From ANTHRAX To Autism Awareness, DAN SPITZ Returns With RED LAMB

Jay Nanda of the San Antonio Metal Music Examiner recently conducted an interview with former ANTHRAX and current RED LAMB guitarist Dan Spitz. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

San Antonio Metal Music Examiner: The stats released by the CDC say one in 88 children will be born with autism. Your sons were not born with it. Can you explain how they contracted it?

Dan: It’s one in every 88 children born, and one in every 54 is boys. That’s because boys have a slower developing nervous system than girls. That right there should tell you, common-sense-wise. If you have an autistic child, you already know what I’m talking about. Or someone whose child is on the spectrum, what we call the spectrum, meaning from extremely, extremely low-functioning autism. We call it “on the spectrum” because we have extremely high-functioning children that are still part of extreme lows in many areas in functioning in society at a normal level. They don’t want to be touched. In most other areas, let’s say, they are extremely high-functioning. So, extreme highs vs. extreme lows, which is very commonplace today. My children were not born autistic. For the naysayers who say, “Hey, we don’t know if autism is developed later on in life,” one of the main principles of autism that I’m trying to bring awareness to, that me and [my wife] Candi are doing through the world of music, is there is no testing. There is no blood test, there is no doctor’s test, there’s no anything to say your child has autism. Nothing. Zero. Zilch. We’re way behind the 8-ball with what is really a global epidemic. Our children were speaking at 9 months, walking, talking, feeding themselves. Later on, about 16-18 months, they started to unlearn what they already learned at a very fast pace.

San Antonio Metal Music Examiner: Does the fact your boys are identical mirror-image twins present any extracurricular challenges during what might be described as irregular behavioral patterns?

Dan: Most people have twins during early birth, problematic birth. We have twins everywhere now, on every block. When I grew up and in high school, there were maybe two or three sets of twins in high school. My twins are identical, but they come from the exact same egg. Because they’re mirror-image twins, if one has a freckle on the right side of his face, the other has it on his left. If one sleeps on his right side, the other one sleeps on his left side. If one tooth comes in on the right side of one child, the same tooth at the same time comes in on the opposite side of the other child. Literally, they are the same human being, but they’ve been affected by autism in different ways. It just goes to show you why it’s so hard to find something to cure it.

San Antonio Metal Music Examiner: What is a typical day like for you and Candi?

Dan: A typical day? Oh-oh, boy! (Laughs). People ask, “Why do you take 3 1/2 years to launch and write a new album?” Everyone knows it’s not easy to start something brand new, especially for someone such as myself. I’m an extreme creator. I created ANTHRAX. I’m the co-founder with Scott (Ian). It’s not easy to start something over, but it should explain to you why, in our house, pretty much every 30 seconds there’s a disaster beyond a disaster. One child having what we call meltdowns. Someone who doesn’t have an autistic child: “Well, you know, my kids have fits, too.” Ours are quite different. They can’t handle eating. They have to drink out of the same cup with the same straw. If something changes, if that cup is one-thousandth of an inch to the right of the table where he normally wants it, he’ll go into an extreme meltdown. He’ll literally throw himself on the floor, try to bash his head on the floor, bash his head against the wall. That’s just one of the different kinds of disasters we have. It can last anywhere from five minutes to five hours. If you have normal identical twins, they have their own language. They can talk to each other without talking to each other. They are affected by each other. So when one goes into a deep meltdown, the other one reacts to that other twin. So we have compounded sets of problems added to normal autism and one child who also has an extreme low case. He can’t normally just put on a T-shirt in the morning to get ready to go to school. It can take him over an hour to choose a T-shirt, and we can’t just say, “Listen, Brendan. You’re going to wear this black T-shirt today. Here it is. I’m putting it on you. I’ve been waiting for half an hour for you to try to choose one.” If you put a different T-shirt on him, that’s when he completely feels like I took a blowtorch out and I shamed him all over his body. That’s what he feels. Their brain reacts differently than our brain. So all those sets of motherly rules that we all grew up with, with Mommy saying, “Your fit’s over. You’re going to wear this shirt. That’s enough now, little Tommy.” All those rules, you might as well — you need to relearn. It’s extremely hard on our parenting skills. Candi is such a wonderful mom. She’s a giver. She loves to take care of a problem. We’re both fixers. A typical day is very long. As you know, when we were trying to schedule, there are certain times of the day when I can’t do interviews because we have to get Brendan and Jaden literally from the car door to the front door of our home. That, minimum, is an hour.

San Antonio Metal Music Examiner: How did you and Dave [Mustaine, MEGADETH] decide to make your friendship turn into a musical collaboration given all he has going on with MEGADETH?

Dan: Releasing RED LAMB, it was just a quiet, wonderful friendship. We never really talked about music. When Dave did offer and heard the music, he kind of freaked out: “Whoa, this is incredible! Would you want me to help?” It was kind of like, should we both cross that bridge? Will it hurt our friendship? It was an honor for me. I got a bunch of Grammy-type stuff and all kinds of platinum this and gold that from ANTHRAX, including stuff that I wrote. When we did decide to do it, plenty of people would’ve loved to have videotaped the whole thing and put it on YouTube with us sitting together in the studio. Nobody from the “Big Four” has ever worked together before this. I wanted to just make a good album, put it out somehow, let the core fans find it, let’s go on the road. That’s really what I do. It’s not, “Coming soon, Dave Mustaine works with Dan Spitz!” That’s not really about reality. I knew it would be very hard to start over and be prepared to travel in ways that were reminiscent of the beginning again. So it was a hard decision to do and leave all my watchmaking people behind who relied on me when there was really no one else to lean over. I decided that when I did the ANTHRAX reunion. So, it was a wonderful time, a wonderful creation process with Dave. We both work in similar ways, we’re both overly perfectionists, and that was just incredible. And everyone’s starting to hear it now.

Read the entire interview from San Antonio Metal Music Examiner.

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