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You might know Charlie Benante best as the drummer for thrash metal gods, Anthrax–but he’s so much more than a hard-hitting musician.
Over the course of his career, Benante has been afforded opportunities to indulge in his many cultured interests and in the run up to the band’s appearance at Download Australia, Benante reflects on the chances he’s been given in his time to shape himself as a renaissance man.
Hysteria – It’s exciting you’re coming back to Australia for Download Festival–what are your thoughts about Anthrax being included on the bill?
Charlie Benante – We are so excited about this, trust me. It’s like when this was put together and we were included, we were so stoked. You know it’s not every day you get to come down to Australia to play and play on such a great festival like this, so for us to add all these years of only coming down to Australia a handful of times, it’s not like we’ve been there a lot, it’s always a privilege to come down and play, meet people and have fun.
Scott [Ian, guitar] was of course here recently touring his spoken word show and if his enthusiasm is a reflection of the band, we’d imagine your performances will be pretty intense.
Yeah! I mean, I was supposed to come down but I couldn’t do it–I was bummed. But, I know I’m coming down there to play in March so I’m looking forward to that.
Whenever I find out I’m going to Australia I start making these crazy plans–like, ‘I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that, I’m gonna go fishing with sharks’–then I finally get down there and I’m like, I’m fucking tired man, I ain’t doing shit! [laughs]
Well, in an ideal world what’s on the list for this upcoming trip, if you could do it and jet lag wasn’t such a pain, what would you do when you get out here?
I would love to see a great white shark face to face in a cage, I would love to do that. I know it’s a bit of a chore to put it all together because I know it’s pretty far to do it. If there’s a way of doing, let’s say, the microwave version, then I would do it.
Like a micro dip into the ocean?
Oh yeah! [Laughs]
I would love to see a great white shark face to face in a cage, I would love to do that.
[ Charlie Benante ]
Now, everyone knows you are heavy metal’s coffee connoisseur and of course each Australian city boasts their own coffee culture–is that something you look forward to when you tour, trying out different coffees in different cultures?
Absolutely, it’s always something that’s on my mind, like okay well I’m gonna school myself in different regions of different aspects of coffee. When I go to South America, when I go to Costa Rica, I’m gonna consume as much as I possibly can, when I go to Peru, when I to Colombia, of course. I like to sample all these different things and make up my mind about which one I like—I’m pretty fond of a Costa Rican cup of coffee–but I know in Australia there’s some big Italian groups, and me being Italian, we all love our coffee, so I can see myself becoming one with the paisans down there, and just enjoying some coffee.
One would assume that perhaps without Anthrax, you may never have had the opportunity to travel the world to this extent to indulge in your other passions, like coffee–is that something you ever think about?
I do. Quite a bit. It helps shape who I am, actually and what I’ve become. There’s always been an interest inside of me for certain things but certain experiences you get by walking down a street in, let’s say Melbourne, and experience something that is right then and there in front of you, is something you can only read about or see in a movie–when you’re actually doing it, walking into a shop and drinking something and you smell it, that’s a totally different thing, man, that’s an experience that only you can have.
First time I went to Italy, and I’ll never forget it, first thing I wanted to do was to go have a cup of espresso, do it the way the Italians did it–that was it, I had to do it, you have to do these things.
Couple of years back, me and Mike Portnoy [Dream Theater] had a contest–this was when Starbucks started popping up all over the world–we had this contest, who cold hit the most extreme Starbucks there was. I remember, I got him on the one in Peru. I ventured to the furthest Starbucks ever, then he beat me after that, he went to the one in Moscow.
That’s pretty cool! What a challenge to set yourselves!
Yeah, we need to have more challenges! [Laughs]
Do you really though? Because obviously you’ve been with the band since 1983 but you’re not the kind of guy who’s been just about the band–you’re a character with someone many different interests and experiences.
I don’t just sit back and play drums, I like to do much more than that [laughs] with that being said, something we talked about, if it wasn’t for the band being the vehicle in order for me to do this, I don’t think I would be able to do any of this stuff. So I always have to give praise and thanks for what we do–you shouldn’t take things for granted because without that, you may never have achieved what you’ve achieved.
Catch Anthrax at the following dates:
Thu 7 March // Riverstage // Brisbane w/ Slayer & Behemoth
Sat 9 March // Download Festival at Parramatta Park // Sydney
Mon 11 March // Download Festival at Flemington Racecourse // Melbourne
Wed 13 March // Adelaide Entertainment Centre // Adelaide w/ Slayer & Behemoth