There’s no way to overstate the unease and turmoil felt in the United States in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It was further exacerbated one week later when news outlets and politicians randomly began receiving letters containing anthrax spores, which, when inhaled, have the ability to cause severe illness and death. Paranoia was at an all-time high, and for a period, there was focus on the metal band Anthrax by the mainstream media.“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,’” rhythm guitarist Scott Ian told Georgia Straight in 2012. “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.”But at the time, the outlets and pundits wanted to know one burning question: Would the thrash legends be changing their name so they wouldn’t be associated with bio-terrorism? On Oct. 10, 2001, the group released a statement confirming it would, before revealing it was all a bit of humor meant to lighten the heavy mood.“In light of current events, we are changing the name of the band to something more friendly: Basket Full of Puppies,” the missive, penned by Ian, began.
“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,” he continued. “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.”Ian noted that before the tragedy of 9/11, “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.”One concession they did make was to link people who accidentally stumbled on the band’s website when searching for “anthrax” to the Center for Disease Control.Anthrax were on tour when the attacks occurred on Sept. 11, but like many bands at the time, they immediately pulled off the road. But instead of waiting for the incident to blow over, the band — along with a reunited Twisted Sister, Sebastian Bach, Overkill and Ace Frehley — played a charity show on Nov. 28 at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
When the time came for Anthrax to take the stage, they did so in white jumpsuits — each containing one word. When the five band members stood next to each other, they read “WE’RE NOT CHANGING OUR NAME.” According to Billboard, the show made $137,063, with $90,000 of it going to the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit.