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Interview:
Anthrax's Charlie Benante steps out solo, 5 Things to Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Friday, May 14, 2021

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Charlie Benante has been a thrash rock hero with the band Anthrax since 1983, stepping outside only occasionally -- most notably for the band Stormtroopers of Death during the 90s.



But the pandemic has given the multi-instrumentalist and songwriter a chance to find another musical path.



"Silver Lining," out on Friday, May 14, is Benante's first solo album -- albeit with a little help from a lot of his friends. Taking its name from a video series of remote collaborations he started early during the pandemic, its 14 tracks feature covers of songs by U2, Run-DMC, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Iron Maiden, Billie Eilish, Kiss and more, joined by a variety of guests primarily from the world of heavy music.



He's not giving up his "day job" with Anthrax, but Benante acknowledges the endeavor has kept him sane during the past year-plus and has truly been a silver lining during a dark time...



Benante, 58, says by phone from his home Chicago that the "Silver Lining" collaborations were a way to get away from the malaise he experienced early on while quarantining. "When things started to get really crazy...I was just glued to the TV, glued to my phone, 'What's happening? Where's this going?' Nobody knew anything. I started to get really depressed and go through a really dark place. My girlfriend (Carla Harvey of the Butcher Babies) said to me, 'You've got to stop watching the news. You need to turn this off and go do something creative.' I took her advice. I set up my Roland electronic (drum) kit in my art room and started playing again like I did when I was a kid and would come home from school. I knew some of my friends in bands were going through the same type of thing, so I would reach about to them about doing some (virtual) jams together, and we figure out how."







Benante started with a version of Rush's "Freewill," which he posted online, and he began posting the songs online. "It was my chance to entertain myself and yet entertain others, and I was just doing it out of love. It just went on and on and on, and people would always ask me, 'Are you gonna put these out?' At first I was like, 'No, I'm not,' but they said it one too many times, so I decided to do it, but in a way that would help other people." Proceeds from "Silver Linings" got to the Neal Casal Music Foundation to provide instruments and lessons to youths and also supports mental health organizations for musicians.



Benante acknowledges that he was "apprehensive" about reaching out to other musicians but was pleased and inspired by the response. "I'd feel like, 'Oh, they're never gonna do this,' and they'd come back with, 'Dude, yeah, I'd love to do it!'" Benante has continued working on the virtual collaborations, though he's paused the online series for the time being. And going back to the Rush canon for "Subdivisions," he's thinking about putting out an EP of just Rush songs, most likely for Record Store Black Friday in November.



Benante says Anthrax has resumed working on its next album, its first since "For All Kings" in 2016. It's also planning a livestream performance for some time in June. "We want to entertain again -- for ourselves moreso than anything, just to play again," he notes. The group has also announced a new graphic novel anthology, "Among the Living," which will commemorate the 1987 album of the same name. "I'm so happy about how that whole thing has happened. All the ingredients going into it are just so amazing, from the writing to the art to the packaging. I think it could be one of the greatest things we've ever done in our career."



Benante has also been working on his own art ambitions, including a show in Chicago during March. "That's the other thing I was doing during the COVID months, working on art. If I wasn't doing music I was doing art. That takes me back when I was younger, when I would be alone in my room, drawing and playing my instruments. (The pandemic) gave me a chance to do the things I love again because I couldn't do a lot of the other things I love."

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