There were never thicker New York accents on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball than when Anthrax stopped by. Singer Scott Ian is from Bayside, Queens; Charlie Benante and Frank Bello both come from Throggs Neck, Bronx. So what’s Benante doing in Long Grove?
“I know, it’s weird that I’m out here,” Benante says, sitting on a drum stool in his garage in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, furiously tapping his feet by instinct. “I’d given so much of my life to the band, I decided I needed a chapter of my life that was my own. My wife’s from here, from Irving Park, and I’ve always had this thing about Chicago. It’s a cleaner, smaller New York.” Six years ago Benante, Anthrax’s drummer, songwriter, sometimes-guitarist and graphic designer, built the home as he prepared to marry.
Now the metal titan has become a more legitimate Chicago act than expatriates Corgan, Common and Kanye. And not just because of the “My Dinner with Anthrax” episode of Married…with Children. The band spent the last half-decade writing, demoing and recording parts of their new album in Benante’s home studio, and in other studios around town. The resulting Worship Music also features cover art by Chicago comics stud Alex Ross.
Low-flying cranes swoop overhead and deer graze nearby as I wind down the lengthy driveway leading to Benante’s home. Breaking the rustic mood are towers of music gear, waiting to be picked up by trucks for a tour that kicks off at Congress Theater this weekend. Wearing a black hoodie and camo pants, Benante shows me around the garage cum studio. Large cutouts of Simpsons characters and Michael Jordan lean against the wall. Old Anthrax banners and a Led Zeppelin poster hang above them.
Benante is happy to be in the ’burbs, where the school system and a massive yard suit his five-year-old daughter. But the rocker still pops into town for shows at House of Blues or Metro. He raves about Schwa, Rossi’s on State Street (“I love old-school bars”) and Ian’s pizza in Wrigleyville (“It’s like a New York–style pizza place”). His little girl loves going to Bulls games. “Going into Chicago is like going to Manhattan, but just with less stress,” Benante says. “The weather sucks, though.”
Fans of the band’s more irreverent material should brace themselves for thundering brutality on Worship Music. Though, true to Anthrax form, it’s not all serious. “Fight ’em ’Til You Can’t” carries on the group’s sci-fi shenanigans by narrating a zombie brawl. Anthrax is recharged, having played to some of the biggest crowds of its career last year. Though the “Big Four” of thrash metal has long been established as Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, it was not until summer 2010 that the four bands played together in a series of massive concerts in Europe, and made a stateside showing at Yankee Stadium. Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz Jr. declared it Anthrax Day.
Could the quartet rock Wrigley Field with the force of a thousand Zambrano tantrums? “We talked about doing a Big Four show at Wrigley,” Benante lets out, after admitting he secretly wore a Yankees shirt under his Cubs jersey when throwing out a ceremonial first pitch on September 21. “I’m praying that it can happen. It would be insane if the Cubs won the championship. But that fucking team can’t do it. It would be awesome if we can.”
Anthrax plays Congress Theater Saturday 15.