The band is named after a deadly disease caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis. Scott Ian got the idea when he learned about anthrax in his high school biology class.
The band was formed in mid-1981 by guitarists Scott Ian and Danny Lilker in New York City. Drummer Dave Weiss and bassist Kenny Kushner rounded out Anthrax's inaugural lineup. They are a very socially conscious metal band.
Following the release of the "Soldiers of Metal" 7-inch single, the band was signed by Johnny and Marsha Zazula of Megaforce Records after they literally followed them around the city.
Anthrax, along with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth, are a part of the "Big 4" of North American thrash metal. They were an instrumental part of the surge in popularity of the genre during the 80s.
Anthrax was one of the first thrash-metal bands to sign to a major record label, when they announced a partnership with Island Records in 1985.
Prior to joining Anthrax, former frontman Josh Bush had previously sung with Armored Saint.
Weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks, letters containing anthrax spores were sent to some media outlets and Senate offices, infecting people who came in contact. Five died in the attacks, which made many Americans afraid to open mail from unknown sources.
With the name Anthrax associated with these attacks, the band was under pressure to change it, but decided not to because they hoped the scare would pass, which it did. In a press release issued during the height of the scare
, they joking said they'd be changing their name to Basket Full Of Puppies.
Former lead guitarist Dan Spitz's brother David played bass for Black Sabbath and White Lion.
They were featured on an episode of Married With Children
entitled "My Dinner With Anthrax" where the characters Kelly and Bud won a contest for a house party with the band.
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In May 2010, vocalist Joey Belladonna, considered to be a member of the band's quintessential lineup, rejoined the group full-time.
Guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Charlie Benante are the only Anthrax members to play on every studio album by the band.
Scott Ian was nicknamed Scott "Not" Ian by fellow high school pupils.
Though best known for being Anthrax's drummer, Charlie Benante started contributing guitar parts as well in the late '80s. Benante told us
: "I would do a lot of the acoustic stuff, and then me and Scott (Ian) would work out guitar parts. Then I would just end up playing the other part of it, and Scott would basically play all the rhythms on the record - all the meat and potatoes."
Benante is a major contributor to the group's songwriting - most Anthrax tracks start with bits he writes on guitar. He told us that he's "pretty much written 80 percent of the Anthrax songs" on his 1980 star body Charvel guitar. More recently a friend of his made him a Eddie Van Halen replica that's built off an Ibanez Destroyer, and he wrote a lot of 2011 album Worship Music on that.
Charlie told us how Anthrax divide up their songwriting. "I pretty much wrote most of the Anthrax songs, with Scott writing the lyrics," he explained. The bulk of the material and the ideas usually come from me and then we grow on it. Scott will write the lyrics and some of the other guys, of course, will add and help arrange. Frankie [Bello, bass player] adds a bit to it, too. But usually I'll come in with the basic framework for the tune."
Scott Ian's wife Pearl Aday is the adopted daughter of Bat out of Hell musician Meat Loaf. She toured as a backing singer in Meat Loaf's touring band for nine years, Neverland Express.
Prior to Anthrax, Danny Spitz was a member of the East Coast thrash metal band Overkill. However, he never played on their albums and was replaced by Bobby Gustafson in 1981.
Their third album, Among the Living
, is dedicated to Cliff Burton, the bassist from Metallica, who was killed in a bus accident in Sweden on September 27th, 1986 and was a close friend of the members of Anthrax. At the time of Burton's death, Anthrax opened for Metallica on their Master of Puppets tour.
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Scott Ian has one of the best-known faces in heavy metal, thanks to his chin beard. "I wish everybody that recognized me would buy the record. Then we'd be as big as Adele," laughed Ian to The NewsPress
. "I get recognized everywhere in public… But nine times out of ten, it's people who recognize my face but they really have no clue. I wish there was a way to make this happen: 'Oh, you want a picture? Okay, well buy the record right now.'"
The were one of the first bands to wear big, baggy shorts on stage, a trend that quickly caught on. They weren't making a fashion statement - they wore the shorts because they were comfortable.