“It’s obviously not normal to take so long to
make a record,” says Anthrax’s Rob Caggiano. “But I think we
used those four years to our advantage. We were able to live with
the tunes for a long time and push them as far as we could.” Marinating
an album for four years was not exactly the way Anthrax
drew it up, though. The culprit? Well, the quick version is this: A
lot of lead singer drama which, ultimately, led to former Anthrax
“classic” period vocalist Joey Belladonna entering the fray and rerecording
what eventually became Worship Music [Megaforce],
the legendary metal outfit’s tenth album. “Coming through the
other side of the last four years with this record to show for it is an amazing feeling,” says Anthrax co-founder,
rhythm guitarist, and all-around metal ambassador,
Scott Ian. “Unless the zombies come
between now and the release date, this record
is coming out!” It’s not as if the past four years
have been all turmoil for the band, however. The
triumphant Big 4 tours—a bill boasting Metallica,
Megadeth, Anthrax, and Slayer—have been
wildly successful, culminating in The Big 4 Live
from Sofia, Bulgaria DVD.
Worship Music, Caggiano’s second record as
a member of Anthrax (and the second Anthrax
album he has produced), showcases the lead
guitarist’s formidable soloing chops, which
deftly encompass melodic shred, old school
vibrato, and hooks—something you don’t often
hear in the context of even the most righteous
thrash metal—while Ian’s pummeling mix of
classic thrash and brutal East Coast hardcore
rhythm stylings continue to serve as the heart
and soul of Anthrax’s sound.
Were you guys ever worried that you had too
much time to hone Worship Music?
Ian: No. I could probably put on any Anthrax
record and say certain riffs weren’t perfected, but
you could sit and nitpick that stuff forever. I think
with any band, if you want to know the tunes
they’re really happy with, see what tunes they play
off of a record two or five years later. Take us, for
example. We play maybe three songs off of State
of Euphoria. The rest I could easily say weren’t
finished—we had to rush the album because
we had a tour coming up with Iron Maiden and
we had to get it done. We learned a lesson with
that. That’s why I feel Worship Music is so good.
We had the chance to use hindsight and go back
and change riffs that weren’t so good.
Rob, do you work out your solos before you
start tracking them?
Caggiano: Not really. What I usually do is
pull the track up really loud in the control room
and jam to it. After three or four passes, I take
the good bits and start putting it all together in
my head. I try and make my leads as catchy as
possible, and when I’m putting them together, I
try to think like a lead vocalist would. My guiding
principle is: if you can’t remember the solo
at the end of the tune, then what’s the point.
Scott, do you ever give direction when Rob is
Ian: It’s not like I give direction. I’m more
involved in a soundboard capacity. Rob’s approach
to soloing is a lot like writing a chorus—loop it
and start throwing ideas out until you get onto
a hook, and then build around it. Conversely Rob can shred. His technical proficiency is amazing
and it comes very natural to him. And this
is not meant to be a diss, but the dude has the
fattest fingers I’ve ever seen, and I don’t see how
those big, fat, sausage fingers can move so fast.
Guys with that much dexterity usually have long,
lean, thin fingers—but Rob’s got bratwurst. I
always tell him, “Imagine how sick you’d be if
you had Steve Vai’s fingers!”
Rob, you’ve mentioned Angus Young and Van
Halen as major influences on your solo style. How
do you fit those influences into an Anthrax solo?
Caggiano: It’s all about doing your own
thing. I love those guys’ playing, but I never
copied their solos. In fact, I’ve never learned
other peoples’ tunes or solos. There is something
to be said for guys who do that, but I’ve
never been able to. It’s weird, sometimes we’ll
be in a bar or a club and a guitarist will ask me
to come up and play, and I don’t even know any
songs. It’s kind of stupid, I know, but I guess
over the years it’s helped me to develop my own
sound, approach, and attack on the instrument.
What did you guys use to track Worship Music?
Caggiano: I’m an E.S.P. guy, and for most of
the record I used my Horizon, mostly through
Fryette Pitbull Ultra Lead and Deliverance
heads. For Scott’s guitar tones, before we started
tracking, I asked him to go into his locker and
pull out his old JCM800 Marshalls—the same
amps he used in the old days on Spreading the
Disease, Among the Living, and State of Euphoria.
I felt his sound was straying too far from
those classic tones. They didn’t work when
we first fired them up, but when we got them
going they sounded killer. We mixed his classic
amp rig with the Fryette amps and Scott’s
signature Randall head—and it sounded huge.
Ian: I also pulled out three of the guitars
I’ve used on every Anthrax album—my Jackson
Soloist with the NY logo, an ’82 Randy
Rhoads Jackson, and an ’81 Gibson Flying
V—as well as my old TC Electronic boost
and distortion pedal.
What was it like playing through your old rig?
Ian: What was weird about hearing that
sound now is, it’s amazing how much low
end isn’t there. There is so much midrange and
treble, if we didn’t mix in the other amps it
would’ve sounded like a baby bumblebee. Back
in the ’80s, none of the sounds had a ton of low
end, so for that time it sounded monstrous.
The Big 4 shows featured not only the most
influential metal bands of the past 30 years, but
also the genre’s most influential guitarists. How
does it feel being a part of that group?
Ian: What became apparent to me very
quickly, which nobody ever talked about, was
that you basically had the best right hands in
metal on one stage—and that’s pretty insane.
Trust me, between Kerry King, James Hetfield,
Dave Mustaine, and Kirk Hammett, I wanted
to play the best I possibly could every night.
What are some of the differences in all of the
different players’ styles?
Ian: Rhythmically, ourapproach and attack
are very similar. But it’s the other stuff outside
of the heavy downpicking, caveman thing we
all do where our differences are more apparent.
For example, James’ melodic sense is without
parallel. You can hear it in the few lead breaks
he plays throughout the set. He’s super tasty
in his whole approach. Dave is not only a fantastic
rhythm guy—he’s a very technical lead
player as well. It would take me a month to
play one of his solos! And I realize it’s kind of
clichéd, but the sheer brutality of Kerry’s playing
is amazing. He probably plays more notes
in “War Ensemble” than all of us play in four
songs combined, and he’s playing leads and banging
his head nonstop. Kerry is a master, and he
takes pride in never missing a note. He’s also
insanely focused and regimented about his warm
up every night. People may listen to Slayer and
not get that—but if he wasn’t that disciplined
and tight, it would be a giant mess up there.
The guy who gets overlooked when it
comes to rhythm playing is Kirk. He plays
rhythm as good as any of us, if not better.
Don’t forget, he’s got to keep up with James.
He’s got to stay note for note with the guy
who is the best rhythm player. If Kirk wasn’t
keeping up, believe me, you would hear it.
I’ve sat and played with him a bunch and the
dude’s right hand is sick.
How do you think you’ve improved as a player
since Anthrax started?
Ian: Truthfully, I never think about any of
this stuff—I just write songs and play them the
way I play them [laughs]. Even if I had been
painting houses for 30 years, I would hope I
got better. I think I’ve gotten better at coming
up with parts and hearing things play out in an
arrangement. The guitar is a songwriting tool—
and I don’t look at it as anything but that.