He’s the drummer, songwriter, and one of the founding members of New York thrashers Anthrax. He’s among the drummers that first introduced the blast beat to heavy metal. And just this week, he’s had a tremendous gig playing drums for the 8G band, the house band for Late Night With Seth Meyers. Charlie Benante has been keeping busy this year, about to embark on a North American tour with Killswitch Engage, after a European tour playing a classic Anthrax album in it’s entirety at each stop. His campaign to promote Anthrax’ 11th album For All Kings continues with the release of a 7 inch Vinyl Box Set.
Recently I was fortunate enough to speak with Charlie over the phone to catch up on the band’s endeavors and discuss other topics. We discussed the new Anthrax Pale Ale Wardance, and Charlie’s own version of Coffee Talk.
You’ve got an upcoming tour with Killswitch Engage soon, can you tell me about how this tour got initiated?
I think we were just looking to do something in the states with another band and they [Killswitch Engage] were mentioned and we decided to partner up. I think that band is awesome. Especially the last two records that they did and of course the first and second, and The End Of Heartache, that was one of my favorites.
You just finished a European tour playing Among The Living in it’s entirety. What did it feel like playing some of the deeper cuts on that album? Was it hard picking them back up?
The thing about doing that type of show is that you’re pretty much locked into it. It’s not a question of learning how to play it, but learning how to perform it. Some of those songs on that record are pretty fucking fast. I remember just revisiting them and I was just like “Jesus, what was I thinking?”, I was just flying. So I was up to the challenge to be honest with you. The only thing that was a little strange in the beginning of the tour, was the length of the tour, and the length of the show – way over two hours. We split it in half kind of. First set was different Anthrax songs, and then the second half was the Among The Living record in it’s entirety. When we first started doing it, we were going in the order that the record goes. After the third show I said “Why are we doing this? Let’s mix it up.” because what was starting to happen was, we would play the first four/five songs, the favorites kind of, then you get to the deeper cuts, and it kind of goes down a bit. So it’s like, mix it up so that there are no lows.
Before that, you got to play the 70,000 tons of metal cruise. Was it Anthrax’ first year playing this? What was your favorite moment on that?
Yeah, we’d never played that boat before. I kind of enjoyed that cruise more so than the others. The boat was really nice, I thought the people on the boat were nice. As far as the fans go, they respected your privacy in a sense. If I was just hanging out at a bar, coffee place, wherever, and there were people around me I was never like “Ooh, I can’t be seen”. I would just hang and talk. It was a cool vibe. So I was just hanging with the fans and I was so comfortable.
How does your new signature pale ale Wardance stack up against Trooper Ale [Iron Maiden]?
It’s completely different type of beer. The one thing that I really wanted from our beer, was to taste perfect on it’s own of course. But I also wanted it to compliment if you were having a burger or something. That was the basic mindset of the beer. And to not have a super high alcohol content. Maybe we’ll do another one that has a bit higher alcohol content. But for this we wanted to be able to drink something to enjoy it and not get fucked up right away. Some beers will do that to you. But this one you could balance it. Some of my favorite beers especially some of the Belgian ones, have a higher alcohol content where you could have two or three and it’s like “Shit. I’m done.”
Pretty soon there’s going to be a box set released for the For All Kings sessions, and you have a White Stripes cover on there. What made the band decide to record that?
That was my idea. I love The White Stripes. It’s one of those things where back in the day I was kind of like a closet fan. And once they were done, and Jack White went solo and did those Raconteurs records, I fucking loved those two records, and his solo stuff too. I just think he’s one of those guys who’s an artist that cares about his audience. He’s what I love about music. It’s the way I approach things too. I want to do fun stuff and cool stuff for our audience, so that when they get it, they know effort went into all of this to make it special. That’s what this box set is all about. When I was designing the album cover, this was always in the back of my mind. “Maybe a year later, I want to do a box set with all vinyl singles, colored vinyl”. I just wanted it to be special. Nobody does shit like that anymore.
You don’t just drum, you also riff on the guitar occasionally. How often do you contribute riffs for albums? Are you fighting with Scott or the lead player on what riffs to use?
No. I pretty much do the majority of the songwriting.
You guys have written several songs with references to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. Are you excited for the upcoming Dark Tower movie?
Yeah, pretty much. Scott’s always been vocal about his love for Stephen King. He [King] is one of our greatest treasures. He’s one of the greatest writers to ever come out of America. And he’s a fuckin’ smart dude. The shit he writes is just so clever. And he scares the hell out of you too, at times.
What are your thoughts on technical/math metal drumming that’s become popular these days? Do you think it’s too show-iffy or is it great?
I like it. The way that I think drumming has come up and evolved, is that there’s no shortage of really good drummers anymore. With the popularity of Youtube, anybody could just watch something and then sit in their basement and just practice and practice, and then be like “Hey, I can play fast and double-kick now”. I admire certain players that have that type of mathematical ability. Thomas from Meshuggah, he’s one of my favorite guys who just lays it down.
Going back to when you declared you wouldn’t change the band name after the 2001 Anthrax scares, would you make a similar decision now if you drummed for the band Isis?
Who do you want to talk coffee with next?
I would like to talk coffee with some of the guys in my band. Cause they’re all coffee drinkers. I may get them all together and just discuss coffee, and maybe with one of the Killswitch guys. I’ll probably hit up Chris Jericho at some point, and maybe [Mike] Portnoy will do one.
Anthrax’ 35th anniversary was last year. What do you plan on doing when you guys hit that big 4-0?
I’m working on this State Of Euphoria special edition now. It’s coming together really nicely. So it’s gonna have a nice bonus disk. Maybe we’ll do some more of that stuff.
Your desert island album?
Oh jesus. I’d probably have to pick a record that brings me back to a time when I was completely innocent, and I was just starting to appreciate music. I’d probably say a Beatles record from when I was younger, probably Sgt. Pepper, because I know it sounds cliche, but there’s so many different moods and moments on that record that I would probably discover more things out of it.
Anthrax + Killswitch Engage 2017 North American Tour Dates with The Devil Wears Prada:
3/29 – Montclair, N.J. @ Wellmont Theatre*
3/30 – Columbus, Ohio @ Express Live**
3/31 – St. Charlies, Ill. @ Arcada Theater (Anthrax only)
4/01 – Manistee, Mich @ Little River Casino (Anthrax only)
4/03 – Silver Spring, Md. @ The Fillmore*
4/04 – Wallingford, Conn. @ Oakdale Theatre*
4/05 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Electric Factory**
4/07 – Grand Rapids, Mich. @ 20 Monroe Live*
4/08 – Detroit, Mich. @ The Fillmore**
4/11 – Raleigh, N.C. @ Ritz Raleigh**
4/12 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Tabernacle**
4/13 – Orlando, Fla. @ House of Blues*
4/15 – Austin, Texas @ Grizzly Hall (Texas Independence Fest)**
4/17 – Houston, Texas @ House of Blues**
4/18 – Dallas, Texas @ House of Blues**
4/22 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Wiltern**
4/23 – San Francisco, Calif. @ The Fillmore**
4/25 – Seattle, Wash. @ Showbox SoDo*
4/26 – Portland, Ore. @ Roseland Theatre**
4/28 – Denver, Colo. @ The Fillmore**
4/29 – Omaha, Neb. @ Sokol Auditorium and Underground**
4/30 – Kansas City, Mo. @ The Midland*
5/01 – St. Louis, Mo. @ The Pageant**
5/03 – Toronto, Ontario @ The Danforth Music Hall**
5/05 – Huntington, N.Y. @ The Paramount**
5/06 – Clifton Park, N.Y. @ Upstate Concert Hall*
5/07 – Boston, Mass. @ House of Blues*
*Killswitch Engage headlines
3/29, 3/30, 4/3 – 4/9 – features Jasta
4/11 – 5/7 – features Code Orange