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Exclusive Interview: 15 Minutes with ANTHRAX Drummer Charlie Benante

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Saturday, March 16, 2013 @ 11:23 AM

On SHADOWS FALL Relationship: "They might not like us anymore because we keep stealing people"

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ANTHRAX is set to kickoff the Metal Alliance tour with veteran thrashers EXODUS, and supported by HIGH ON FIRE, MUNICIPAL WASTE, and HOLY GRAIL. The tour, which ANTHRAX will headline, will launch in Anaheim on March 22.

Anthems, an EP of songs from some of ANTHRAX's favorite bands of the '70s will be released on March 19 in North America and on March 22 in Europe. Some of Anthems tracks include "Anthem" by RUSH, BOSTON's "Smokin'", "Keep on Runnin'" by JOURNEY, and THIN LIZZY's "Jailbreak". Along with the covers, ANTHRAX added the original version and a special remix of "Crawl" from 2011's highly-acclaimed Worship Music album.

Jon Donais from SHADOWS FALL will fill in guitar duties for the duration of the Metal Alliance tour, replacing guitarist Rob Caggiano.

KNAC.COM checked in with drummer Charlie Benante at his studio in Chicago to talk about the tour and the new EP.

KNAC.COM: The Metal Alliance tour has a great lineup of bands. How long has it been since you've shared the stage with EXODUS?

BENANTE: Actually, they did a show with us in Colombia, of all places, like, last year sometime. But prior to that, wow, it must have been 15 or 20 years. Man, it's been a long time.

KNAC.COM: Since your Among the Living reunion touring back around '05, there seems to have been a revival in the heavy music scene. Bands who've been on the scene as long as ANTHRAX have been putting out the best music of their careers. Some bands have reformed. Then there were the Big 4 shows.

BENANTE: I mean, there has been a revival, but I think it kicked in even more when those Big 4 shows happened.

KNAC.COM: What was it like playing in front of all those people at the Big 4 shows? Weren't some of the audiences numbering around 150,000, like the Bulgaria concert that was filmed?

BENANTE: I don't even know the number anymore. The first one was in Poland and it was one of the biggest attended concerts there. So it was just...I couldn't see anymore, you know? It was great.

KNAC.COM: I love the new Anthems record, particularly the opener, "Anthem". You put your little signature at the end of it with the "Passage to Bangkok" jingle.

BENANTE: Oh, you got that, huh? (laughs)

KNAC.COM: I'm a RUSH fan.

BENANTE: So you pick up on the little nuances.

KNAC.COM: With so many all-time favorite songs, how hard was it to pick out the songs you chose for the EP?

BENANTE: The thing about picking the RUSH song--it would seem really obvious to pick something that is more, you know, well known, like, of course, "Tom Sawyer" or "YYZ"--something from that time, but the thing about the whole All the World's a Stage record is it's made up of the first three records--actually first four records. And the one song, of course, "Anthem", always stood out to me as such a real heavy type of tune. When I listen to our first record, it's kind of similar to some of the songs on that record, and "Anthem"--we could've covered it on our first record. It had that same type of feel. So, I guess that song always had something that was similar.

KNAC.COM: Why did you put "Crawl" and a remix of "Crawl" on the record?

BENANTE: We wanted to put "Crawl" on the EP so it would kind of tie in Worship Music a bit, so that, let's say a JOURNEY or a RUSH fan hears about this EP--that we did these songs--and they take a listen to it; it would expose them to one of our tunes as well. They may have never heard ANTHRAX before, and it would kind of bring it to their ears. And then the "Crawl" remix--that whole thing happened a while back when Worship Music was being mixed, and I was talking to Jay Ruston, who mixed the record, and back on The Sound of White Noise record, we had a song called "Black Lodge" We did a few remixes of that and there's one that had a strings mix and I always liked that one and he liked it too. So, we had a discussion of doing something like that with "Crawl", and he said, 'I think I have someone in mind. Let me see.' So he did, and then it just happened. I remember he sent it to me and I was 'Wow. This is really cool.' In this day of people doing remixes, some of them do a real creative remix and it's really good. And some do stuff where they pop the drums in and out--you know what I mean? It's not really a remix. You're basically altering something here and there.

KNAC.COM: Copy and paste?

BENANTE: Yeah, exactly. But this was kind of a cool mix, you know?

KNAC.COM: How quickly did Jon Donais get up to speed with the ANTHRAX material?

BENANTE: Scott told me that he was rehearsing with Jon in L.A. and Jon was just kickin' ass. He just knew the shit backwards and forwards and he was prepared.

KNAC.COM: I saw a show years ago in Los Angeles where you had another SHADOWS FALL member, Jason Bittner, filling in for you behind the drum kit. Seems like ANTHRAX has a great relationship with the guys from SHADOWS FALL.

BENANTE: Yeah. They might not like us anymore because we keep stealing people (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Jason did it right that night. It was awesome.

BENANTE: Yeah. Jason's awesome.

KNAC.COM: With you being in Chicago and the other members being scattered around the U.S., how often do you get together for a real, all members present, rehearsal?

BENANTE: We're going to rehearse in L.A. this time, because the tour starts out there. We'll get together out there for this one. But, for the most part, we don't really rehearse that much.

KNAC.COM: Will this be the last touring cycle for Worship Music?

BENANTE: In the states I believe so. There might be a one-off or something, but this should do it for this record.

KNAC.COM: Do you have new material or will you start writing after the tour?

BENANTE: We have some leftovers from the last record that we'd like to dust off and work on and start doing some newer stuff.

KNAC.COM: Since the Among the Living lineup reunion, you've been hitting it hard, doing a lot of touring, there was the Big 4, Worship Music, more touring, and now the Anthems EP and this upcoming tour. Do you think you'll be keeping that same kind of momentum in the near future?

BENANTE: It's hard to look into the future, but I'd like to take things a step at a time and not pre-plan something that can possibly have the effect of you put too much on your plate and you become overwhelmed. I think, if we've learned anything from our past is don't overshoot it. Just keep things intact and keep all the relationships in working order.


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