Stomp 442 (Elektra)
An interview with drummer Charlie Benante
by Scott Hefflon
The new record, Stomp 442, seems to use John Bush’s vocal style more than Sounds of White Noise. Did he help write this one?
He did a lot of writing on that album, too. Then we toured a lot and we became a band again. I knew what John sounded like and how he fit in with the band, so it was a little easier, a little more natural.
So “Fueled” is the the single, right?
Yes. Actually, I was in Philly yesterday, doing a remix of it, a totally fucked up EuroClub mix. It’s a really different take on the song.
Nice. I noticed you had a guest appearance on the album, Dimebag Darrell. How did that work out?
Well, we’ve known the Pantera guys for a long time, and we didn’t have a lead guitar player anymore. I did some of the leads on the record, but I just couldn’t handle all the songs. It wouldn’t be fair to the band or to me to do all the leads, ’cause I can’t. I’m not a very good lead player. I could write some things, I could play some leads, but some things I know I just can’t handle. I sent him a tape, and he got back to me that night and said, “Dude, I’m jammin’ to the tunes.” He said there were two songs he would really like to play, “King Size” and “Riding Shotgun.” So he came in and he blew our heads off. It was great.
I like the fact that all you guys take turns playing lead. That’s a pretty unorthodox way of doing it. Did the styles of solos change all over depending on who was playing what?
It either makes it a versatile album or it lacks of continuity. Do you think it worked out well?
Yeah. Personally, I’m not a very Eddie Van Halen-type. I go more for feel, and I like to experiment with sound. There’s a solo on the song “American Pompeii” that was just a tremolo pedal, a wa wa, and a toggle switch. It created this weird, transforming type of feedback.
I hear the cover is wild, what’s the story?
OK, I’m a really big Led Zeppelin fan. One thing I really liked was the way their covers came across. I liked the whole design. I wanted the guy who did those records. So we found him.
The actual guy?
Well, there used to be a company in England called Hypnosis. They designed so many records, Floyd records, everything. Storm was responsible for a lot of these covers, so we contacted him and he was into it. He said, “OK, leave it to me.” He said that, to him, Anthrax was a ball of energy. He made this 30 foot ball of old cars all smashed together. You’ve gotta see it to believe it.
What are some of your favorite songs on the album?
The first one, “Random Acts of Senseless Violence,” really stands out. The inspiration for it was a gunman on the Long Island Railroad who shot a bunch of people, but defended himself in the trial. It was a total mockery of the whole system. He was his own lawyer. They put the witnesses up on the stand people, the people he shot, and here was the guy cross-examining them. The witness would say, “I saw you stand up and pull out a gun. I saw you shoot me.” He was kind of like smiling and laughing, because the witnesses were getting emotional because this was the man who’d shot them. Some of the witnesses got so emotional, they were screaming at him. And he would say to the judge, “We have hostile a witness here. I cannot proceed further.” Watching it made you just sick to your stomach.
I didn’t hear those details, I’m glad you wrote the song about it.
Another song, “Fueled,” is about whatever it is that gets you going. Playing in this band is the fuel we need to get our engines going, so like, what’s yours? It’s a metaphor for so many things.
By the way, what happened with Dan?
Danny was the victim of his own environment. Believe me, it was a hard thing to do. I really like Danny a lot, personally. Musically, he just wasn’t thinking the way we were. We could have just let it keep going on and on, but we just said, fuck it, this is it. We can’t just say, “Well, we’ll do it again tomorrow,” because sometime there might not be a tomorrow. I’m sorry to say it, but we had to make a change.
Did you know it was coming before you went into the studio?
We knew it was coming. We actually did three day of preproduction with him. His last words were, “Call me when you need me.” And we just never did.