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Anthrax’s Charlie Benante Talks Past Grammy Nominations, Upcoming Covers Release + More

Charlie Benante
Paul Hawthorne, Getty Images

Right after Anthrax‘s ‘I’m Alive’ was nominated for the 2013 Best Hard Rock / Metal Performance Grammy Award, we hopped on the phone with Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante for a congratulatory conversation. Having been placed against Halestorm, Iron Maiden, Lamb of God, Marilyn Manson and Megadeth, Benante shared an excited and interesting perspective on the Grammys, both past and present.

This is Anthrax’s fourth Grammy nod, the band’s first since their collaboration with Public Enemy, ‘Bring the Noise,’ was nominated in 1994. We asked Benante about past winners and if they deserved the golden gramophone, along with a b-sides and covers album that Benante says may be released in early 2013.

Your Grammy opponents are pretty tough this year. You’re against Halestorm, Iron Maiden, Lamb of God, Marilyn Manson and Megadeth. What are your thoughts on those artists?

Well, this is a difficult question because some of the artists I don’t really listen to. Some of the artists I do know and listen to. With Megadeth and Maiden … we look up to Iron Maiden so much. If you took Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax, the common denominator there would probably be Iron Maiden. In some way, shape, or form, we all kind of modeled our band with Iron Maiden in mind. Not just that band; there’s other bands but I’m saying they played a pretty big role in the shaping of those four bands. So to be nominated with Iron Maiden, it’s just f—ing awesome.

Looking up your past nominations for the Grammys, the one thing that’s easy to spot is that all those nominations came when Joey Belladonna was on vocals. So to you, how essential is the performance of Joey when it comes to these nominations?

Well, it’s the classic Anthrax sound when we were nominated prior. I couldn’t be happier with the way that this record ['Worship Music'] came out and you know, it’s something that I touched on in the statement that we made was this record, more so than a lot of other records, there was so much blood, sweat and tears that went into this record and I don’t know if those other records that are nominated could say the same thing. I mean, I’m not taking anything away from those other recordings, but all I can say is that I know how much went into making our other record. When I saw that we were nominated it just kind of made everything, “Wow, all that hard work and we get noticed.” It made sense to me. It wasn’t just making another record, you know? It was a different thing, it was different experience and it was a life changing experience.

The first Grammy you were nominated for was for ‘Persistence of Time’ and you were against Judas Priest’s ‘Painkiller,’ which is incredible, Megadeth’s ‘Rust in Piece,’ which is amazing and Suicidal Tendencies, ‘Lights… Camera… Revolution!” But then the Grammy went to Metallica’s ‘Stone Cold Crazy.’ 

[Laughs] Yeah, I remember that! I think that was soon after the Metallica /Jethro Tull thing. It’s kind of funny where the Grammys have gone. I remember the first rap category, it wasn’t televised and there was a big uproar about that and then nowadays, there’s like three rap categories or more are on there and that are televised. It’s funny to see how it’s turned.

It’s unfortunate that the metal one isn’t going to be televised though.

Well, yeah. Take out one of those other categories and you know give (a category to metal) because I always said this: heavy metal and hard rock — the fans are the most loyal fans that really attach themselves to a genre of music. It’s not a fickle form of music. You can tell a metalhead walking in the street, you can tell what they are all about and it’s a lifestyle, it’s a way of life. It’s funny how people go that route and it’s how other people don’t go that route. I always found it kind of fascinating how I grew up listening to the Beatles and yet when I was in my teens, I latched onto that style of music, but I always kept the Beatles as my main sort of influence.

So looking back on it your first Grammy nomination in 1991, who do you think should have won?

I think Metallica should have won it for their ‘Black Album’ in 1992. I don’t agree with ‘Stone Cold Crazy,’ but you know, it’s hard to say who should have won. Of course I’ve got to pick myself, but it did include Megadeth and Judas Priest in there as well, those are all albums that went on to have legendary status. But, you know, look at the Grammys back in the day. Did the Beatles ever win or did Led Zeppelin win a Grammy at that time?

Fun facts: Led Zeppelin have never won a Grammy and were only nominated once for Best New Artist in 1970. However, Zeppelin were given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys in 2005. The Beatles won only five Grammys from 21 nominations during their active career.

In 1995, Anthrax’s collaboration with Public Enemy, ‘Bring the Noise,’ went up against Megadeth’s ’99 Ways to Die,’ Pantera’s ‘I’m Broken,’ the Rollins Band’s ‘Liar,’ and the band who won that year was Soundgarden for ‘Spoonman.’ Do you think you guys should have won that year?

I think Anthrax and Public Enemy should have won that year, but the people would have said, “No, because that’s not heavy metal.” But isn’t that what the Grammys are all about? You know, kind of branching out, different forms of music combining, different art forms? Anthrax and Public Enemy should have won the Grammy that year.

That was definitely a strong piece of metal history. So when it comes to 2013, I’ve read that you guys would “like to” release an album sometime next year. Are there any solid plans right now for a 2013 album?

The only thing that we’re working on right now, as far as a record, are some B-sides and some cover songs that we’ve been really, really enjoying making. It’s been a while, but it’s just because the band has been busy doing shows and stuff like that. [We're covering] a lot of classic rock songs that we’ve just ingested throughout the years and shaped a lot of us and the musicians that we came to be. There’s a song by Boston, there’s a Rush tune, there’s a Cheap Trick tune, there’s a Thin Lizzy tune, there’s an AC/DC tune … We just said ‘F— it.’ These f—ing songs may be very popular, some of them may not be very popular, but we’re going to do it. That’s what we set out to do. So, this record will probably be out the beginning of the year.

Charlie Benante on Grammy Nod: 'It Was Just Complete Shock'

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