Despite having been in existence almost three decades, the "Big Four
" of thrash metal - Metallica
, and Anthrax
- have never appeared together on the same bill. Until now. Each group formed during the early eighties, and were the genre's most popular and enduring acts, as well as arguably the most influential. All four of the acts have experienced peaks, as well as low points, but a large faithful ensure that they all remain in the public's consciousness. 2010 Sonisphere
dates will pair all of them together, creating momentous history.
On July 17th, 2009 Anthrax
's management issued a press release stating that the first three dates of a European trek, scheduled to begin on the 18th, had been cancelled. The press release alleged that on the 16th, Dan Nelson
had informed Anthrax
that he was seriously ill and unable to travel or perform at that time. On July 21st, seven additional dates from the 22nd to the 30th were cancelled. Anthrax
's departure, and in light of the man's departure, scheduled August and September dates supporting Slipknot
were scrapped. That same day on the 21st, however, it was confirmed that following a four-year hiatus, John Bush
would perform with Anthrax
at the Sonisphere Festival
in Knebworth, United Kingdom on August 1st. Also, the man subsequently performed with Anthrax
at the Loud Park '09 Festival
in Japan on October 17th. From late February to early March 2010, this very same Anthrax
lineup will perform at venues across Australia. More significantly, the "Big Four
" of thrash metal will perform at the following Sonisphere
festival dates at the time of writing; 16th June in Warsaw, Poland, the 18th in Jonschwil, Switzerland, and the 19th in Prague, Czech Republic.
's tenth album, "Worship Music
", was originally slated for European release on October 23rd, 2009 but the record's release has since been postponed. The full length, with Nelson
's vocals, had been mixed at a New Orleans studio by Dave Fortman
(previously the guitarist of Ugly Kid Joe, Fortman has produced such albums as Evanescence's "Fallen" (2003) and "The Open Door" (2006), and Slipknot's "All Hope Is Gone" (2008)). Those within Anthrax
now hope that John Bush
will agree to re-record "Worship Music
"'s vocals. In other Anthrax
related news, guitarists Rob Caggiano
and Scott Ian
feature as part of the lineup of a new band called The Damned Things
, which includes Every Time I Die
frontman Keith Buckley
, and guitarist Joe Trohman
and drummer Andy Hurley
from Fall Out Boy
On December 20th at 19:25 GMT, Hit The Lights
' Robert Gray
's Rob Caggiano
to discuss the group's future plans, the "Big Four
" festival dates, and The Damned Things
UG: Hello. This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com.
Hey man. How are ya?
I'm ok. Would it be alright if I began the interview?
Yeah, now's fine. Perfect.
Briefly, what is your view of the Dan Nelson situation? To summarize?
It just didn't work out. The band stands behind its statement that it put out, and that's really all there is to say about it.
At the moment, are there ongoing legal issues which prevent you from discussing the topic?
Yeah, there is.
But do you feel that once those legal issues are resolved, the truth will emerge?
Yeah, I think the truth will emerge - I think people already know the truth (laughs). Even though some people might be misled here and there, everyone that's close to the situation knows the truth about what really happened. We're not worried about any of that. We're just trying to move forward into the future, because none of that shit actually matters at all at this point in the game (laughs).
(Laughs) Obviously, whatever happened happened with Dan Nelson. Following that, how did John Bush enter the picture?
Basically, we approached him about doing some shows. We had a bunch of shows booked when the whole thing happened with Dan, so we had to cancel a whole bunch of shows, which was a drag. None of us were happy about that at all. We were all very upset. We were very excited to go out there and play, and just tear it up. One of the biggest shows we had was the Sonisphere show in Knebworth; it was huge, and we really wanted to play it. We approached John about doing the show with us, with no strings attached, us just getting out there, having fun, and tearing it up. He thought about it, agreed, and we did just that. We went out there, and the show was awesome. It's definitely magical, and the vibe is magical. Just to play with John again felt really, really good, and sounded amazing. Yeah, that was pretty much it. That's how it started with John again - he agreed to do a few more shows, and a few more shows after that. That's where we're at right now. We're keeping our fingers crossed that he's gonna sing on the record. Nothing's confirmed yet or anything like that, but we're all hoping it's gonna go that way.
Was John an immediate choice? The first vocalist Anthrax thought of?
"One of the biggest shows we had was the Sonisphere show in Knebworth; it was huge."
Yeah. John was always the immediate choice. In my opinion, he's the voice of Anthrax, and I know the other guys feel the same way. Of course he was the immediate choice. Absolutely.
How were relations between John Bush and Anthrax prior to discussing these reunion shows?
I think everything was fine. Obviously, there was a little turbulence a few years ago, but that's all water under the bridge at this point. I think John is just in a different place now. I don't think there's any bad blood, or anything like that. Like I said, when we got together for that first show in Knebworth, England, it was amazing. When we rehearsed the day before, it felt like we had been doing this the whole time - it didn't feel like he was gone. It was just perfect.
So Anthrax didn't have to sit down with John, and discuss what happened before, or anything like that?
No, no, no. No. Everyone's in a different place now, and all that shit's water under the bridge at this point... as far as I can tell anyway (laughs).
(Laughs) What was that rehearsal with John like, a day prior to Anthrax's Sonisphere performance?
It was amazing, absolutely amazing. We got together at John Henry's in London, and yeah, the rehearsal was killer. I knew just from the rehearsal that the show was gonna be amazing, because the vibe was right. John sounded fucking great, and yeah, everything was just perfect. The synergy was back, and the chemistry between all of us was back. It just felt right.
How did Anthrax approach compiling a set list for its Sonisphere performance? Was that chosen the same day?
We were talking about the set list a couple of weeks prior to that whole thing, so we just tried to figure out what songs to play. We did more of the Bush era material, which is what we all wanted to do. It worked out great.
Since then, John has taken part in some other performances with Anthrax. Is he taking things day by day?
Yeah. We're all taking it day by day at this point. We have this Australian run booked in February, and then we got some more Sonisphere shows booked with Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth. That's gonna be a lot of fun. I can't wait for that - it's gonna be awesome.
And will all these currently scheduled Anthrax shows definitely feature John Bush on vocals?
At present, what are Anthrax's plans concerning 'Worship Music'?
'Worship Music' I guess falls under the whole thing of taking it day by day (laughs). We don't really know. Like I said, we're hoping that John sings on the record, but it hasn't been confirmed yet. We don't know when that would even happen. 'Worship Music' is done, and it's ready to go - it's actually mixed and everything. We just got to replace the vocals, and there you have it. Like I said though, we're taking it day by day. I know John heard the music - he liked the music. We'll see what happens.
Whether John returns or not though, is the plan to re-record 'Worship Music''s vocals?
Yes, absolutely, but the lyrics might change, and some of the melodies might change. I don't really know how true to the original form they're gonna be when John sings them, if he sings them (laughs). There's also the possibility of coming up with a few brand new tracks with John as well. Like I said, we're just taking it day by day, and we're hoping it goes that way.
So there's no studio time booked then, or anything of that nature?
There's no studio time booked at the moment, no.
Are you looking forward to the 'Big Four' festival performances with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer?
Oh yeah, yeah. I'm looking forward to that a lot, actually. It's gonna be tons of fun.
How does it feel? To be a part of this forthcoming, momentous occasion in metal?
For me, it's great. Years ago when I was a kid, I went to the 'Clash of the Titans' show, and it's just amazing to be a part of that onstage this time around. It's awesome. I really can't wait for it, all of us - we're all really excited about it.
Do you feel that those 'Big Four' festival dates are a good opportunity to show that Anthrax is still firing on all cylinders?
Oh yeah, yeah. Absolutely. I think everyone's gonna know after the first two notes that we ain't fuckin' around (laughs). Absolutely. We're gonna be on fire for those shows.
Had those 'Big Four' festival performances been in the works for quite some time then?
Not really. There were talks and rumours going back and forth for months, and finally, it all came together. I wouldn't say it was this big, premeditated thing. I think all the bands wanted it to happen. It was just figuring out all the logistics, I guess.
So there weren't any egos involved on certain groups' parts?
I don't think so. Of course, there were egos involved I'm sure, but I don't think any of that stuff matters. This is all about the music.
Are there any plans to bring a 'Big Four' touring package to the United States?
If it did come to the United States, we would definitely want to do it, but as of right now, there's no plans that I know of. We would love to take it the States though, which would be incredible.
It would make sense to bring a 'Big Four' tour to the United States really, considering how huge it would be.
We'll just see how it goes. Anything is possible; anything and everything is possible.
For these 'Big Four' Sonisphere festival dates, will the group slots rotate?
That's actually a good question. I'm not sure how they're gonna do it for these shows. I'm honestly not sure. I don't even know if that's been figured out yet.
It's been reported that you're part of a side project called The Damned Things. Is that true?
Yes, it is.
How did The Damned Things come to form?
Basically, it's a band that Scott and Joe Trohman from Fall Out Boy were... They'd been doing this thing together for awhile. They wrote some tunes here and there, and just tried to get it going. Everyone's schedule was just impossible - it was just hard to get everyone on the same page schedule wise and so on. They asked me to be a part of it, and since then, we've actually been focusing on getting music together. It's been killer. I'm actually very excited about this project.
And Damned Things' lineup also features Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley, and Every Time I Die vocalist Keith Buckley?
"Just to play with John again felt really, really good, and sounded amazing."
Yes, it does.
What is The Damned Thing's musical style?
Hard to say. There's a lot of different elements, and music. It's almost like.. Shit, I don't know. There's element of Thin Lizzy, which I love - there's a lot of screaming harmony guitar parts, and things like that. I don't know. People have been asking - they've been asking me all the time what it sounds like. I don't think any of us really know how to answer that question. It's definitely unique, and has its own thing, which is really cool.
Would you say that The Damned Things is still developing its musical style perhaps?
No, no. I mean, obviously things are gonna develop. We're just in the demo stages right now, but the sound is pretty much there. I just can't put my finger on what it is exactly, and I think that's a really good thing, a really positive thing. There's a very classic feel to the music, which I love.
What are your thoughts on some of the responses to The Damned Things? News about the project leaked, and peoples' responses were "Anthrax members and Fall Out Boy members working on a project?".
(Laughs) I guess to a lot of people out there it wouldn't make sense that those two bands would collaborate, and do something together. It totally makes sense though, and I think once people hear the music, it'll really click.
So you're saying that there's a different side to Joe then, and that he can write material different to what he's associated with in Fall Out Boy?
Oh yeah. Joe is a very well rounded musician, and has a lot of different influences. He's actually a total metalhead (laughs), and so is Andy the drummer. I just think he's getting to do a lot more of the stuff that he can't do in Fall Out Boy, so it's really good that he has that creative outlet.
How did Keith Buckley become a part of The Damned Things?
He was asked to do it (laughs). He's a phenomenal, phenomenal vocalist. He's great. Actually, I worked a little bit with Every Time I Die a few years ago as a producer; I cut a track for them for this compilation that came out on Ferret, and that's when I first met Keith and the rest of the band. I was always very impressed with those guys. Every Time I Die are a phenomenal band, and they totally rule.
How would you describe Keith's vocal contributions to The Damned Things?
With this new band, there's definitely a lot less screaming - it's almost a hundred percent singing now, which is great. He's got a phenomenal singing voice, which is really, really great, really strong. We took that side of him, and really pushed it. We're all really psyched about the results. It sounds awesome.
You said that several tracks have been demoed, so how many tracks have been demoed thus far?
We've pretty much demoed a whole record. As far as the vocals, we only have two songs tracked right now. Everything's written; the whole record's written at this point. A couple of arrangements might change here and there, but the whole album's written.
Is there a specific producer The Damned Things might work with?
I'm actually gonna produce the record. It will probably be co-produced by Joe as well. It's gonna be a continuation of the demo process really. Joe and I work great together and it seems we have the same vision for the way things should sound on every level - from the songs, to the guitar sounds to vocal melodies etc... We're not sure who's mixing it yet though, but we're throwing some names around. That's pretty much how things are going down, as of right now.
How many tracks will The Damned Things' debut likely have, in your opinion?
It'll probably end up being a ten song album, and we'll have quite a few extra B-sides. There'll probably be ten tunes on the record though. We don't want to make the record too long.
Have any record contracts been signed?
No, not yet.
Are contract negotiations underway?
No, not yet. That's too premature.
But there is an interest from record labels to sign The Damned Things?
Yeah, yeah. There's tons of interest. Yep.
Although tracks have been demoed, has studio time been booked where these tracks can be properly recorded by the group?
Yeah. We're trying to figure out everybody's schedules right now. Every Time I Die is out on tour, and I know Anthrax has these shows coming up, so we're just trying to figure out when it's gonna happen. We also need to figure out when 'Worship Music' will be completed as well. It's gonna be sometime in 2010 for sure though.
Will each members' parts likely be recorded in different studios?
Yeah. That's another thing we're trying to figure out. Yeah, I'm not really sure how it's gonna play out. Joe and I have actually been talking about opening up a studio somewhere in New York, which would be our own private rooms. I don't know - we'll see if that can happen in time for this album. I'd love to do the drums at Avatar Studios in New York City, because I love their drum room, and then all the guitars, and bass and vocals, we can do them pretty much anywhere. I have my own mobile rig, and all my own gear, so I could pretty much go anywhere as long as the room is right. It's gonna be pretty easy.
Does The Damned Things have any touring plans?
There will be, but there's nothing yet. We're just getting the music together. Yeah, there's definitely gonna be touring for sure.
Aside from The Damned Things' debut album, could you see future material being recorded?
Absolutely. A lot of people have been labelling The Damned Things as some kind of supergroup or whatever, but I hate that word because it's not that at all. Usually that means that there's no longevity or anything to the project. This definitely feels like a real band because it is a real band, and there's definitely plans to record future albums and to just keep it going for sure. This just feels too good (laughs). I think once people hear the music it will make a lot of sense.
Do you feel that "supergroup" is a bit of a throwaway title then?
"John was always the immediate choice. In my opinion, he's the voice of Anthrax."
Yeah. I don't agree with that word at all. I guess for certain situations with certain bands that word makes sense, but for this thing, it doesn't add up at all. It's just a group of musicians that I guess were hand picked to do this band, because of what each of us are capable of doing and what we bring to the table. I think the mix of all our different influences and capabilities and talents really, really works, really clicks. Even on a personal level, everyone gets along great. It's awesome.
You also guested on a song called "Suffer" by Leiana, featured on her upcoming third album 'Lucky #3'. Could you tell me about that?
Leiana's a really good friend of mine. She's a great singer, and she's managed by my manager Denny Sanders. I did some writing for her record, and schedules got crazy. Actually, my partner Eddie Wohl ended up producing her album. I put some guitar tracks on it and so on, but yeah, I did some cool writing on that record. I'm proud of it, actually.
My final question is: What do you feel the future holds for Anthrax?
(Laughs) We'll see. Like I said, we're taking things one day at a time at this point. I know right now that the vibe is really good within the band, and like I said, we're all excited to do these shows. We're just taking it from there. Hopefully, we'll get the record done with John on vocals. That would be amazing - that's our dream right now (laughs). I know the record would be phenomenal with him singing.
So you feel the future is looking bright then?
Do you have a message for the fans who've supported Anthrax?
Yeah. Hang in there. The record will be done soon, and nobody will be disappointed. I know first-hand the record is fucking smokin'. It's really, really strong and trust me, I would not say that if I didn't believe it a hundred percent. Yeah, that's pretty much it. Hopefully, we'll see all of you fans out on the road. Be blessed.
Ok. Thanks for the interview Rob.
No problem man.
All the best then Rob.
You too man. We'll speak soon.
Interview by Robert Gray