Charlie Benante Keeps The Beat Steady For Anthrax
After a tumultuous few years both musically and memberwise, New York thrash metal pioneers Anthrax will be able to close out 2011 on a pretty high note. In addition to releasing the critically and commercially acclaimed Worship Music - their first studio album in eight years, and first with classic-lineup vocalist Joey Belladonna in almost 20 - they've played "Big 4" concert dates with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, and launched their own headlining tour. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the band's founding.
Photos by Andy Buchanan Anthrax 2011 (L-R): Scott Ian, Frank Bello, Joey Belladonna, Charlie Benante, Rob Caggiano
But the creation of Worship Music could have tested the patience of a saint. After parting with the band post a successful reunion tour of the classic lineup, Belladonna was replaced by Dan Nelson, who sang on an earlier version of Worship. An acrimonious split led to dates with post-Belladonna vocalist John Bush, who then left, leading the band back to...Belladonna, who re-recorded Worship's vocals.
Rocks Off spoke with Benante about the record, the recent Big 4 show at Yankee Stadium, his love of coffee, and just what kid of uncle he is to Bello, who is married to his older sister.
Rocks Off: I know the record had a tortuous birthing process, but was it kind of destined that Joey came back into the fold?
Charlie Benante: I think so. I think this path led us to him and it was supposed to happen. We had to deal with some bumps and bruises on the way, but we made it there. And the record is the reward, it sounds so great. To all of us, this feels like our first album.
RO: What did you want to do musically to make it stand out?
CB: We wanted to keep the integrity of the band that was in the '80s to the '90s, but modernize the sound to make it fresh while still having that old school feel. One of the key ingredients was Jay Ruston's mix. He really understood the band and our music.
RO: Did you end up using all the instrumental tracks that you had recorded with Dan on the final record?
CB: About half of those tracks were done and we liked them, so we didn't really want to change anything. There were a few that we felt needed the new energy and excitement, and we went back into the studio to capture that.
RO: The casual Anthrax fan knows you're the drummer, but may not know how involved you are with the songwriting, art work, album concepts, and - on this album -even playing a lot of guitars. Is Worship Music the most Charlie-centric Anthrax album yet?
CB (laughs): That's pretty funny! Um, it took up a lot of my lifelines making this one, but I enjoyed it so much, all of the aspects. It's a labor of love.
RO: On different tracks you pay tribute to influences like Ronnie James Dio, Dimebag Darrell, and Judas Priest. Do bands come up to you and say the same thing about Anthrax?
CB: Many do, and I'm so honored when I hear it. Because sometimes I don't hear it in their music, but do in the individual playing. It's the same with us. We have influences, but we don't necessarily sound like those bands. On "Crawl," I played the beat on the song and opened the hi-hat, and that comes from Queen and Roger Taylor.