Roger Lotring of Metal Edge magazine (MetalEdgeMag.com) recently conducted an interview with ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
Metal Edge: Do you foresee a point where you will actually bring more recent ANTHRAX songs [from the John Bush era of the band] into the set?
Charlie: "No, I, personally, do not want to do that… See, with John [Bush], he had to sing those old songs, whereas Joey [Belladonna] doesn't need to sing any of these new songs. He has a catalog of stuff. And me, personally, I don't want to hear Joey singing those songs that John did."
Metal Edge: Does it run through your mind that some of that music might get lost?
Charlie: "it's going to get lost, I know that. It's something that I have to deal with, but I don't… [pauses and exhales] Someone mentioned to me, why don't we put 'Only' in the set. I'm like, 'No, I don't want to do that.' I would feel wrong doing that."
Metal Edge: From the hesitance in your voice, even though you don't want to put that material in the set, it sounds like you have a hard time accepting the fact that it will get lost.
Charlie: "I have a hard time accepting it, because that's the period of ANTHRAX that, for me personally… Look, I wrote every one of those songs that Joey sings. Musically, I wrote pretty much every song that John sang. For me, I get a better feeling inside about those songs with John than I do about those older songs. That was a [time] in my life when I was young and…"
Metal Edge: Inexperienced.
Charlie: "[Agrees] Inexperienced. And I just had a certain way, that this is the way I want it to be — you know, punk, thrash, that was my whole thing. I matured a bit as a songwriter, and those albums with John show a total progression. The last album that we did, which was 'We've Come for You All', was by far, for me, the best ANTHRAX record that I've ever done. It's bittersweet for me… [Pauses] Now I'm in this reunion tour mode, and it's successful. There's a bit of me that kind of wonders why it is so successful, and the last chapter of ANTHRAX wasn't as successful."
Metal Edge: How do you juggle the differences, what the band is right now and what it recently was? As a songwriter, do you progress in the direction in which you were going?
Charlie: "A few days ago, I was just writing, playing, and I had a breakthrough of material that would totally fit the older ANTHRAX. But it's not something that I am purposely making myself do. It's got to be natural. I have a feeling that after playing all these shows, I'm starting to get more of a feel for it. If I started to write music as soon as we started this [reunion tour], it would absolutely have been the continuation of the John Bush stuff. But I'm starting to concentrate more on this, and how this is going to sound. I don't want to come out there and make a record that is forced. I don't want to sit there and have to write a thrash metal riff twelve times, 'cause that's bullshit, man."
Metal Edge: [Do you have any] regrets about how [the reunion tour] has gone to this point?
Charlie: "I don't have any regrets about doing this. Everything I've done I've felt a hundred percent about it. I miss John a lot, you know — a hell of a lot. There's days when I feel like, you know… [Pauses] It totally affected our friendship, doing this. You always hear about people saying you've got to do what's best for you. I tried to do what was best, I thought, for the band — not to put any personalities in it, just the band as a whole. That, to me, is bigger than anybody in the band. The band will live on, even when we're long gone; our records will still be heard. So I was hoping that maybe this wouldn't become a personal thing, and we could still be cool. I mean, yeah, I'm cool with John, but there's a little bit of weirdness there."
Metal Edge: Do the other members of the band realize how much you try to figure out how it's all supposed to work?
Charlie: "I don't know. I think everybody thinks it's all going to fall into place, but I don't think it's all going to fall into place. There has to be some thought, because… [pauses and exhales] Look, Joey Belladonna, I swear, the guy hasn't changed at all, okay? For him, I swear, he's the type of person that the day he was fired from the band, and the day we all met up to do this reunion, it was like yesterday for him. He has not really progressed as some of us did, and… [pauses] It was a little bit of weirdness for me. [Chuckles]"
Metal Edge: What plans are there to record a new studio album with Joey and Danny [Spitz]?
Charlie: "The five of us right now, we're all on the same page. The natural thing to do would be to make a reunion record with this lineup, and all we can do is try. [Laughs] It's going to be a hard task, because we haven't worked in the studio with these guys in years. John is the type of singer that you can push him to get the best performance out of him. That's the way we're used to working, so I don't know if Joey knows what's up ahead of him. We haven't even approached Joey about doing this. The next step is going to be to try and get together and collectively talk about things. For the most part — and I don't want this to cocky or anything like that — it usually starts with Scott [Ian] and I talking about things and building from there. And then everybody talks about it, and then it becomes something. I don't want people to think that, you know, 'You two dictate what the other guys do.' It's not like that. But there's a vision, and everybody has a role in it. It [just] needs a starting point."
Metal Edge's entire interview with Charlie Benante appears in the magazine's October 2006 issue, available on the newsstands now. More information can be found at MetalEdgeMag.com.