Anthrax are genuine metal royalty. Not content with being part of the ‘Big Four’ that pioneered thrash metal along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, they also kick started the rap / metal crossover movement with their early ground breaking collaborations. Having justifiably been given with ‘Inspiration’ award at this years’ Golden Gods Awards in London, with latest album ‘For All Kings’ among their very best, 2016 sets to be another crowning year for the New York act. We caught up with drummer Charlie Benante in Dublin the day after the awards, to talk about Anthrax past, present and future. A monster in the end: Eamon O’Neill. Looking down the barrel of a gun: Olga Kuzmenko.
Hey Charlie, welcome back to Dublin, how are you today?
I’m okay. A little tired. The tour hasn’t been taking its toll, yesterday took its toll.
A little bit of partying?
A little bit. Yeah, it was kind of strange, but it was all fun.
You received the ‘Inspiration’ award at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods in London yesterday. How did it feel to receive that?
I don’t know where the ‘inspiration’ comes from; it’s drawn from this, you draw it from that, but I think for the most part, we try to enjoy it from here, within yourself. Why did you originally get into this business? We got into it because we wanted to make music. It wasn’t a business when you first hit, that’s the thing about it – it was fun making music and doing this. But it’s all a group of people that you’re kind of inspiring each other to do it, and then once it becomes a business, I wouldn’t say like the ‘fun’ disappears, but I think that innocence kind of disappears. And then once you have success, you’ve got the top deck of success the next time, it becomes kind of hard to do.
Especially when you’ve got a long career like Anthrax.
Yeah, but for us the last records showed if not growth, if not hunger, if not just, [we] really found our niche.
Since you were last here, the band has released For All Kings. Has it been good to finally get it released and build upon the success of ‘Worship Music’?
Yeah, it’s somewhat taken from the past but brought into the future. That’s the way I think of those two records, because we’re not trying to sound like anybody but ourselves. And especially, music nowadays, so many bands sound like each other. There’s really no individuality any more, and I find it hard to latch onto everyone in a band nowadays; you can only signify maybe one guy – the other guys are just kind of faceless. Whereas, in the past, you knew everybody’s name in the band. Nowadays, who knows if you can do that any more?
But you can do that with Anthrax, surely?
Yeah, yeah, of course you can do that. Even, I’ll take it a back a little bit, even Korn; everybody knew who each guy was, and nowadays, you know – Ghost – you know Ghost, you know the image, so that’s what I mean. So many other bands are so faceless.
Going back a little, between 2005 and 2009 there was a little bit of uncertainty in Anthrax. It must have been very frustrating to be in the band at that time not knowing what was happening.
It was frustrating. We knew we had this great ‘product’, and we just couldn’t figure out what to do with it, how to do it again like we once did. And I really think a lot of things fucked with us at that time. I think we were searching, like; we know what we want to do, but we can’t get the right components to get us to do that. So, I think we struggled a bit. And then Scott [Ian, Anthrax founder] and I were invited to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame [induction ceremony] by Metallica, and after the awards ceremony and everything we were at the bar, and Lars [Ulrich, Metallica drummer and founder] said to us; “What do you guys thing about doing a ‘Big Four’ tour?”, and we were like; “what are you talking about?” And then he went into it a little more, and we were just like; “wow, that would be massive”, and he put it out there, you know what I mean? And Lars went off, and me and Scott were just stood there looking at each other, and we said; “we’ve got to get out shit together”.
You must have thought at that point that it’s got to be Joey Belladonna fronting the band?
Yeah, well Joey was the only one in my mind, and I think Scott was the same – we’re not going to go and get some unknown dude, that’s ridiculous, you know what I mean? It’s absurd, because why would you do that? Let’s repair old relationships and let’s just do it the right way. And so we did.
Going back before that point, and the previous two albums that preceded ‘Worship Music’– ‘Volume 8’ and ‘We’ve Come For You All’ - were very different. They could almost have been recorded by two different bands.
I think so too. ‘We’ve Come For You All’ was more back to real metal. That record could have been done with Joey too – maybe it will. But, I think that was the start of it really [of rediscovering the bands identity]. But I think that once that ‘Worship Music’ was realised, and then when Joey started singing those songs, we all knew that that’s the sound – that’s the Anthrax sound, that’s what’s kind of been missing.
‘Volume 8’ in particular is a very varied record. Do you think songs like ‘A Toast To The Extras’ would make an Anthrax record now?
‘A Toast To The Extras’ was a little bit of a, like a bar song, you could sing it in a bar. And those were kind of experimental times for us. We wanted to think outside the box a little bit. Does it belong on an Anthrax record? Of course it does, but it doesn’t really fit with an album like ‘Worship Music’.
Sound Of White Noise was your first Bush album. Do you miss playing those songs live, like ‘Room For One More’, ‘Potters Field’ or ‘Packaged Rebellion’?
No, because I don’t think Joey’s into it that much, and I don’t really want to bother him with any of that stuff, you know? But maybe some time there’ll be a nice open conversation about maybe introducing something at one stage. Like – you said it last night – ‘Safe Home’. You never know.
John Bush stated recently that he was saddened that you and he are no longer in touch. I wondered how you felt about that?
I don’t really think about it, to be honest with you, any more. It’s like he’s a world away. You know, the guy he said goodbye, and there were like key moments where I thought he would have reached out, but he never did, so I just kind of, I’m fine. He was the singer in our band for a while.
I wanted to ask you opinion on a few deeper anthrax tracks; the recording of them, how you feel about the songs now, if you’d like to play them live and what they mean to you:
I used to enjoy playing it. I’ll probably never play it again. I don’t think the song will ever be in the set.
‘Random Acts Of Senseless Violence’.
That was a good one. I like that song.
‘Make Me Laugh’.
That song hasn’t been played since maybe that tour. I know that we said a lot of shit about that record [‘State Of Euphoria’] in the past [but] I’m actually working on that record now, an anniversary edition of it. I’m finding some interesting things in the vaults, in my own personal home set up. Really you’re going to see the evolution of a lot of those songs, how they came to be ‘that’, you know. I mean, our biggest problem with that album I think, is we didn’t feel or have enough time to maybe nurture the songs, let them breather a little bit. We made a mistake in the sense that we didn’t put our foot down, and I think personally, artistically I think that’s what our problem is with the record. Fans love that record, and I’m happy about that, but I think every artist has a record in their catalogue that they feel a little [lesser love for].
So will that be coming out in 2018 for the thirtieth anniversary of its release?
Finally, I’ve heard that ‘For All Kings’ is your final album for Nuclear Blast. What’s your plans going forward?
I don’t know if there will be another record is all I can tell you. This may be our last record.
Is that a serious quote?!
It could be our last record, yeah. I’d rather go out on a high, than…
Is that a serious thought, like; “will we wrap it up after this”?
I didn’t say we would wrap it up, I just said it may be our last record. That’s how I feel.
That’s your personal opinion?
Well because you know how certain sports teams will have the greatest fuckin’ team one year, then come back next year and a lot of those players are missing - they suck. I'm not saying any of us will be missing, but maybe that inspiration may not be there, so let's enjoy it. I’m not saying that there won’t be a record, but you never know.
'For All Kings' is out now via Nuclear Blast. Anthrax play Bloodstock Open Air on 14th August 2016.