It's 2005 and that marks the 20th anniversary of New York's Anthrax. For this they wanted to do something special for the fans, and in return we get a reunited classic lineup complete with Joey Belladonna, Dan Spitz, Frank Bello and longtime members Scott Ian and Charlie Benante. Who would have thought? This is exciting news for those of us that longed for the lineup that gave us 'Armed and Dangerous' through 'Attack of the Killer B's'. Metal Update had a chat with drummer Charlie Benante about this exciting news, their involvement in the Slave to the Metal foundation and why the Ozzfest appearance did not happen.
Interview with Charlie Benante of Anthrax on 4/19/05.
Metal Update: First of all, how does it feel to have the classic lineup back?
Charlie Benante: You know what? It's exciting, but we haven't even got together yet to start. We did some press in New York and stuff like that, but we haven't had the chance to really play yet. That'll happen next week for the first time.
MU: What prompted the reunion and how easy was it to get everyone back?
CB: I guess what actually prompted it was the fact that it's a 20 year anniversary and we just wanted to do a little something special for it. We thought this would be a cool thing to do, for fans who never saw the band with that line-up and maybe some who have but haven't seen it in years, so let's do something special.
MU: I think you guys were kind of talking about it in the past, but it never really happened.
CB: Yeah, it just wasn't the right time. We couldn't get it together, ya know?
MU: OK. How did John Bush and Rob take the news?
CB: John and Rob are a part of this whole Anthrax family. John was asked to be a part of it, but he decided not to do it. He had a baby and I think he wanted to donate some time to being with his family. We're gonna go ahead and do this now, and John is always going to be there too.
MU: Give us a recap on why Dan, Frank and Joey left the band in the first place.
CB: There were so many different issues that were going on at the time. To be honest with you, the whole Joey thing was just a musical thing that was going on. Danny I think, just lost his drive, the fire underneath him. And the thing about Franky was that, I think was just like an old married couple that needed to separate for a while and come back with a new attitude. I think that's what happened here.
MU: What were they all doing with themselves prior to the reunion?
CB: Joey had been keeping busy doing his own solo stuff. Danny went ahead and concentrated on becoming a master watch maker, which is pretty funny and cool at the same time. Franky went and did Helmet for a while. He was cool with that. I saw him with them and thought it was probably one of the best Helmet lineups.
MU: So John Bush was asked to take part of the reunion and declined due to family issues, and you guys wouldn't have probably considered Neil Turbin for any reason, right?
CB: No. That never came up. Nothing against him, it just never came up.
MU: It might have been interesting for a handful of people out there.
MU: So nobody was officially kicked out of the band?
MU: Do you think this will be a temporary or a permanent thing?
CB: I can't answer that. It's so early. We're just concentrating on the reunion, you know?
MU: One day at a time?
MU: Explain Anthrax's involvement in the Slave to the Metal Foundation.
CB: The involvement with it, basically back in early 2000, actually after 9/11, there was the whole Anthrax scare that happened. It wasn't bad enough that we had this whole Twin Towers thing to deal with. Well, someone threw this in the mix. So that's when the name Anthrax more apparent for people. It's one of the first things they would say on the local news so it started to be associated with that and started becoming negative, not a positive thing that the band was all about. We started to get a couple things here and there, but no one ever wanted us to change the name of the band. No one was like, "You guys have to change the name of the band." We just wanted to like ride it out and see what would happen with it, which is what we did. But there was a while there, and even now, people hear the name Anthrax and they probably, I'm talking more of the mainstream, people will probably think of that powder that was sent to people. It was a negative. What we're trying to do now, in getting behind this organization is, the Armed Forces are now doing that mandatory anthrax vaccine, which a lot of the soldiers, they don't even know what's going into them. There's no warning. There's only something if you question it. And people who are refusing to take the vaccine are either being court martialed or discharged.
MU: What are they trying to do, build up the immunity in their system to some extent?
CB: Yeah, but for what? What threat is out there? If it were me, I'd choose not to have the vaccine. Let's face it, there is a cure for Anthrax and that's Cipro, in high volumes. But I'd rather take my chances that way, rather than having this vaccine put in me, which may cause me to have a stroke, heart attack, blood clotting, there's so many different side effects to it. This is the reason that we're getting behind it, because we do have a lot of fans that are in the armed forces so this is pretty much where it comes from.
MU: Does this have a major factor in the reunion as well?
MU: Something you all believe in though.
CB: After meeting with the organization and after meeting with a soldier who was discharged and after meeting with a soldier that had 2 heart attacks, it totally changed the way I feel. If I ever had a family member that was thinking of going into the armed forces, I would definitely tell them to find out about whatever they are trying to put in you. And that's basically what it is because a lot of people out there, a lot of our fans, like I said, who either are fans of Anthrax and find out about it, or their brother or sister is a fan, so maybe they can enlighten their brother or sister about the vaccine.
MU: So you guys are basically raising money for the cause? How so?
CB: We signed this limited edition poster and the proceeds from that will go to the foundation.
MU: Is everything a secret so far, as far as the set list? Or you guys don't even know?
CB: I don't even know the set list. It's going to take a little thought to see what we're gonna do. With these shows that we're doing now, we're trying to put as much as we possibly could in the set, so we'll see.
MU: Do you think you'll be playing any John Bush era songs?
MU: You probably have too much in the back catalogue to bother with that I guess.
CB: I'm not touching those. Like I said, we're going to stick to this reunion, the songs from that time and see what happens.
MU: A lot of people are pretty siked up for that. Now what happened with the Ozzfest rumors and why weren't they squashed prior to the press conference?
CB: Because it wasn't in our hands. People always say to me, "Hey man, are you guys doing Ozzfest? Hey man, how come you guys aren't doing Ozzfest?" As if we have the answer, as if we run the show. You have to be asked to do it and you have to be made an offer to do it. So, believe me, we're totally disappointed about the outcome of it. For a while there, we were kind of getting caught up in the whole thing, like, "Yeah man. This might happen." And then, boom, they cut it. I felt really shitty about it, but whatever.
MU: So did they ever contact you at all, or was it just a total fan rumor gone wild?
CB: I don't know. I don't know how it started, but it was all over the place. When you see something in Rolling Stone magazine, you gotta know that other people are talking about it.
MU: Oh yeah, it was everywhere. And that was before you guys were even announcing that you guys were getting back together and I was like, "No way!"
CB: This whole thing that Sharon Osbourne asked us to reunite for this Ozzfest and we were like, "OK, when is someone going to ask us about this?"
MU: Well, it's too bad that it didn't happen but what can you do? How did Dimebag's death attribute to the reunion?
CB: Honestly, he was a real close personal friend of mine. But that whole thing that happened, I took it really bad, I took it really hard and we thought about a lot of things. But one of the reasons I actually committed to doing this thing is because nothing is certain anymore, and I don't know if these guys will be around or considerably play in years to come. And that was one of the reasons why I did it. I remember talking to him about it. I saw him 2 weeks prior to it and we had such a great night and it was one of those nights that, you blew it up so much and it was such a great thing. I was asking him about it. I was saying, "Hey man, what do you think about this?" He was one of the biggest fans of the old Anthrax stuff and he was absolutely like, "You've got to do this. I love Bush. I love John Bush, but you've gotta go and do this." It's one of those things that stuck with me and pushed me towards it.
MU: It certainly makes you think differently. Now what are your thoughts on the current state of heavy metal? Good? Bad?
CB: Well, there's good and bad, as there has always been good and bad. My problem with people who play this type of music is, and I've always said this. If you choose to be in a band that plays this type of music, you are going to be considered kind of an outcast in a way because it probably won't be as popular as a pop type of band. If you choose to be in a heavy metal band, you are doing it because you love this. I can name you a shitload of bands that love what they do and it is heavy metal because it comes from the heart, and I can name you a shitload of bands that play heavy metal but have no fucking clue. And believe me, there was a time out there where everybody was tuning down and thinking this was the heaviest shit and it was like, "Are you fucking kidding me dude?" You are the equivalent of those hair bands. You have no heart. There's no integrity there. You're just looking for the quick fame route. In my mind, we've lasted so long, and yeah, there's been peaks and valleys, but as you can see, we've stayed the course. We've stayed for what we know and what we can do, because we love it. Like I said, there's a few other bands that have done the same. And that's the way it is. I think that's the way it is with everything. If you love it, you will take all the shit that comes with it because you know. You can look yourself in the mirror and say, "All right dude, this is what I do. This is me."
MU: When do you think metal was at it's peak?
CB: When was it?
MU: Yeah, it seems to be doing well right now, but you know it was doing well when I saw you guys open up for Iron Maiden and it was doing well then.
CB: It was doing better then. You've got to remember, back then there were many outlets. You didn't have a half hour show that comes on at 2 in the morning. Or here's your heavy metal fix, goodbye. It was different back then. Nowadays, people have to search for their fix of it. Or they can go on the internet and find out whatever they want in like 2 seconds. With the internet, there's your heavy metal fix. There's your information. There's whatever you need to know. And sometimes it's BAD. You shouldn't know everything, because then there's no buildup. You know? Jesus, think about this. When I was younger, if I had access to write Gene Simmons an email and ask him shit like kids ask me stuff? Dude, come on. There's just too much information out there.
MU: What music have you been listening to lately?
CB: Umm...favorite record from last year and still into this year is that Muse record. They're the greatest. I really like that Killers record a lot. And as far as heavy, heavy stuff, on our last tour of Europe last summer, Rob was listening to the last Mayhem record and I quickly was like, "I need that. I have to have that." I like that record a lot. I was looking forward to some other things coming out. I'm looking forward to the Foo Fighters record. I'm looking forward to Coldplay record. It's not a heavy metal record but...
CB: There's some other things on the heavier side. I want to hear what's going on. I love that latest Killswitch record.
MU: Oh, right on. That's kind of funny. I'm going to bring up a little awkward situation. I'm friends with Mike D. and you guys had a little altercation of sorts.
MU: He said there was a little situation between you two at one point?
CB: Yeah, you want to know exactly what happened?
MU: Yeah, you don't need to say this on the record if it's an embarrassing moment.
CB: Dude, it's embarrassing but it's out there. I laugh about it. We were on tour in Japan, and me and our tour manager got the worst stomach flu and for me it lasted 8 to 10 days. OK? It was uncontrollable. I had to go to the hospital. I was dehydrated. They had to put me on an IV. The last fucking show in Japan dude, I couldn't get past it. This was like the 8th or 10th day with this. I couldn't eat anything. Every time I ate something, it came right out. It was so bad. Well on stage in Osaka, in our dressing room was the only bathroom. So we're on stage, and I said, "Uh oh. Here it comes again." I had to split. I had to leave during the show to go to the bathroom. Who was in the bathroom at the time, because I only had a certain amount of time to get in and get out before the band even noticed, because John was talking at the time and Mike was in the bathroom. Me and my drum tech were pounding on the door, "COME ON!! GET OUT!!" All of the sudden Mike opens the door and he's like, "OK! I'M SORRY!!" Dude, I apologized to him like a thousand times.
MU: (laughter) Oh man, that's pretty funny.
CB: I hope he's not mad.
MU: Oh no. He's totally cool with it. He says everywhere he goes somebody comes up and says, "Charlie says he's sorry again." So it's all good. The apology is taken.
CB: I love that record. It's my favorite record of the year.
MU: It's amazing definitely. As of now, you guys are going to be playing a few select shows and festivals. Do you think you are going to be doing a full scale tour at all?
CB: Yes. In the fall probably.
MU: And like we said before, it's too early to think about a new album?
CB: Nah, we're not thinking about that. We're thinking about getting through this first. We definitely have been documenting everything, because we want to do a DVD, chronicling everything from the first meeting, so that the fans see every little aspect of it.
MU: Yeah, so they can capture it forever, as far as what you guys got.
MU: Are we missing any other future plans for Anthrax?
CB: I don't know. Unless you know something I don't.
Anthrax - 'Music of Mass Destruction CD/DVD'
Anthrax - 2004 Whisky Concert
Anthrax - 2003 Tour with Lamb of God
Anthrax - 2003 Tour with Death Angel
Anthrax - 'We've Come for You All'
Anthrax - 'Return of the Killer A's'
Anthrax - 'Sound of White Noise'
Anthrax - 'Among the Living'
Anthrax - 'Spreading the Disease'
Interview with Scott Ian and John Bush - May 7, 2003
Interview with John Bush - February 2, 2000
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Anthrax Reunion Photo courtesy Adrenaline PR [ www.adrenalinepr.com ]
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