Anthrax's Charlie Benante: "I wanted to do a metalised version of Billie Eilish"

(Image credit: Jimmy Hubbard)

Having made a name for themselves within heavy metal canon as one of the "big four", Anthrax have dominated the world of thrash alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer for over four decades. Now, in the midst of their 40th anniversary celebrations, Anthrax have a feast of plans to honour the occasion, including a 28 date European and UK tour for 2022

We speak to Anthrax's Charlie Benante following the release of his new album, Silver Linings, to learn more about the man behind the kit, and the things he loves outside of his time with one of the biggest names in metal.

Metal Hammer line break

You’ve said before you’re a huge Star Wars fan. What’s the rarest piece of merch you own?

“I’ve a life-size Han Solo in carbonite that was actually signed by Boba Fett himself [Jeremy Bulloch]. He passed away about a year or two ago, so that’s a really rare piece.”

Haven’t you met Carrie Fisher as well?

“Yeah! I met her a year before she passed away and she was so awesome! It’s one of those moments where you have to pinch yourself: ‘Am I actually talking to Carrie Fisher, who we all had a crush on when we were younger?’ Ha ha!”

As well as a musician, you’re a visual artist: you’ve contributed cover art to a new graphic novel based on Among The Living. Considering you’re such a comic fan, does it feel like you’ve come full circle?

Anthrax has given me the potential to do the two things I love most: play music and make art. I often say I got my art education at the record company art departments. I would sit with these near-geniuses and they taught me what colours attract people; even if you didn’t know the band, the art could be striking. Look at Iron Maiden! When their first album came out, I remember seeing it and it just screamed at me, and I bought it off that. Thank God I did!”

Speaking of Among The Living, the opening of Indians is the most iconic drum fill in thrash. Did you know it would be such a stand-out?

“I remember having that whole song in my head, written. I wanted to start with a tribal drum pattern that would draw people in. It became iconic. When we play it live, as soon as I go into that drum pattern, you hear this big roar, but, at the time, you don’t know what is and isn’t gonna work. The only thing I was going for is that tribal drum beat.”

Anthrax were probably the snappiest dressers of the Big 4, bringing a colourful punk look to thrash. Did that ever get backlash?

“When it was first happening, we didn’t get any flak for it. When we did State Of Euphoria, we were in such a great space mentally; things were so amazing. I came up with the title State Of Euphoria because that’s what we were all in. I think some of the press saw that and thought, ‘Let’s bring these guys down a bit.’ They’d ask, ‘Why do you smile in photos?’, and, ‘Why do you have such colourful shorts?’ I even thought we were getting carried away, but that’s for us to decide, not you.”

You have your own coffee line in the States called Benante’s Blend. What’s your message to the godless heathens who prefer tea to coffee?

“I’m sympathetic because I love tea, but, since I was a young lad, I’ve had coffee in my system. When I was really little, I would drink the remainder of the coffee that’s on the table. At some point, my mum would just put coffee in my bottle and I’d drink it. Ha ha! I’ve loved it since then, and the coffee I have isn’t something I’ve just slapped a sticker on. There’s a lot of love behind it.”

On your cover album, Silver Linings, you cover Bad Guy by Billie Eilish. What the fuck?

“Ha ha ha! The simplest answer is it’s because of my daughter. A couple of years ago, I drove her to school and she was playing a Billie Eilish song called Ocean Eyes. I thought it was perfect! A year later, she came out with the next record, and Bad Guy stood out to me. It was such a cool song: the vocals were cool, the melodies were cool and I wanted to do a metalised version of it.”

You’re a drummer, you’re a visual artist, you’ve got a coffee blend... To make us feel a bit better, can you please tell us something you’re shit at?

“Probably math. Easy math, I can do, but when it gets complicated, I’m like, ‘Bye!’ Ha ha! When they put letters in, it’s like code. What is all this?!”

Published in Metal Hammer #351. Anthrax are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year and are currently working on a new album. Charlie Benante’s new album Silver Linings is out now via Megaforce Records

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.