Legendary Rock recently conducted an interview with ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Legendary Rock: I wanna clear up a few misconceptions in this interview. For starters, what do you say to people who think that you never really wanted Joey [Belladonna, vocals] back in the band or that he is only back because he was your last choice?
Charlie: Well I've seen things here and there that say things like that, but I have to say when this whole "Big Four" tour with METALLICA was gonna take place there was only one person who a lot of us in the band thought should do it, and that person was Joey. He was there in the '80s with us and this whole experience touring and recording with Joey was quite a bit of revelation for the rest of us in the band. His contribution to the band is undeniable. This is the best he's ever sounded and I think we sound the best we've ever sounded as a band and for once we've just let this thing go and let it be organic and let ANTHRAX be what it wanted to be. You know, there's a lot of people who are gonna talk shit about bands, they do it all the time. I equate it to like sports people because it becomes that way, like people are on Team Joey or some people are on Team Bush. What we kept thinking while making it was, "OK, let's just let this happen, just let it happen and then let fans hear it and make a decision." Don't be so stupid as to say, "Oh, I will never buy another thing from them if they get back with Joey." It's like, "OK, you like the band, why don't you just wait and then make the decision to like it or not like it after you hear it?" That's the way it should be; it shouldn't be a predetermined "Oh, I'm never gonna go near that because I know I'm not gonna like it" kind of thing. If that was the case than I would have never listened to VAN HALEN with Sammy, I would have just been like "Never!!!" How can you really be like that?
Legendary Rock: I know some longtime fans and friends of mine that have supported the band through all the lineups can get frustrated. They have occasionally felt like things were said or done by you or Scott [Ian, guitar] have alienated other members of the band, or worse yet, alienated the fans. They feel like this lineup of the band is inevitably going to change and they can never get comfortable. Do you think that the fans who've felt jerked around or alienated are justified in feeling that way?
Charlie: They probably feel that way because of the last six or seven years, yeah. They probably feel that there's not a solid foundation because of things that have happened over the last couple of years. I don't blame them for saying stuff like that, but I will say in our defense that Joey's been with us now for quite a while and it's totally different than it was when we first did the reunion tour [in 2005]. This is a much more real, much more organic thing and a much more natural thing. Nobody is forcing anyone to be here, everyone is here because they wanna be here, and as you can hear when you play the record it is a really solid unit. Nobody wants to see this end or go do another thing right now. That's basically the truth. It's kind of been chaos for the last few years before this and a lot of us have tried to deal with it as best we can without it being documented but a lot of it has still been documented. I am embarrassed about a lot of the way things went down in the public eye and on the Internet; a lot of that stuff was so beyond our control. It was just one slap in the face after another. It was truly hard to deal with, you know, and believe me, it was more embarrassing for me than anything and all the more reason to be happy right now.
Legendary Rock: The last misconception and probably the most widely reported is that "Worship Music" was already completed and in the can when you got back with Joey so he really made no contribution to the album and had no say whatsoever. He just stood with a lyric sheet and did what he was told. Any thoughts?
Charlie: That's not true. It's not cool and it's really not true. To kind of get my point across to everyone, when Joey was doing the vocals on the record it was just he and Jay Ruston (co-producer). Those were the only people in the room, none of us were there. The reason why none of us were there was because we spent a lot of time on tour going over the songs prior to getting back to working on the record. We had already been doing the songs with Joey and he felt comfortable with the material. He just did it. His performance on the record and the way he applied himself to each song was awesome. His approach was classic and really, really fit the song. He put in a performance that is probably his best since "Spreading The Disease".
Legendary Rock: Sometimes when a band has as much time to work on an album as you guys took for "Worship Music", you have to make sure you don't start overanalyzing and second guessing the project. Was that ever a concern given the long gap between albums?
Charlie: The only reason we would second-guess something is because we had no choice but to second-guess things. (laughs) The best thing for us was that we had a chance to step back and let the material breathe and figure out what worked or what needed more work. That was actually something that we usually never get a chance to do. We finally had that luxury to go back and figure out what needed more work or what needed more attention. That was actually the greatest thing that could have happened was for us to have that insight to figure it out because we really weren't happy with the way the songs turned out initially for this album. They just weren't right. That extra time really gave us a chance to hone in and figure out what it was that we didn't like or what wasn't right
Read the entire interview from Legendary Rock.