Since releasing Worship Music last September, Anthrax have been going nonstop. And after their current stint headlining the second stage on Mayhem Fest, the thrash legends will be right back on the road touring again with Testament and Death Angel. Yet somehow, Anthrax have been finding time to record a handful of covers. Although, it turns out that they’re not as complete as we originally thought.
While backstage at Mayhem Fest’s stop in Camden, NJ, guitarist Rob Caggiano was kind enough to clarify the status and plan behind Anthrax’s recent covers. In addition to that, we spoke to Caggiano about the status of his other projects (including Temple Of The Black Moon and The Damned Things), his experience as a producer, and the highlights from this year’s Mayhem Fest.
[Note: this interview was conducted prior to drummer Charlie Benante’s arrest]
I know that you guys have been recording an EP of covers.
No, it’s not an EP. Basically, we have a bunch of different cover tunes that are all at different states of completion at this point. We did a Black Sabbath song, “Neon Knights,” for the Dio tribute album. That’s completely done and that’s coming out soon. The other tunes, actually Scott and I were just talking about doing some recording on the bus before this tour is over.
So it’s not even completed?
Well the Dio song is, but the other songs aren’t. Joey still hasn’t sang them, I have to do the leads and stuff, Scott has to play some guitar. We’re going to finish them some point very soon, but I think there’s going to be a re-release of the album [Worship Music], some bonus tracks. They’re going to be used for different things. But the whole EP rumor, I’m not really sure where that came from [laughs].
How did you guys come about choosing the songs to cover? Did have a say in what you guys recorded?
Yeah, it’s really just about having fun with the cover tunes. Basically, it’s tunes that we all love and connect with and stuff that inspired us over the years, and that’s pretty much the basis for it when we pick the tunes.
Is there one song that you kind of wish the band covered but that maybe got outvoted on?
There’s a tune that we recorded that’s actually pretty much done, but it’s not going to get finished because I don’t think Joey [Belladonna, singer] wants to sing it [laughs].
Which one was that?
It’s AC/DC, “Whole Lotta Rosie.” It’s one of my favorite tunes.
Really? That would have been a lot of fun to hear!
Well, we ended up doing a lot of different ones. We ended up doing, “TNT,” as well. So, he did the vocals on that and came out awesome.
So of course Anthrax has been keeping you busy enough. However, I was wondering what’s the situation with Temple of the Black Moon [Rob’s black metal supergroup]?
Basically, it’s Anthrax full swing right now. We have enough material for almost two albums for Temple of the Black Moon. It’s just a matter of the stars need to align and schedules need to work, but at some point soon that’s going to get recorded, and I’m pretty excited about that.
What state is the band at right now?
We have days and days of demos. Tom [King Ov Hell] and I, we’ve been working on this for a long time, going back and forth with writing and different ideas. We have tons and tons of material. Right now it’s just Anthrax is so full on, the touring has been really, really intense in this whole cycle.
So I guess the same thing goes for The Damned Things [Rob’s group with Scott Ian and members of Fall Out Boy and Every Time I Die]?
Yeah, exactly. We did our cycle. We put the record out, we toured the world, and we had a blast doing it. Hopefully one day soon it will happen again. But right now, Keith [Buckley] is doing Every Time I Die on the Warped Tour, Joe [Trohman] and Josh [Newton] have a new band called With Knives that they’re working on, and Scott and I are obviously out here. We’re all doing different things. Like I said before, the stars need to align for something like that to happen. I think they will.
In addition to your guitar playing, you’ve been highly noted as a producer. What would you say is the biggest difficulty that fans on the outside don’t realize?
Biggest difficulty? That’s an interesting question. Can I change the question a little? [laughs]
I’ll talk about the pitfalls and certain things that I work really hard to stay away from. Basically, what I find today is a lot of records sound the same. Years ago, you put on a U2, a Van Halen, or a Metallica album, and they all had their own sound. If you could picture listening to a U2 song, without the vocals, you still know it’s U2. You take “Hot for Teacher,” without David Roth’s vocals, do you know its Van Halen? Of course you do. These days, a lot of these records come out and it’s the same snare drum sound, same guitar sound, same kick-drum sound. If you take the vocals off, it can be any fucking band. And that’s one of the things I try to stay away from. I treat each record as its own identity, its own thing, and try to give it its own sound, its own life. It’s not easy sometimes.
How do you make sure each album has it’s “own” sound and identity?
It depends, different things. Basically, it just boils down to the sounds and how you capture the energy. With a band like Anthrax, for me it was all about capturing the energy of what the band actually is. When a band like Anthrax plays in a room, there’s a certain magic that happens that if you don’t capture it, we suck, basically [laughs]. You gotta keep that intact, and that’s what gives the music its life.
I know this might be like choosing your favorite child, but do you have one album that you’re particularly the most proud of?
I’m really proud of Worship Music. There are a few records that I’ve done over the years. There’s a band called A Life Once Lost, I did their album Hunter years ago  and I’m really happy with the way that came out. It’s a kick-ass metal record. Great guitar player in that band, too. Cradle Of Filth’s Nymphetamine, that was a lot of fun to make that album, and it was Grammy nominated. I kind of tend to not look back as much, and kind of live in the moment, and I’m really proud of this new Anthrax album. The response it’s been getting feels really good.
Is there one particular band that you’d love to produce?
Wow. There’s a bunch of them.
Note, this could also be your way of pitching, to said band.
[laughs] I’d love to work with Van Halen. I’d love to work with Metallica too, actually. That would be a blast, to make an evil record [laughs].
How would you approach those albums? I mean, considering those are bands with such a huge legacy and the possible egos involved as well, how would you approach those?
That’s actually a good question. A lot of it is getting to know each person in the band, their personalities, how they do what they do and how they like to do things because all of that stuff gets factored in when you’re working on a record. You’ve got to kind of ride the waves a little bit, so to speak. I’ve been doing this a really long time, so I’m pretty used to it. I’ve worked with some crazy people [laughs].
You’ve been on Mayhem Fest for a few weeks now. So far, what’s been the highlight of the tour?
This tour’s been crazy. The shows have been great. The crowds have been over the top. It has been extremely hot, though. We’ve played some really hot days. I think when we played in Oklahoma City, it was 117 degrees on stage. We were all literally dying, almost passing out. That’s how crazy it was. I remember walking back to the bus after the show was done and putting my hand on the handle and almost falling down [laughs]. Belladonna was slurring for two hours after the show [laughs].
One of the highlights was the Motörhead party the other night. That was fun. They’ve been throwing parties every few days on this tour. Every band has a chance to throw a party or a theme, that kind of thing, so it’s been cool. Slipknot party was the other night, that was fun too.
[picture via Metal Chris]