Headbanging for the Homeless

MTV invites Anthrax to the Headbangers Ball. But will the channel censor the band's social conscience?

In August, Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante uttered the words that foot-lunches are made of. A press release issued by his record company had him saying, "Anthrax aren't a band that relies on . . . MTV. We're not going to sell out for them."

For all of this month and half of May, Benante will know where his next meal is coming from. That's because he will be dining on his August proclamation. Eight months after puffing out his chest and issuing his State of the Band speech, Anthrax is a band that relies on MTV. Heavily.

When the speed-metal/white-rap/hard-core group makes its way around the nation during this month and next, it'll be co-headlining, even though the band is by far the biggest of the three on the tour. Who'll be sharing the top of the bill with Anthrax? One of the two other bands, Exodus or

Helloween? Nope. It'll
be MTV. You
know, the MTV that Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante said his band neither relies on nor would sell out for.

To be specific, the channel is using Anthrax to promote its three-hour-long Saturday night Headbangers Ball show. It's a program that caters to the "genre-specific audience"--as MTV calls it--that stays up past its bedtime to watch a somewhat peculiar blend of both puss-metal videos (i.e., clips by Def Leppard and Poison) and crunch-metal videos (Metallica and Anthrax). The channel plans to dump more than $1.5 million in advertising into the tour and cover its going-on at all hours--sometimes even when Headbangers Ball isn't on.

MTV's ad blitz seems to be working. Reports have it that all but two dates on the tour are sold out--one of them being, incidentally, a stop

in Phoenix.
So, Anthrax isn't
selling out to MTV?
Rhythm guitarist
Scott Ian, speaking

from his home in Forest Hills, New York, brags that Anthrax has more important gigs than MTV. "Granted, it's taken us a lot longer to make it big than Guns n' Roses," he says. "But if they turned to us tomorrow and said, `We never want to hear from you again,' it wouldn't make a difference.

"Why all of a sudden did they want us? I guess it's like anything else--they'll make money from it."

But let's give Anthrax the benefit of the doubt. Let's just assume that its latest album, State of Euphoria, did go gold with little or no help from Headbangers Ball. And let's pretend that Anthrax could've gone on tour this spring and gotten enough moshers to each donate $18.50 of their allowance to sell out every date--without MTV's precious assistance.

All well and good, but now Anthrax wants something more. The band is looking to change the way the world thinks about heavy-metal and maybe even about videos in general. And MTV is the only creature in its way.

LAST WEEK, IAN and friends were limbering up to shoot a video for "Who Cares Wins," a devastating song about New York City's homeless. The band plans to feature bleak footage of the city's homeless, intercut with scenes of the group's members lip-synching lyrics like, "Living in the street/Moms and kids with nothing to eat/Welfare hotels/Who says there's no place called hell."

It is the last scene of the video that Ian hopes will get Tipper Gore, Geraldo Rivera and all the other metalphobes the world over off the backs of Anthrax and its brethren. The band wants to pull off an all-time first by plugging a charity organization in a video. It's planning to splice onto the end printed info about the National Coalition for the Homeless, one of two organizations that Anthrax is working with.

Whether anyone sees the video, though, is up to MTV.
As soon as Anthrax is done with it, the video'll be shipped to the channel's censors, who'll decide whether flacking for a good cause is a no-no. MTV publicist Judy Atencio says, "I don't know what the thought would be on that. I don't think it's ever come up."

On the face of it, MTV has everything to gain by squeezing such responsible material into its boobs 'n' bazooka playlist. But Anthrax is up against what Ian calls the "never know" factor.

MTV, he says, "might love the idea. Then we'll shoot the video. Then Standards and Practices [MTV's censorship department] finds a reason they're not gonna put it on. I hope people don't look at this as just another music video. I like to think we have a relationship now that would make things easier for us, but you just never can tell. With the Anthrax experience, you never know what's gonna happen."

In 1985, when Anthrax shot its first video, for a song called "Madhouse," the band thought MTV would dig every frame. "It was filmed in what used to be a mental hospital," Ian gleefully recalls. "We had our friends dressed in medical gowns just slam-dancing and stuff. We wanted to show what was going on at Anthrax shows. They didn't want to hear about it. Back when we did it, they wouldn't play it at all. They decided we were making fun of mental patients."

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