INTERVIEW WITH GUITARIST DAN SPITZ
INTERVIEW, QUESTIONS, AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
TRANSCRIPTION BY JARNO HUOVILA
It’s been over a decade since Dan Spitz last visited Finland with Anthrax. The band had just released their highly praised album SOUND OF WHITE NOISE, and they were doing their first tour with new singer John Bush. Less than two years later, Dan decided to quit, not only Anthrax but the whole music business. He started to study a new occupation in Switzerland. After years of hard work, he became a master clockmaker, and he started his own successful business in the USA. In the spring of 2005, the classic line-up of Anthrax (Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, Frank Bello, Joey Belladonna, and Dan) announced that they would be doing a reunion, and since then, the band has constantly been touring across the globe.
Anthrax did two sold-out shows in Finland last April, and right before the Tampere show, Dan sat down with us. We talked about the reunion, religion, early days, departures, watchmaking, and other interesting things. Read no further unless you’re prepared for the truth as told to us by Anthrax’s lead guitarist Dan Spitz. The purpose of this interview is to set the record straight, to answer questions that many fans, ourselves included, have been wondering about. By no means is anything in this interview taken out of context or used to stir up bullshit.
If, on the other hand, you would, for once, like to read some straight and honest answers, or just learn some interesting and fun facts about the history of the legendary thrash pioneers that are Anthrax, then read on. You can’t make up stuff like this. As a live band, Anthrax, as it exists right now, is a force to be reckoned with. The camaraderie inside the band seems genuine. Our hats are off to the whole band also for their exemplary treatment of their fans.
WHEN GUITARS RULED THE EARTH
Let’s go back to the early days of Anthrax and go through the history of the band. You started in the early ’80s and had a different line-up at the beginning. What memories do you have from those days?
In the beginning, it was me, Scott, and Charlie. Charlie and I joined at about the same time within a few months of each other, so that was the core of Anthrax. Dan Lilker was on bass, and Neil Turbin was singing. I had just left a band called Overkill which you might have heard of, that was one of my first bands.
Yeah, I do know that band. Who played in Overkill back then?
When I was with Overkill, the original guys were Rat [Skates] on Drums, a blond guy, and Bobby [Ellsworth] and D.D. [Carlos Verni] on bass and me and my friend, that was Overkill. Bobby Blitz grew up ten minutes from my house as well as Billy Milano from S.O.D. Before Anthrax, I was Overkill, it was me and another guitar player, not Scott, and we did copy songs, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, all through the New Jersey, New York kind of area, and we’d dress up kind of like Kiss, big boots and stuff. And then we decided to start writing some originals. We had a big fight because my other guitar player friend from my town and I said no more make-up if we make our own songs we’re not wearing the Kiss boots and the make-up, and Bobby Blitz wouldn’t take it off, so we quit, and we left, and that’s when they got Bobby Gustafson and started Overkill.
That must have been around the same time that Twisted Sisters was doing the same thing?
We opened for Twisted Sister all the time. When Twisted Sister would play a place like this [a venue of ~2000], sold out every time, it was crazy. So I got a job working in New York City on the 48th Street where all the music stores were when I grew up, one block of fifty music stores selling guitars, people from all over the world coming to get their instruments, and I ran into Scott [Ian], and I drove all the way out to Jamaica Queens and bought like nine Marshall cabinets, I’m sure you’ve read the story. He had nine, and it was just perfect, we just started jamming, and at the same time we started writing originals, we didn’t have a manager, we knew of Johnny Zazula from Megaforce Records, this was before Megaforce Records, before there were any independent labels in existence. This is before bands brought their own music and toured bars in the United States that didn’t exist, you played Van Halen songs and Aerosmith and stuff, so we just kept convincing Johnny Z, you got to put an album out, you got to do something, and he just had a little record booth in a flea market, but he had all the cool imports, so we’d all go down all the way to New Jersey on the weekend, we’d drive three hours just to get a Raven album or something. And eventually, for two years, he had us and Metallica’s demo tape, trying to shop it to major labels, and they just wanted more Motley Crue and laughed, you know, what’s this noise, sounds like “Kkkkkkrrrr.” And eventually, he [Zazula] put out a single, signed his house away as a mortgage, and put up the money. Metallica lived at our rehearsing studio. We just kind of got it off the ground that way, underground, which is basically what we’re doing again now. Danny Lilker and Neil Turbin did the first album. We had a lot of problems with Neil Turbin, what we call singer syndrome kind of thing.
I heard he had some medical problems back then?
Yeah, medical. Endless funny stories, let’s say you know. We just replaced them with Joey and Frankie, who’s Charlie’s nephew, just basically learning how to play bass, and we just got along well, so we figured he’d get better in time. As far a Joey goes, we were like in the middle of a “Finlandia” winter in Ithaca, New York, which is very similar weather to here [Finland], it’s that cold, way upstate New York, Joey lives by Canada. Scott and I were at the studio, everybody else went home and me, Scott and Johnny Z, excuse me, our manager and our producer knew of Joey, he was in a band called Bible Black up there, and he was like the good singer up there. Still, he was into Journey and all that kind of stuff, Joey’s a real singer, and he came in and thought he’d just sing like a Journey song in the recording studio. Our manager, he fell off his chair like dollar sings were rolling in his eyeballs like maybe we can adapt him to this music and that’s exactly what we did, and he just fit, we just worked it out, so that’s to me is the real Anthrax, and I won’t play unless Joey’s standing there.
We’re actually going to see Neil [Turbin] next summer. He is going to be playing at the Sweden Rock Festival, where you just played last year.
With his solo band?
Yes, Neil Turbin’s Deathriders.
Deathriders? Many blessings for him, go for it, absolutely.
Did you also have problems with Dan Lilker, or what was the reason for him leaving?
No, actually, Danny was a great bass player, very unique, with his distorted sound and stuff. It’s a funny story, actually. Neil, at that time, was the leader of the band. He’s a very ironfisted kind of person. You have to remember, sometimes in bands what you see in the press, someone’s face all the time, that’s not the band leader sometimes, everybody has designated a job to do, somebody’s maybe good at the press, or somebody’s maybe good at the business. Danny Lilker didn’t shower… a lot, and he smelled. For an American, this is no good, so one day, Neil Turbin knocked on his door and said, you’re not in the band anymore because you were told so many times to shower, and we can’t take it anymore. So that’s the funny story, basically. And then he [Neil] called us up, he called Scott and me up and said Dannys not coming anymore, and we were like what are you talking about? He said I gave him three chances, and that’s it. I knocked on his door and told him; you’re fired. Crazy teenagers, you know. What did we know? All we knew was that guitars were going to rule the Earth, we were taking over the Earth, that’s it, us and Metallica, that was all we talked about. We didn’t even want bass on the album. If you listed to FISTFUL OF METAL or KILL ‘EM ALL, there’s no bass. There’s no bass guitar, and we’d put it up so that you could hear it and then turned it down a teeny bit and left it right there. Guitars, because our guitars were the first guitars to have that bass frequency.
How did you like the music and production on the first album overall?
The production is horrible, but you can feel the aggression and the anger.
ARMED AND DANGEROUS” was a weird mix. You had both singers featured on that one. What was the point of that release at that time?
Neil was out, Joey was in, we had to show everybody as fast as we could that this boy could sing, we’re Anthrax, and we take no shit, even back then. Neil, at that time, wrote the lyrics, and he was adamant about it, don’t even come near me, I’ll kill you, this is his words “If you come near me, I’ll kill you. You’re not touching one word.” He’s a big guy, this is how he tried to rule, endless stories, maybe you’ve heard some of them, but we literally had books we would call Neilisms that we would write on tour like a diary because it’s the funniest thing you’ve ever seen in your life, it’s not normal, things that this guy did. Music, he doesn’t write any music, some lyrics, yeah, stuff like that.
How did you like his lyrics?
Not my cup of tea, not at that time, but I pay more attention to the music, the melody line, and then once Scott had to start writing lyrics, he read a lot of books, Stephen King, that’s all he read day and night, so it’s was like alright you start writing and he would write. Still, it would be a book, every song was forty pages long, and then we would all get together and go no, yes, and it’s still like this, make it small, that’s why Anthrax always had a lot of words, he was trying to tell like a whole really long story. We’d write all the music for the songs first, and the lyrics go last.
The next album was SPREADING THE DISEASE, your breakthrough album. Can you say something about the shoot for the hysterical “Madhouse” video?
We did that in a closed and condemned insane asylum, I think in New Jersey somewhere. We were all still based somewhere in New York, and all spread out. We had a lot of our friends and part of our crew that was coming on tour with us at that time, and we were traveling in just a regular van at that time. We just shot this hilarious video, and I remember at one time, this was before moshing was known as the word moshing, it was from the punk era of slamdancing, so I remember them going, why don’t you get on Billy Milano’s shoulders and we’ll have everybody just dance around you during your solo, and we did that. When we were there, what do you want to do kind of video, you know, shoot it. It was really cool, and it came out really cool. We dressed up all our friends in blood and all that kind of stuff, but yeah, that song was a good breakthrough, like you said.
AMONG THE LIVING
With the next album, AMONG THE LIVING, you really hit it off big time. What is your thought on that one?
I agree it was a time in our lives that we were so hungry, just clawing for the top, us and once again, what we call the big four, Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, and us, the friendship between all of us kept getting tighter and tighter, trying to spread the word of thrash metal, we didn’t call it that, all we had was heavy metal. You had Motley Crue and all that still up to that point, and then our music came out, and then the presses, as you start selling records, say, “It doesn’t sound like heavy metal, we’ll call it thrash metal.”. One day we were reading the magazine, going, what’s thrash metal, guys? We had no idea what it was. And nowadays, of course, there are seven thousand different kinds of heavy metal. So during this period, in all four of those bands, especially us, there was an aura in the air around us when we went on stage. We didn’t even have to play, the crowd… like last night [in Helsinki], you could cut it [the atmosphere]with a knife. The whole world, you could feel it shaking, it just kept getting bigger and bigger, it was just great, awesome time. If I remember correctly, we came over to Europe with Metallica and toured together. And this is the tour when Cliff died, the bass player, so we go from Sweden to Denmark, when all that happened.
At the time, there was kind of friendly competition going between those bands also. With that album, you were perhaps at the lead at the time?
It would be Metallica and then us, yes. Absolutely. This was a brutal album, still my favorite album, AMONG THE LIVING. Eddie Kramer produced it, which is the gentleman who did every Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin album. I’m a technical guy, so I’m with him soldering tubes and getting the equipment from Jimmy Page’s studio to do my lead guitars and rhythm guitars. He’s somebody I got along very well with, but other people in the band completely hated the guy, literally hated him, we tried to fire him. Still, he just wouldn’t leave, and we ended up doing some of it in the Bahamas, Bob Marley’s studio down there. We all struggled with our guitars in the studio because our guitars sound almost like a bass guitar; they have so much bass in them. And these producers, even though we hired the biggest guy in the world, tried to take it away and put the bass there, and that’s why I say to you we don’t even want bass there because as soon as you turn it up, the guitars are gone. It was a time the producers were learning what we are doing with this music. We have to mix and record it completely differently than all other music we’ve ever done. We had to tell them we’re not going to change anything, and you figure it out. He couldn’t figure how to do it, turn up the bass, the guitars go away, down the bass, and the guitars come back, there’s no bass. And then Charlie played kick drum, and every time he does, the guitars go away. They [the procuders] only knew how to do things one way. Nowadays, every band, pop bands on the radio, the guitars sound like ours. For us, we had to figure it out, take an amplifier to somebody to sort out all kinds of different resistors and capacitors and telling what’s in our brain, like we want it like Iommi, but we want more low end, we want more bass. They make a new amplifier, and we go to the studio and plugin, and the producer goes, “Whoa! You can’t have that because there’ll be no bass on the album.” In those days, we all had fights, and that’s why you have no bass on Metallica albums and no bass on Anthrax albums because even the big producers couldn’t figure it out, but you heard our anger, you heard our angst, we want to crush you and take over the world with our guitars.
That album still sounds good, and it was made in 1986.
Now all these bands can go out and buy a little Mesa Boogie head and plugin. Half of these fucking pop bands, Christina Aguilera, anybody, to us, that’s cheating because of what we had to go through to get that sound. That sound came from our soul. We had to explain it to people who sold our shit and make an amp as we want. And now they can just go into any music store and plugin in and go, “Oh, I play guitar. I play thrash metal now.”
At the same time that you were doing your “thrash” thing in America, bands like Kreator and Destruction did theirs in Europe. We’re you ever aware of them?
We had no clue, bro. We were just five guys who grew up on Iron Maiden and Judas Priest going “Let’s write some songs.”. When we wrote and recorded something, it was like this don’t sound like anything else. We didn’t sit around a table and go, “Okay. The guitars gotta be fast.” We still don’t; that’s why people ask us if we’re going to do a new album, what will it be like? I don’t know. We were fortunate because we didn’t know what we were creating. We were doing what’s inside us. I’m just a fan of music. We just happen to be blessed with a gift from God that we can play our guitars. So when we finally went to Island Records to sign a big record deal, they didn’t know what it was, they just said, “We don’t want nothing to do with it. We’ll put your album out, you can hire any producer you want, just give us the music in the end, and we’ll put it out.” Nobody gets that, every record company goes “I’m sorry Mr. Ozzy Osbourne, we don’t like this album, go back and re-records it. It’s not pop enough for us or what’s in today.” With us it was, here’s the album, here’s the cover, here’s the T-shirts we want, here’s the guitar picks how we want them, we did everything, bro. We still do, and they just said, “Do whatever you want.” So the fans were truly getting a piece of us, which is almost impossible now.
I’m THE MAN
“I’m the Man,” whose idea was that song, and do you think it’s had a big influence on today’s music scene?
Yeah, we’ve been told numerous times it has, in both ways, in a good way, and you son of a bitch, why did you start this crap, you know. Actually, we did something way before that in a garage with these rap guys. You can get it, it’s a band called UTFO, and it’s a rap thing that predates “I’m the Man” by years even. So anyone who even has that Aerosmith was the first thing, listen to the UTFO album we did. Actually, those guys became two really, really powerful rap producers. “I’m the Man” was just… we were more into Public Enemy type music. I won’t even say it’s rap because they were like the Anthrax of that music genre. They were the heavy, heavy stuff. And we were just messing around one day just having fun because, with Anthrax, we were not about doom and gloom and having to dress up all in black and go on stage. We wear these same pants on stage, and we are what we are; take it or leave it. We thought this funny song is cool, and we took a riff from a Jewish song, Hava Nagila, that’s what that is. It was almost like a joke, and that’s the first time we heard back from the record company. Eddie Kramer recorded it, and he said, “I don’t know what this is, but this is going to be fucking huge.” and he gave it to Island Records, and they came back and said, “We ain’t putting this out.” It was the first time we heard from them. “It’s going to ruin your career.” As soon as we heard something like that in those days, we knew that we had something good, as soon as the average person told us that this is no good, we knew it. We just said you gotta put it out. It’s in the contract, sorry. They put it out, and the rest is history.
At that time, your image took radical changes… What was up with the shorts, Hawaii shirts, and skateboards, really?
I want everyone who reads interviews with me to know that, once again, we don’t plan anything. A hot, sweaty, crap-ass night in Texas in the summer, and you ain’t going on stage in jeans when it’s 115 degrees, and then they turn the lights on, so if it’s good enough for Angus [Young], it’s good enough for us. We just put on a pair of shorts and went on stage. We give all the credit to Angus, and he’s the first guy in metal to wear shorts that I know of.
The next album, STATE OF EUPHORIAsort of fell short of the expectations, was lighter in tone, and had a lot of humor and “funny staff” on it, do you agree?
Totally, each album is a period of time, and you, the fans, really should learn from this lesson. AMONG THE LIVING was a hit, it was huge, and we came over, we did Donington, everyone loved us. All of a sudden, instead of that clawing to the top kind of feeling that we had, it was wow, something’s working here, we were all in a happy mode. We were given lots of money, buy fucking houses, hurry up and spend it and do this… everyone was in a state of euphoria, and when we wrote that album, that’s just what came out of us. But I totally agree with you. There’s, I think, one good song on there that I maybe would still listen to, they’re all good songs, but it’s not the way I would like to portray the name Anthrax with my signature. I’m in total agreement with you, and so are many fans. It’s not a bad album. I listen to it, put it on, but then you’ve got “Among the Living” over there.
You did some great touring for that album, like the Monsters of Rock tour in Europe and a huge tour in the U.S with KISS. How was that?
Great. Fucking great. In this band, there are few people; all they know is KISS. I’m an old Aerosmith fan, “The Rocks” album and backward, so to tour with KISS was just unbelievable. When they took their makeup off, with Bruce Kulick on guitar and late Eric Carr on drums. My brother’s friend good friend Eric Singer plays drums with them now. KISS, they were pretty much done at that time, they were playing really small places, and they call us. Gene’s a good businessman as we all know and he saw that there was this whole underground big explosion of this kind of music I don’t understand, so let me find out what this is and take them with us’s what he did as a businessman. And we became very close with them during this tour, Paul Stanley using my guitars, jamming at rehearsals, and all kinds of stuff. And as fans got to see in some of the magazines, the pictures of Kiss and us together were no more Kiss pictures. They’re laughing, and they’re cracking up. Gene’s choking me.
Although the album CRAZY NIGHTS did quite well, they still almost broke up after the tour, right?
The tour was a money disaster. It was really bad. It was, I hate to say it, but it was mainly Anthrax fans that were showing up, it really wasn’t KISS, but I give them all the credit for continuing, just as Anthrax did when I left, for ten years they tried to keep it together, I gave them everything, I gave them the name, I signed away everything because in truth and reality I was never gonna come back to this industry at all, I had no desire to.
In 1989 you played a festival in Finland with Suicidal Tendencies. Current Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo who then played with them got hit with a bottle. Do you remember that one?
Oh yes, I do remember that thing. Suicidal, they’ve been our friends forever. When we would play L.A. or San Francisco, they’d come up on stage. We used to cover one of their songs as an encore.
The 1990 record PERSISTENCE OF TIME was a lot darker album, both musically and lyrically, than its predecessor. Was that a reflection of how you felt at the time?
I think we got a lot of flak from the press, you know, you’re too happy. So, maybe six or eight months later, during the touring, it hit us, we were too happy, what were we thinking? What came out of us was good, but it’s not Anthrax, it’s not right, so when we went back to write, it’s not that we had a preconceived notion of having only to write a certain riff. We had to get back to that place and write from that place, hence that album, like the song “Time,” which is still my favorite.
Then you did a lot of touring then, for example, with Iron Maiden.
Yeah, my buddy Nicko [McBrain].
But then you started to have problems within the band which finally caused a split between the band and Joey. Could you tell me some more about those times?
We were on the road for a long time, album, tour, album, tour. After this many years, how hard is it with your one girlfriend? With your girlfriend, you have to share the kitchen and cook with her, and she just doesn’t get the checkbook. Neither do you. Everybody gets the checkbook, now it’s the business, you open up a restaurant with your girlfriend and four of her friends, and now you live in Salt Lake City, Utah. You marry all her four friends too, and now the restaurant gets really big, lots of money coming in, now everybody has to work with the money, everybody has to work with the music, it just clashes, it gets to a point where some people become rockstars and want this, some people become businessmen and want this, it’s pretty much common sense. Some people start drinking, all kinds of weird stuff starts happening, and this is what happened. Joey has always been Joey. Joey’s a wonderful person and my best friend in this band, and he would harm nobody, but yeah, he was drinking a little bit, you know, we would hide the beers from him and stuff like that. But at this time, nobody in the band ever even took a sip of a beer, be it Scott or Charlie. They never even tried drugs in high school, me and Joey, we went through that phase in high school, we did all the drugs, all the drinking, and then we stopped. We were the cleanest heavy metal band on the planet that point. Joey has an occasional beer, but an occasional beer to people who don’t drink at all is enough. A lot of attention all around, my wife on the road all the time with maybe one child, Joey’s girlfriend or wife at that time on the road and then at the same time backstage stuff happening that shouldn’t be happening, and this creates all kinds of problems, so it got to that point, amongst many other things. Unhappiness, and that’s where it started for everybody. And when you’re young, it’s different, and when you’re older, you can work your way through things. You bring in outside people those kinds of problems. You see this on many rock n’ roll videos, and you bring in psychiatrists, psychologists. When you’re young, it’s “Fuck you. Fuck you.”, you know.
So you finally fired Joey, or did he left by himself?
We had just signed to Elektra, which was huge for us. Finally, we were on the biggest record label in the world. They gave us all the money in the world that we need, and we just didn’t see the way heavy metal was at that given point in time that Joey’s voice would fit. That boy can sing Journey, that boy can sing Bad Company, that boy can sing opera, he’s feeling confined having to sing 7000 words in one line of a song where he can’t utilize his voice properly, so he’s feeling constricted as well as I was a little bit. At the same time, the band’s trying to show him, and you have to sing this, here’s the music, we’re finished now, Joey, here’s the melody line we hum for you, and here are the words. Joey’s not so educated schoolwise, so it’s a difficult process, a very lengthy, difficult process. It was just clashing all the time to the point where we just. In this band, majority rules, three people vote, we can do anything we want, any three people, a band, it’s the way it always was, we learned that from Van Halen, split up all the money even, majority rules on everything. So, majority rules, not my vote, let Joey go. I vote the other way. Same for John Bush, “Get John Bush in the band!”. I voted no.
You never liked him too much then?
A few things. One, I think we didn’t try enough singers. Two, it was a preconceived notion of some people in this band that because he had turned Metallica down in the early days, he’d be the golden boy. He had the golden voice and the direction that the music was going to in that time period, a lot of Seattle grunge just kind of ending and fizzling out. No one wanted to hear someone who could sing. Anthrax music was getting heavier or aggressive even, and it was just what we had in us. It was just a changing of the guard that I was not happy with at all. John is a great guy personally, a killer guy, but as far as my music, fuck no. I write dynamic, and he has to be able to sing.
Still, the album sold pretty well.
Every album except FISTFUL OF METAL is platinum in the United States alone. But worldwide, SOUND OF WHITE NOISE and AMONG THE LIVING are all pretty close at the top, maybe two, two, and a half million records sold worldwide. That’s not counting the black market. “SOUND OF WHITE NOISE the music, fucking great album, I was right there for that. “Only” is probably the best song we ever wrote in the history of this band. I kept telling Charlie, “Slow down, slow the fuck down, just for some parts.”, that’s where the singer and I can shine the melody, you know, leaving space is as important as the music that you write. I remember with Joey, we were in Japan in a van, me, Charlie and Scott going to the show, the three of us, and we said “Joey, no more Joey.” and Elektra Records freaked out, they had just signed a big giant cheque for Anthrax, and then we called them that we let our singer go home, so a lot of problems.
How was it with you then? What was the reason you left after the SOUND OF WHITE NOISE album? Was it because Joey was gone?
Partly, that was a big reason, but mainly also going on at the same time I had a private life, you know, I was married and the only one in the band with two children at home so it was tough for me to travel after fifteen years of the way we traveled, put out an album and tour for almost two years consistent without going home, so it got to me. And my children were crying, like don’t go daddy, stay some, so I stayed home. I spent about a year writing that 8 ball album that they put out, whatever that’s called, I don’t even know, after SOUND OF WHITE NOISE?
For me, it was during that year to year and a half during the writing of the STOMP 422 album in Yonkers. I spent about a year writing that album. That’s what people don’t know. I would go every day in the beginning, and by the end once a week, I would come, and it was on purpose because my business people told me that you couldn’t legally just call and tell you to quit. After all, it’s your band. I had to let everybody see that I didn’t want to be there. I wrote the whole album, and we just talked on the phone from the recording studio, and it was goodbye. That week I enrolled in school. It was at the same time scary, but at the same time Joey was gone, we were still huge, so I wanted to do something completely different.
You don’t have any credits on that album?
No, but I have all the tapes of all my leads, all my rhythms, basically what you listen to on the album is all my leads copied by my roadie Paul Crook and Dimebag, note for note. If we ever have to go to court for real in front of the judge, the tapes can come out.
Paul Crook also wrote most of the songs for Joey’s first solo album…
Yeah, you have to remember I had a roadie for about ten years, his name was Artie, and when he left, I got Paul. He was my roadie for at least a year or two on the road. He’s a real friendly outgoing guy, unbelievable guitar player, he’s like a walking jukebox, he knows every song, the opposite of me, I never learn songs, ever, because I like it to sound like me, so I don’t want to dwell on any one person. So he can adapt, and he’s funny. He’s a jokester kind of guy, so he’s friendly with Joey. Joey was doing something after the Anthrax, and Paul’ll play with anyone, anytime and anywhere, have a guitar will travel kind of guy.
He replaced you and did the tour for STOMP422…
When I said, “That’s it, I’m done with Anthrax.”, we were still playing Madison Square Garden size places, big, huge. I didn’t just decide to leave Anthrax, but no more music, so I left the stage, called the Hard Rock Cafe, and gave 53 guitars to Hard Rock Cafe, all my guitars, so I had none. No music, I had stereos was taken out of my cars and house and everything and enrolled myself to become a master watchmaker, enrolled myself in a school in America first, a three-year school.
Would you like to say your honest opinion about the GREATER OF THE TWO EVILS album, including re-makings of your classic songs?
If you give me a lighter, I’ll burn it in front of you, how about that? I spit on it. I call it the last chance to do something, to be honest and brutal; I’m not gonna sugarcoat stuff. To me, it’s a cover band doing songs that I wrote. It hurts me, and I know that it hurt Joey the most, more than me, me it’s a cover band if it sells a million, then send me a cheque in the mail, but for Joey as a singer, oh boy, whoever thought this idea up, if it was a manager or somebody, not a good idea. I don’t think the fans kind of liked it either, not the true fans, we’ll say. The true fans are fans like you who will show their cousin, their younger children Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, this is really heavy metal, it comes from them, not a record company, this is the band you go to see, would you send them to see that or the reunion of Anthrax, what’s real? It’s like Iron Maiden, with the other singer, not Bruce, him doing a bunch of old Iron Maiden songs. It’s a cover band.
GOT THE TIME?
How did you get the idea to start working with watches?
My grandfather was a jeweler and a watchmaker, so since a little kid, I’ve been taking apart very expensive watches, like Patek Philippe, Vacheron & Constantine, Cartier. This is one I’m prototyping [shows watch]. Eventually, I will sell my own brand. We’re very close. When I left Anthrax, I wanted to get a diploma, not just knowhow, because I’m very mechanical. I build my own guitar amplifiers, my Marshalls I build myself from nothing, so I’ve always been building things. I enrolled in a school in New York City, a three-year school for watchmaking. I called Switzerland, can I come to school? And they said no, ten years, first you must do the three year school. Two years apprenticeship, you show us and then two more years in a pre-school and then there’s only one school in Switzerland that will teach in English, owned by the Swiss Watch Federation, by Rolex by Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Cartier, Panerai, and all these companies, they give millions and millions of dollars and build one school, six people are allowed in the entire world per year to come into the three-year course. It’s for what we call to become a complications specialist, which means the most complicated wristwatches in the world. You can build from nothing and fix it. Usually, when you graduate, you stay in Switzerland, you go right to the top and work for Rolex if you want. Rolex is nothing, Rolex is like a Cadillac, but if you can learn at your own speed, you can fix Formula One racecar engine or build engines in comparison. That’s the best way to explain what I do. I don’t fix Timex.
I dare not even ask about the prices?
You’ll find out that the third most money that a man spends is first his woman, his car and watches. If you become a lawyer or a doctor, you buy a Rolex when you get your first money but then what, it’s just like a car, you buy a Cadillac and then what, you buy a Mercedes, and everybody has a Mercedes now, so you’ll want a Lamborghini or a Ferrari and then what, the same thing. So I enrolled in New York, but I finished it in less than one and a half years because you go at your own pace. It’s the Bulova School of Watchmaking, and they gave me an award for being the fastest graduate in 53 years. They called Switzerland and said, take him now. But first, I did two years apprenticeship in New York, I had my own business, and then I went to Switzerland to a school called Wostep. I graduated from there, and after that, I spent a lot of time in a lot of the watch factories all through Switzerland. Then I came home to America, and I opened up two what we call service centers, one in New Jersey and one in Florida, so I stayed very quiet, no more noise or music, just the complete opposite, lots of music for 15 years and now I do my ten years of school in six years, and I come out.
You had to spend a lot of time in Switzerland, how was that time in your life?
Six years on and off. It was tough for me, very life-changing because since a little boy, all I knew was music. My best friend was my guitar when I had trouble with a girlfriend or somebody. I was lucky I had my guitar. I put on my headphones and played guitar. People who don’t have this come to our shows, and mosh, we have our art. This art is hanging on the wall of a Hard Rock Cafe, and I must adjust and look around to see how people live. I have no clue. I live on a tour bus for 15 years, and anything we want, we get, we complain, and we get anything, like a spoiled child.
Did people over there in Switzerland know who you were?
I called myself Daniel instead of Dan, and I didn’t tell anybody. I cut all my hair off for the first time in my life. One guy in Switzerland had come from a company called A Lange & Shine, an East German watchmaking company. It’s the finest watch in the world. One million dollar watch is normal. I work on one million dollar watches, no diamonds, because of the engine inside. They sent him there for a certain portion of a course that I’m in, Black Sabbath freak, big guy, a genius in watches. Two seconds and he finds out my brother is the bass player for Black Sabbath and that I’m from Anthrax, and we’ve been in touch ever since; that’s awesome. But I tried to keep it quiet; because that’s what I wanted, just me and a watch, it’s silence when you work, and it was to clear my head like Elton John said he lost the love of playing, I lost my love of playing because we had a lot of business problems in Anthrax and a lot of clashing. I lost the love of playing. I needed to get it back.
REKINDLING THE LOVE
How did you get back into playing music?
The first time that I picked up the guitar was when I went to Joey’s house once just to visit and mess around for a little bit while I was still at my store watchmaking. It was just to see if my soul accepts it, the love if it’s back. I wasn’t, and I went away for another year or two, never touched the guitar, and then my brother invited me onstage to play with Nicko [McBrain] at BB King’s in Manhattan, they were on a small little tour when Nicko was off the road [with Maiden]. I got up and played one Iron Maiden song, “Wrathchild” or something. And as the audience flips out, they see me, they recognize me, and all of a sudden I feel that feeling, that I gotta play live, I gotta see my fans again, this is messed up, I gotta start all over again. Previously to that, actually, I left out a small part. My service center for watches is closed to the public; you cannot come in, but it’s in a very affluent area in Boca. Nicko lives near here, he doesn’t know it’s me in the store, and he has a presidential Rolex, solid gold, but it’s a special one, runs on a battery, they make hardly any of this watch, maybe 25,000 dollars American. So, he sees the sign, Swiss Watch Hospital, and walks in and it’s me, he looks at me, I look at him and go “Nicko?”, he goes “Spitz?” I fix his watch, and we get to talk again, and I see something’s different about him kind of, and I found out he’s become a Christian man and me. So we immediately have much in common, and from there, we start talking. I close my store, we start to jam for maybe one and a half years, I had a recording studio in Florida, we started to play and just make music and make me happy again, bring me back to life.
Did you have plans for a real band together with Nicko at the time?
We did, but I wrote all the music, so it was up to me, and I could not find the singer in my head. We had Sully [Erna] from Godsmack come in, who really liked the music and my drum production. But it got so frustrating. One of my good friends in Florida is Vanilla Ice, Robert Van Winkle, one night. He was hanging at the studio, and I said, “Go in your car and write some words. I wanna see some words to this freaking song.” and he goes in his BMW and writes some words and comes in like in an hour. I said, “Sign it like rap style, heavy rap style.” We had a great time, me producing him just that night, and somehow the guy in the studio lets it out. It was just for fun, for me to hear a direction, a creation. But Rob is a good guy, people should know he’s a really good guy, and he’s very talented. Of course, he likes to be in the starlight like a little six-year-old kid dancing around the house, you know, that’s Rob. Then Nicko went on the road with Maiden. I started working with Patrick Johannson from Sweden, from Yngwie [Malmsteen’s] band. I wrote a whole album’s worth of material, so I have two albums of material, one with Nicko, maybe sixteen songs, and maybe eighteen songs with Patrick, but singers, for me, it’s the hardest thing to find.
Are you maybe going to use some of that stuff for Anthrax in the future?
Some of the riffs might come into Anthrax. Joey and I are also talking about a few projects, different kinds of music. We’d change the songs a little bit. Some of it will get used, some of the music is unbelievable. I experimented with 7-string guitars. I taught myself how to play lead guitar on a 7-string like Steve Vai, a lot of weird tunings. I made Nicko play to a click track, so no freestyle, for two months, he had to learn how to play solid beats like when he used to be in Pat Travers, after like two months, it was unbelievable, no one even knew that is was him, unbelievable drumming, he has the fastest foot I have seen in my life. We just laughed the whole time. We had the best time.
You mentioned religion earlier, and you’re now a reborn Christian. How did that happen?
I’m 197 billion percent Jewish by blood, so I was blind to Jesus or Christianity completely. Maybe the last year before I left the band was a time of change for me, where heavy metal was becoming a disgusting feeling for me in addition to losing my love for the guitar. As I found Jesus, certain things were not right in my environment, drinking, drugs, women, but whatever it may have been around me, not good. It just happened; many of my friends I grew up with were Christians, my friend was a Christian, and Christianity for me is reading the bible and talking straight to God, nobody with a collar in between. If you can find it and know it’s real, you know that there really is something else out there that created us. After that, I found that many people in heavy metal are just like me, but very quiet. Me and Dave [Mustaine] and Dave’s wife, Pam, have talked many times, all the time, that’s why this last tour with Megadeth was wonderful for the two of us, quite different for the other guys in my band. They don’t even ask a question, all of a sudden, Dan’s in Dave’s dressing room praying, and Dave has a preacher, a pastor, on the road, and we’re in there praying. When they’re getting ready to go on stage, they call to come in and pray, so this is all weird. My band doesn’t even ask a question, and this is okay. It’s the way we deal with it. I don’t want to push anything on anyone. People should just know my beliefs and that there are many people in some of the darkest bands you’d ever believe who know what is right, that there is one true living god and you can speak to him anytime you want. That’s basically it. Because I’m Jewish, I had no preconceived notion of what’s in the New Testament, and we have the Old Testament.
UNITED WE STAND
How does it work, having the watch business going alongside Anthrax?
This is a decision I had to make. I got an email from Charlie: “We’re in Mexico, we played for two hundred people, I think maybe it’s time.” There’s a secret to Anthrax, some of it’s explained, and some of it is not. We have Charlie and Scott, who come from punk music, it’s about aggression which you feel pounding, and you have Joey and me, we’re from melody, I’m a lead guitar player, also happen to play very heavy rhythm. Still, I come from Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. My brother is five years older than me, so I was shown all this other music, the first generation of music and jazz and classical music that I’m trained in. So me and Joey, what I say is, we put the melody to the mayhem. It’s basically the formula. Maybe when Charlie started to play the guitar about the third or fourth Anthrax album, he can’t play good, but he’d play for two or three hours, just riffs, and we’re writing an album, and I would go. “What? Play that one again.”
So you two are the soft side to Anthrax?
Soft and schooled musician. “I think this should have a 4th and a 5th and a flat 7th.” and they don’t know what I’m talking about. You know we do it that way.
How much you were in touch with your former bandmates when you were doing other things in your life. I mean, you mentioned earlier that Charlie contacted you via e-mail when he asked you to come back to Anthrax?
This was when my love for the guitar had just returned somewhat, and I was already jamming with two different drummers, but I still had my one store. My decision… the way my personality is, I go all into one thing, I don’t keep many things, businesses, going. So we discussed lawyers and all that business kinda things, and “We’ll give it a shot.” is what I said, but only if it’s the five of us. I had emailed Charlie a few times over the years, he’s the only person I had sent an email to during my absence, so if he wanted to send me an email anytime, he could have. But beyond that, nobody ever talked to anybody, only me and Joey, we talked. So the lawyers did their thing, and we said we’d see what happens first for six months and if everything goes well, then for eighteen months. The first six or nine months was really weird, very much adjustment for me, Joey, too, but very much for me, because I left the band everything and for ten years after “Sound of White Noise” which you know has sold two million copies, their next album sold 80,000 and the next ones less and less. The blessing of the five of us, the chemistry, I guess, is not there. You can blame it on whatever it is when you leave someone with a restaurant that’s serving lobster, and everyone’s buying it, and the day you leave, nobody’s coming in for lobster. They’re coming in for hamburgers now, that’s all I have to say. I really have nothing else to say, except that coming back and finding out that we play these kinds of places, we travel this way, there’s no money, you know, we have to start from nothing again, it’s difficult because for ten years they’re running the business, all of a sudden I’m new, Joey’s new, even though we’re old, we’re new, so it’s a lot of behind the scenes things.
What’s going to happen when the eighteen months are up?
We’ll see, everybody here wants to make music. I can tell you I want to make music, and I have plenty of music to go and plenty of riffs. I can’t wait to just bring this to the next level where we should be. I can’t believe we spent one year on the road and toured songs that are ten years old to thirteen years old, it’s been ten years for me, thirteen for Joey, and people still come to see us, this for me is baffling, I don’t understand this. First, you put out new music, then go on the road, then everybody sings all the songs. So, it’s amazing to see a thousand or two hundred thousand people in Download put their arms up in the air and remember who we are after all this time.
So you at least wish to carry on with the band?
Yeah. Right now, we had to take two months off because Charlie had a baby, now Frankie’s gonna have a baby, so the next two months will be off, the tour ends, and we’re not booking up any more shows. If it were up to me, we’d start writing right away without Frankie because, like with “Among the Living,” I don’t think Frankie was ever there. People should know finally that the real pattern of how it’s done, people are very confused about this band, they think Scott is the singer, people who don’t know because he does the press, they think Scott writes all the music or Charlie writes all the music, it’s all completely untrue.
Yeah, maybe when we were gone, they wrote the music, so this is where they are before I came back, playing a bar, wonderful. I don’t care who writes the music. It’s the five of us in the room, and I take credit for nothing, the five of us, somehow, some reason, something special. Hopefully, you’ll get a new Anthrax album by this time next year, and we’ll be back to normal.
For the reunion, they also had to get Frankie back in the band. Was that difficult?
No, he was in before they even contacted me. He was doing the Helmet thing, but that was kind of like a side thing, and I don’t really know the story of what happened, and I don’t ask. You have to understand; even when we were writing I’m the Man, Charlie, and Frankie, they grew up in the same house. Charlie’s sister is Frankie’s mother. Frankie has no father; they grew up in the same Italian house with like twenty people, grandmother screaming. Scott and I used to drive up all scared to this house to pick them up for practice in the old days. I’d say, “Scott, you went inside. Are they coming out?” He’d say. “I don’t know, and there are so many people, I don’t know who anybody is anymore.” So it’s a family, you know when two brothers fight. When we wrote “I’m the Man,” Frankie threw an Anthrax skateboard at Charlie. We just sat and laughed. I imagine that’s what happened, a lot of business tension at that time, this is me elaborating, not factual, but I would imagine lots of pressures at that time.
How have things gone moneywise for you?
I prefer to speak about the music [laughs]. Musicwise we’re okay; obviously, watchmaking is extremely lucrative for me because, in America, there are maybe three people like me. In the whole world, there are not many either with my credentials. It’s the love, and I hope to do many other things besides Anthrax, music. Like we discussed, Joey and I have one project I want to do so people can see and feel the true Dan Spitz, the true guitar player. Hopefully, we get to make a new album together somehow someway?
There are rumors that Frankie, Scott, and Charlie have apparently already done some stuff for the new album. Have you heard about that?
They did. Joey and I got an email, they just happened to be near Charlie’s house doing some press, the three of them, so they got together and jammed, that’s it, beyond that everybody knows that once again there’s no formula, the five of us are gonna get together in a room and write some music or there’s not gonna be a new real Anthrax album, that’s my words. As I said, there’s still a pattern for the last ten years that has been set. Nobody ever took my spot; he [Paul Crook] was my roadie, he was never part of Anthrax, the next guy was never part of Anthrax, Fred Flintstone as they call him, these are just hired people who make 500$ a week or whatever they make. And John Bush, yeah, writes lyrics, but that’s not Anthrax. There’s only one Anthrax that everybody wants to see, and everybody can’t wait for new music.
The funny thing is that very soon after you announced the reunion, Testament did the same thing…
Many people realize that as they get older, there was only one magic, only one unexplained; like I said, we get in a room, and we write, and we play, we can’t explain certain things. I know what Scott’s gonna play before he plays it, and it’s not from just being with him for all those years.
It’s funny that when I interviewed Alex Skolnick last summer, he mentioned similar reasons for their re-union…
He’s a good guy a does a lot of jazz stuff in Manhattan too. If you watch Alex, you see some of the avenues that I will explore if I will continue making music, so people can see how I really play because, in Anthrax, it’s so fast-paced and calls for a different style than my soul calls for in lead guitar work. So when we get a chance to do something else, it will be heavy, but with lots of space to really show people, “Let’s go, Joey can sing, watch this motherfuckers!”.
Yeah, he really can sing. I know that for sure. Our time is now running out… Thank you very much and see you later on the show!
No problem, and see ya later.
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