"Our name symbolises fear, paranoia and death": What happened when Anthrax claimed to be changing their name to Basket Full Of Puppies and CNN believed them

Some puppies in a basket plus (inset) Scott Ian
Anthrax's Scott Ian and a basket full of puppies (Image credit: Hillary Kladke (Scott Ian: Rob Monk/Classic Rock Magazine))

Late 2001 was not a good time to be in a band called Anthrax. In the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks, as a wave of fear swept America, five people died when letters filled with anthrax powder were mailed to Democratic party offices and media outlets. In an age of heightened paranoia, Anthrax's name was all over the news, for all the wrong reasons. 

"This isn't the kind of exposure we want or need," frontman Scott Ian told the Washington Post. "It's as though it's 1937 and I'm a bandleader named Freddie Hitler. Maybe we should change the name now. A friend suggested 'Basket of Puppies.'"

Anthrax did more than think about changing their name: they actually announced it. In a press release published on the band's website on October 10, Ian wrote, "In light of current events, we are changing the name of the band to something more friendly: Basket Full Of Puppies."

"Before the tragedy of September 11th the only thing scary about Anthrax was our bad hair in the 80's and the Fistful Of Metal album cover," Ian continued, sombrely. "Most people associated the name Anthrax with the band, not the germ. Now in the wake of those events, our name symbolises fear, paranoia and death. Suddenly our name is not so cool."

As is the way of the internet, it appears that some readers stopped right there, without rigorously interrogating the information they were being given. And so it came to pass that one particular broadcaster reported the name change as real. 

"On CNN they reported it as fact," Ian told Metal Hammer. "They didn’t pay attention to where I said I was joking."

They didn't pay attention to that part, nor to the part where Ian said that the band didn't want to change their name and merely hoped that the problem would go away and we'd all grow old and fat together. And the biggest irony was that during this period, Anthrax – who'd previously been unable to attract any kind of attention from mainstream media outlets – were suddenly getting calls from the likes of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal about their choice of moniker.  

The following month, Anthrax played a charity show at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, to raise money for the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit. And, perhaps for the benefit of any CNN staffers watching, the five members of the band took to the stage in white jumpsuits, each spelling out a different word.


Meanwhile, just to be on the safe side, Ian had stocked up on Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic used to treat many bacterial infections, including anthrax. 

"I will not die an ironic death," he promised. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.