Interview: Drummer Charlie Benante of Anthrax

Speed metal pioneers Anthrax return with their 11th studio album, For All Kings, on Feb. 26, and the set takes you on a musical journey with lightning-fast riffing, crushing rhythms and dark lyrics. For All Kings’ anthems like “You Gotta Believe” recall the best of Anthrax’s scorching ‘80s metal, while other tunes bring a modern edge.

Anthrax — along with fellow shredders Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, collectively known as “The Big Four” — are responsible for creating thrash in the early ‘80s and introducing speed and thrash metal to the world. Among Anthrax’s cherished catalog are angsty tunes such as “Madhouse,” “Be All End All,” “I Am the Law” and “Armed and Dangerous.”

Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante is a major contributor to For All Kings and the band’s sound. After all, most of Anthrax’s songs start with Benante working out riffs and song structures.

Benante spoke with Reverb about his favorite gear, the band’s writing process and the guitars he uses for songwriting.

You had a huge hand in writing the new Anthrax album For All Kings. What was your writing process like with the rest of the guys?

It’s hard for me to write on the road. There are too many distractions. So, I like to go home to my studio and write in that environment and zone out with no real distractions. Basically, that’s what I did. I set a goal for myself. I wanted to write 20 killer songs. Then I would send some of the demos to the guys.

When I had a few bits to work on, I went to LA and met with Scott [Ian, rhythm guitarist and vocalist], and we started to play these songs, and it started to become something. Then Frank [Bello, bassist] showed up, too, and the three of us started to arrange and make something out of this whole thing. Some things I had were complete songs from start to finish, so I was already cutting to the chase rather than just going in with an idea.

How would you describe the sound on For All Kings compared to previous Anthrax releases?

I think this album had more of a direction, whereas with the last album, Worship Music, we really didn’t have any expectations. With this record, I was really inspired by how well received the record was by fans and media. It was a good thing. So, for me, there’s nothing better than good momentum, and it carried over into the making of this record.

Anthrax

What guitars do you use to write?

Charvel DST-1 ST Star

A friend of mine — Paul Cook, who used to be in our band — had a friend, Mark Katzen, who was building guitars. He built me an Eddie Van Halen replica. When I received the guitar, it felt like another extension to me. I didn’t want to put it down. I fell in love with it.

When I’m playing it, I get lost. I hit record, and whatever happens will happen. It’s a great feeling. There were so many things inside this guitar. Then a year later, after receiving the guitar, Mark passed away. I was in shock. I felt like he loaded this guitar up for me and said, “Take it and do something great with it.” I was truly inspired by it.

There’s actually my old star body Charvel guitar, and I have another star body that I use, too. The last addition to my arsenal is a Michael Schenker V.

As far as your drum gear, do you have any new equipment or old equipment you’re using in new ways?

I’m using a lot of Roland electronics. I love Roland electronics. In the intro to the new record, the song that happens before “You Gotta Believe,” I used a lot of Roland.

How does the equipment you use influence your technique or sound?

Everybody has their preference about what instrument or what other approach they take to making their music, and for some reason, I gravitated to these certain types of things that helped me to further my musicianship. I think all these companies are doing great things with their products, and I’m so happy that I could be a part of that.

Anthrax

Do you come from a musical family?

I do! My mom’s side of the family was very musical and artistic, and I think that’s where I get both of those things.

You’re on tour with Lamb of God. How’s it going?

It’s great! Today, we are battling Mother Nature. We’re going to get hit with a bunch of snow for the next two days, so we’re trying to plan accordingly. But it’s going really well. I think it’s one of the best packages that’s out there. There are really good guys on this tour with good vibes, which is very important.

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