There are many forms of heavy metal in music today. The one type of sub-genre that never goes out of style is thrash metal. Hailing mainly from the Bay Side of California and New York, thrash metal involves fast-paced guitar licks, thunderous drum fills, and aggressive vocals. When I think of this music, what comes to mind is the Big 4. Of the Big 4, they include Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and last but certainly not least, Anthrax. Lucky for me, I got to interview one of the founding members of Anthrax, drummer Charlie Benante. Getting ready for the release of their 11th album For All Kings, Benante was gracious enough to do the interview with his busy schedule. This was a conversation I would never forget.
The first obvious question was in regards to the new record. According to Benante, most of the songs come from the world we are living in as well as what’s going on in their personal lives. He says that the title of the album, For All Kings, comes from an idea that we all have kings in our lives that make a difference in our life (a father or a teacher for example). Benante recently had wrist surgery to combat carpal tunnel (which I mistook it for arthritis). He says if it starts acting up again, he takes time off to rest it up and head back. His fellow drummer pal, John Dette, fills in for him when he is relaxing his wrists and Benante is proud that he can handle the workload.
Anthrax had just finished up a major co-headlining tour with Lamb of God (featuring Deafheaven and Power Trip). I attended the last show of the tour at the Hollywood Palladium and Charlie Benante believes that particular show was the best Anthrax put on in Los Angeles, Calif. He says the group he would really like to tour with is hard rock legends AC/DC. That would be a show to catch. He has the strong belief that when someone makes music, they should not do for the awards but rather for themselves and the fans who love it. This is the second record Anthrax has done with the help of producer Jay Ruston. Benante told me that while Ruston mainly mixed the previous album (the critically acclaimed Worship Music), they had an amazing time with him that they wanted to carry it over to For All Kings. I agree with him because I feel Ruston did an outstanding job producing this record.
The question he gets asked a lot is if he feel the pressure of outdoing the last album, and he says does not. He said, “You’re only as good as your last record.” He couldn’t really tell me what some of the songs meant because co-founder and rhythm guitarist Scott Ian writes the lyrics and Benante creates the music. We talked about the song, “All of Them Thieves,” being a tune about Wall Street. While I interpreted it as a song about Wall Street, Benante said it wasn’t. However, when I explained what the words meant to me, he told me it could be about Wall Street. Pretty cool that I may have convinced him what the song could mean.
We both discussed our love for movies, especially films like Jaws and Star Wars. Benante even mentioned that he has a couple props from Jaws, including one of the original yellow barrels from Quint’s boat and a set of Bruce’s teeth (Bruce is the shark). When it came to Star Wars, we each talked about how much the film impacted our lives. He said when he took his daughter to see the new one (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), watching her eyes see it for the first time reminded him when he was a kid seeing the first one for the first time.
Some people may not know this but the bassist of the group Frank Bello also happens to be Charlie Benante’s nephew. He told me how Bello started out as a roadie for Anthrax and would eventually replace their original bass player, Dan Lilker. Last year marked the 30th anniversary of their breakthrough record, Spreading the Disease. Next year will be 30 years as well for their most well-known album, Among the Living. Benante talked about what each record meant to him and how each impacted his life. As for how much longer he sees Anthrax recording and touring, he doesn’t really know. He says as long as the music they create is still fantastic and the fans respond to it well, they will keep going.
For 24 minutes, I had the privilege to have an actual conversation with Charlie Benante. He was a gentleman the entire time and didn’t shy away from any questions I asked him. I can’t wait to see where Anthrax will go from here. If they keep making stellar heavy metal music, then I will not stop listening to them anytime soon. Don’t forget to listen to Anthrax’s newest release, For All Kings. To Charlie Benante, I say thanks for the interview, keep on rocking, and I salute you. Horns up!!!