Charlie Benante performs with Anthrax at Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio
Charlie Benante performs with Anthrax at Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio
Amy Harris

Anthrax has been a staple of the Metal community for over 30 years. In an ever-changing environment they are certainly a constant. Even in 2015, they are still filling seats on tour and at festivals and are preparing to release their 11th album which many are anticipating, being their first new music since 2011. They once again played to a massive crowd at Rock on the Range taking over the main stage on Sunday along side Halestorm, Rise Against, and Linkin Park.

AXS caught up with drummer Charlie Benante, one of the original members of the band. The two discussed what inspires him after all this time and the new projects the band is working on. Rock on the Range is the premier Rock festival in the country and the tradition continues this weekend in Columbus.

AXS: I know you guys are in the studio. Can you give us a clue or insight into the next album?

Charlie Benante: The next album will be another classic one by us. I’m just joking. It will take off where the last one ended and it is just going to be a bit more of that sound. The songs that were fast on the last album will be faster. The songs that were heavy will be heavier. It’s just a more aggressive and melodic approach to the new one. We are just very inspired by the last record and the response from people.

AXS: It is always wonderful to see you guys live after all these years. I know you have had issues with the hand injury again recently. Are you going to be able to play this summer for the festival season?

CB: Yes. I will be there. It is just hard for me to do long tours. It is just hard for me to do that. Some of the shows I can’t do but I will be at a majority of them.

AXS: I know you have also had some personal struggles with losing your mother. Does any of that come through in your songwriting with the new music?

CB: I don’t think so. It’s hard for me to think about that when I am creating but you know maybe some of that stuff creeps in subconsciously. I try not to let that come into the process. There’s a song that we had called “In the End” on the last record and the music I had for that song was pretty emotional with the chord progression. It just happened that Dimebag and Ronnie Dio inspired the lyrics that came out for that song. I get chills sometimes when I hear that song or play it.

AXS: A lot of people have emotional connections to songs and some people say it is very therapeutic to play them and they feel good about it and other people have a really hard time emotionally playing songs and they end up stopping.

CB: Yeah, it is very strange to me now that some people take a view on some of the songs they wrote when they were younger and they were a different person back then. Maybe they were screwed up on drugs or whatever and nowadays it is hard for them to play those songs because it brings them back to a time when they weren’t so proud of the person they were.

AXS: Exactly. You guys have a new guitarist full time now, Jon Donais from Shadows Fall. How did you guys hook up and how is that working out?

Charlie: John is awesome. He is a really great player and a great guy and he is very easy to work with. I have been working pretty closely with him on this record and he is kicking ass. He is just playing really well.

AXS: What is your favorite drum solo of all time?

CB: My favorite drum solo of all time would have to be Kiss “Alive”, Peter Criss’s drum solo. If I hear it I have to get up and listen to it really close again because it just kicks my ass.

AXS: You guys grew up in New York. Was there ever a moment at a show or around music that made you know this is what you wanted to do forever?

CB: When I was in school music consumed my life and I used to play in school band. I used to go home and write all the names of all the bands I loved on my schoolbooks. I just looked at bands at the time and said someday I was going to do this. Going to see bands back then was such a huge event. Nowadays I am somewhat jaded because I have been doing it for so long. I only get excited by a couple of things but I am still glad I do get excited because it inspires me. Being younger and going to a show was just the greatest feeling and I remember seeing KISS at Madison Square Garden when I was younger. My sister took me and my friends and that I still remember that experience.

AXS: You mention new music. Is there any new music that is inspiring you right now?

CB: I love Rival Sons. I think they’re great. I love Ghost. I think they’re great. I have actually been listening to The Pretty Reckless for some time now and they are great. I hear things popping out. I don’t like the majority of stuff because it sounds the same after a while but you always get something that stands out.

AXS: Sometimes musicians tell me they don’t listen to their genre of music when they are not playing it.

CB: Yeah I love Mumford and Sons you know.

AXS: Drumming is so physical. How do you stay in shape to still do the physical performance after the 35 years of touring?

CB: It helps when you have a nine year old that keeps you on your toes running around. I do my daily jump roping and stuff like that. I try to keep my stamina up. Breathing is really important when doing a show because you don’t want to get too winded right away. I try to pace myself. I don’t like to go out and by the third song have no more gas in the tank. I have to pace it so that I know there may be two songs toward the end of the set that may be challenging. I need to save it for that too.

AXS: I read somewhere that you are a Star Wars fan. Is that correct?

CB: I like Star Wars. I am a bigger Jaws fan. I love Star Wars don’t get me wrong. I can’t wait for this new movie to come out.

AXS: That’s what I was going to ask. There is a lot of press around Episode 7. I was going to ask if you were looking forward to it.

CB: I can’t wait. I will be there. I will be there waiting. Maybe we will get invited to a screening or something.

AXS: I have not watched them in a long time so I will have to get the DVD collection out to re-visit it before the new one comes out.

CB: It is interesting that they just recently released them digitally out through iTunes. It was never available. Now it is available on iTunes to download. I think the whole campaign is starting or has started I should say. I think this movie may blow every movie out of the water as far as hype and financially and press.

AXS: And special effects?

CB: Well the thing I like about what they are doing is they are not blowing it up with CGI. They are doing more of the traditional style which to me is a blessing.

AXS: The last question I have that I always ask people is if you could trade places for anybody for a month who would it be?

CB: That’s a good question. That’s a hard one to answer because I go to different aspects of people. I could go political. I can be Steven Spielberg for a month and be sure when my month is almost up I can put money in my pockets so when I go back to my life I have it. I don’t know. That’s a tough question.