Originally Published on Oct 19th 2010
all photos: Josh Sisk & Mike Danko
all words: Zara Lababedi
We sent Zara Lababedi to interview Charlie Benante of Anthrax:
Oh. My. God. Three of the Godfathers of THRASH METAL in Baltimore? Yes. Slayer? Yes. Megadeth? Yes. ANTHRAX? Absolutely.
ANTHRAX’s Charlie Benante grabbed a table with us to talk tattoos, Beatles and how Lollapalooza was the culling song of the nineties. The guy who claims to have single-handedly invented the blast beat, the guy who has kept the band together for 30 years, the guy who is responsible for all those gnarly graphics that ANTHRAX is known for (and apparently a line of Disney merchandise).
But what does a publication like BYT want with this God of Metal? My whole adolescence was shaped and formed by METAL. Pure & honest. I listened to Pantera and Slayer and wore black and skated. I was not cool. But somehow, inbetween ironic rallies and empty nerd glasses frames, METAL, in all its aesthetic glory, has pushed on through into the hipster-consciousness. So I decided to find out from Mr. ANTHRAX himself – Charlie Benante:
What has happened to METAL? What has happened to music in general? And what can America expect from their American Carnage Tour?
I caught up with Charlie before soundcheck, I had 10 minutes to get the truth.
Charlie Benante: You guys came up from DC?
Charlie Benante: Awesome, my friends are coming up – they run this tattoo parlour out there and they’re gonna ink me up with the tattoo I’ve been wanting since I was two, right here (slaps his upper arm)
BYT: Since you were two?! What could it be?
Charlie Benante: Well I’ve been obsessed with The Beatles since I was two, so I’m getting a big yellow submarine right there. I can’t wait. I mean if it wasn’t for The Beatles, none of this, none of the music we listen to would even exist. They’re my favourite band of all time.
BYT: But the Yellow Submarine?!
Charlie Benante: Yes. (gives me a dirty look)
Uh oh. The interview has not even started and I have already offended him. Typical me. Better just get on with it.
BYT: So we’re from Brightest Young Things, an online publication for the cool kids and aspiring cool kids. And I don’t know, but I don’t think most of the readers are old enough to truly know what METAL is. And there seems to be some kind of renaissance now, where METAL has become something really cool, and all the kids wanna look and/or get into METAL. So since you single handedly created the blast beat and…
Charlie Benante: We created the whole genre.
BYT: Yeah what would you tell these kids: What is METAL?
Charlie Benante: It’s a way of life for many. It’s an outlet that takes them away from everyday life – whether that’s school, home life, working, whatever. If they had a fucking bad day at work they can put on their ANTHRAX record and escape. And I think it’s important because I used to do that too. It used to take me away to a different place. It does actually, it still does that. And you know, if something inspires you, try and hold on to that inspiration because if you lose that inspiration, what do you have left? If music is your inspiration and it brings you together with friends, family or loved ones and that’s the core of it, then always have it. Always draw from it.
BYT: That’s lovely. And what would you say to people who don’t know what ANTHRAX is? What do you guys stand for?
Charlie Benante: We’ve always said we’re a HEAVY METAL band, OK? We’ve kinda branched out here and there – we’ve done a rap thing, we’ve done a rap-rock thing, we’ve done something with Angelo Belmonte, who’s the primary composer of Twin Peaks. In fact, most of David Lynch’s movies is Angelo. He did something with us and that was great. We’ve also acted, we’ve done an episode in Married with Children, which was awesome – so we’re always looking to do things which you wouldn’t expect.
BYT: Yeah, you were one of the first bands – METAL bands – to branch out into Rap. The first guys to take that jump.
Charlie Benante: Yeah and I think it hurt us.
BYT: What?! Bring the Noise hurt you?!
Charlie Benante: At the time no, but in the long-run I think we lost some of our audience because of it. I don’t think people were ready for it, OK? And after we did it nothing really happened, but then 4-5 years later when there was a rap-rock emergence, we were already over it. We could have made Bring the Noise part 2, Bring the Noise part 3 – but like I said we’re a METAL band, we didn’t want to do that. That’s why I think it hurt us, whereas these other bands [I’m assuming he means the other Big 3 -Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica] they kept doing their thing, just METAL. METAL. METAL. METAL. We didn’t do that, we took a little but of a turn.
BYT: But back in the 80s and early 90s, music was so polarised. I mean you can see it as a reflection of the world at the time, it was completely polarised by the Cold War, every ideology, every genre was so distinct. No one crossed over. Either you were metal or you were rap.
BYT: But you guys were one of the first to take that leap.
Charlie Benante: I don’t know, we just loved it. We loved that form of music. We’re all huge rap fans, so we just incorporated it. I gotta be honest with you, we never put it out as ‘this is our new thing’, this was a B-side to a single, OK? But the Bring the Noise buzz was so strong, so we put it out on a release called ‘Attack of the Killer B’s’ which was a record made up of B-sides and things like that – so it wasn’t out on our new album, you know what I mean? But we always felt strongly about it.
BYT: Why do you think there are no bands like Public Enemy anymore? Back then a bunch of bands had positive socio-political messages but now….?
Charlie Benante: I’d have to say that the 1994 Woodstock completely destroyed anything that came after it. I think people became mindless, and whereas Woodstock of the 1960s changed the way people thought in a positive way, Woodstock of ’94 totally took everything and just said ‘Fuck You. Fuck You, we’re gonna burn this place down.’
Charlie Benante: That’s what I think that generation, and generations to follow have lost. Sorry to say it, but that whole Lollapalooza shit, crock of shit, was all about making money. It wasn’t anything to do with what they claimed it was. And, you know, those type of people have always been negative against ‘HEAVY METAL’ music. We were always frowned upon. The METAL people, or people who were into HEAVY METAL, are so loyal to it – so you see there’s such a contradiction…All that bullshit. And I remember back in the day when Lollapalooza was the thing and we’d always feel like – because METAL was such a dirty word – if you were a METAL band man, you were fucked.
BYT: Yeah, even if you were a METAL fan, it was not cool. I was always the weirdo metal kid.Yeah you had to conform a little bit like as if you lived in that movie “They Live” – you couldn’t see who they actually were. You had to like grunge.
Charlie Benante: Yeah, exactly you had to dress in flannel, and if you were a grunge band, before the grunge thing took off and you said you were METAL. I remember – and this is not to come down on Soundgarden – but I remember at the MTV music awards and they won Best Heavy METAL Video and I remember Chris Cornell saying “We’re not a METAL band” and all of us in the band looked at each other like ‘Do you believe this shit?! Yeah whatever!” It kinda bothered us.
BYT: But METAL is coming back now.
Charlie Benante: Oh, it IS back! You’ll see tonight, it’s back!
BYT: Well I guess it’s never really gone, it’s just that now it’s accepted as quite a ‘cool’ thing to get into – you know the aesthetics and the fashion – you can even go into Urban Outfitters and pick up a Metallica T-shirt – it’s all ironic and image oriented – how do you feel about that?
Charlie Benante: Well, I’d rather they have an ANTHRAX shirt. [laughs]
BYT: Yeah they totally should – your graphics are better.
Charlie Benante: Yeah that would be totally rad.
BYT: You do most of the graphics right?
Charlie Benante: Yes I do most of them, yeah.
BYT: Do you hand draw?
Charlie Benante: Sometimes I hand draw them. I have someone I’ve worked with for a few years now and I’ll do a concept but because I don’t have time to develop it, he’ll do it. Mostly every shirt and cover you see has come from my mind.
BYT: You should do an art expo? Have you ever done that?
Charlie Benante: As a matter of fact, I’m doing something for Disney.
BYT: Disney?! Really?
Charlie Benante: Yeah it’s gonna happen on October 23rd. They called me to do a series of these Mickey Mouse figures and they asked me to come up with a concept. So I came up with 5 different designs and gave it to them and they liked 4 out of the 5 . One of them that they loved was this Mummy Mickey that I did which is basically Mickey Mouse as a mummy but I didn’t use usual gauze around him, I put music notes like a strip of music around him and it’s just hanging there and his eye is all fucked up and they loved it.
BYT: Great. So you guys are on the American Carnage Tour right now. I mean really?! Is there going to be a lot of carnage?
Charlie Benante: Only in the catering room.
BYT: Oh I see. So you’ve basically lost your rock’n’roll edge, started working for Disney, and you’ve all turned into fat bastards?
Charlie Benante: Pretty much. Yep. Going with the gut. (shows me his belly, proudly. Not so sexy)
BYT: So your days of pillaging are over?
Charlie Benante: Yep it’s done. But to make up for it, the tour is sponsored by Jaegermeister so we’re still killing our livers. The carnage has been internalised.
BYT: Ha! So what was your most destructive tour then?
Charlie Benante: I don’t remember.
BYT: Uh oh. Your brain’s destroyed.
Charlie Benante: We just told this story to the Jagermeister guy and he laughed about it. They’ve been asking us this question on camera on tour: Give us one word or adjective to describe Jager and they really don’t dig the words we have been using too much. Like Fucked! [laughs]
Charlie Benante: Every time we have been drunk on Jager it’s been – either we didn’t remember or it’s been insane. We told them the story about a couple of years back, we were making a record in NYC and we went out to this bar and they had Jagermeister on tap, which was kind of new at the time. We got so fucked and drunk, we went back to the apartment and the next day when we woke up there was blood everywhere, on the wall, shit was all over, there was a bicycle in the apartment and that was destroyed and we found that one of the guys who works with us, his leg was cut open during the night. I guess we’d been moshing around the room or something, and it was his blood that had been splattered around the walls.
[Reader, please take a moment to really envision this: 6 men in their late 40s drunkenly moshing in their apartment.]
Manager walks in and told us to wrap it up, Charlie was needed for soundcheck.
BYT: So quick before you go, this is a question that BYT always ask – even though I think it’s a terrible question: Who are the biggest pussies in METAL?
Charlie Benante: I could give you the obvious answer and everyone would go yeah! But I won’t do that. So biggest pussies in METAL, I’d say a lot of these emo bands come off as pussies.
BYT: But they’re not METAL?
Charlie Benante: Yeah well you know they try, and they have those beards and tight jeans and to me they all look so fake.
BYT: Yeah. Well Thank You Charlie. On with the show.
Now readers, in conclusion I hope you have learned that nothing much has happened to METAL -it is was it is and what it always was, the music died in 1994, and America doesn’t really need to worry about locking up their daughters – padlocks on fridges may be advisable instead.