CHARLIE BENANTE On Playing With PANTERA: 'I Don't Think I've Ever Been So Judged In My Life By People'February 10, 2023
In a new interview with Knotfest.com, ANTHRAX's Charlie Benante revealed that he sought the advice of EXODUS guitarist Gary Holt before he played his first show with the newly reconfigured PANTERA. For nearly decade, Holt filled in for SLAYER guitarist Jeff Hanneman, after the latter was unable to tour and eventually died.
"I felt Gary adapted so well [to SLAYER]," Benante said. "And more importantly, fans accepted him. Because he was Gary Holt. And it's fun to replace a member in a band that's been so established and people grew to love. And there's a certain style that goes with it. It's tough on the person coming in, of course, because you have to ask, 'Am I going to be accepted? Am I hitting these things right? How much of myself do I throw into this?' So it's a little bit of a struggle. You either have to go full-on, or you don't. I think Gary played a lot of Jeff's stuff like Jeff, but he also had Gary in there too. And for me doing the Vinnie [Paul Abbott, late PANTERA drummer] thing, I'm trying to do it as close to Vinnie as possible, because that is so much of that PANTERA sound. The aggressiveness of those drums, the way they're tuned: they cut through the rest of the instruments in the band."
Benante acknowledged that he and guitarist Zakk Wylde — who is also a member of the current incarnation of PANTERA — are resigned to the fact that they can't please everyone when it comes to filling the shoes of the late Abbott brothers, Vinnie Paul and "Dimebag" Darrell.
"There's one thing I noticed and it still makes me scratch my head," Benante said. "I don't think I've ever been so judged in my life by people. And I don't understand. People can be really rotten. I don't think they have the ears or the eyes that most people do, and they're so judgmental about it. It's like, man, let it go. You know what I mean? Don't personally attack me or Zakk for something that you have inside of you. You have a problem with something. And it's like you gotta find some way that is somewhat…"
He paused and continued: "I've been doing this for over 40 years. Don't fucking judge me. If I if I didn't do my homework, then fucking judge me. But I did my homework. And if something is off somewhere, is that the thing that you pick on? You don't pick on the 95 percent of the other stuff where pretty much I tried to stay as accurate as possible?"
Wylde and Benante, along with PANTERA's surviving members, vocalist Philip Anselmo and bassist Rex Brown, are headlining a number of major festivals across North America and Europe and staging some of their own headline concerts. They will also support METALLICA on a massive North American stadium tour in 2023 and 2024.
According to Billboard, the lineup has been given a green light by the estates of the Abbott brothers.
Last December, Benante told "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk" that Dimebag and Vinnie are a big part of the new PANTERA show.
"Before 'Planet Caravan' starts, we have this video that runs with a little piece of the song 'Cemetery Gates', and it's basically a tribute to Dime and Vinnie," he explained. "I mean, Dime and Vinnie are all over the place. They are on my drum kit. Zakk has patches with them. But even in spirit, they're there.
"Before we went on, Sterling Winfield, who was very close to Dime and Vinnie — he basically engineered the last three records that PANTERA did — he brought me a pair of Vinnie's old gloves, and he brought me one of Darrell's old wristbands that he wore," Benante added. "And I put the wristband on and I played the show with that wristband. And I put the gloves in my pocket. So I had both of them with me that night."
Regarding how he prepared for the PANTERA live performances, Charlie said: "When I talked to Philip back in — it was, like, the end of December  about this, that day, I hung up the phone and I immediately started to get my head into PANTERA mode and just figure things out. Because I knew these songs, but I didn't know how to approach playing the songs, how I'm gonna do this. And the one thing I wanted to do is I just wanted to play it like Vinnie. When the fans hear it, when anybody heard it, I wanted them to be able to close their eyes and I wanted it to sound like Vinnie."
Charlie also talked about his musical chemistry with Rex, saying: "That's the thing. I didn't know how we would kind of come together and when we would make the connection. But I've gotta be honest with you, when I went down to New Orleans in September [for the first rehearsals] and it was just me, Rex and Philip. And after the first day, Rex and I, we had such a connection, and he said to me, he was, like, 'Dude, when I close my eyes, I feel like it's Vinnie up there.' So that made me feel so good when he said that. And Philip said the same thing too. So I was so happy about that. Because, honestly, I really did my homework. We're talking these tiny little nuances — things that maybe people wouldn't hear — I'm putting 'em in there because it's important to me to deliver it just like Vinnie would."
As for his drum setup for the PANTERA show, Benante said: "It's a totally different configuration [to what I play with ANTHRAX]. I'm playing more like Vinnie's kit, the way Vinnie played it. I wanted to play a kit like that because it gave me a bit more of a challenge. And I can't add more drums to it, because I just wanted to have the two toms in the front — floor toms — so I'm just sticking totally to the way he had it, and I wanna play it exactly like he had it and it sounds exactly how he had it too. So that's how I approach this."
Charlie went on to say that he doesn't understand all the negative comments that have been directed at him and the other members of PANTERA for trying to keep the band's legacy alive.
"This was never a reunion," he explained. "How can it be a reunion without Vinnie and Dime here? Sometimes people will send me something, and I see things online, and it's so disrespectful to both Darrell and Vinnie, and it's totally disrespectful to us too. And it's just, like, 'Man, if you don't wanna come, you don't have to come.'
"One of the first things I said to Philip on the phone, I said, 'This, to me, is more on an emotional level than any other level.' This means a lot to me personally, to go out there and represent those guys and represent the PANTERA name," he continued. "And that's all I'd ever want for me. I don't care about it financially and stuff like that; this, to me, I had to do this. I didn't wanna see anybody else playing these songs but me up there."
Reflecting on his initial conversation with Anselmo about taking part in the reformed PANTERA, Charlie said: "I was so excited about it. I said, 'Thank you for thinking of me.' And they were, like, 'There was nobody else.' And that made me feel really good. Because they knew my relationship with Darrell and they knew my relationship with Vinnie. And I loved those guys, and I love these two guys just as much."
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