How Anthrax Dealt With Name-Related Backlash After 9/11

Alfred Nitsch, CC BY-SA 3.0 AT , via Wikimedia Commons
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The events of September 11th, 2001 forever changed the world. As terrible as the initial terrorist attacks were, anxieties were brought to a new high a week later when random media outlets and public officials began receiving highly toxic anthrax spores in the mail.

The illusion of American safety had been shattered, ushering in a new era of paranoia. In the midst of the chaos, focus inevitably shifted towards a New York band with an unfortunate name for the time.

In an interview with Georgia Straight that ran on the eleventh anniversary of the 09/11 terror attacks, Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian said:  “My attitude right from the start was, ‘Well, these guys, they didn’t want anything to do with us when our record came out not that long ago, and now they want to talk to us because they need to fill space because this is the story of the week – which is gonna disappear in the next two months. And, of course, it did.”

Correct as he was, pundits were irate toward the band for a short period of time. After numerous inquiries, Anthrax issued a tongue-in-cheek statement about the future of their momentarily controversial name.

The band declared: “In light of current events, we are changing the name of the band to something more friendly: Basket Full of Puppies. Actually, just the fact that we are making jokes about our name sucks.

“In the 20 years we’ve been known as Anthrax, we never thought the day would come that our name would actually mean what it really means. When I learned about anthrax in my senior year biology class, I thought the name sounded ‘metal.’ Everyone in my neighborhood had a band with an ‘er’ name, like ‘Ripper’ or ‘Deceiver’ or ‘Killers,’ and I wanted to be different. ‘Anthrax’ sounded cool, aggressive and nobody knew what it was. Until a few years ago, most people thought we’d made it up. Even our 1985 album, Spreading the Disease, was just a play on the name. We were spreading our music to the masses.”

The statement elaborated that before 09/11, “the only thing scary about Anthrax was our bad hair in the ’80s and the Fistful of Metal. Most people associated the name Anthrax with the band, not the germ. Now in the wake of those events, our name symbolizes fear, paranoia and death. Suddenly, our name is not so cool. To be associated with these things we are against is a strange and stressful situation. To us, and to millions of people, it is just a name. We don’t want to change the name of the band, not because it would be a pain in the ass, but because we hope that no further negative events will happen and it won’t be necessary. We hope and pray that this problem goes away quietly and we all grow old and fat together.”

Anthrax did, however, post a link on their website to the Center for Disease Control, just in case anybody looking for information on the bio-agent accidentally stumbled upon the band’s page.

On November 28th, 2001, Anthrax played a charity show at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Also on the bill were other locals Twisted Sister, Sebastian Bach, Overkill and Ace Frehley. Anthrax took the stage in white jumpsuits, each with a different word written on it. Standing next to each other, the jumpsuits spelled out a clear message: “WE’RE NOT CHANGING OUR NAME”

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