Anthrax, Charlie Benante Interview – Finding ‘Silver Linings’

2021-05-18

Promo photo of Charlie Benante of Anthrax.

Charlie Benante of Anthrax – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Jimmy Hubbard

Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante joins Anne Erickson to discuss his new album, “Silver Linings,” and more in this detailed interview

Over the past year, Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante has become known for his quarantine jam video series, featuring a bevy of high-profile musicians from the rock and metal world doing cover while under lockdown. Now, Benante is releasing a full album of quarantine covers, “Silver Linings,” featuring 14 cover songs from U2, Mother Love Bone, Iron Maiden and more.

“Silver Linings” is out now via Megaforce Records. Benante joined Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio to discuss “Silver Linings,” the new Anthrax “Among the Living” graphic novel on the way and more. Read the full Charlie Benante interview below, listen via the YouTube player and hear it via the Audio Ink Radio show on Apple Podcasts here and Spotify here.

Anne Erickson: Charlie, it’s great to talk with you. How have you been doing over this past, unprecedented year?

Charlie Benante: I’ve been busy! I’m trying to focus my attention and creativity on things that I find exciting and not focus on the darkness that was surrounding a lot of the country and stuff. I just took the time to make music, create some artwork and try to find silver linings in this whole thing that was going on.

It’s great that you used your time in lockdown down to put out a new album, “Silver Linings.” What a great idea for an album, bringing together a bunch of covers with various musicians from the world of thrash, rock, metal and beyond. How did it all come together?

One day, I was just really- the depression was starting to catch up to me. My girlfriend, Carla, said, “You need to shut this off. You need to stop watching the news, because it’s really consuming you. I can see it’s really depressing you.” So, she’s like, go and be creative. Go into the studio. It was weird, because at that time, I wasn’t really doing that, because my attention was focused on what was happening, and we weren’t getting any answers, and there was just so much uncertainty. Like, is this thing going to last for four weeks? Is it going to be gone in a month? Is it going to be gone in two months? And then, you realize that, wow, this is, this this could be the whole year.

Then, I just set up some instruments in my art room, like I did when I was younger in my room at my parents’ house. And, I was kind of getting over the death of Neil Peart from Rush and wanted to do something with that in mind. I called up my friend, Alex Skolnick (of Testament) and my friend Ra Diaz from Suicidal Tendencies and asked them if they wanted to jam on this Rush song with me. Their question was, how are we going to do it? I said, I have an idea. Let’s try doing it this way (with a quarantine video). It worked. We put that out, and the response was so overwhelming that I found that other people were going through the same thing that I going through, and this was kind of helping to cheer them up a bit. Then, it kind of got good to me, and I started doing more and more and it kind of snowballed into this. That’s how it happened, and that’s the truth. It was very organic. It was very natural.

I think that feeling you were having is so universal. When COVID-19 first hit, everyone was just kind of wondering what was going on and people were getting scared, so it’s great that you used music to help you through it and to create something beautiful.

And, I think, isn’t that what music does to people? It kind of takes them out of their funk or mood and really helps them to get up and say, you know what, I’m going to go about my life, too, and I’m going to do this. There’s so much ugliness in this country, and this COVID thing that happened was just such- there’s never a good time for a pandemic, let’s get that up, you know, but it happened in such a bad time, and it was just terrible.

I’m starting to see tours and festivals actually beginning to come back in the sense that some tours are getting postponed, but only until this August or September of this year. Do you think that live music on a large scale is actually on its way back?

I think it’s on its way back. But, I think we have to be- we have to be careful and approach it delicately. Don’t think that your band is going to be out there. It’s going to take some time, and if you overdo it, well, then we’re going to be back to where we were, maybe, you know? So, I really think this needs to be organized in a better way and not a free-for-all.

Back to “Silver Linings.” Do you have any plans for doing a follow-up?

I’m already three or four songs into something- into another one. And, of course, the Rush songs we left off, and they’re going to be on an EP for November Record Store Day. So, that’s a whole separate thing.

So, it sounds like a follow-up is on the way.

Oh, yeah, yeah! I mean, I don’t know if I necessarily see it stopping because people are back out on the road. As a matter of fact, it may be a little easier for me to do it if I’m on tour with other people, I could,, “Hey, could you come on the back of the bus and sing this part?” Or, “Could you play this part?” I’m not going to rule it out. I’m still going to have fun, because the one thing that this did for me was it taught me how to A) play other instruments, how to mix songs and how to get the tones and just different things like that. With Anthrax, we have a certain sound, and we experiment, but we don’t experiment that much that it doesn’t sound like us. But with this, I was doing so many different forms of music that I had to really apply myself in a way that these guys were like, okay, so it’s a Fleetwood Mac song? Okay. So, I don’t want to use the drum sounds from my own record, because it wouldn’t sound right. So, I would go and find drum sounds or sample certain sounds that sounded like that and then put them in, and that’s how I did it. The hunt to me was so much a part of it, finding how it sounds and making sure the textures and everything was just right. Like I said, I had fun with it.

You mentioned earlier that your girlfriend, Carla Harvey from Butcher Babies, got you started with the idea of doing “Silver Linings.” I think you two are such a cute couple. How did you meet?

Actually, we met at- well, she says we met earlier, but I don’t remember it. She says she interviewed me at the Golden Gods Awards, but I don’t remember it, but she does have a picture of it, so I know I was there. And then we played a festival in San Bernardino (California) together. I think it was- it could have been KnotFest. Then, afterwards, our manager said, “Oh, the Butcher Babies. They covered one of your songs for this, blah, blah, blah,” and I’m like, oh, cool. And then, that’s how I ended up meeting her, at that show. We were both kind of interested in the same type of things- like goofy, nerdy s***. But, at the time, we were both kind of involved in marriages and stuff, and that was it. We just kind of- we would email here and there, “Hey, did you check out this book,” or, “Did you see that?” And then, and then that was it. I didn’t talk to her for a bit. And then, one day, I was in L.A. and making a record, and I hit her up, and I said, you want to meet around here and go get a coffee or something? And, she turned me down. And then, I hit her back up a little bit later, and she’s like, “Okay, I have to go to the art store in that area. Do you want to come with me?” And we ended up going to an art store, and then that was it.

That’s such a nice story. Do you think that being with someone in the music business helps in a relationship, since you’re from the same worlds?

I don’t know what it helps. Because of the COVID thing, we got to spend every single day and moment together. Then, once we go back on tour, it may be a little difficult because of schedules and stuff like that. So, that part may be the unnatural part, you know what I mean? But, I guess when we do see each other, it’ll be really good.

You also have a graphic novel on the way with Anthrax, “Among the Living.” Did you ever expect that album would become what it is today and eventually be its own graphic novel?

I never expected it. As a matter of fact, the idea I had for the comic was nothing like this. It was a totally different topic- the look and feel and everything. And then, Josh Bernstein, who runs Z2 Comics, approached us about doing this. I was like, wow, that’s a good idea. I mean, that’s an angle that I never thought of. We just had a wish list of what we wanted to be, and we got most of the things that we wanted on the wish list, and people were excited about it. The writers that we got were people that we respected, everyone from Rob Zombie to Gerard Way and Mikey Way and Corey Taylor, Brian Posehn, Joe Trohman. I mean, these people who were kind of friends with us, but they also have this talent, and then a group of artists that were just amazing. The thing I loved was I got a chance to do one of the pieces for the book, too- the cover of the “I Am the Law,” which I’m really happy about. So, Scott (Ian) ended up writing that story, and I ended up doing the cover.

Would you say that you and Scott Ian and the guys of Anthrax were very hands-on with the graphic novel?

Oh, 100%.

What’s next for you and Anthrax and all your projects for the rest of the year?

Hoping I’m going to work on the new record- finish working on this record with the guys (of Anthrax). And, I’m still trying to plan something. I have a bunch of songs that are really good for a little other project, but I’ve really got to get off my a** and finish it. I have to stop watching Bravo! (Laughs)

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