interaction between such a vast age difference in your audience?
CB: The audience has changed of course. We get dads and kids coming to the shows now, which to me is great. I used to hear people say “I’m not going to listen to the music my dad listens to” but somewhere along the line the generation gap closed. People who are listening to the four bands, meaning us, Metallica, Slayer and Megadeath, are all in their ‘40s or older. Some of this music is very timeless and it just translates over where some music just stops. There’s a time and place for it and it never transcends. It’s pretty cool how history repeats itself. Everything goes through cycles, whether it was the ‘70s or ‘80s, it’ll make it into the next generation.

RM: We couldn’t agree more. Speaking of the “Big Four,” what was your experience like touring with everyone?
CB: It was great. We’re all pretty close now. Just the other night we played San Francisco and Kirk [Hammett] and Kerry [King] came down. It’s a good vibe. I think it helped to repair some fractured relationships, and as a heavy metal fan, it’s just given so many great memories. I just saw this show that blew me away and only these four bands can do it. It’s crazy.

RM: Is there any truth to drummers getting all the chicks?
CB: The truth is out there!

RM: Most of you have side projects going on. Which comes first and how do you balance the time between bands and not creating sounds that replicate each other?
CB: That’s the thing that excites me the most. creating something that I often have myself saying, “I cant believe no one has thought of this riff before, and how did it happen to come into my head?” But, I really just enjoy sitting down and playing the guitar. If an amazing song or riff or whatever comes out of it after playing for an hour or two that’s exactly what I want.

RM: What is the most disappointing show you’ve ever been to?
CB: I don’t know, that’s difficult because I try and find something in a show that gives me some sort of reward. Nothing comes to mind that was the worst.

RM: Let’s flip it. What’s your favorite show you’ve ever played?
CB: If I have to take it as far as the event of the show and the overall emotion to the show, I would have to say Yankee Stadium that we played back in September. It had a lot of emotional value to it; I wouldn’t say it’s the most rewarding from my playing technically wise. It’s like a pitcher going in to pitch: some days he goes in and he has it and other times he doesn’t. I often equate music and sports, I don’t know why but I do it. If I could go in and pitch a no hitter, that’s great!

RM: You’ve had a lot of members come and go. What’s the most difficult part about letting someone go from a band?
CB: When they cry…

RM: That happens?
CB: Yeah, and I just have to be strong and tell them, “Look, you suck,” and then they cry some more and then I hang up. [Laughs] I’m just fucking with you. The hardest part for me is when they’re out of the band. I don’t want things to change. Years ago, we were much younger and I guess our immaturity sometimes got the better of us, and you know when you’re young, you don’t want to hear about anything; you want to do what you think it should be. After different experiences you come to decide let’s try not to make a change unless you exhausted every other thing. I don’t want any more changes though, I want to keep it as is.

RM: What has been your craziest fan experience?
CB: It happened a couple of times, but this one fan came to a show with a tattoo of me on his arm and I was just like, “WOAH.” That was kind of weird. But then again, I look at that from the inside looking out, but on the outside looking in, I have a Beatles tattoo, so I don’t know what that says. It’s probably the greatest form of flattery you could ever experience though.

For more info go to:
Anthrax.com

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