For more than twenty years New York’s Anthrax have been a driving force in the metal community. In the 1980s they helped redefine the conventions of the metal genre, favouring anger, speed and emotional intensity over big hair and power ballads. They became one of the most popular thrash metal bands and stood the test of time, with a career spanning longer than most of us have been alive.
They’ve had almost as many line up changes as they have songs, but Anthrax return to Australia as part of the Soundwave festival with the much loved John Bush on vocals, responsible for some of Anthrax’s most successful music to date, including the acclaimed The Sound of White Noise album.
Daniel Clarke got the current lead guitarist, Rob Caggiano, on the phone to check on the progress of the new album, chat about the upcoming tour and the changing band dynamics over the years.
Music Feeds: So how are you going, man?
Rob Caggiano: Good, just walking around the city.
MF: Cool, cool. How’s the weather over there?
RC: Starting to get a little chilly, the weather in New York is a little crazy. It’s cold one day, and then warm the next. Up and down. It’s gonna start getting cold pretty soon.
MF: It’s a bit like Sydney. We had rain in the last couple of days and today’s stinking hot. You don’t know which way it’ll go.
RC: Right (laughs).
MF: So you’ve been with Anthrax since 2001, right? But they were together some twenty years before that, how was it coming into the band at such a late stage with so much history behind them? Was it hard to work your way into the hearts and minds of fans?
RC: Well, obviously there’s always going to be comparisons to the original line up, and all that stuff, but, the bottom line is, you gotta do what you gotta do to keep the machine moving. Anthrax has always been one of my favourite bands so when I joined, it was a bit surreal. It was great, looking over at Scotty on the other end of the stage.
MF: You were obviously a fan, were you familiar with the songs when you auditioned, did you already know them like the back of your hand?
RC: Yeah, I knew the songs pretty well.
MF: You’ve come in and out of the band a couple of times now, in between when they did the reunion and stuff, what is it about Anthrax that makes the line up so fluid? Is it just because, like you said, they want to keep the machine going regardless of who’s on which duties?
RC: Are you talking about the line-up changes?
MF: Yeah the line up changes, what keeps you guys going?
RC: Being in the band, contrary to popular belief, is actually really hard. It’s like being married to a group of guys. And that’s why a lot of bands don’t stay together, you know. The fact that Anthrax has been around for so long, it really says a lot. Basically, it’s all about chemistry, on a professional level but also on a personal level. So that’s what we’ve been experiencing this past year. Now with John back, we did a few shows with him, it was like magic, it just felt so right. For me, John is the voice of the band. He is. Man, I love the old records and obviously, I respect all of their stuff because I grew up on it but to me, John is the voice of the band, it just really hits home for me.
MF: Is he permanently back in the band now?
RC: It’s unofficial; it’s still up in the air. But it looks good and it feels really good. We’re all just keeping our fingers crossed.
MF: So how do you guys go about, when you go into the studio, is it a big collaborative thing or does Scott take charge when you guys are writing songs? How does it all come together?
RC: Believe it or not, Charlie writes most of the music for the band. Scott writes all the lyrics, or most of the lyrics, Frankie has a big hand in the melodies and that kind of stuff. And the band flushes everything out, like arrangement wise and all the intricacies of each tune are flushed out in rehearsal. That’s kind of how it works for Anthrax.
MF: So the sound of Anthrax has changed quite a bit over the years as well, what do you think has lead you guys to move into the different directions? Is it a reflection of the music you’re listening to at the time or the kind of stuff that you’re into, or… does it feel natural?
RC: Actually I think that’s one of the reasons the band has been around for so long. Anthrax has always been a band to push the envelope, push the boundaries a little bit and try different things, different directions. There’s not two Anthrax records that sound the same, every record is different, which I think is very cool. There’s only a few bands out there that could pretty much make the same record over and over again. Obviously AC/DC is one of them. They can do no wrong in my book.
MF: Have you ever caught those guys live?
RC: AC/DC? Of course. Scott and I actually went to see them recently on this tour in LA and it was probably one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life.
MF: Like you said, they’re the kind of band that draw massive crowds regardless of the day, time or year… it’s incredible.
RC: Yeah. They’re amazing. Absolutely amazing. But to go back to the question, I think it’s a really good thing that Anthrax always tries different things and tries different approaches. It keeps it interesting and keeps it fresh.
MF: Well you guys are coming out to Australia soon, have you been out to Oz before?
RC: We were there a few years ago.
MF: You excited to get back? How are the crowds over here compared to international crowds?
RC: The Australian tour we did a few years ago was amazing. It was absolutely amazing. We were there with Killswitch Engage and Soilwork, and it was sick. We were headlining every night and the shows were just amazing. My only regret with that whole experience is that I didn’t really get to see much of the country because our schedule was so hectic. We were playing really late at night and we’d have to wake up at 7am to go to the airport and it got really, really hectic. But hopefully this time I’ll have a bit more breathing room, just to check things out, do some sightseeing. I’m really looking forward to it actually.
MF: Have you had a chance to look at the other bands that are on the Soundwave line up?
RC: I know Faith No More is on there and I’m not really sure who else, I haven’t got the list. But I know there are a lot of younger bands. I’m really psyched to see Faith No More. I’ve never seen them live so it’s going to be awesome.
MF: So what can we expect from the live shows? Are there any surprises up your sleeve as far as on stage antics, that kind of thing?
RC: (laughs) I’m not really sure. It’s gonna be an Anthrax show and by the third note the crowd’s gonna know we are not fucking around. That’s kind of what we do, we’re gonna tear it up.
MF: So what are you guys doing next? Any plans to record a new album or are you going to be touring for a while?
RC: We’re still trying to finish this one (laughs). Just trying to finish this record, as soon as that’s done… We’re taking it one day at a time, really. We plan to go out there and support this album for a while. It’s really up to John, we don’t know how extensive the touring is going to be. He’s got a lot going on, family wise, he’s got kids now, so things are a little different these days than they used to be. That’s pretty much it for now. As far as recording a new record on top of this one (laughs) I don’t want to even think about that right now.
MF: So do you like the touring or the recording better? Do you like being on the road? Like you were saying, last time you were in Australia you didn’t get much of a chance to see the country. Does that really bother you or does being on stage every night kind of make up for that?
RC: I personally love touring. I love being on the road and playing music, living on the bus. That whole life is a blast. I actually really like it a lot. I’m speaking for myself, though. Some of the other guys might have different opinions but I really like it a lot. I love waking up in a different city and playing music; it’s who I am, it’s what I do. As far as that versus recording, I love recording too, for me it’s all about noise, it’s all about making noise – on stage, or in the studio or my bedroom, wherever the hell it is. I just love making music.
Anthrax are playing the Soundwave festivals across the country with no sideshows announced yet, so if you’re a fan, make sure you log on to http://www.soundwavefestival.com/ for tickets before they sell out.