Charlie Benante's Big Top
Part 1: Metal Rap to the Masses / Soul Vaccination / Remixing the Past
What? Another metal group doing rap? Not so fast. In 1991, long before kids dined on Korn and Bizkit, there was one of the more historic hardcore rock/rap collaborations featuring two of the most revered groups in both genres-- Anthrax joining Public Enemy on their anthem "Bring The Noise." "I got this riff and we got the idea to have Chuck D come over and rap," says guitarist Scott Ian. "We called Chuck up and told him what we did. His initial reaction was that he felt it would be redundant. They'd already done it on a record and a single, so it was already out twice for him and at the time it wasn't even one of his favorite tracks, but I was like, 'Just check it out, you have to hear this.' We sent out a tape and the next thing we heard was Chuck saying, 'Let's do it,' and the track came out great."
Such is a day in the life of New York-quartet Anthrax, venerable survivors of unloving (Elektra) and defunct (Ignition/Tommy Boy) record labels, as well as the precipitous drop of metal music from it's '80s heyday. But after 18 years, eight studio albums and numerous EPs, the group defies the trends and odds with their recently released greatest-hits package, The Return of the Killer A's, featuring re-mastered versions of classics like "Indians" and "I Am The Law," and a curious cover of the Temptations' "Ball of Confusion."
Musician.com caught up with Bronx-native Charlie Benante to talk skins, warm-up routines, and ambitious crossovers.
Musician.com: First Public Enemy, now this-- what's with the Temptations cover, "Ball of Confusion?"
Charlie Benante: There's nothing really special about that as far as drum playing, it's just pretty much straight ahead.
Musician.com: Songs such as The Temptations' "Ball of Confusion" or Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise," which was a crossover way before this rap-metal genre became mainstream, how do you put together the drum part for that? Do you try to pretty much stay true to the original song?
Benante: The thing about those songs, at first I tried to play them close as I could to the original. And in rehearsals when we did it, I got my personality more into it. I'd say, "This to me is kind of stale," and just kind of went for it a little more and tried to lend more of the Anthrax style to those songs. And then when you get comfortable with it, you have some time to fill in here and there. I want to keep that groove going, but still put in some of the metal aspect.
Musician.com: Whose idea was it to do the Temptations track?
Benante: Actually John [Bush, vocalist] has been wanting us to do it for a couple years now, but we didn't want to do it. Let's put it this way, when we were going to do it with our ex-singer [Joey Belladonna, who parted with the band in 1991] then it made sense to do it, because there's two voices in the song. But now, we're not on the same page anymore-- we did that song, and that was it. He [Joey] never did the tour with us.
Musician.com: You remixed a lot of older songs for the new album.
Benante: Yeah, I put the whole thing together. I sat in the mastering room with George Marino. It was great hearing the old songs come to life. They haven't been re-mastered or anything, so we just added some lows and highs and EQed them to make them fit with the other songs. The original mixes were really thin, so I wanted to beef it all up, including the drums.
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