By Ferdy Belland
“I still have the thrill to play live again and see people,” says Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante.
“I have that kind of excitement, but I don’t know if I have a thrill for ’the road,’ as such… That’s the crappy part! These days on tour, I don’t have as much time to myself as I once did. We all have lots to do during our day: media interviews, meet-and-greets. It takes time. I mean, read a book? Yeah, right. The days of reading a book have now dwindled down to checking e-mail, or looking online and seeing who said what about who…” he says, then laughs.
“But I joke a lot.”
Regardless of the rigors and the grind, Anthrax rides again, hitting the highways with metalcore stalwarts Killswitch Engage (and Havok!) on a repeat cycle of the highly successful ‘Killthrax’ tour, which smashes into Alberta via Edmonton, Calgary, and Grande Prairie.
As one of Anthrax’s earliest members, Benante joined in the band in 1983, shortly before recording sessions began for their debut album ‘Fistful of Metal’. He’s been there ever since, originally establishing himself as a brilliant drummer in the burgeoning thrash-metal scene. Hailing from New York City, Anthrax were one of the few American East Coast thrash bands in a community largely centered on the San Francisco Bay Area. Hailed as one of the ‘Big Four’ of the genre alongside Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer, they’ve released a whopping 11 albums, selling over 10 million copies worldwide. Benante’s adept multi-instrumental talents (he plays electric guitar as well as he plays drums) quickly made himself invaluable as a co-writer on most of the band’s music. Now, Anthrax’s current lineup is mostly a re-solidification of the band’s ‘80s salad days that includes vocalist Joey Belladonna, rhythm guitarist Scott Ian, and bassist Frank Bello alongside relative newcomer Jonathan Donais.
Given that two years have now passed since ‘For All Kings’, the subject of a new Anthrax album is brought up.
“There’s no real news,” regrets Benante. “The only new release we have is the live DVD, which comes out this spring. That’s where we’re at. I’ve been compiling new riffs and new pieces, but nothing complete or cohesive. I haven’t been collaborating with Scott or anyone else: just recording my own private demos. I’ve sent some rough pieces to the other guys, and they’ve liked them. It’d be wise to focus on a new Anthrax album, once the dust settles from this coming tour, but I don’t want to jump ahead and say: ‘Yeah, we have this on the go!'”
Benante elaborates on his current songwriting state of mind.
“I commented a while back about how the new material sounded very angry and pissed-off,” he says.
“And that’s the truth. It’s my reflection of the world right now. The world is now a very volatile place. Back in the ’80s, when we were making those other, earlier albums, there was anger in certain things, in politics and whatnot… But there was always a sense of peace, too. These days, I worry. Every day. I have anxiety because of this. And I’m not alone. The tones of the new music are a bit darker and angrier than normal. That’s what I’m feeling.”
As a coping tool for the volatility of the world, Benante indulges in film memorabilia. While bandmate Scott Ian is known to fans as an avid comics collector, few know Charlie is a rabid fan of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 blockbuster ‘Jaws’; his personal collection of the movie’s memorabilia was impressive enough to land him a spot in the 2012 documentary ‘The Shark is Still Working’. His collection was featured alongside those of director Steven Spielberg and other celebrity ‘Jaws’ geeks like Kevin Smith, M. Night Shyamalan, and Eli Roth.
“A few months ago I went to a horror convention and picked up a ‘Jaws’ patch,” Benante admits. “But I haven’t been adding a lot to the collection lately. What I did get… Someone MADE me a life-size Han Solo frozen in carbonite! So I’m very, very happy about that! My collection focuses just on ‘Jaws’ itself: I don’t care too much for the sequels. Maybe ‘Jaws II,’ in a pinch, but the rest of them…? Um, not so much. They just got worse and worse, sequel after sequel… But there’s nothing like that first movie.”
Despite whatever nuisance of the grind of life, touring, or disintegrating film franchises, Benante yearns for the road and its wonders.
“I always remember Alberta as one of the prettiest places in Canada I’ve ever seen. I love the big, open plains, the rolling hills, the mountains in the distance. It’s just beautiful, such a nice place. Looking so forward to coming back!”
Metal legends Anthrax perform with Killswitch Engage and Havoc on the “Killthrax II” tour. They will perform on Monday, Feb. 19 at the Ranch (Edmonton), Tuesday, Feb. 20 at Revolution Place Casino (Grand Prairie) and on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at MacEwan Hall Ballroom (Calgary).Anthrax, Havoc, Killswitch Engage, Killthrax II, Killthrax II tour, MacEwan Hall Ballroom, Revolution Place Casino, the Ranch