ANTHRAX Drummer CHARLIE BENANTE On Upcoming 40th Anniversary Tour – “People Want To Come And Celebrate”

January 10, 2023, a year ago

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ANTHRAX Drummer CHARLIE BENANTE On Upcoming 40th Anniversary Tour – “People Want To Come And Celebrate”

Anthrax was formed in 1981 by Scott Ian and Dan Lilker. 2021 marked the band’s 40th anniversary; unfortunately, Covid derailed many of the planned celebrations. In 2022, Anthrax celebrated four decades together by touring North America with Black Label Society and Hatebreed. Beginning next week, Anthrax will embark upon another 40th anniversary tour of The United States and Canada, with Black Label Society and Exodus. Prior to hitting the road, Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante spoke exclusively with BraveWords scribe Aaron Small about this 24-date trek which runs January 17 to February 18.

Seeing as 2023 is actually the 42nd anniversary of Anthrax, are these tour dates the final hurrah for the 40th anniversary celebrations?

“We don’t even know. We’re celebrating this as much as we want to celebrate it, as much as people want to come and celebrate. Being that we lost some time, we would like to take it a little bit further. So, I think we’re leaving it like that; kind of open.”

The first leg consisted of Anthrax, Black Label Society, and Hatebreed in July and August 2022. For the second leg in January and February 2023, Hatebreed has been replaced by Exodus. Was Hatebreed unable to play these upcoming dates, or did you want to change it up?

“They couldn’t make it. There was talk early on in that tour about doing another run, and they had conflicting dates. So that’s how that happened.”

Exodus formed in 1979 in California. Anthrax formed in 1981 in New York. Exodus released their first album, Bonded By Blood, in 1985. Anthrax released their first album, Fistful Of Metal, in 1984. Both bands have released 11 studio albums. There’s a lot of similarities, but also a lot of differences between the two bands; it’s a great pairing.

“We’ve been on tour with Exodus, we’ve taken that band out a lot through the years. They’re good friends of ours; especially Gary (Holt, guitarist). We’ve known Gary since the early days. Then when we did a bunch of those Slayer dates, Gary was there (replacing Jeff Hanneman). Gary’s been very, very close with us.”

Back in the mid ‘80s, there was no Internet. It was tape traders and fanzines spreading the word about new metal bands. Do you remember the first time you heard Exodus, and what was your initial reaction?

“The first time I heard Exodus was their demo tape. Actually, a friend of mine gave it to me. Then, another friend of mine was doing a record label, Torrid Records, and they were going to put out the first Exodus record. That’s when I heard what the record was sounding like. To this day, I say the same thing – that first Exodus record, to me, is the best thrash record that’s ever come out. I always put that #1.”

Black Label Society, led by the one and only Zakk Wylde, is playing between Anthrax and Exodus. BLS started much later, forming in 1998. But they’ve also released 11 studio albums. It’s rather unique that each band on this tour has 11 albums under their belt.

“Oh yeah, it’s crazy.”

Obviously, Zakk had a tremendous history with Ozzy Osbourne well before Black Label Society came to fruition. Zakk is quite the character. Do you remember your first time meeting him?

“I remember it very well. It was in Florida on the first day of the No Rest For The Wicked Tour with Ozzy. I had brought a BMX bike out with me on tour, and I was riding it around in the arena while Ozzy’s band was doing the soundcheck. Zakk was up there playing ‘Hotel California’ (by The Eagles), and he was playing the lead note for note. I stopped riding my bike just to watch him play it because, I was blown away and intrigued by it! Wow! This dude knows these licks note for note. After that, we were backstage and that’s when I first met Zakk. He knew a similar circle of people, and Zakk back then was kind of shy, but still had this look and still had the chops. I always remember that; the first meeting. I told him about that on the tour (in 2022) and he remembered it too. Exactly.”

Will the 2023 Anthrax setlist feature the same songs played in 2022, or will you change it up?

“I think we’re going to change a song or two. You also have to remember, there’s some areas we haven’t hit on this upcoming tour; they never saw these songs. People always forget that. You go on tour, and the next night, those people haven’t seen it. Sometimes you want to hear a band change a song, and we did do that on this last run. There’s two slots in the set where we kind of interchange a song here and there. We like to keep that open. But we don’t like to change the whole set!”

Because it’s a three-band bill, Anthrax isn’t playing for two and a half hours. Last year, Joey Belladonna did “Only”, which was originally sung by John Bush. However, Anthrax made four albums with Bush, is Joey going to tackle anything from Stomp 442, Volume 8, or We’ve Come For You All?

“I would love to do that. I would love to bring in another song from either Fistful Of Metal – we were doing ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’ (originally sung by Neil Turbin). There’s some songs that I love, and I miss playing as well. There’s a song off Sound Of White Noise called ‘Potter’s Field’ that’s always been one of my favourites; I can totally hear Joey kill it on that.”

2023 marks the 30th anniversary of Sound Of White Noise. John Bush has been busy with Armored Saint, as they were opening for W.A.S.P., but are there any plans to celebrate that milestone with a re-release or live dates?

“There’s no plans as of right now to do anything like that. But it’s still one of my favorite records.”

By the time this Anthrax tour starts, you and Zakk will have played seven shows together as Pantera, alongside Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown. Do you foresee any jamming of Pantera songs between Anthrax and Black Label Society on this January / February run?

“We haven’t talked about that, but you never know what could happen. I would listen to those Black Label songs when I was warming up, and a lot of them grew on me - ‘Stillborn’, of course ‘In This River’, ‘Angel Of Mercy’.”

In July 2021, Anthrax held a special worldwide livestream event celebrating the band's 40th anniversary. It was released on Blu-ray a year later in July 2022. Will you film any upcoming shows on this outing with Black Label Society and Exodus for potential release?

“There’s no plans to do that for this run. I swear to you, if I go on YouTube right now and I put in ‘Anthrax 2022’, all these songs pop up from people filming (with their phones). It’s kind of weird because, for me, I like going to a show and not knowing anything. Just being surprised by the setlist and stuff like that. But other people need to know beforehand. You ruin the surprise. Going back to your question, I don’t think we’re going to be filming any of the shows.”

Anthrax released their last studio album, For All Kings, in 2016. The new, currently untitled effort has been a topic of conversation for quite some time now. Can you provide an update? 

“To be honest with you, Scott (Ian, guitarist) and I were talking… and I think we’ve both come to the realization that, maybe it’s not the way it should be anymore, putting a record out of 12 songs. Things have changed so drastically from the way it used to be. What if it’s cool enough to just put out four songs, five songs, and enjoy those songs? Really enjoy five f*cking songs that are killer! Then, six months later, or so, you put out another five. Maybe that’s the business model – let’s leave out business. Maybe that’s how it is. That’s the model that we can do. Because it just seems like… I swear dude, these days, the attention span is… I don’t even know if people can handle that anymore. I see these records coming out. ‘Oh yeah, I heard the new blah, blah, blah.’ And then they forget about it. I don’t want people to forget about it. Here’s three or four songs and I want people to be like, ‘I love these f*cking songs!’ Then a couple months later, another batch of them come out. It just keeps you wanting more. In this day and age, I think it’s better doing it that way, than just waiting and waiting for a record. It’s just something to think about. And I’m not saying we’re going to do that, it’s just a thought.”

Whichever format Anthrax decides upon to release new material, it must be awesome knowing that you have such an eager fanbase that is ready to devour whatever you put out.

“Yeah, and believe me, I feel horrible that we’ve waited so long. But with the Covid thing, and everything else that has happened, it just got sidetracked. And I don’t want to make a record that’s just ok. I want to make a great album! I want to make a statement.”

Catch Anthrax, Black Label Society and Exodus live at the following shows:

17 - Boise, ID - Revolution Concert House
18 - Seattle, WA - Paramount Theatre
20 - Vancouver, BC - PNE Forum
21 - Penticton, BC - So. Okanagan Events Ctr.
22 - Calgary, AB - Grey Eagle Events Centre
24 - Winnipeg, MB - Burton Cummings Theatre
25 - Grand Forks, ND - Alerus Center
27 - Madison, WI - The Sylvee
28 - Mt. Pleasant, MI - Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort
29 - Chicago, IL - Radius
31 - Montclair, NJ - Wellmont Theater

2 - Portland, ME - Cross Insurance Arena
3 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena
4 - Bethlehem, PA - Sands Bethlehem Event Center
5 - Boston, MA - House Of Blues
7 - Corbin, KY - Corbin Arena
8 - St. Louis, MO - The Factory at The District
10 - San Antonio, TX - Tech Port Center + Arena
11 - Houston, TX - Bayou Music Center
13 - Omaha, NE - The Admiral Theater
14 - Oklahoma City, OK - The Criterion
15 - Albuquerque, NM - Revel
17 - Riverside, CA - Riverside Municipal Auditorium
18 - Oakland, CA - Fox Theater

(Anthrax photos by Andy Buchanan and Ignacio Galvez)


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