A lot of people have that little something; a hobby or a fascination with something that has nothing to do with 'normal' everyday life. Often it's something in the purest of forms and simply 'fun.' And for Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, one of those special somethings is horror.
Having been a routine attendee of horror and comic conventions for years now, even before they exploded into the massively popular events that they have become today, Charlie Benante has been a regular visitor to the Days of the Dead convention in Chicago in particular. And coming this November, Benante will make his inaugural appearance as a guest at the Days of the Dead.
Scheduled for Nov. 18, 19, and 20 at the Chicago Schaumburg Marriott, this year's Days of the Dead Chicago has already got some pretty exciting people lined up for the weekend - - - shock-rock legend Alice Cooper, wrestler Ric Flair, Dead Zone star Anthony Michael Hall, Buffy The Vampire Slayer's Kristy Swanson, and many more. But it was the scheduling of Megadeth's Dave Ellefson - a friend of Benante's - that got him to consider being a guest as well. Another friend of Benante's, one of the Days of the Dead's organizers had suggested to him many times that he should appear, but when Ellefson signed on then finally so did he.
While currently on yet another stretch of tour dates in 2016 sporting tunes off of their newest album, For All Kings, and concurrently celebrating the band's 35 anniversary, AXS got the chance to talk to Charlie Benante about the Days of the Dead convention, how both comic conventions and thrash metal and becoming more mainstream, and what it was like for Anthrax to meet one of their collective heroes - legendary actor Robert De Niro.
Although Benante plans to appear at the convention all three days, he's also thinking about bringing some of his own products to offer for purchase at the Days of the Dead. For those who have visited his website, Benante has several items available including t-shirts and even his signature brand of coffee. "I know people are going to be asking me why I don't have any of my t-shirts there so in order to avoid that I'll bring the t-shirts but I don't know if I'm going to bring the coffee - although I may get asked for that too," he replied when asked if he'll simply be signing photos or also have a table with items for sale.
But what is it about this environment that he enjoys so much - and what keeps him coming back year after year? Benante explained: "A lot of the people that go to these things now, or a lot of the people that do these things now, probably didn't go the same path that I did. We're talking many, many years ago – I would search to find any sort of convention to go to, be it very small ones. But I remember the early days of the Chiller [convention] in New Jersey and going to those. Now it's become very big, now it's turned into more of a celebrity meet and greet type of thing rather than getting comics or anime or horror, it's all pretty much combined. And I think it's another way for people to meet their favorite actor or musician so I think it's come a long, long way. And I've always believed that music and horror have always had this kind of marriage anyway, so I think it's kind of cool now that it's all come to fruition and everybody's into it now a days. Even girls, even women, you see so many females at these things now that you would have never seen before. And we were joking about it, like once you were a nerd but now you're not a nerd anymore, now you're cool. Not that I was ever a nerd, but..." he chuckled.
In regards to the popularity among women, there seems to be a parallel as well with more women than ever being interested in bands like Anthrax and other thrash metal artists as well. "Our shows used to be 95.9%, maybe even more, male dominated. The only reason why a girl would come to the show was because her boyfriend went. But I think now it's become a little more mainstream and that's great."
We asked Benante what it is that he's most looking forward to while being a guest at Days of the Dead in November, "I really get off on meeting people, talking to them, trying to hear what they really like about this whole thing. What inspires them? Just stuff like them. What makes you get out of their houses to come to these kinds of things?" he replied in earnest, "I enjoy the really good conversations. And some people don't want to talk, they just want to present their stuff, have me sign it and that's it, which is fine. But I'll have friends there who are also doing appearances and I think it'll be a fun time.
But it is an intimidating thing coming face to face with someone you idolize, be it a musician, actor, athlete, or what have you, some fans naturally feel nervous and don't know what to say. "Yeah, I think that's what it is. I know for myself in the past, I don't really want to meet my idols because I don't want to disappointed. And usually I'm not disappointed, there's been maybe a handful of times where I met the person and I'm like, 'that's weird.' But I also have to say that maybe they're just having a bad day too. I've had experiences where sh*t was going on in my personal life and you're just not that person at that time to meet someone. It sucks because you don't want to ruin their experience but there's sh*t going on with you."
Speaking of meeting one's idols, recently Anthrax was able to interact with one of theirs - actor Robert De Niro. While appearing on NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers recently Robert De Niro was one of the night's other featured guests. "We started talking to him and asked him if he'd mind taking a picture with us and he was like 'yeah, no problem!'"
And as far as the Anthrax 35th anniversary tour and success of their new album, we asked Benante about his feelings with everything happening in the world of Anthrax in 2016: "I feel good about it. The fan response has been great, and that to me is the most important thing. You can think it's great and some of the best stuff, but it's only until it reaches other ears and you get that feedback and you can measure it that you can sit back and say 'I'm happy now. People love it.' And I think that's a big thing. And we're trying to play a lot more [from the new album] live too. But it's so hard because you don't want to be stuck playing the old favorites all the time. I really want to keep it fresh and mix it up a bit."
But Anthrax is a band that's known for changing up their set list pretty often. "You know, I wish we changed it around a bit more just for my own taste, but again, you have to play certain songs. If you don't play certain songs then people are like, 'Well how come you didn't play that?' And if you remove another song then they're like, 'How come you didn't play that?' It's hard to please everybody and the most important thing is that you're pleasing yourself and you're pleasing the majority."
So what would be Anthrax's "Ace of Spades" so to speak? Which song does the band absolutely have to perform at their shows? "'Caught In A Mosh,'' replied Benante without hesitation, "'Caught In A Mosh' has never come out of the set. Never come out of the set. I enjoy playing that song. I still enjoy playing a song like 'Madhouse,' I still enjoy playing 'Antisocial.' You know, and maybe some people don't want to hear some of those songs but like I said, if we didn't play 'Caught In A Mosh' it would be bad. It's a signature tune."
Fans can catch Anthrax doing "Caught In A Mosh" as well as an array or both their classic material and songs from the new release, For All Kings, this fall while on tour in North America. Click here for concert tickets.
And for fans of the Days of the Dead convention who'd like to come out and meet Charlie Benante this coming November, click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
Remaining dates for Anthrax's 35th-anniversary tour:
Sept. 22 St. Louis, MO The Pageant,
Sept. 24 Houston, TX Houston Open Air Festival
Sept. 25 Devore, CA Knotfest
Sept. 27 Orlando, FL Hard Rock Live
Sept. 28 Miami, FL Fillmore
Sept. 29 Destin, FL Club L.A.*
Sept. 30 Tunica, MS Horseshoe Casino Tunica
Oct. 1 Louisville, KY Louder Than Life Festival
Oct. 3 Norfolk, VA Norva
Oct. 4 Asheville, NC Orange Peel*
Oct. 5 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle
Oct. 6 Baton Rouge, LA Varsity Theatre*
Oct. 7 Dallas, TX Gas Monkey Live
Oct. 8 Austin, TX ACL at the Moody Theatre
Oct. 10 Denver, CO Fillmore
Oct. 11 Salt Lake City, UT The Complex
Oct. 12 Boise, ID Rev Hall*
Oct. 13 Missoula, MT The Wilma Theatre
Oct. 14 Idaho Falls, ID The Hill event Center*
Oct. 15 Garden City, ID Revolution Concert House
Oct. 16 Spokane, WA Knitting Factory,*
Oct. 17 Lethbridge, AB ENMAX Centre
Oct. 19 Penticton, BC S. Okanagan Events Centre
Oct. 20 Abbotsford, BC Abbotsford Centre
Oct. 21 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theatre*
Oct. 22 Elverta, CA Discovery Park
Oct. 23 Reno, NV Reno Events Center
Oct. 22 Sacramento, CA Aftershock Festival
Oct. 25 Flagstaff, AZ Orpheum Theatre*
Oct. 26 Farmington, NM Top Deck*
Oct. 27 El Paso, TX El Paso County Coliseum*
* Anthrax & Death Angel