Anniversaries can often bring reflection. And Enter Music Publishing, publishers of hip, drum/percussion magazines, worldwide and online, is no exception as it celebrates 20 years of publishing DRUM! Two issues ago, the magazine had Chad Smith on the cover, discussing new RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS percussion. Indeed, appropriate since Smith has been on the cover of DRUM!more than any other drummer.
So, it’s quite apropos, that DRUM!’s October issue features ANTHRAX drummer Charlie Benante since it was 20 years ago last month that he appeared on the first cover of DRUM! At that time, the magazine was a free tabloid with a circulation mainly in Northern California. Benante, on the other hand, had already made a name for himself with his eight years of blast beats that had propelled ANTHRAX to the forefront of the rock/metal music scene during the late Eighties and early Nineties.
Indeed, Benante was and remains very well respected for his drumming, guitar playing, and songwriting abilities. And, as noted in the “Epilogue” (20-Year Thrashback Charlie Benante and DRUM!) to the story on page 104 of the current issue, Benante reveals that his fame, then and now, had not made him a snobby rock star since he shared the first cover with Joe Franco. In fact, “He (Benante) seemed thrilled to be in the same room with Franco, one of his idols,” back in 1999.
As further discussed in “Thrashback,” the success of DRUM! and that of Benante, have intriguing similarities. Benante continues to evolve and influence drummers all over the world with those original blast beats and double bass and DRUM! is now a color newsstand magazine with a worldwide readership. Thus, having Benante featured on the cover of DRUM! simply makes sense because ANTHRAX has shattered an eight-year hiatus with the release of its 10th album, “Worship Music”. And Benante is in rare form in term of all his artistic output and also discusses some of the challenges related to the group.
Benante, during his candid interview with DRUM! assistant editor Andrew Lentz gives the reader a complete insight regarding what Benante and crew had been up to since the 2004 release, “We’ve Come For You All”. Over that period, the group experienced a series of ups and downs, based on each player’s interests. Benante had let his passion for the fret board loose, which resulted in new material that he explored with guitarists Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano as well as bassist Frank Bello. However, after a brief, successful reunion in 2006, Joey Belladonna, vocalist and a solid drummer as well, announced that he would not take part on the album of material led by Benante. During this time, the vocal seat was a revolving door with vocalist John Bush coming and going twice. As Benante explains, “At first, there was a honeymoon period and then it ‘the honeymoon’ was gone.”
Interestingly enough, Belladonna‘s return to work with Benante on a solo project resulted in a new, fresh perspective for ANTHRAX in 2010. Rather than pursue the solo project, Benante explains, the material was a better fit for ANTHRAX even though Belladonna had been absent from the vocal position for almost 18 years.
As Lentz explains, the material that became “Worship Music” really demonstrated past success with new ideas, especially in the drum parts. Benante, well known for his speed and agility, embraced more straight-ahead rock. He had learned new strategies for playing fast without knocking himself out A good example is the tune “Judas Priest”, described as a real “anklebreaker.” Describing his approach, Benante said, “Let’s say on some shows I don’t feel like playing it as fast as I would alternating feet so on my right kick, I’ll do two hits and then on the left kick, I’ll do one … It sounds like you’re doing singles. And then sometimes, I’ll do two on the right and two on the left.”
Of course, the story includes great transcriptions and a surprise sidebar discussing Belladonna‘s drumming and vocal approach.