How Kiss changed my life, by Charlie Benante
The Anthrax drummer recalls the moment everything changed when he heard Kiss' Alive!
The first time I ever heard Kiss’ Alive!, I was at a party at a friend’s house. The only thing I’d heard prior to that as far as Kiss was concerned was Dressed To Kill. I was already a fan because of that, but when Alive! came out, it was a totally different thing.
The thing I remember most about it was just staring at the package – it opened out to a gatefold and there was a huge booklet in it. I just remember staring at it and being like, ‘What the hell?!’ Because you would listen to the record and visualise in your own mind how it was. You had all these different things.
I remember early on, when I first heard Kiss, I used to think that Paul Stanley’s voice was Gene Simmons. It was very weird when I saw them on a TV show called The Midnight Special and I was like, ‘Wait a minute… he’s not supposed to be singing that!’
I don’t think I could say that any of the songs are my least favourite, because I loved every single one on that record. I remember just playing it continuously, over and over again. I loved the way side one would kick in – it was like the introduction was the beginning of the show. Then you get to the middle portions – sides two and three – and side four was the big ending; I’ll never forget listening to Black Diamond and thinking, ‘What the hell is going on?’ The explosions and everything. [The tracklist] is a little out of sequence – actually, it’s not even a live show; they totally re-recorded it. But who cares? It fooled me back then.
I loved Peter Criss’ drumming on Alive!. I think he was one of the big influences as far as having a huge drum kit goes. ‘Look at all these drums. What’s he doing with all these?’ Because at the time, you’d have the ‘five-piece’ drummers out there, like John Bonham and Joey Kramer. After Peter, Neil Peart had the big kit also.
The end of ’76 was when I saw them live for the first time. Alive! prepared me. I was like, ‘Dude, this is fucking crazy!’ I just couldn’t believe it. Everything was going on. I just couldn’t focus on one thing. It was an assault on my senses. Most of the bands at the time really didn’t put on that type of show the way Kiss were doing; it was more or less getting up on stage and playing. It wasn’t, y’know… Kiss.
Kiss made me realise that this is what I’m going to do with my life. And that mindset just stayed with me; it never left. Before that, I wasn’t really taking it as seriously as ‘I’m going to make a living do this’.
I absolutely still listen to Alive!. I listen to it sometimes right before we play – it pumps me up . It puts me in a different state of mind.
Charlie Benante was talking to Greg Prato. Anthrax's new album For All Kings is out now through Nuclear Blast.