Exclusive Charlie Benante interview!

Formed in 1981, Anthrax quickly rose to be pioneers on the thrash metal scene, known as part of ‘The Big Four’ alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. With a wider musical outlook than their peers, the band were quick to incorporate elements of humour and influences of hip-hop into their sound, resulting in hit singles like ‘I’m The Man’ and ‘I Am The Law’. Public Enemy were suitably impressed to namecheck the band in their classic ‘Bring The Noise’ single, which both bands would later team up to re-record. Having parted ways with vocalist Joey Belladonna and Island Records, Anthrax released ‘The Sound Of White Noise’ in 1993 with new vocalist John Bush on Elektra Records. In keeping with their openness to new musical directions, the album featured ‘Black Lodge’, a collaboration with Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti, and the video for the single ‘Only’ featured none other than Frank Silva, known to Twin Peaks fans as the epitome of evil incarnate, Bob. The Twin Peaks Archive caught up with Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, to find out more about this pairing… Twin Peaks Archive: How did you first get together with Anthrax?

Charlie Benante: At the time it was just Scott (Ian, Anthrax guitarist) and one of the other members, who’s no longer with the band. They had the band together and they were gonna lose their drummer. A friend of mine was friendly with Scott and they asked if I’d like to audition and I said ‘sure, why not?’ Basically we were just out of high school. I was actually in art school at the time, and then the ball started rolling – before I knew it, I was in a band going across the country for the first time.

TPA: And how did you get into Twin Peaks?

CB: I was a big David Lynch fan because of Blue Velvet. To me it’s one of the greatest movies of all. I loved it. I loved everything about it. I loved the way it was shot, I loved the story and I especially loved the music.

TPA: Have you any favourite scenes from the series?

CB: For me the whole first season was just awesome. The second season for me fell off. The first season was one of the best things ever on television. I remember for the latter part of the last season we were on tour in Europe, and I remember being in Finland and having a friend of mine Fed-Ex a tape of the last episode. I didn’t want to hear about it, I wanted to see it. That’s how obsessed I was with it.
TPA: What did you think of the last episode?

CB: I liked it. I miss that show a lot. I loved everything that was Twin Peaks related. When we would play Seattle, I would make sure we had a day off so that me, Scott and some of the other guys could drive up to Snoqualmie and go to the town where it was filmed, and go have a piece of pie and a cup of coffee at the diner. It was awesome. It was before a lot of people knew about it too, because a few years after that they would get busloads of Japanese tourists coming up there to do what we did. Like, we would go and find the location where they shot his part or that part, it was hilarious.

TPA: Were all the band fans?

CB: No, basically me and Scott were really big on it. I remember even going to Japan – because it was big in Japan afterwards too. They would have such crazy things there, like a Twin Peaks card game I picked up.

TPA: What are your thoughts on the Gold box?

CB: I got back into it again, it brought me back into that time. I think it looks awesome and it still holds up today. The one thing that did bother me about it, because I’m a collector of stupid stuff, is that they put the postcards in each one of them and I found out that there was 61 in all and there were special cards, like gold cards or whatever, so I had to start collecting them. I just thought it was kinda a rip-off to real hardcore fans who follow the show. Now we have to go on ebay and pay between $9 and $60 for one of those cards. It bothered me a bit. They should offer the fans who want to buy the full set, the complete postcard set.

TPA: What did you think of Fire Walk With Me?

CB: I was waiting for Fire Walk With Me to come out on DVD and there were always delays on it and then we heard a French company was going to put it out or they held the rights to it or whatever and I was like ‘Just do it already!’. Cos I also love that movie too. I would love to see that whole thing (the deleted scenes). Maybe there’s some missing things in that, that maybe Lynch could explain a little further. Knowing him, it’ll probably add more ambiguity to it all! The only thing with Fire Walk With Me that I didn’t like was that the Donna character wasn’t the original actress, but other than that I loved that movie. I particularly love Angelo’s soundtrack– they should remaster that one!

TPA: What was it like recording ‘The Sound Of White Noise’?

CB: We were going through, let’s say, a metamorphosis. We were actually saying goodbye to the past and embracing a new sound that had been fighting to get out, from at least myself, for the longest time. When John came into the band it gave me the power to write a new kind of song like ‘Black Lodge’TPA: Is there going to be a rerelease of White Noise?

CB: It has been rereleased now on i-tunes with bonus tracks and everything. I think there’s a ‘Black Lodge’ bonus track on that too.

TPA: You were friends with David Lynch’s assistant, Jennifer Syme?

CB: We used to be really good friends with Jennifer and it’s such a tragic thing that happened to her. I think about her quite a bit. If I’m in a Twin Peaks mood I automatically think of Jennifer. In the early 90s, she was David’s assistant and that was it – I would get all my info from her! She was really helpful in getting Bob in our video for ‘Only’. We were talking about getting Michael Anderson, but he was kinda difficult and wanted too much money to do it, so we scrapped that.

TPA: What was it like working with Frank? After all, Bob was one of the scariest characters to appear on the small screen.

CB: He was a scary character, but in that environment with us, he was just one of the guys. I remember him being very quiet. I remember talking to Frank and he told me everything about how he came to be Bob and it was a total accident, it was one of those Lynch things where he looks at somebody at says ‘You’re gonna hold the log’. And it’s the same thing that happened to him.

TPA: And then a few years after that Frank passed away…

CB: I remember knowing about that too and we were like ‘Wow’. I couldn’t believe it.

TPA: What was it like working with Angelo Badalamenti on Black Lodge?

CB: What happened with that was Angelo took the track and I went to meet with Angelo in a New York studio on the west side. It was just me, Angelo & some of his musicians; Grady Tate, Vincent Bell. They just did their version of it over the song and Angelo put these really moody strings on it. It was just awesome. It’s funny because you can hear the tones coming out of these guys, it was just the total Twin Peaks tone. Vincent Bell, when he got his rig set up and plugged his guitar in, it was the Twin Peaks sound, it was just awesome. I actually learned a lot from that session.

TPA: Can you imagine Twin Peaks without Angelo’s music?

CB: I cannot imagine Twin Peaks with anyone else’s music but Angelo Badalamenti. It’s almost how I feel about the movie Jaws, where if he didn’t have John Williams’ soundtrack, the movie was only half done. Music plays a big part in everyone’s life. You can take the tube or a bus ride and put your ipod on and a song comes on and it almost sets the mood for where you’re going. I think it helps you through certain moments of your life too.

TPA: Another high profile collaboration you did was with Public Enemy on the remake of Bring The Noise. How did that come about?

CB: That came about because Scott and I just loved Public Enemy. We had a big fondness for rap music in general back then, and to us Public Enemy was the epitome of what rap is. It was talking about issues that were important. Some people deemed Public Enemy as being a racist type of band. I never really took that what Chuck D was saying as being racist, I just took it that Chuck D was talking about what he knew, what he felt & what he saw. To me, Public Enemy hit the nail on the head. After that, I think some of the rappers who spoke about drug dealing were glorifying it. I don’t really think they were really speaking of ‘this is where I came from.’ I think Chuck D was trying to help his cause, whereas other rappers were trying to keep the cause as is, cos they were making money off of it. That (the namecheck in the original ‘Bring The Noise’) was one of the reasons why we wanted to do that cover & we just wanted to pay it back to them. I remember sending the track to Chuck and he called me up to say how much he loved it… in his exact words ‘This track is slammin!’. Then the ball just rolled from there. We got together in Chicago to do a video and I remember talking to Chuck afterwards and we were all so happy we said we should go out and do some shows together. The tour was booked – and that was it! It was one of those things that just came together in such a friendly way. There was no money thrown out or ‘I can’t do it unless I get this’. It wasn’t like that at all, it was just the way it should be. I don’t think that tour would happen nowadays, because too many other hands would’ve got involved.

TPA: What’s next for Anthrax?

CB: Well, we’re demo-ing songs for a new record. We have a new singer in place, we’re really excited about this third stage of our career. I could’ve just packed it in and said ‘I’m done with this’, but we still have this drive, I still have this hunger. And I still have this catalogue of music that needs to be heard. We’re gonna hopefully put it out this year. We just wanna make it right, because with a new singer it’s gonna be under the microscope. I would say it’s gonna be a little more in the older direction that we were going into, and I would say it’s going to be more into a new direction. I hear elements of the old and I hear elements of new. We’re thinking of working with this guy Joe Barresi, who worked on the last Tool record. I’m doing a lot of stuff in my place in Chicago, which is kinda like Anthrax central.

Interview conducted by Graeme Larmour exclusively for Twin Peaks Archive

Thanks to Charlie for a great interview and we look forward to hearing the next Anthrax record. For anyone with spare cards from the Gold Box to swap, the one’s Charlie needs to complete his collection are 32 (Killer Bob sketch), 34 (Maddy Ferguson), 38 (Audrey Horne), 39 (Roadhouse logo), 42 (Josie & Catherine) & 53 (Shelley Johnson). Make sure and check out Charlie's brand of coffee here. Also, make sure and keep abreast of the latest Anthrax news (Including newly announced tour dates) by checking out the official Anthrax site!

(c) 2008 Twin Peaks Archive

3 comments:

Paul said...

That was a good read.
Thanks -
Paul

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sweetfang said...

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