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Rob, you played some great solos on this album, like the one in “The Devil You Know.” Are your solos worked out?
Caggiano: I don’t really like to plan things out because I find that it makes it sound stale. I like to keep the spontaneity and the fire. What I do is put the song on really loud in the studio and just jam to the track. I’ll do like three or four passes and then it’ll start to take shape in my head. I’ll listen back to the performances and I might like that part from this take or that melody line from that take, and I’ll just make mental notes. Then I’ll come up with the plan in my head and go for it. It’s not practiced or rehearsed—it’s very off-the-cuff.
“Crawl” begins with some haunting chords. Can you tell us about that?
Benante: It was played on a 12-string. I have a Jackson doubleneck that’s like a Jimmy Page replica and I played it down near the bridge. I wanted Allison, the cellist on that song, to give it a John Williams, Jaws effect. That’s probably another one of my favorite songs because it’s so different. I remember being a little worried about showing everybody that song, but they liked it.
Charlie, a lot of the songs you write have very rhythmic guitar parts. Does that come from being a drummer?
Benante: Most of the songs are written from a guitar point of view, but the drummer is still inside of me so it’s a very rhythmic thing. I like to be rhythmic and percussive on the guitar. Honestly dude, when I’m there in my room writing riffs, I’m almost possessed by the whole thing.
“The Giant” is very rhythmic.
Benante: It is very rhythmic. You know, I gotta say if there’s one song I wish I could do over, drumming-wise, it would be that one. I hear it in a different way now.
Then how will you play it live? The way it was recorded or the way you’re hearing it in your head now?
Benante: That’s a good point. I don’t know [laughs]. It may start off the way I played it on the record and it may evolve later on. That happens to a lot of our songs when we play them live. They evolve, they change, and they become something different. There’s a great quote from Sting where he said, “The way we do music is wrong. We write a song, record it, and go out and play it. But after you play it through a tour you’re playing it different and so much better. That’s when you should go record it.”
Tell us about your guitars.
Caggiano: I use ESP Custom Shop Horizons and I have a signature model on its way. Most of my guitars are loaded with Dimarzio Tone Zone pick-ups but Dimarzio is working on a brand new signature bridge pickup right now based on some ideas I have. I use Sperzel (or ESP) Locking Tuners on all my guitars and I play a fixed bridge most of the time.
Benante: I have a Van Halen “Shark” replica with Dimarzio Super Distortion pickups, a 1980 Charvel Starbody also with Super Distortion pickups, a Gibson Howard Roberts "fusion" with stock pickups, and a 2005 Jackson custom double-neck Jimmy Page replica, just to name a few.
Ian: Which guitars? I have about 70 guitars. On tour I use all my new Jackson signature models. In the studio, two Jackson signature models as well as a 1982 Randy Rhoads model and old Soloist model (the one with the NY logo on it).
Scott, as I understand you’ve used that NY Yankees Jackson on every record.
Ian: Yeah. I used those two and my 1981 Gibson V on every record.
Charlie, a Gibson Howard Roberts guitar seems like an odd choice for a guy in Anthrax. What prompted you to get it?
Benante: Okay, I’ll tell you a funny story about that guitar. Back in 1992 we had just signed to Elektra and I got some money and I always wanted a Howard Roberts so I went and bought it. The reason I got that guitar is that the guys from the Cure spoke highly of it. And I was totally absorbed with that whole sound they were getting back then.
The Cure! Who would have guessed? Have you used the Howard Roberts guitar on any Anthrax recordings?
It’s been played on some Anthrax songs like “Black Lodge” and “Walk All Over You,” an AC/DC cover song that we did. I tried to use it on this record but it didn’t work.
Charlie, who made your Van Halen Shark replica guitar?
Benante: A friend of mine named Mark. I also have two other Van Halen replicas.
What about amps?
Caggiano: I use Fryette Pitbull Ultra-Lead heads with KT88s and matching cabs.
Benante: My Vox amps are still my favorites. I have two AC30s—my original from 1990 and a newer model from 2006.
Ian: I use my Randall Signature series amp exclusively. Dave Friedman made three modules based on tones from previous records. The first one called “Malcom,” has clean rock AC/DC-type sounds, the middle one is called 1987 and it’s basically my main rhythm tone that I’ve had forever, and then the last module called “The Nuts” is more high-gain and modern sounding, comparable to an EVH. Dave Friedman re-built my Randall cab from the ground up. I always thought the Randall cabs sounded like shoe boxes. Dave pointed out a few problems that made them sound that way and we fixed it for them.
Scott, you’re a really heavy hitter yet you use .88 mm picks, a relatively light gauge.
I used to use 1 mm picks. At some point someone said to me, “Try using a lighter pick,” and there was an .88 mm lying around. I used it and it felt good. Way, way back in the early ’80s, I actually used a .73 mm, but I felt those were too bendy. Then I jumped to the 1 mms and later the .88 mms.
Staying in tune is important to me and I have a pretty heavy right hand. I really dig in and when playing live, the last thing I want is for the chords to ring out of tune. I use a custom set of strings with a heavy top and a heavier bottom—I think it’s .011, .016, .022 (wound), .030, .044, and .059.
Anthrax Gear Boxes
Guitars: Jackson Scott Ian Signature, 1982 Jackson Randy Rhoads (studio only), 1987 Jackson Soloist with NY Yankees logo (studio only), 1981 Gibson Flying V (studio only. All guitars outfitted with Seymour Duncan JB pickups.
Amps & Cabs: Randall Scott Ian RM100SI with EL34s and Dave Friedman modules based on tones from previous records, Dave Friedman-modified Randall SI412 cab, Marshall JCM 800 (Rebuilt by Steven Fryette, studio).
Effects: MXR Carbon Copy Delay, MXR EVH Flanger, MXR Micro Chorus, DigiTech Whammy, and Dunlop 404 CAE Wah. Effects controlled by Ground Control switcher.
Accessories: D'Addario custom set: .011, .016, .022 (wound), .030, .044, and .059, Monster Cables, Shure wireless, Mono Cases strap, Dunlop .88mm picks.
Guitars: ESP Custom Shop Horizons. All guitars outfitted with DiMarzio Tone Zone pickups and Sperzel or ESP locking tuners, most with a fixed bridge.
Amps & Cabs: Fryette Pitbull Ultra Lead heads (with KT88s) and matching cabs.
Effects: Dunlop Cry Baby Classic, Boss Tuner, MXR GT-OD, Death By Audio Interstellar Overdriver Deluxe, Rockbox Boiling Point, MXR Smart Gate, MXR EVH Phase 90, MXR Micro Chorus, and Boss DD-5. Effects controlled by Musicom Lab EFX MKII.
Accessories: D'Addario .010s, DiMarzio cables, Mono Cases straps and DiMarzio Straps, Dunlop Yellow Tortex picks.
Charlie Benante (gear used in the studio for Worship Music)
Guitars: Replica of EVH's "Shark" guitar with DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups, 1980 Charvel Starbody with DiMarzio Super Distortion pickups, Gibson Howard Roberts, Jackson Custom Shop Jimmy Page replica double-neck with Seymour Duncan JB pickups, Gibson Les Paul Standard Sunburst, Ovation 6- and 12-string acoustics.
Amps & Cabs: 1990 Vox AC30, 2006 Vox AC30
Effects: 1986 TC Electronic Booster + Distortion, DigiTech PDS 1002 Delay, DigiTech Multi-Chorus, Boss Metal Zone
Accessories: D'Addario strings (usually .009s, sometimes .010s), Best-Tronic Cables, Dunlop Nylon .88mm picks.