Australia's Inside_Out666 recently conducted an interview with original ANTHRAX frontman Neil Turbin. Several excerpts from the chat follow:
Inside_Out666: For those who don't know the story how did you get involved with the guys in ANTHRAX?
Neil Turbin: "Well, it's pretty interesting, actually. I went to school with Scott Ian and Danny Lilker. We went to the same high school and came from the same neighborhood, so we would bump into each other through mutual acquaintances. We weren't really buddies or anything. Actually, Scott and I were in a class together in freshman year in high school. I was out of my first band at that point some of the guys were into drugs; some of them were into school and business etc. One of the guitar players was a mutual friend and he had an ad out, I had an ad out and ANTHRAX had an ad out. They were looking for a singer because they didn't have one. They had people trying to sing. Not a singer but they had Scott's brother Jason trying to sing. At the time he was a 14-year-old kid trying to sing. Scott basically told him, 'Jason, you're the singer.' [laughs]. It was basically like that. Jason did do a few gigs with them. Jason's a great guy I will actually go have a beer with him down here where I live probably today. I don't know of any other singers at the time that was trying to sing for ANTHRAX. I had heard rumors that one of the roadies John Connolly, who eventually ended up in NUCLEAR ASSAULT, tried out; he was a friend of Danny Lilker's and he hung around the band. But back in those days it was Jason. Jason was the person that Scott had assigned [laughs]. Basically, it was Scott's band and why was it Scott's band? Well that's the way it always was. Scott had the money and he had the control. I had an ad in Good Times, they called me up and I had already joined this band AMRA with a friend of mine. I was committed to something, and if you're committed to something, you're not gonna say, 'Well, fuck this. I'm gonna go and jump on this ship.' We didn't even meet. I said, 'Thank you very much for your interest, but I already have a band.' At that age I wasn't thinking the way I am now, where you can multi-task. It was stupid on my part to pass up any opportunity — not just because it might have been ANTHRAX, but for any band. It eventually happened; I called them back because AMRA didn't work out. I called Scott back up and said, 'Are you guys still looking for a singer?' He said, 'Yes.' [laughs]. This was a couple of months later. The fact of the matter is there was no singer. They had Jason filling in. No matter what the media and people are saying, that's the facts. They had to use somebody and with all due respect, Jason was very successful. He played drums in REVEREND with David Wayne [METAL CHURCH], he got out there and did his own thing and I give him props & respect for that because having a successful family member in the business, people tend to over look you. I got back with Scott and we arranged a meeting, Scott and Danny came over to my house and played some tapes for one another, they figured out that I could sing and I figured out that they could play [laughs]. That's basically what happened. The next step was to get a copy of their stuff and I don't know if they gave it to me then I think they did and I had to learn the material quick because we had a show in two weeks. I was in the band from September 1982 until August 1984. It's interesting that people seem to forget that I wasn't in the band for two weeks. It was a long time and at that age it was more than 10% of my existence on the earth. There was a lot of time spent with that band to not have gotten anything out of it, that's really the bottom line."
Inside_Out666: Can you share some dirt with us from your school days with Scott?
Neil Turbin: "When I was in class with Scott, I was into the punk rock. I'd come in with my SEX PISTOLS shirt on, that's what I was into. What's funny is we did this project in my freshman year. We're talking tenth grade in New York at that time. We had this TV studio I even remember the teacher's name, but I won't get into that; the guy eventually got arrested and put away for child pornography or something. It's really weird, 'cause he was one of those teachers that was one of the cool guys — he wasn't on your back and cracking a whip so that was a class that everyone was always looking forward to. We were doin' stuff on one-inch video tape, just to give you an idea of when this was. I did my project on JIMI HENDRIX. We did a short film and I did one on VAN HALEN and this was right after 'Van Halen II' came out so we're talking '79 and what I did was I had the album cover, the artwork from the inner sleeve and I had 'Runnin With The Devil' playing and I would zoom into David Lee Roth jumping up in the air, all the imagery from the first and second VAN HALEN albums and then you would hear that stuff playing. I think Scott did his on PINK FLOYD or PAT BENATAR or something. He was into CHEAP TRICK, actually; he had a CHEAP TRICK jacket his friend was into PAT BENATAR. It kind of gave you an idea of who was brutal and heavy [laughs]. 'It's only cool to listen to BLACK SABBATH all the time.' No, I don't think so. I don't have a problem saying that I listen to all kinds of music. I was into punk, but I was into the real punk. When it happened was when hardcore punk became the second wave of punk music but a little bit different. A couple of the ANTHRAX guys — Charlie and Scott — went totally wild for it they wanted to make us more like that kind of music and suddenly wanted to change what it was all about."
Inside_Out666: Tell us about doing that first ANTHRAX album and the relationship with [Megaforce label head] Johnny Zazula?
Neil Turbin: "When we were trying to get established and innovate a genre of music and go where no man had gone before, there was METALLICA and they were the leading edge. I remember they had really great songs they were very solid live and a very strong band from the get-go and they had original ideas. I didn't think they had the world's greatest vocals, but they sure had some catchy memorable songs. It wasn't that we weren't original it's because that's who Johnny Z was behind. Johnny Z was behind METALLICA. ANTHRAX was an afterthought, to be honest. ANTHRAX became more of a thought as time went on, but he was really behind METALLICA and kept coming back and saying, 'You've gotta do this, that and the other.' Everyone had their own ideas. I think when we changed drummers and guitar players, I had a little bit more input into what was going on. I think a problem that exists in bands is like a family getting ready for dinner — you've got eight people trying to fuckin' cook. I'm sure you have dinner with a few different friends and I'm sure some of them cook real good and some of them should just stay out of the fuckin' kitchen. When you put them all together, you get some good points and you get some bad points. You've got people throwing in stuff that becomes polluted instead of pure. What happened on that first record was that pureness, that aggressiveness, tenacious type of intensity that I'm all about. I wrote all those lyrics — it was part of who I was and where I was at. It wasn't just some angry youth type of thing; it was a lot deeper than that. For example one song is about Greek mythology, another is about martial arts, which is on the second ANTHRAX album. It's kind of interesting reading that the other guys in ANTHRAX weren't even aware of what the songs were about. It was very difficult to write songs in ANTHRAX because of the fact that there was all this push/pull. Everyone was trying to put their two cents in just to show up on the score card. If you want to pay everyone for a hard day's work, that's fine. Giving credit to people for things when they weren't even a writer on anything is another story. My contribution was basically 50% and they were taking a lot more than that. I had no problem taking 20%; you've got words and music. The way that they put out there, 'Neil didn't do that or write that,' or whatever people wanna think, that's fine. They can believe whatever they want. But the fact of the matter is that I put in a lot of hard work, a lot of effort to write these songs, and it was a very hard process. The thing I have to tell you is that my writing, singing skills and abilities have only grown; some people over the years just fall apart. Their performance becomes less and their ability to sing high and hit those top notes disappears, but for me it's become more. My voice is a lot fuller than I might've sounded like when I was eighteen years old. What do you expect? Of course, things are gonna change a little bit. I've benefited from writing for all these years. I've been in bands for all these years. There hasn't been the Internet all this time. I wasn't there to meet chicks, I wasn't there to be a millionaire and I wasn't there to be famous. Personally, I wasn't there to do any of those things. I mean sure it's nice if someone pays you; it's nice to get compensated for working. If a nice-looking woman wants to buy you drinks and talk to you, there's nothing wrong with that. It's nice people like yourself would want to talk to a person like me about 'Tell me about yourself,' 'Tell me about your music,' 'What's goin on with you?' or more specific questions like you ask — these are all nice things — but I think, for me, the most critical point is that I've done it because of my love and passion for my music. There's no question that I know that I can write music that is of value to people. So the number one critic is me. I know what I have to live up to. When you've written songs like 'Metal Thrashing Mad' and 'Deathrider', songs on my solo albums that definitely had a high standard, you know what you have to do. I have control of what I'm doin now. Before, when I did my solo record, I had a lot of artists helping me out. I didn't have a band at the time. What comes out next is going to be the strongest material I have ever done. It's more than just my band NEIL TURBIN'S DEATHRIDERS. I have other things in the works. There are some big things for me. I'm not trying to look good or blow it up for the media but I'm just talking about big things for me and things that are taken me to the next level, where I wanna be. In other words, Im working on more than one album! And it's more than just my band, let's put it that way. It's something that I aspired to do."