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Interview: Anthrax Guitarist Rob Caggiano
Obi-Dan   |  

Rob CaggianoFor thirty years, metal band Anthrax has been revered as one of the leaders of its genre. Part of the Big Four with Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer, they are the instigators and pioneers of thrash metal. For over a year now, the Big Four tour and festival appearances have been the greatest live music draw for rock and metal fans.

It has been ten years since Anthrax lead guitarist Rob Caggiano first joined the metal superiors. Currently he has a lot on his plate: the Big Four, a new Anthrax album, and his other band, The Damned Things; but Rob was kind enough to stop for a chat. I encountered a funny, humble guy during the most fruitful period of his music career.

Geeks of Doom: Hi Rob, how are you?

Rob Caggiano: I’m good, man. Just been crazy, crazy busy doing the Big Four stuff and The Damned Things. There’s a lot going on! [laughs] We’re also trying to finish the Anthrax record too. It’s been fucking hectic.

Geeks of Doom: Awesome. We’ll get on to the new album later. There are no Anthrax live dates until you come to Europe to play the Big Four shows and the Sonisphere festivals. What are you up to in the meantime?

Rob Caggiano: The Damned Things are playing in a few days actually. We’re going to do this big festival here in Ohio called Rock On The Range and then we’re doing a few other shows surrounding that. Then we go to Europe to do the festivals; we’re doing Download and stuff like that with The Damned Things in June. Going to jump from that right into the Big Four stuff.

Geeks of Doom: You’ve been playing Big Four shows for over a year now, how are you finding it?

Rob Caggiano: Oh they’re amazing. We did a short little tour in Eastern Europe with the Big Four line up and it was phenomenal. And obviously we just did the one in Indio, California, which was amazing, it was like 60,000 people there or something like that. I don’t know if you know, we’re actually doing Yankee Stadium in New York now, September 14th. That’s like the dream gig for me! Being a New Yorker and a Yankee fan, that’s like a dream gig for all of us!

Geeks of Doom: How will you cope without Scott Ian in July? Did you know Andreas [Kisser, Sepultura guitarist] before he agreed to cover?

Rob Caggiano: Yeah, we’ve known Andreas for a long time. He’s a great guitar player. It’s definitely going to be a little strange having an Anthrax show without Scott Ian. But I think Andreas is definitely going to pull it off and it’s going to be fun. I mean it is what it is; Scott’s having a baby, we’ve got to understand and respect that.

Geeks of Doom: But Andreas is a great replacement! Ok, if you could pick one band to make a Big Five, who would you choose?

Rob Caggiano: One band to make a Big Five? That’s an interesting question! Wow. The Beatles! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: [laughs] Do you think that would go down well with Anthrax fans?

Rob Caggiano: Yeah, absolutely! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: Were you a fan of Anthrax before you joined? And how did it all happen?

Rob Caggiano: We were all basically friends just from the New York music scene, you know, and we had a lot of the same friends in the music circle here. I’ve been a fan of Anthrax forever so basically grew up listening to that stuff. I don’t know, one thing led to another and there was an audition and it just kind of happened. I definitely made it clear to them that I wanted to play! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: It worked out very well! Were you a fan of a particular era; the Joey Belladonna era or John Bush era?

Rob Caggiano: You know, that’s an interesting question. I like both eras of the band. You know, obviously Among The Living is one of my favorite records of all time. But so is Sound of White Noise. So I like both eras.

Geeks of Doom: You worked with John Bush for a long time, so were you excited last year to get to work with Joey?

Rob Caggiano: Yeah, you know I didn’t really know what to expect from Joey. Prior to that the only line up as far as Anthrax goes that I was involved in was with John Bush. I was real comfortable with that because John’s an amazing singer, he’s a great guy. I really didn’t even know Joey. I met Joey once in New York a while ago, but I didn’t really know him so I didn’t know what to expect. But we did the first show in Poland and it was phenomenal. He’s singing better now than he ever sang, I think, and the band sounds killer with him in it. He’s a great frontman, we’re really psyched to have him on board.

Geeks of Doom: Awesome. Your first Anthrax album, We’ve Come For You All, was their first album in five years. So going into that were you excited, did you feel any pressure?

Rob Caggiano: Yeah I was really excited. You know, at that point I hadn’t been in the band too long. And as it turns out I ended up actually producing the record as well, and recording it. It was definitely an interesting experience, you know, wearing two hats, no pun intended! [laughs and points to his trademark cap] But yeah, making that record was great, we had a lot of fun doing it. It took a long time. I think every Anthrax record takes a long time at this point! [laughs] But we’re really proud of that one and I think the fans really dig it.

I’m super excited about the new one. We’re basically coming down the home stretch on that and it’s sounding great. We’re shooting for September release.

Rob CaggianoGeeks of Doom: Going back to W.C.F.Y.A. briefly; again, your first album and that had guitar parts by Dimebag and additional vocals by Roger Daltrey. Did you get to meet them, did you like what they did?

Rob Caggiano: Well, yeah. They didn’t really come to the studio to track. Dime basically did it at his own studio and sent it over to us and we were just corresponding like that. I mean everything Dime does, Dime did, is phenomenal. He’s an amazing guitar player. He was also a really good friend of the band so yeah, that was great. [With] Roger Daltrey, Scott was there when he did his vocals. It would have been great, I wish I was there! It would have been really fun!

Geeks of Doom: How did The Damned Things come about?

Rob Caggiano: Basically it started when Scott [Ian] met Joe Trohman from Fall Out Boy a few years ago through a mutual friend. They started talking about possibly doing a side project, just a “have fun” kind of thing and they started throwing riffs back and forth and one thing lead to another. They asked Andy Hurley, the drummer of Fall Out Boy, to be a part of it and he agreed, so those guys started jamming. Then they asked Keith Buckley [lead singer from Every Time I Die] to join, and he agreed! [laughs] With every step it started to turn into a more serious thing and then they asked me to be involved. At the time there weren’t too many songs written, I think there were about four ideas that were demoed. Then when they asked me to join, Joe and I really sat down and started writing and arranging and really finalizing the music and basically got a whole record written pretty quickly. At that point it definitely wasn’t “side project” any more, it was a real thing and it was something that we all wanted to focus on a hundred percent. So, here we are! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: On The Damned Things’ album Ironiclast you produce, co-write, arrange, play bass, amazing lead guitar — was that always the plan from the start or did you make it clear to the others that you wanted to do that?

Rob Caggiano: Actually, that’s another good question. I think what happened was, as soon as I got in the band we started working on the music and I started putting together some real proper demos of the songs so we had something to actually play for the record label. I think we all just had a lot of fun doing it and the demos came out really good too. So it was just kind of a natural progression. As far as the bass playing goes, we didn’t have a bass player at the time. We had no idea who was going to be playing bass! [laughs] So I ended up just playing bass which I do all the time anyway in the studio for different projects. But yeah, I think the record came out really good, it’s a fun album, we had a blast making it and we’re all really proud of it as well.

Geeks of Doom: I think it’s a good album, I really like it. Did you enjoy dressing up as a superhero for the video of “We’ve Got A Situation Here”?

Rob Caggiano: Yeah, you know what, that was a really great experience. We had a lot of fun doing that video! [laughs] I can’t even watch it, it’s so funny, I crack up laughing!

Geeks of Doom: I read that you’re a big fan of horror movies and vampire books especially. Do you have any plans to get involved in those areas?

Rob Caggiano: I would love to do a score for a horror movie. I would love to start doing some of that stuff at some point in the future. It’s always been kind of a dream of mine to do some movie scoring. Yeah, I would love to. Or I could play a vampire in a movie; not too far of a stretch! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: Anthrax has been going for about thirty years now and it’s survived a huge amount of line up changes but still you create great music that’s definable as Anthrax music. As someone who’s been both sides of that, what would you put that down to?

Rob Caggiano: To start with, like you said, the band’s been around for thirty years and, yeah, there’s definitely been a lot of turbulence and different singers and line up changes and all that stuff. But the core of the band has always stayed the same, which is Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, and Frankie Bello. I think that, in and of itself, equates to the Anthrax sound being consistent throughout the years. I think that’s a big part of it.

Geeks of Doom: Scott Ian once said it was because he is a “tenacious Jew” and a “stubborn prick.” Would you agree with that?

Rob Caggiano: Tenacious Jew?! [laughs] Scott’s a great guy. Is he a stubborn prick? I don’t think he’s a stubborn prick actually. I think he’s got very strong opinions. He definitely speaks up and stands up when he believes in something. So I don’t consider that being a stubborn prick to be honest! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: His words, not mine! You started taking guitar seriously after listening to Back In Black by AC/DC. What was it about that album that made you want to start taking guitar seriously at only nine years old?

Rob Caggiano: Angus Young. There’s something about his guitar playing that just lit a fire inside me and I was hooked ever since. And then very soon after that I got turned onto Eddie Van Halen, and that really sealed the deal! [laughs] Obviously Back In Black is one of the greatest rock albums of all time, still to this day. [There are] very few records that can compete with that. And the guitar playing is unbelievably good.

I’m one of the biggest AC/DC fans and it definitely started with that record. I was really young at the time, I wish I was able to see the band with Bon Scott, that would have been amazing because I love all that old stuff as well.

Last year Anthrax was in Australia doing the Soundwave festival and we were lucky enough to have a day off and AC/DC was playing down there, one of the arenas. So we all went to the show and it was fucking great! It was so cool. To see them there, you know, actually in Australia, it was so amazing.

Geeks of Doom: They said recently they will do another tour. Very exciting! Ok, let’s go back to the Big Four again; where has been your favorite show so far?

Rob Caggiano: I’d have to say the first one, the one in Poland. Just because of all the excitement and because it was the first show I think. That show was magical for us. A really good show. My favorite moment of the whole thing was the Bulgaria show and we all got up on stage with Metallica to do “Am I Evil?” for the first time. That quite possibly is the most fun I ever had in my life! [laughs] … just to be up on stage with Metallica and Megadeth and Slayer at the same time is like … talk about a dream! [laughs]

That was definitely a fun show. Although we had a lot of technical [and] sound problems at that show. It was a hard show for us because we had a lot of sound problems, monitor problems. The stage sound was definitely screwed up and my amp was making all kinds of noises. I think Charlie had some monitor issues as well. It was a weird show for us. But when we walked back to the dressing room we were all a little bummed out because it sounded so weird on stage and then the guy that recorded it from Metallica’s camp came into our dressing room and was going to show us the footage, you know, because we had to approve it because it was going to be broadcast in the movie theatres that day! So we watched it and it actually sounded really good. Couldn’t believe it was the same show! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: Yeah, it looked and sounded great on the DVD. And just to round up, can you tell us a bit about Worship Music, what we can expect in September?

Rob Caggiano: Worship Music is going to be a crushing Anthrax record. It’s got all the elements. There’s moments where it has the spirit of Among The Living, at the same time it’s also a progression from We’ve Come For You All, certain aspects. Joey sounds phenomenal on the record, so excited about it. All of us have been working on these songs for so long, this record’s taking forever! But it’s great to actually finally hear a lot of these tunes finished and with the right vocalist singing! [laughs]

Geeks of Doom: Rob, thank you so much.

Rob Caggiano: Oh, thank you, man. It was fun!

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