Where to start with the history of these New York metal legends? As the sole East Coast representatives of thrash metal’s ‘Big Four’, they infused their sound with a dark sense of humour and an intrepid experimental edge on classic albums such as ‘Persistance Of Time’ and ‘Among The Living’. Their collaboration with Public Enemy on ‘Bring The Noise’ proved to be a forerunner of the 90s metal scene, influencing the likes of Limp Bizkit and a whole load of good bands too. Nearly 25 years from their original inception, Anthrax recently reformed their classic 80s line-up; that’s Joey Belladonna (vocals), Scott Ian (guitar), Dan Spitz (guitar, Frank Bello (bass) and Charlie Benante (drums). Having stolen the show with a storming performance at last month’s Download festival in Donington, the band recently returned to the UK for a couple of low key shows, and I caught up with Dan Spitz at the Colchester Arts Centre.
So, Dan, first UK tour with this line-up since the late eighties…how’s it been so far?
We started it about two months ago; we’ve been around Europe, about two weeks in Australia, a few shows in the States, just touching base all over…we were lucky enough to get to play at a lot of festivals here in Europe. We just want to let everyone know that we’re here, it’s really happening, it’s not a joke, you know? It’s gonna take some time to really get comfortable, just like with any job, but it’s been working out really well.
People keep asking us if there’ll be a new album and stuff, but we just want to take each day as it comes…it’s been blowing up here and in Europe and Australia, a lot faster and better than we thought it would, so we’re very happy with that!
So on the whole, the fans’ reactions have been positive?
We’ve been blown away, it’s been amazing…because we’re seeing both the old fans, and also newer, younger fans, who are finally getting to see the classic band, the five guys who wrote the big Anthrax albums…it’s like history in front of you, in the present!
You played Donington last month for the first time in 17 years – how did that go? Did it bring back any fond memories?
I remember the time we played in 1988, with Dio and Bon Jovi – we remember that one very vividly, because that show really broke us through in Europe, and from then on, it was fantastic. So finding out that we would play Download this year, it was very important to us…and from the second we hit the stage, it was mayhem, it was crazy – two giant pits, great clouds of dirt rising up…the love we felt from the fans was just amazing, beyond reproach. We were, like, “We’re home again!”
What do you think of today’s metal bands – many of whom are clearly influenced by Anthrax?
Well, I didn’t even listen to music for about nine years, [after leaving Anthrax in the early nineties], so I’m kind of like an outsider coming back in…but we always used to say, years ago, that when we heard thrash metal on a television commercial, we’d know we’d done something! Our manager had two demo tapes – of us and Metallica – in the early 80s, and none of the major record labels were interested, they thought it was just noise…it wasn’t Motley Crue!
But these days, you can often hear thrash-metal soundtracks on commercials – even if it just generic stuff written by guys who writre music for commercials…that, combined with the influx of so many bands who grew up on us…we’ve been lucky to meet a lot of those bands at festivals, bands like Slipknot who were weaned on us, just like I was weaned on Black Sabbath!
You guys have always had a sense of humour and love of experimentation (e.g.
‘I’m The Man’) in your music; do you feel that this is important for bands to survive?
I think, to each his own…as a band, we have very different musical tastes; a couple of the other guys grew up strictly on punk, and they brought that aggression to Anthrax…and then you have Joey and I, who inject more melody into the band, because we grew up not only on Black Sabbath and Maiden and Priest, but also jazz and 70s music and whatnot, which has influenced me a lot as a lead guitarist.
We’ve never sat around a table and planned things as a band; we always just tried to reflect our everyday selves in our music, and it just so happens there’s a few million people out there who like it! We’ve never conformed, never let a record company tell us what to do – that was the hardest part about getting signed, they just didn’t know what to do with us.
As for the humour…you have to remember that back when we did ‘I’m The Man’, metal was supposed to be all doom and gloom, so we were breaking down barriers there! But we often had to fight hard to get our record company to release some of our stuff – like I said, they just didn’t understand us. We didn’t all wear black, we didn’t grit our teeth and look angry – because that’s not what we’re about, and it still isn’t today! I want the person who listens to my music to know that I’m the same fuckin’ moron onstage that I am offstage!
What are Anthrax’s plans for the near future, after this European tour ends?
After this tour ends, we’ll fly back to the States to do some recording – we’ve recorded a live DVD for one record company, and then a double anthology CD for Island Records, who released all our older material. We’ll visit Puerto Rico, and then start our American tour, to let them know we’re still alive; we’ll be doing that from October to December, then we’ll be back in Europe for a headlining tour sometime next year – just making sure everyone gets to see the full Anthrax show!
The European tour is currently rumoured to take place around springtime of next year – check out www.anthrax.com for more info!