ANTHRAX – 2 exclusive interviews for hellfest.fr
“Buy music, don’t steal it.” – Charlie Benante – 12/16/2015
INTERVIEW#1: CHARLIE BENANTE
How is it doing a day of interviews like this?
Sometimes I get sick of talking about myself!
I was kind of curious… I thought you all lived in New York when did you move to Chicago?
I moved out here a couple of years ago, it’s a long story!
What I didn’t realize before researching this interview is that that you are the beating heart of Anthrax…
You said that, I didn’t! (laughter)
Well how did the archiving thing start?
Since day one I was a bit of a hoarder. I would collect one of everything that we did and just put it away. I would tell our sound guy, “Here record the show for me!” I would just put it away. I would take posters from gigs and put that away. I would get one of every shirt and just put it away. That’s just me.
How do you store it all?
We have a storage space which is sort of like a really big attic.
Somewhere in Chicago there is an Anthrax lair?
Has there ever been a dream of doing an Anthrax museum?
No, but that’s way over the top. It would be fun though.
I was really impressed with the new record, now that you’ve had it in the can for a while how do you feel about it?
I love it. I really do. I think it’s an achievement. Believe me, I feel so fulfilled with my own contribution to the band. Before even writing one of these songs I was a little worried the songs wouldn’t come and then they did. I always say that after the sixth song is written I can breathe a little easier because we are well on our way.
You wrote twenty for this album though…
That was the goal. I didn’t want to do twenty bullshit songs either, I wanted to do twenty really good songs. There are twenty songs but not all of them are finished lyrically and stuff.
Is there a chance of getting an EP or something next year?
I think something like that could evolve. I could see us going back and finishing those songs and doing an EP. I don’t want to make everyone wait for another full length. I would love to do another one of those Anthems (EP released in 2013 and featuring cover songs) and maybe put two new songs with that.
Of the seven remaining how many do you think could come out?
There’s three good ones, really good ones that are not quite finished yet but one of them I know is being worked on now with something else in mind for it.
That’s really fascinating… this was your first time writing this much material right?
Correct. I don’t know why it just flowed so much this time but I was really inspired. I was just happy that it was coming out. I didn’t fight it I just went with it.
It must be encouraging that thirty three years into being a band you could suddenly have this giant creative windfall.
That’s exactly what I thought! I was just so thankful that it was happening!
It’s just mindblowing.
Something I was curious about, obviously the carpal tunnel thing sucks, but what is your relationship like with Jon Dette?
Great. I love him. Great drummer. I’m very thankful that he exists.
How did he become the go to backup drummer for the Big Four?
Well a few years ago my mom got sick so I missed some dates to be there with her and our normal guy couldn’t do it so we asked Jon to fill in and he did. Once Jon joined the band from Shadows Fall I think the others guy thought it would be weird to have two backups so they asked him to continue being the backup. That’s how that went.
The album art is I think my favourite Anthrax art thus far, where did the inspiration for that come from?
I was having coffee with Alex Ross and talking about concepts and if he would be into doing it. I told him a few of the concepts that I had. One or two he didn’t get excited about but this one he was like “I think you’ve got something” and we kind of bounced off of each other after that. Once he had the concept in his head I was like “That’s perfect!”. He did an awesome job, he took my idea and made it come to life.
I’m looking at it right now, and the details blow me away.
Was there any significance as to how the statues were lined up?
That’s a pretty funny story in itself. Originally I had the statues going across. Alex said “No, no, no”. There were two things he brought in. First was the arrangement of the statues and also that the statues were the band. Originally I didn’t want it to be the band but he insisted so I went with it. If you look at the formation it kind of is in the order that each guy came into the band pretty much.
Have you considered doing figurines?
That hasn’t come up yet but I wanted to do a chess set. I think we kind of squashed that and now it’s going to be a poker set. I think a chess set would have been killer.
I wanted to ask – have you been able to look at the Hellfest line up?
Yeah, it’s pretty cool!
You’ve played it before right? What did you think?
I think it’s one of the better festivals. I think it may have more meaning this year due to the fact that Paris was under attack. The security will probably be pretty beefed up.
Are you concerned about going back to tour Europe with all that happening?
Yep. It’s bad enough that we all have a fear of flying and throwing this other shit into the mix makes it a little harder.
What does this mean for the future of Anthrax?
The same thing it means for all people doing what they love to do, making a living and enjoying life. It just means that there’s going to be a bunch of assholes trying to fuck it up for you.
What do you love so much about music?
It just makes my day. It gets me through. It puts me in a better mood. I think music in general helps a lot of people with their everyday lives. I wish more people would get absorbed into it and try not to let that fucking outside life that is sometimes depressing them or making them act out and hateful in and instead just listen to Iron Maiden and just mellow out and enjoy it.
Any final words of wisdom for me?
Buy music, don’t steal it.
Interview: Matt Bacon.
New York City – 12/16/2015
Many thanks to Heidi Robinson-Fitzgerald
“So, I never played Hellfest? Is it a Summer Festival?” – Joey Belladonna – 10/26/2015
INTERVIEW #2: JOEY BELLADONNA
ANTHRAX only played Hellfest once in 10 years. It was in 2009 and you were not part of the band at the time. Did your band mates tell you something about the festival?
Nothing… No… When they played those shows, I mean… Maybe few days before, they can say in a conversation “Oh, yeah we will play there” and that’s all… So, I never played Hellfest?
No, you did not.
Is it a Summer Festival?
Yes, it is!
Yeah, maybe next year, right? Who knows? I don’t know! You know, I am very happy to play in such things, Summer big festivals, because they are very cool places to be. There is always something that people remember at this time. And it is a big one, I think. Yeah?
Yeah it is the biggest metal French festival! Have you already heard about Hellfest?
Yes, I have heard about Hellfest, but you know, about these shows and festivals: you don’t know where they are until you go! You see the whole surroundings, backstages, the tour bus… You start to remember it that way. So, I remember Download festival that way, I remember we did a big European tour two years ago and I don’t know how we missed Hellfest (laughs)!.
It’s never too late Joey! Next year, do you know that Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax will be at Hellfest? What do you think about it?
Oh, Really? I will play at Hellfest next year?
Yes, you will!
Is it already announced?
No, it is not!
But you know, don’t you?
Yes, I do, as I am a part of the Hellfest crew (I turn my back and show my jacket)
Woow, Ok! So, you got the information! Which day will we play?
The last one of the festival, on Sunday, I think (Anthrax got moved to Friday since the interview). And Black Sabbath will be the headliner.
Oh yeah, that will be great! With Slayer and Megadeth, that means we will be 3 of the Big 4! We all know each other very well, we are all friends, and it is good for the fans, I think. Big 4 would be nice but that’s three, so… Well, thank you for the information!
You are welcome Joey! So now let’s talk about the official lyric video for “Evil Twin” which has been released few days ago. It is the first new song from Anthrax’s brand new album set for a first quarter 2016 worldwide release. The powerful message of this song goes straight to the heart of French people because of the Charlie Hebdo massacre perpetrated in Paris in January 2015. Why is Anthrax particularly concerned by this topic?
Yes I have heard about Charlie Hebdo, like 9/11… That is not very good you know… It is so sad to have these assholes trying to deal with things. You just don’t need to be around… Now, you have this fear everywhere… That changes everything you know… And it sucks… I don’t know what else can be said, excepted “be aware of it now”…
According to you, about the last record, what will be its main value added in the Anthrax’s discography?
I think this album is a really nice continuation of the last one, back on the flow of what we do. It’s a heavy record, heavier than the last one according to me. It is really intense, with great moments. So I am very happy about it. I think when you listen to it, you may need a couple of listens because it could take some time to hear every nuances, to hear each detail and everything.
Spreading The Disease celebrates its 30th anniversary. Does that mean we can expect something special on stage tonight, for example? Or later on when the band will tour Europe and festivals?
Yeah, we’ve got some stuff, yes! We will put a few numbers from this record on our setlist, yeah! Because I love this record, you know. It has been a long time for me, it was my very first real original record that I have ever did. I was curious to hear how I was gonna sound like. And it was with Anthrax, you know. I remember when I joined: I used to do a lot of covers, I had a little bit original songs, but not very much. And the album never got a lot of attention, like some of the other stuff, not even been a gold record yet. Maybe it will, it would be, a real gold record for Spreading The Disease (laughs!).
Do you think you will re-start your solo career in the future or do you want to exclusively dedicate your artistic career to ANTHRAX?
Oh, yeah… You know, I have songs, and I love doing my own thing, but I try not to interfere with my Anthrax’ career. Like some people who try to do everything at the same time… To me, it is just a little bit too much, sometimes. I have people to work with, and sometimes not. It makes things really time consuming, so I have basically recorded demos, songs not finished, but I love them, and I’ve got some cool ideas! We are so involved in what we do, I love to see people really interested in. Sometimes I wonder if I can go a little bit lighter, not too much in metal, or not too much in rock, something in the middle. Light does not mean “pop” but just “classic”, some more bluesy king of rock. But, I don’t know. I came up with metal, classic metal that king of stuff: something very predictable but cool, with good vocals, so I have a lot of rooms for everything.
As you are doing promotion today, interviews, meet & great with fans, etc. Are you not afraid of challenging too much your voice before the gig?
Probably not (laughs), no! You know what? Stuff like that does not really affect me in a way and I can function. But you are right, some people prefer to stay in a room without saying anything and I think they are too cautious. But about me, I can talk, maybe not too much of course, but I can talk!
Mercure Hotel-Porte de Pantin, Paris – 10/26/2016
Many thanks to Valérie (Nuclear Blast)