Why was Joey fired the first time?
Benante: I really should clarify a lot of this stuff. I must say that back when this all went down, we were all very young men [laughs]. I don’t think we were mature enough to handle certain high-pressure situations and I think the easiest way to handle them was to just get rid of them. Certain people had issues with other people, they just built up, and that was it, basically.
So it was a personality conflict?
Is Joey here to stay now?
Benante: Oh he’s definitely here to stay.
Caggiano: Absolutely—as long as he wants to. I mean we love him, the vibe is great, and the shows are great.
The music business has totally changed since your last album, with piracy at an all-time high. Considering what an affair it’s been to get this album out, are you worried about this?
Ian: No. Why would we worry about that? We’ve never been the kind of band that had any use for the industry other than it being a distribution channel for getting our music out there. We’re a thrash-metal band that started in the underground and we’re still here 30 years later. We do everything ourselves—the same way we’ve always done it. We worry about things that we can control like making records and playing live.
Benante: I don’t think there’s a quick fix or even a long-term fix for the music business. They totally screwed it up and now we suffer for it. You go through all this hard work making an album, and what happens? A certain demographic out there considers it free. It’s like, “Hello idiots. It’s not free. It costs money to make this.”
As much as I love Apple and iTunes, I think they’re partly responsible for a lot of this too. I miss those days of going to a Tower Records and shopping for hours just discovering new things.
Ian (signature Jackson in hand) and Rob (with his ESP Custom Shop Horizons)
Even with your enormous fan base, eight years is a long time between album releases. Were you concerned that you’d lose fans because the wait was so long?
Ian: I never thought about that in my whole life.
Caggiano: Even though we took a long time, I think it worked to our advantage because we had all of this time to really sit with our songs and tweak them. We were tweaking things to the 11th hour and the songs are as good as they could possibly be. I think they’re great.
Benante: I was just talking to someone else about this. The problem we have nowadays is the immediacy of everything. Everything is “get it done right now,” and I think it hurts in a sense because as fast as it comes is as fast as it goes. It has no longevity. So I think making people wait for something is good.
Can you talk us through the writing of an Anthrax song from beginning to end?
Ian: We get in a room and we jam. We arrange it and we just know what sounds right. “Okay, this sounds like a verse and okay, this sounds like a chorus.” And you just start arranging things until you’re happy.
Benante: Either I’ll come in with the basic framework for a song or I’ll come in with a whole song. Then Scott, Frankie Bello, and I will sit in our rehearsal room and I’ll show them the ideas. It grows from there where I’ll bounce ideas off them and they’ll add something to it. “Earth on Hell” was one of those songs that was already done when I brought it in and “In the End” was another one. Sometimes they just come out that way, but sometimes the guys will modify a riff or add something to it. Once we have a start and a finish, Scott will take the song and come up with some lyrics and Frankie will work on the melodies. This time, I wrote a lot of the melodies with the guys too. Joey also added his two cents to it.
Caggiano: Charlie’s been one of the main songwriters in Anthrax for a long time and he definitely has that whole shtick down, so the tunes are in a pretty good place when he brings them in. There’ll be arrangement tweaks or like, “Play this chord here instead of that.” We just mold it into what the band is all about.
Benante: The songs stay pretty much true to the way they were when brought in, although sometimes they’d get altered a little bit.
What about something like that catchy riff in “Judas Priest?” Was that added in later?
Benante: Yeah. Rob came up with that lead section. It was one of my favorite parts that he did on the record. Rob has a really good ear for that kind of stuff and I like his leads because they’re like songs within a song.
Caggiano: Each one of us brings our own stamp to the music and it definitely gets to the next level that way. It’s funny that you mentioned that one because that’s another one of the songs that we went back and re-tracked. It was originally called “Maniacal,” and the original solo on that song was my favorite on the entire record. I was really into it but after all that shit went down with the singer, we kind of felt like that song had a negative vibe to it. We felt like we needed to rework it. Charlie came in to recut some stuff and the song is completely different, other than that opening riff.