The formula for Anthrax’s live shows is simple, according to drummer Charlie Benante: Rock and feed off the audience.
“We’re five guys who pretty much put it all out there,” he says. “We never really relied on pyro or anything like that. We always relied on ourselves, the music, the sweat and the audience. That basically makes a good show for us.”
Fans can see for themselves when Anthrax plays the Arizona State Fair’s Veterans Coliseum on Thursday, October 18. The show comes on the heels of leg two of Slayer’s farewell tour with Lamb of God, Testament and Napalm Death. The tour continues in Europe in November and December.
Anthrax is considered part of the legendary “big four” thrash bands to make a ruckus in the early ’80s alongside Slayer. Benante is considered Anthrax’s archivist and has kept records from nearly the beginning.
In April, Anthrax released Kings Among Scotland, a live DVD filmed at the band’s sold-out concert at Barrowland Ballroom, an historic venue in Glasgow.
The disc incorporates Anthrax’s live show and includes gems like “Madhouse” and “I Am the Law,” Breathing Lightning” and “Indians.” The disc also features interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and other B-roll shot on the band’s tour bus, backstage, in hotels and elsewhere, plus a gear rundown from each of the musicians.
Benante says he feels the pressure to be perfect when Anthrax records live shows.
“Out of everybody in the band, I’m the one who has to be spot on,” he says. “I can’t go and correct a mistake I made because it affects everything else. I’m pretty much under the microscope when we do that type of stuff. I have to pay more attention to it.
“Most of the time, for me, when I get into a groove or zone I’m fine. I kind of coast. You have to ignore the camera. For me, the most important thing is getting the songs down.”
The songs primarily start with Benante. For 2016’s All the Kings, Anthrax went into the studio with more songs than they ever had and recorded 20. This was, in part, due to Benante’s surgeries for carpal tunnel syndrome, which caused him to miss a number of shows.
Benante put the downtime to good use and came up with a slew of foundation riffs and ideas for new songs that he took into writing sessions with fellow writers Frank Bello and Scott Ian.
Although he plays drums for Anthrax, Benante does his riff-writing on guitar. In addition, he designs the band’s cover artwork, ads, marketing tools and band merchandise.
Benante has already started writing songs for the next album.
“I love when I get a good momentum,” Benante says. “I have a really good start and ideas and I build on those. When my enthusiasm starts, more ideas come after that. That’s usually how it goes. Right now, I have about eight ideas that’ll become something, I hope.”
What keeps Benante going is the excitement of what could be next.
“Maybe this next album will have a group of songs that will completely change the landscape,” he says. “It’s just that: What’s next.”
Anthrax, Arizona State Fair’s Veterans Coliseum, 1826 W. McDowell Road Phoenix, 602.252.6771, azstatefair.com/concerts/, 7 p.m. Thursday, October 18, free for general admission, $40-$60 for reserved seating and a fair admission ticket.