JOHN BUSH of ANTHRAX
Interview by John Thibault
As I drive down through the narrow rows of Hollywood's $*&% drivers in their 80 thousand dollar Mercedes and cheesy Beemers, I can only focus on one remarkably insignificant thing: the music that is blasting through my Le Baron's stock-stereo. It cuts through the Long Island Iced Haze that pulses through this head, slicing my hysteria with an alcohol thunder while burying its hatred in my face. Because that's me. Because that's Anthrax. Because their music will rip your face off.
Anthrax is no spring chicken. They've been around for about fifteen years, and that's a long time; fifteen years is the age when most girls have little babies of their own, nowadays. Sometimes we overlook things that have been around for awhile because the cookie-cutter mentality of a greed-ridden industry and its disappointing apathy toward musicianship desensitizes us to crap, and we accept it after awhile. And sometimes the best things are right there under our noses, and sometimes when we fail to reach out and grasp what's perennially there, it disappears before our eyes. And it's a shame when that happens, because then it's we who lose out...
"Hey, man, you hungry? Want some mashed potatoes?" I've just arrived at John Bush's house, high up in the hills that separate the good edge of Burbank from God knows what, and we're standing in his kitchen while Julia, his woman-friend, washes the dishes and hums something pretty and tuneless.
"These are great. Mmmmmm..." he says as he scrapes some leftovers into a Tupperware container and puts them in the refrigerator, on the side of which is a bumper sticker that reads, "I fear God's followers." Out of the blue: "You want a shot of Tequila?"
I just woke up, so no. I'm dizzy and shaky from lack of sleep and when I go outside to admire the view of the city I almost fall in the pool, then overcompensate and nearly bust my face on a slab of concrete. I go back inside where it's safe and accept a beer. Aretha Franklin plays on the stereo and the lights are mercifully dim.
It takes John fifteen perplexed minutes to light the gas fireplace (What the f**k... Hey, guys, come here. How do you... What the...?") because his roommate usually does that, and he's in Europe. Finally, flames ignite with a loud "WHOOSH" and nearly blind the three of us. "I am fire! I am man!" he yells, and plops down on the couch. "Did you get the bios? Great. I'm just curious how old they are."
They were made before his latest CD.
"Okay. Cool." Then, suddenly, "Alright! Fire! Fiiiiiiiiiire! Alright!" It's hard not to share his excitement.
We're there to discuss Anthrax's most recent CD: Volume 8--The Threat is Real, typically inventive (nay, Anthraxian) amalgamation of heavy metal, funk, folk, and...a country song? I have to ask: "Are you a fan of country music."
"Not really. Charlie [Benante] writes basically all the music-about eighty percent of it-he comes up with ideas and then everybody takes their instrument and incorporates their own part to it, which is unusual, obviously, for a drummer to write music for a heavy rock band. But he just had this idea. He's a big Zeppelin freak and was getting into Zeppelin mode-Zeppelin III , basically. And he came up with this part and was like, 'I wanna do this song, so see if you can come up with anything.' And so I wrote the words in, like, literally fifteen minutes and then me, him, and Franky just kind of jammed on it live. And it was killer.
"So automatically we thought, 'Well, that'll be a great B side song,' because Anthrax has always been known for doing different things for B sides-covers, wacky tunes, rap song, whatever. And Charlie was like, 'No way, man, that's gonna be on the record.' And we all sort of agreed after a while, but we didn't know where to place it, because if we put it at the end we would be making it into more of a novelty song." They ended up placing "Toast to the Extras" sixth on the CD and, needless to say, it rocks. Even with its general twanginess and harmonica intro.
Putting a country song on a heavy metal CD is a testament to the originality and balls of Anthrax, one of the few metal bands which has managed to trudge through the murky tides of collegiate whine rock (ivy league punks preaching anarchy and nihilism) and talentless, socially pernicious gangsta rappers while maintaining the respect and loyalty of a huge international fan base. They have not sold out, none of them have dropped dead, and with the exception of Bush replacing Joey Belladonna (and Neil Turbin's departure, if you can remember back that long), they are still the same group of zany lugs they were in the eighties. I ask Bush what it's like on the road.
Click Here For JOHN BUSH of ANTHRAX Part 2