DAN LILKER Says Playing With ANTHRAX Again After 40 Years Was 'A Fun, Positive Experience'

May 31, 2024

In late March, ANTHRAX announced that, due to personal reasons, bassist Frank Bello would not be able to accompany the band on its South American tour, which kicked off on April 13 at MXMF The Metal Fest in Mexico City. Filling in on those dates, as well as two U.S. festival shows in May, was ANTHRAX founding member and original bassist Dan Lilker, marking his first appearance with the band in 40 years. Lilker, who co-wrote and played on ANTHRAX's debut album "Fistful Of Metal", was also a member of STORMTROOPERS OF DEATH with ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante and guitarist Scott Ian.

In a new interview with Finland's Chaoszine, Lilker reflected on the experience of playing with his former band again, saying (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I think it went pretty well. I think I had enough time. I was given about five weeks advance notice to learn the setlist and, obviously, a couple of songs I knew pretty well. And I think the crowd reactions and everything, and the whole tour organization, obviously with those guys, it's all very professional. So, you don't have to stand at the airport and wait for your bass to come on the baggage claim; somebody does it for you, and all this stuff. But, yes, I think in general it was a pretty positive experience. It was fun playing those songs. And I think people enjoyed it. So, I think it was a fun, positive experience."

When the interviewer noted that Dan hadn't been "that active" in the music scene anymore when ANTHRAX approached him about playing the shows, Lilker concurred. "Well, it is true. I haven't really been playing in a full-time band anymore," he said. "NUCLEAR ASSAULT disbanded. The last show we did was the UK Deathfest in September '22. So, when I was approached with this offer, I just said, 'Sure, that would be fun,' because normally I just wanna age gracefully, and just hang out at home with my lovely wife and everything, but this was an opportunity to have a little fun. And also I could cross more countries off my list, 'cause I'd never been to Uruguay, or let's say Ecuador or El Salvador and Costa Rica. So I got to go to those places, which was cool. And I knew that the whole thing would just be two or three weeks, and then I could just go back to my normal home life."

Asked how it was to go up on stage and play with ANTHRAX again and whether it brought "a lot of old memories" back into his mind, Dan said: "Well, the stage that I was in ANTHRAX was very early, so I didn't even tour with the band back in the day. When I was in ANTHRAX back in the early '80s, it was just mostly local shows — maybe a show in Pennsylvania, but I wasn't touring with them. I did not get to that stage. So this was the first time that I'd played anywhere with them that wasn't driving distance from our homes, for instance. So in that way, it was a new experience. But just in general, yeah. I made sure I knew all the songs, and we had a rehearsal in Mexico before the first show. And everything sounded good. I like to be responsible, like, 'Okay, Danny, you have to learn these songs.' I wanted to learn them very well so I could go on stage and play them with confidence and bang my head and not just stand there hoping I'm playing the right notes. So I drove my poor wife crazy 'cause every day after work, I would come home and rehearse the ANTHRAX set. So, she heard 'Caught In A Mosh' 50 fucking times. But I think it was beneficial, because I think I did a good job. And I'm not saying that egotistically. The next morning you go on YouTube from your hotel room and you go, 'Oh, cool. Sounds good.'"

As for what it was like to play Bello's parts, Lilker said: "Well, what I did is I didn't worry about playing every exact note he played. I tried to put my style on stuff. So I'm still playing everything so it will sound familiar, but I have a different tone and a different approach. I use more distortion and a pick, so it was almost like ANTHRAX with S.O.D. bass. Yeah, I put my own personality on it. But I didn't go crazy with that. They still have to recognize them as the original songs. Like I said, I think it went pretty well."

Asked if he had a discussion with the other ANTHRAX guys before the first show whether he should play the songs as closely to the originals as possible or they just gave him free rein to do whatever he wanted, Lilker said: "Pretty much the second option. They trusted me. Obviously, Scott and Charlie had played with S.O.D. more recently than 40 years ago. And when we had the rehearsal in Mexico for a few hours before the first show, I plugged in my bass and had the distorted bass sound. And I said, 'Is this okay? Is my bass too distorted?' And nobody said anything or paid attention. And so I said, 'Okay. That's it. I'm gonna play like this.' And I think it made it interesting, because I think it made it sound heavier and darker, but that's just me."

Lilker was also asked about the recent announcement that Bello was going to play a few festival shows with SATYRICON this summer and whether that means that Dan will play more gigs with ANTHRAX in the future. Lilker responded: "I think it's only that because ANTHRAX had no plans in the summer anyway. They weren't doing all the Euro fests or anything. So, during the summer, everybody in ANTHRAX would go do something else. So, I think Frank had that plan anyway. So it's funny, because SATYRICON are old friends of mine from the Norwegian scene. Scott had told me, though, that Frank might do something like that. And I, of course, was surprised, but I think SATYRICON has changed from the very grim, dark stuff to more kind of like dark rock and roll. So I think that's cool. And I think he'll be great with that. He's a great bass player."

Lilker has not been idle over the past four decades, having played in a wide variety of bands. He was the bassist for the thrash/metal band NUCLEAR ASSAULT and the grindcore band BRUTAL TRUTH. He also plays bass for EXIT-13, MALFORMED EARTHBORN, THE RAVENOUS, OVERLORD EXTERMINATOR, VENOMOUS CONCEPT, and more.

To celebrate ANTHRAX's 40th anniversary in 2021, the band's social media accounts offered a series of video testimonials sent in by former bandmembers, fellow musicians, colleagues, and industry veterans sharing behind-the-scenes stories of working with the band and what ANTHRAX's legacy has meant all these years on. These videos honored each album in chronological order beginning with the original release, "Fistful Of Metal". The 11-week series included video contributions from former ANTHRAX bandmembers Lilker, Dan Spitz, John Bush, Neil Turbin and Rob Caggiano.

Lilker, who played bass on "Fistful Of Metal" and wrote most of the music for the record, told Knotfest about ANTHRAX's 40th anniversary: "I'm definitely proud of that whole thing. I think it's great that those guys are still going… That was real good memories back then. I know people go, 'Oh, they fucking threw you out after that,' and blah blah blah. But, obviously, I got over that and formed NUCLEAR ASSAULT. And next year we were doing S.O.D. So I'm not the kind of guy who stays bitter forever. But, yeah, the memories of those times, writing that record and recording it and everything was... 'Cause there was no blueprint or anything; we just had influences and just tried to put our own stamp on 'em back then. So, yeah, it kind of sucks being thrown out three days before [it got] released, but it gave me an excuse to do something else."

When interviewer Daniel Dekay noted that it was "really cool" of ANTHRAX to allow Lilker to tell his side of the story in the above-mentioned documentary series, Dan said: "There was times in the past where I might have been a little neglected on some of the stuff. So I think they wanted to make sure to just have a nice, inclusive vibe and not forget any particular details. Like the fact that I wrote 75 percent of 'Fistful Of Metal'. You know, a minor detail."

A number of years ago, Lilker told Voices From The Darkside that he was fired from ANTHRAX due to "a conflict" with the band's then-vocalist Neil Turbin. "He was an egotist (like most singers, haha) and it bothered him that I was taller than him," Lilker explained. "Also, he had no sense of humor, so if you busted his balls he took it seriously. So, he told the other members, 'I can't take Lilker anymore. It's him or me.' They decided he was more important as a familiar frontman to the fans, so they threw me out, even though I wrote 75 percent of the music on 'Fistful…'. Oh well. He was, of course, thrown out seven months later, and I played with Scott and Charlie in S.O.D. the next year."

In his 2014 autobiography "I'm The Man: The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax", Ian described Lilker's dismissal from ANTHRAX 30 years earlier as "the worst moment for me in the history" of the band. He went on to say that the decision to kick Dan out ANTHRAX was made by Turbin and not the other members of the group.

"The biggest dick move Neil ever pulled was when he fired Danny Lilker behind our backs after 'Fistful…' came out in January 1984," Ian wrote. "The main reason he did it, in my opinion, was because Danny is taller than him. He honestly didn't think someone should be taller than the frontman onstage. He thought it made him look bad, so he tried to stand as far away from Danny as possible, which was hard when we were playing stages the size of ping-pong tables."

In recent years, Ian has voiced his appreciation for the role "Fistful Of Metal" played in giving ANTHRAX its start, telling Metal Hammer: "Let's face it, 'Fistful Of Metal' gave us our career. It got the band some attention, made people all over the world aware of what we could do — and for that reason alone I have to be grateful to everyone involved. The record was vital in launching us, and everything we've done, and become, since stems from that debut record. I may be critical of it in some ways, but I could never do anything other than admit we owe it all to 'Fistful Of Metal'. If that had never happened… well, perhaps you would never have heard of ANTHRAX."

Find more on Anthrax
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • reddit
  • email

Comments Disclaimer And Information

BLABBERMOUTH.NET uses the Facebook Comments plugin to let people comment on content on the site using their Facebook account. The comments reside on Facebook servers and are not stored on BLABBERMOUTH.NET. To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@)gmail.com with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).