Anthrax Guitarist Says Eddie Kramer Almost Ruined ‘Among the Living’
There’s a reason why most metal fans consider Anthrax‘s 1987 album ‘Among the Living’ one of the top 10 thrash records of all time. The songs are urgent and energetic, the vocals raging, but melodic and the sound raw, primal and ferocious.
However, when producer Eddie Kramer originally started working with the band, he was out to create an album with an entirely different sound. “At the time, the biggest record in the world was Def Leppard‘s ‘Pyromania,’ and he really wanted to make a modern sounding metal album like that, which was the antithesis of what we were,” Ian tells Noisecreep.
Anthrax’s conflict with Kramer didn’t surface until after the album was recorded. Before that, they were thrilled to be working with such a legendary producer, a man who had helped mold the sounds of some of their favorite ’70s bands, including Led Zeppelin and Kiss.
“We always loved the live feel of the albums he did,” Ian says. “Everything sounded like there was just a band in the room playing, and that’s what we wanted with ‘Among the Living.’ On our previous two records, we felt like we hadn’t captured the power of our live show and what we were. We always felt like when we’re in a room rehearsing, we were at our best. And when we were recording the record, it was basically done live in the studio, and that was great.”
As soon as Kramer started to mix the album, however, he started drawing upon the latest technology to make the songs sound commercial and futuristic.
“The first mix he did, I remember all of us coming into the room and listening to it and being like ‘Oh, my God, what is he doing?'” Ian says. “Everything was giant reverbs and just completely blown out, and we were like, ‘No, no, no, no, no.’ We want everything dry, everything raw. Everything in your face.”
At first Kramer tried to pull rank, but Anthrax held their ground. “Eddie and I actually got into a screaming fight over the direction of the mix,” Ian says. “His attitude was you need to be a modern and on the cusp, using all the technology at your disposal, and we were like, ‘F— that. We want it to sound like this record was made in 1977.’ It took lots of scratching and clawing and I finally had to say, ‘Look this is an Anthrax record. It’s not an Eddie Kramer record. You get to move on and do 100 more albums. This could be the last thing we ever do. It’s our album and our way and that’s all there is to it.’ In the end, he basically just turned off every f—ing reverb in the room and we were like, ‘Okay, that’s more like it.'”
While Anthrax were unhappy with the way ‘Among the Living’ was originally mastered — which is why they pushed for years for the current remastering and reissuing of the disc — they’ve always been pleased with the original finished mix, which they had fought so hard to achieve.
“When you listen to that record it has such a rawness and such an attitude to it.,” Ian says. “Here we were, a bunch of kids in the room with one of our idols, but we still had this attitude and the wherewithal to stand up to him. It we had put out an album like ‘Pyromania,’ that would have been the end of our career. We knew that, and made the record we wanted to make, and you f—in’ hear it when you listen to the album. It rips your head off.”