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A Euphoric State: An Exclusive Interview With CHARLIE BENANTE Of ANTHRAX

By Ruben Mosqueda, Contributor
Tuesday, December 18, 2018 @ 7:34 AM

"I don’t think we’d do this one in its entirety due to the complexity of it. Most of these songs we haven’t even touched outside of us recording them in the studio. I don’t think that we couldn’t do it, but I don’t think anyone wants to take on that task"

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ANTHRAX’s State of Euphoria celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2018, CHARLIE BENANTE and Company issued a deluxe remastered edition on October 5th. We reached out to Charlie’s PR for an interview, but this non-stop touring this he has been doing with ANTHRAX postponed this until after he and the band returned to the United States. We chatted with Benante on December 3rd about the album and there’s some stuff you might have not known about it in here. So check it out.

KNAC.COM: What was the inspiration behind the State of Euphoria artwork?

BENANTE: It was meant to be a continuation of the character that was featured on the Spreading the Disease album cover. That was a kid that being dragged into a room and he’s being tested by all of these machines and instruments, for what is believed to be Anthrax.

I wanted to run with that theme and keep his face and his character alive on this album cover. I wanted it to depict this whirlwind or vortex that we [ANTHRAX] had just experienced in the previous 2-3 years of being a band. It was really a ‘state of euphoria’ for us, because we were on this ride and it felt like a vortex, believe me---it’s like we were just sucked right in!

KNAC.COM: There's various different images of the character in the downward into that vortex. I remember I picked up the cassette and friends and I would go back and forth as to whether or not that was JOEY [BELLADONNA] on the album. Some looked like him, others not so much.

BENANTE: [Laughs] The artist took some liberties! [laughs] I know what you mean, it does look like Joey at times. Funny thing, back then, I wanted the vinyl to be the red swirl so when you put it on, it would give you this image of the thing spinning as the album played. It didn’t happen on the original release, but on the reissue we managed to do it. So now, when you pick up the vinyl, you can put it on and when it’s spinning it looks like a vortex! [laughs] So…30 years later the vision was made reality! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall the first original pressing of the album was 3-D, because I recall it came with a kind of hologram?

BENANTE: That’s right! It was a hologram!

KNAC.COM: State of Euphoria was the last appearance by ‘The Not Man’ on an album sleeve if I recall correctly.

BENANTE: [Pause] I’m not sure if he appears on the Persistence of Time album at all...my ideas of the aesthetic for the band, I was finally able to get things done. In my childhood MAD MAGAZINE was just a constant with me, I loved it for the artwork, I loved it for the artists that contributed, I loved the stories where they’d do a mock of a movie, Spy Vs. Spy, I could just go on and on. That back cover is just so amazing to me. My mom used to work in a bakery, it was in an area in The Bronx where there were like 5 or 6 stores all attached. Right next door to the bakery, there was a stationary store and I’d always be in there as soon as the new magazines were put on the shelves. I was always absorbing that stuff. I’d also love looking at the monster magazines. A dream of mine was to get MORT DRUCKER to work on an album with us and I achieved that. It was amazing.

KNAC.COM: Who’s idea was it to shift the image of the band from denim and leather to the t-shirts and the shorts? That set you guys apart from the rest of the thrash acts.

BENANTE: You know what? That whole image evolved---naturally. The odd thing about it was that we’re a band from the East Coast that didn’t have any beaches or skate parks! [laughs] So all these other thrash bands came from the West Coast, but we looked like we were from the West Coast! [laughs] SCOTT [IAN] was into skateboarding, I was a complete novice at it. I enjoyed it, but there’s no way that I’d be doing some of this stuff that some of these guys were doing on a board! [laughs] It was just fun and goofy, you know what I mean? It started becoming the look of the band and before we knew it, people were coming to shows dressed like us! [laughs] We were some of the first bands to sell our own baseball hats with stuff on the brim. We were one of the first bands to sell our own shorts. It just grew into something that beyond our control.

KNAC.COM: I love the packaging of the album. There’s some killer liners with pics, shots of memorabilia and there’s pages of fans quotes. Where those solicited? How many of those did you have to sift through?

BENANTE: About 6-8 months before we were ready to go to print, I went on social media and I asked fans if they could tell me, tell us, what State of Euphoria meant to them. I didn’t care if it was something they hated about it or something that they loved, I was open to hearing it all. Was it something that got you through a hard time? Was it something that helped get you through high school? Was it something that changed your world? Just tell me about it.

Before I knew it I was slammed with all of these comments! [laughs] So then I started reading all of them, there were some that were long, some that were short and sweet, they were fun to read. I just took a bunch and ran with it, you know what I mean?

KNAC.COM: There’s bonus tracks on the remaster of the album, but the second disc is a collection of demos of songs that would make it onto the album. I really enjoy the evolution of “Be All, End All” on this. Is that you humming on the demo at the beginning? Were you the gatekeeper of those demos?

BENANTE: That is me humming on that! [laughs] I kept everything. I tried to keep one of two of everything for a later date. One of my favorite releases that ever came out was THE BEATLES’ Anthology. I really loved how they would show you how a song changed from take number 3 to take number 30 and like you said, how the song evolves to what we know as the song. I had so many things like that in my own archives that I wanted to show very early ‘skeletal’ versions of where it went to what it became. I just think that it’s interesting that people today think that songs are created, ‘boom’ here they are! [laughs] Sometimes they go through tedious, tedious, painstaking...days, sometimes weeks of work! [laughs] There were times that we would put things away and just leave it for a while, because the song didn’t want to be the song that it was.

KNAC.COM: What was it like for you to listen back to these demos as you were putting together this package?

BENANTE: I got a chance to listen to this with a different set of ears. I got a chance to enjoy it without a lot of stress or pressure or timetable. I remember that record had to be written, recorded and packaged so quickly. I think that contributed to some of our ‘dislike’ for it. I think after we went back to listen to it with different ears, I can say that I appreciate it more. I listened to this album as more of an outsider rather than as an insider. I think this album has a different meaning to me at this stage in my life.

KNAC.COM: Who is the fan of TRUST and how did “Antisocial” wind up on the record?

BENANTE: I was a huge fan of TRUST. Their first three records to this day are some of my favorite albums. The song “Antisocial” always stayed in my head, it’s a song that should have been huge abroad. It just wasn’t. I talked the guys into doing it. I would always play TRUST songs. I would put them on mix tapes for the bus and there would always be 2-3 TRUST songs in there somewhere. Everybody liked TRUST because they have that punky, melodic thing to them. When BERNIE [BONVOISIN] sang in French vs English the lyrics would get lost in translation at times, but that was okay. I know a lot of people that were ‘Americanized’ would say “What the fuck is this”?! [laughs] So we did “Antisocial” and we also covered “Sects”.

KNAC.COM: That’s also on this package.

BENANTE: Which is also on this thing. Originally, these songs were supposed to be back to back on the album, it didn’t work out that way because then we’d have two covers on the record. We didn’t want two covers on there. Then it would be 12 songs and it just wasn’t going to work. Now, “Sects” did turn up later on as a b-side, but originally we were going to use it on the album.

KNAC.COM: How much of an undertaking was it to record “Antisocial” in French?

BENANTE: [laughs] It was a bit of a ‘nightmare’ for JOEY! [laughs] He doesn’t speak French and you can tell in his pronunciation, you can tell that he’s doing it line by line, phonetically. That was just the way we had to do it because there was just no way he was going to speak French in two days! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: You have done Among the Living in its entirely in the past on a previous tour. Would you consider doing the same with State of Euphoria or is that simply not in the cards?

BENANTE: I don’t think we’d do this one in its entirety due to the complexity of it. Most of these songs we haven’t even touched outside of us recording them in the studio. I don’t think that we couldn’t do it, but I don’t think anyone wants to take on that task.

KNAC.COM: You’ve been credited on records post-State of Euphoria with guitar work. I imagine you’ve done some guitar work on albums leading up to that. Did any of your guitar work wind up on State of Euphoria?

BENANTE: I think some of my acoustic guitar made it on to this album. There’s not a lot, from what I recall. I started playing guitar and then it was around Persistence of Time that I asked the guys, “Can I play this”? [laughs] I love playing guitar for the textured stuff, then some acoustic and then a lead here and there. I leave the meat and potatoes rhythm stuff to Scott, he’s the best at that.

KNAC.COM: You guys toured with OZZY OSBOURNE in support of State of Euphoria. Do you have any cool stories from that tour?

BENANTE: Yeah, we got kicked off of it! [laughs] We never got a reason for why that happened to this day. We were going over really well, we thought we’d continue doing more shows, then we were off of it! [laughs]

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