Anthrax has long been a thrash metal staple. Kicking off their long and successful run from NYC in the early 1980’s, Anthrax has helped pave the way for thrash metal and inspiring many to jump into the thrash metal genre. On Saturday morning, Charlie Benante of Anthrax stopped to talk with me for a few minutes about the current tour, the music, his art, his coffee and answered a few burning questions that fans have been wondering about.
With all the long time bands that are slowing calling it quits over the past few years and Anthrax taking part in the current Slayer End of Days final world tour, I had to ask Benante if fans need to be concerned about Anthrax calling it quits in the near future.
“We’re not thinking about that right now” Benante says. “We’re already months into thinking about what’s gonna happen next.”
On April 27, 2018 Anthrax released a live DVD called Kings Among Scotland that was filmed at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow, Scotland in 2017. Benante designed the cover for the Kings Among Scotland DVD, as a matter of fact, he does almost all of their artwork for their albums, dvd’s, merchandise and ad runs. Benante is not simply, “the Anthrax drummer”, he’s a driving force in the band with writing music and also the documentarian of the band, he’s cataloged years worth of material on the bands tours and that’s where so much of this amazing footage comes from for fans to enjoy and look back into the rich history of the band.
If you’ve followed Charlie Benante over the years, you probably already know about his other endeavor, coffee! For those of you who don’t know, Benante has a deep affection for coffee, not just one who needs a cup or two of coffee a day, but religiously takes time to enjoy his coffee and experience coffees from around the world. He started doing his own YouTube videos called Talking Coffee w/ Charlie Benante where he’s had a number of heavy metal legends talking about coffee and the true coffee experience.
Not only does Benante talk about coffee, he’s got his own coffee too. He set out years ago, before it got hip to have your own coffee blend on the market, to produce his own coffee blend and recently started working directly with Dark Matter Coffee where they’ve come up with two unique blends under the label Benante’s Blend. His offerings are a dark roast called Be All End All Blend and a medium roast called Forever Metal. You can pick up bags of his coffee directly from his website here: http://charliebenante.com/coffee.
Anthrax just released the live DVD, The Kings Among Scotland in April where you guys did two live shows in Glasgow. What was the emphasis for you guys to put this together, for doing a live show and documenting it? Was it something that was planned or was it decided kind of last minute to do a live show with some intense fans and perform the ‘Among the Living’ album live?
CHARLIE BENANTE: Well, the whole basis of that tour in Europe was for us to do almost like a night with us, so we would do two sets. We would do a set of collective group songs and then the other set would be the Among the Living album in its entirety. And I think, doing that, we pretty much set ourselves up for a bit of a challenge because it was a long, long set, you know. We talked about it like, “Look, if we’re gonna do this, let’s document it, too. Let’s not just, like, let it go. Let’s remember it in this way.”
So, we chose Scotland because it was one of the first territories to ever embrace us. They were the first ones to really embrace the band, and we’ve always had a pretty good relationship with them. And we wanted to do something special there and we wanted to do it at this specific place, too, cause it just has a bit of a vibe. It may not be, as far as how aesthetically it doesn’t look as good as say, playing in a big theater or something like that, but it had a vibe. So we couldn’t get all of our production in, but we tried to do our best. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing at a place called Saint Vitus in Brooklyn or if we’re playing to 200,000 people in Chile. You’re probably gonna see the same sweat and, you know, acrobatics at both of those venues.
I don’t think a lot of fans also realize that you’re also an artist and you design the band’s cover work, the ads, marketing tools, and the merch. Is it easy for you to come up with each design you do?
I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but a lot of times it’s a… Something just clicks with me. It’ll, like, an idea will spawn another idea, and then I’ll bounce it off of, like, my friend Steve Thompson, who does a lot of the illustrating now for us. I’ll bounce it off of him, and boom! He just comes up with something that’s really amazing, and that’s how I’ve been doing it for the past, I don’t know, almost 10 years with him. It’s good to find someone who gets the ideas and can put it on paper and just, “Yep. That’s it. Let’s do that.”
Sometimes I’ll do the sketch of it, you know. But when it comes to an album cover, that’s when I just take a while to just kinda absorb everything. Like, I like to get an idea of the music and the vibe, and this and that. And then the title just comes and then the cover just comes, the concept. Like this last one, this live one, I always wanted to do a, not tribute, but yeah, like, kinda like pay homage to Kiss, because we’ve been Kiss fans forever and I always wanted to do something like Rock and Roll Over cause it was one of my favorite album covers. I would just stare at that thing. So, this kinda lent itself to that. And, that’s what I wanted to do. And, if you look at… There’s little secrets in there. There’s, that maybe only a true Kiss fan would know certain things that are in that package that they would get. Most people wouldn’t get it. But if you look in my crown that I’m wearing, you’ll see a coffee mug and you’ll see a snare drum in my crown.
It’s a great cover. I noticed there was a tear drop and then, correct me if I’m wrong, but Scott’s beard is obviously looking a lot like someone else’s tongue from Kiss [Gene Simmons].
That’s right, that’s there. Yeah. I had a great time doing it and when Gene [Simmons] saw it he loved it. His comment was, “You guys promote Kiss more than Kiss promotes Kiss”.
Did you get any backlash from the diehard Kiss fans when they saw the cover of the new album or did they kinda get it and they were like, “This is cool.”
Yep. They love it. I remember doing, I did the Three Sides of a Coin show and they were telling me how much they loved it. Those are the diehardest Kiss fans you’ll ever, you know, meet.
So the Anthrax logo, did you design that, or how did the Anthrax logo come about?
I didn’t design that. No, I did not. The guy who did the first cover for us also did the logo. So, my thing is, we paid money for a terrible album cover but we got a really good logo out of it.
When I watch you guys on stage, I’m always wondering how you guys keep up with the intensity. The bands been doing this for a long time and you personally had surgery for carpal tunnel in 2013. How’s the carpal tunnel doing for you now?
I deal with my issues in a way that I have to deal with them. I have to kind of rest it when it needs to be rested, so I can come back and play at 100 percent. The days of me playing at, you know, in pain, I just hated it.
What has been the best part of the Anthrax journey for you over the years?
The best part… I mean, it definitely has its perks. It definitely has its greatness to it. I think the thing that people who get into this business take away from it, is there’s good and then there’s bad. For me, especially, I think the good outweighs the bad. Growing up, looking up to my favorites, my idols, whatever, I can understand how a kid nowadays is doing the same thing because it’s a part of it, you know, being a rock star, being a musician. That’s something that doesn’t happen to everybody. Well, I shouldn’t say…it does happen to everybody, you know, you can aspire to be a musician but it’s really the luck of the draw if you are successful at it. You know, that’s the big thing here, you know. I know people who have been trying forever and it just doesn’t seem to go that way. And then I guess there’s a point where you just have to call it a day.
Now, speaking about that and since you guys are out on tour with Slayer on their last and final tour, do the Anthrax fans have anything to be worried about any time soon with you guys calling it quits?
We’re not thinking about that right now, no. We’re already months into thinking about what’s gonna happen next. You know what I mean?
I just caught you guys live, out on tour with Slayer in Vancouver, B.C. this last week and the show was amazing. You guys were fantastic. How are you guys doing on this tour and how is this different for you guys as artists when you see the fan intensity with this current tour line up?
Well, I think the best part about something like this even though it is kind of like a bittersweet type of thing. It is, it’s really a metal fan… metal is such a loyal thing, such a loyal form of music, and I just think that coming from the point of view from a fan, this is a great thing to come to. I just think it’s a metal fan’s dream, you know, to come see all these bands and it’s probably something that they’ll remember for years after.
How is it for you guys as Anthrax, when you’re up on stage and you get to see the fans completely lose their minds?
I think it’s encouraging and it’s, of course, for us to see it at this stage of the game, the enthusiasm, just how vocal they are, you know, for every band on the bill, is pretty much, it shows how much they care and how passionate about this form of music that they really are.
You guys also have some “off the tour” shows that you’re gonna be doing during the summer run. Some dates with Testament and some with Lamb of God. Can the fans expect something different in the off day shows versus the tour shows?
It’s different batch of songs. It’s a longer set, so we’re still trying to learn, relearn some older songs to throw in.
Let’s talk coffee. Can you tell the fans how you decided to come up with your own coffee brand?
This was something that I did years ago independently, just myself. I found a roaster and explained to them the type of coffee that I was looking for to make and we got some different blends and we blended these and we roasted these a little darker. We put some of this in it and that in it, and we came up with two different types of blend. One is a darker roast, and the other one is a lighter roast. So, I was doing that for a while, and then I was introduced to the Dark Matter people who are in Chicago where I live, and we hit it off and we talked about possibly merging it. And now they do the coffee, they put it out for me. They love coffee, too, and they love music and it’s one of those things where it’s a good marriage. I just want it all over the place. I want it everywhere.
Being from Seattle myself, I love coffee and when I travel I look forward to the coffee experience in other cities and countries. Is there a city in the world when you’re out on tour that you know you’re gonna get a great cup of coffee or that you really look forward when you see that city is on the tour that you’re gonna hit?
Well, you mentioned, of course, Seattle. And Seattle has a long history of roasters and of course, the Starbucks Mecca is there. And I remember years ago going down to Pike’s and going into Starbucks and getting coffee there. And then, I also liked Seattle’s Best. I thought they had a really good bunch of coffees. I enjoy when I go to Portland there’s a place called Stump Town Coffee which I really enjoy.
They make really good coffee there. If I’m going to South America, I definitely have to hit up the Costa Rican’s, you know, they make a great cup of coffee. The Colombians make a really good coffee. So, from region to region, you’re gonna find something that you’re gonna enjoy. But, I remember the last time I was in Costa Rica, I had a lot of coffee.
So, fans can get your coffee, the Blend Be It All dark roast and Forever Metal medium roast on your website?
Yeah, and it’ll go to the Dark Matter site, or you can go to my site, either way. We get it to you as fast as possible.
So one last question, for the Anthrax fans who followed you guys all this time and have been on your journey with you, is there anything you want to say to them?
What can you say to someone who’s followed you throughout the history of the band? The ups, downs, the great times, the not so great times. And you stuck with us and for us, to make better music, is because of them. They push it. I really get upset when I read people posting stuff like “Bring back the old singer”, stuff like that. I understand you like that chapter of the band, but that’s then. It’s never coming back. And I would appreciate it if you’d just keep that to yourself because it’s an insult to the band that’s what it is right now.
Anthrax is currently out on tour with Slayer on the first leg of the End of Days tour that runs through June 20th. This leg has Slayer, Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth, and Testament. The second leg of the tour starts on July 26th with a small lineup change as Behemoth leaves the tour and Napalm Death joins the lineup. Anthrax will have a number of day off shows, some with Testament and some with Lamb of God. Fans have got to get out there and support this tour. It’s an amazing live show. Pick up your DVD Kings Among Scotland, if you haven’t already. You also need to check out Benante’s Blend coffee! Benante says, “go get some coffee and listen to the CD.”
Find all the current Anthrax Tour Dates here: https://anthrax.com/tour