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Anthrax came back for you all


No one really believed it anymore. First announced in May of 2009, Worship Music, the much awaited new Anthrax album went through a lot of turbulence. We aren’t going to re-detail everything, but here’s a brief summary of what happened, for those of you who didn’t follow the Anthrax’ saga:

April 2005 – John Bush is quietly benched to allow for a reunion of the line-up from the Among The Living era.

January 2007 – The band gets back to work without a vocalist. Indeed, Joey Belladonna decided not to go any further after the reunion tour.

December 2007 – A youngster called Dan Nelson is welcomed in the band to hold the mike and to record the album.

July 2009 – Announcement of Dan Nelson’s departure for some unknown health issues, reasons which were denied by the vocalist, and was later followed by a good old media battle.

Late 2009/Early 2010 – Return of John Bush who might, according to some sources, become the full-time vocalist once again.

Early 2010 – Scott Ian talks about lions and sparrows, but in the end, the lion goes home to its savanna, and the sparrow lands back on its branch.

Did you follow? No? It doesn’t really matter, because what’s important today is that Worship Music is about to be released. Even if the powerful John Bush’s absence might make a few sad fans, it’s undeniably pleasing to see the band back on track, ready to offer an album they’re really proud about. Proud to have made it until the end, kicking and screaming across the turmoil, uncertainties, changes, re-recordings, etc. « Even though it hasn’t sold one record yet, for me it’s still a very big success », admits Charlie Benante, drummer and iconic figure of the new-york-based five-piece, clearly relieved.

The drummer did indeed call us to explain the whole recent story of the band, and most of all, to talk about Worship Music before it finally gets into your ears.

Interview.

« Singers, for some reason, have this thing about them that’s like “Oh, I’m the singer”. I think they immediately believe that they deserve more than anyone, and maybe they feel like they have the hardest job in the band, but usually all they need to do is turn around and look at the guy in the back! That guy has the hardest job, the drummer! »

Radio Metal: How do you feel about releasing Worship Music at last, after the release has been postponed so many times?

Charlie Benante (drums): How do I feel about it… I feel good. It’s been a long time, and I think that the record is finally at the point where it’s presentable, and we can, you know, put it out there for everyone.

Does it live up to what you were expecting from this band’s line-up?

Oh you know what? At this point the record is way more than what I expected it to be, so I’m extremely happy with it.

In the past few years, the band’s relationship with singers looked like a soap opera to the eyes of fans. Are singers in general always so hard to manage?

(laughs) Okay, well… if you look at a lot of bands, I think you will see that there’s always a singer problem. There’s a term that lots of people use, and that’s the “lead singer disease”. Singers, for some reason, have this thing about them that’s like “Oh, I’m the singer”. I think they immediately believe that they deserve more than anyone, and maybe they feel like they have the hardest job in the band, but usually all they need to do is turn around and look at the guy in the back! That guy has the hardest job, the drummer! (chuckles)

John Bush was quite popular among the fans and many of those still think that it was a mistake to let him go for a reunion tour back in 2005. Is this a feeling you have shared at some point, or not at all?

The hardest thing about this is choosing this guy over that guy or whatever, and for me speaking right now, the classic Anthrax line-up is of course from the mid eighties that created the records Spreading the Disease and Among the Living. So it’s almost obvious that’s what people would want to see now. I mean we’ve seen it. We’ve seen the difference between playing with Joey and playing with John. There are way more people coming, and there’s more excitement. So I’m not taking anything away from John at all, I’m just basically stating a fact.

But just before Joey came back into the band, you at the time stated that the band was in the process of regrouping with John. So why didn’t things work out in the end?

John just came back to fulfill some commitments that we had, and do some shows and that was the end of it. He was not going to stay or anything like that. And I think around that time, everyone was scratching their heads and needed to get away from Anthrax. I think that’s why some of them went and did some other projects. But I just think that we hit a wall at that time, and we knew John wasn’t going to be a part of the band anymore, and we needed to move on.

At the end of the reunion tour in 2005, Joey refused to go any further and do an album, so what’s changed, according to you, in his mind for him to accept the second time that you asked?

At the time we were with a different organization that Joey did not really agree with. He did not like these people that were involved in the band at the time. And that was basically one of the basic reasons why he did not continue, because of the organization. I don’t blame him anyway for not doing it, because we didn’t want to stay with these people either. I think the reunion tour was done for the wrong reasons, and I think this was done now with the right intentions, and it was done in a very organic way and it wasn’t forced upon us. It was done in a very “handshake”, “hey man, come on, let’s try and work this together”, and that’s the way we did it.

« The title itself “Worship Music” is all about music lovers, whether they’re heavy metal fans, just hard rock fans, just music fans in general. […] Like, for me, the Beatles, for instance. I worship the Beatles. If it wasn’t for the Beatles, I’d not be here. And I don’t say that as a joke, I mean that. And that’s why Worship Music means that much to me, it’s because I understand it, and I live my life that way. »

There was a funny thing that Scott Ian said at one point on a television program. I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but he was asked about John Bush and Joey Belladonna, and he actually called John Bush a lion, and compared Joey to a bird. So I guess a bird is what Anthrax needed in the end…

Well I think Scott had to eat some of the words he said about that. But he only said that because I think he left things off with Joey kind of bad, and their relationship wasn’t very well back then when he said that. And I think Scott just harbored some ill feelings towards Joey and I think that’s kind of why he made that statement, you know?

When Joey Belladonna rejoined the band to record the album, it was almost finished, but you went back into the studio to work on other songs and work some more on the existing ones. So to what extent were the songs re-arranged when Joey Belladonna came back in the band?

Well, a lot of the lyrics were re-written, some of the music was re-worked, and the songs just have more excitement now. To be honest with you, we worked on a lot of the music and the vocals on the tour, and at some point it was very apparent that the way these songs were sounding was so much better than what they were. There was a new excitement to it, there was a new energy. And the best thing we could do was to go back into the studio and re-record them, to record them with this new excitement, you know?

When working with Joey, was there a conscious effort somehow from the band to make the music sound a little bit more in the Joey Belladonna era of thrash metal rather than the more modern sound of the last four albums?

No, it sounded the way it is, because it was the way it was. When he sings on the songs, it immediately brings you to that Anthrax sound, that Anthrax style that we created.

So there was no kind of nostalgia going on in the writing the album?

No.

The title of the album is what seems to have always remained the same through the years and the changes. Have you had any doubt at some point about whether you had to keep the name or not?

No, I always wanted to keep the title, because it meant a lot, especially to me. The whole Worship Music thing… If I break it down to you, you would understand that the title itself “Worship Music” is all about music lovers, whether they’re heavy metal fans, just hard rock fans, just music fans in general. They’re the bond that you have with you fans, and your fans pretty much worship everything that you do. And there are certain fans out there that love maybe three bands. But of those three bands, they will get everything from these bands! Everything that these bands put out. And it’s a full devotion and love. It’s a form of worship. And that’s how I am too, with a lot of the bands that I still love to this day. Like, for me, the Beatles, for instance. I worship the Beatles. If it wasn’t for the Beatles, I’d not be here. And I don’t say that as a joke, I mean that. And that’s why Worship Music means that much to me, it’s because I understand it, and I live my life that way.

That’s actually pretty close to what the title of the previous album meant “We’ve Come for You All” is actually also about worshiping the fans.

Well, yeah, but it’s not as extreme as Worship Music. We’ve Come for You All is probably the start of this whole theme, which brings me to another thing, I really want to make some sort of graphic novel that ties in a lot of these covers for these records. It’s something that’s always in the back of my mind and someday I will get around to doing it.

Dan Nelson had already recorded some vocal parts for the album. He recently expressed himself about Worship Music and he seems disappointed that the versions of the tracks he had recorded will never be released. Do you think this alternate version of the album will see the light of day one way or another someday, or at least some of the songs?

Not from us. I see no reason for it.

Many fans would probably like to hear them…

Why?

Just by curiosity.

I don’t think we would ever release it, and the record company I don’t think would be too keen on releasing it either. I feel that’s a step way, way backwards.

In the end do you think that all this record has been through makes it a particularly special record?

It is a very special record because all the experience, be it bad or good, went into the record. It’s very cathartic, this whole record. For us, it’s like living through it. The end result is the greatest result because it’s the music, and the music always does something to me, it’s healing. When you listen to music, you get happy, you get excited. And that’s what this record does to me, and that’s what it means to me. It means success, you know? Even though it hasn’t sold one record yet, for me it’s still a very big success.

(About Andreas Kisser) « It was really, really sad, because I didn’t want to see him go. I said “I wish you could stay with us too, and have three guitar players on stage!” it would be killer, you know? « 

The band has lately integrated in its setlist one John Bush era song, which is ‘Only’. Can we expect to hear more of these songs sung by Joey?

I would like do to more songs from that era, but right now we’re going to concentrate on the new record and maybe slowly bring some other songs in.

Is Joey okay for it?

Yeah. I think Joey’s main concern now is learning these new songs before we tackle anything older.

On to another topic, it’s now been two consecutive years that Anthrax has participated to the Big 4 shows, but Anthrax is the only band of the four to be native from the east coast, and not from California. Does that put Anthrax a little bit a part from the other bands of the Big 4?

Well, of course it puts us apart from those other three bands because of the location, you know. We’re a New York band, we were never anything but a New York band, but if any of those bands were close to New York, I mean, Metallica spent quite a bit of time in New York, but Metallica is from San Francisco. You know, they’ve established themselves as a San Francisco band. Slayer is definitely from Los Angeles, same as Megadeth. But Anthrax has this New York way of thinking that has always been in a New York state of mind.

Lately, Scott Ian was temporarily replaced by Andreas Kisser from Sepultura. How did it feel not to see Scott on stage with you? He’s such an iconic figure for the band…

It was weird, but that weirdness immediately went away once Andreas started playing because Andreas is one of the best guitar players that I’ve ever seen or had the pleasure to work with. And as soon as he started playing man, when we had a rehearsal, Andreas knew more songs than we did. And he was so excited, and that excitement made me so excited and I couldn’t wait for that first show. It was sad when we played our last show together. It was really, really sad, because I didn’t want to see him go. I said “I wish you could stay with us too, and have three guitar players on stage!” it would be killer, you know?

Can’t Anthrax have three guitar players?

Sure, of course we could! Why not, you know? He’s still doing his Sepultura thing, but if there was ever a time you know for us to have a guitar player, he would be the guy.

You guys have played Refuse/Resist with Andreas on stage. I know that Anthrax has recorded a lot of cover songs in the past so have you thought about recording this song with Andreas or having him as a guest on an Anthrax song?

That would be cool, I’ve never thought about that!

Do you have any news from Scott and his child?

Oh yeah, he’s extremely happy, everything’s great and now he’s started a new chapter in his life, being a dad! Some of us in the band have had this experience and of course are still having it, but it’s a great thing when it happens.

Do you think it can have an impact on the band?

Oh I’m sure it does! It has an impact on me. I try to take my daughter to as much as I possibly could to give her that experience and see what dad does.

Last question, what’s next for Anthrax?

We have one more Big 4 show this year, at the Yankee Stadium and then I think we’re going to do a US run, and then we’re going to go to the Far East and I think we’re going to come over to Europe sometime next year.

Phone interview conducted the 15th of august 2011
Transcription: Stan

Anthrax website: anthrax.com



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