Music Interview: Anthrax Vs. The Future

Benante Is Blunt About The Basics

August March
5 min read
Anthrax vs. the Future
Charlie Benante of Anthrax (Courtesy of the artist)
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As the creative force behind thrash-metal icons Anthrax, drummer and songwriter Charlie Benante exudes a casual, forceful confidence as a musician and often as a spokesperson for a band known for its hard-edged sound as much as for its equally sharp social criticism. Weekly Alibi spoke with Benante ahead of their Wednesday, Feb. 10, concert at Sunshine Theater (120 Central SW).

Alibi: Tell me about your new album For All Kings.

I think listeners who’re familiar with Anthrax will resonate with what this record is. It’s kind of a Back to the Future-type of music because there are songs on here that are very reminiscent of our past. But, you know, there are songs that are very reminiscent of our future.

How so?

A lot of this music is very modernized. It’s not like when you put this record on, you’re like, “Oh, jeez! I’ve been transported back to 1987.” It’s done in a very modernized way. The riffs are still very much Anthrax, very much in that realm of thrash metal, heavy metal, you know? So my whole thing is to do what you do from the heart. It’s easy to be calculated nowadays, it’s so easy to be marketed nowadays, but for me, I am still of that time when you make a record for your fans and yourself. You really stay the course. Eventually everything in music, everything in general, always goes in a cycle. If it ain’t hip now, it probably will be, at some point or another, again.

You had a lot to do with the composition and recording of the songs. Tell me a little about that process and how it works with the rest of the band.

I usually come up with the basic idea of the song. Sometimes I write the whole thing, where it’s a demo of a start and a finish. Sometimes I’ll just have a few things and when we meet up together, we build something up from that; Scott (Ian) writes lyrics for it, and one of the other guys in the band, Frankie (Bello), helps out with melody—stuff like that. Joey(Belladonna) goes in and even comes up with stuff right on the spot.

This album has a lot to do with your listeners and the world you’ve created around and within Anthrax. Any comment on that?

I believe the listener should have the experience you put out for him. With this record, I really wanted the cover to coincide with material on the record.

You’re talking about a multimedia experience. Alex Ross designed the artwork for the album?

I designed it, and he made it come to life. He’s one of my favorite artists. We were having coffee and discussed ideas. He shot the first one down, but he liked the second idea. We started to build from there. Of course he has thoughts on it. Alex conceptualized the whole composition on the cover.

The cover art features a stained glass window with the Anthrax logo and a crowd gathered. Does that imagery speak to the band’s intention to really reach out to your audience?

Correct! I wanted our last two albums—full albums—to all somehow tie in. They are from this world, I don’t know where it is, I don’t know where this world exists. Maybe the kings that figure into the album’s title come from another place, a world yet to be or maybe one that’s already passed.

Does that sort of symbolism figure prominently into the music that you write and that the band plays?

Yes. Absolutely.

Do you think the people who listen to your work relate to these ideas and mythologies illustrated through your music?

I think they get it but there’s too much available to consume nowadays. In the past, you’d buy a CD or record and go home and focus on it. There was no such thing as going online all day. So many people are consumed by the internet.

Do you think that tendency toward distraction and multitasking negatively impacts the experience of consuming music?

I absolutely think that. The idea of the internet was more information but it’s become a place of misinformation and distraction. Listeners lose focus. The traditional rock and roll business models have also been destroyed by the rise of the internet.

You prefer the traditional mode of recording and distributing work? Do you miss record stores?

I love the fact that Barnes & Noble says “Fuck you, we’re gonna carry vinyl.” It may not be 100 percent the record store experience, but it’s at least 30 percent of visiting Tower Records of yore. With these streaming companies, the record companies are the ones that get paid—not the artists. If I had to wait for a check for a song streaming online, I’d have to wait ’til that fucking stream was 10,000 plays old; then maybe I’d get a check for $5.

In the face of these cultural changes, will the live Anthrax experience provide an authentic vision of what you all actually represent?

I was talking to someone about this just the other day when we did an in-store in Chicago. Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) was in town, and a friend was driving us around. He looked at me and said, “Man, you look shot.” Musicians have to do more in a day now than we ever did before. We do signings, phone interviews, in-store signings, a meet and greet at the concert … We eat dinner, we warm up and then we play. It’s exhausting. This is what we have to do to fill the void. We go out there and give excellent performances to the people who understand our love and commitment to rock and roll.
Charlie Benante

courtesy of artist

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