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Metal Rockers Shine Light on Autism

Ex-Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz teams with Megadeth's Dave Mustaine on Red Lamb project

Dan Spitz and his son Jaden.
DCity Studios / Don Chaffin
May 6, 2012 11:45 AM ET

Former Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz is back with a new project called Red Lamb, and the band has just released a video for the song "Puzzle Box" (watch below). Co-produced and co-written by Megadeth's Dave Mustaine, the song tackles an unusual subject for metal: autism in children.

When Spitz and his wife, Candi, had identical twins, Brendan and Jaden, they were mystified by the unpredictable behavior of their boys. Even after the twins were diagnosed with autism, information was hard to come by. "When our kids started to go backwards, because they weren't born autistic, we didn’t know where to go," Spitz tells Rolling Stone. "You have to be careful, because there are plenty of people selling snake oil. Back then, we got,'Your kid has to eat this way, and if he doesn't buy our product, he might die.' Once we found Autism Speaks – which was strictly, 'Here's your information' – it was a whole new world."

Raising awareness of autism in the metal community was one of Spitz's inspirations for the song and its fact-filled video. "I can understand why people are scared to talk [about autism] in other forms of music. But the way I was brought up in metal, that's what thrash metal was," Spitz says. "If you read our lyrics, it wasn't, 'Hey baby, I love you.' Whatever bothered us in every day life, that was Anthrax. So we did the same thing with 'Puzzle Box.' We were like, 'It's time. People need to know what we're living here.'"

At around the same time that Red Lamb wrapped its video, the Centers for Disease Control released new statistics showing that about one in 88 children are identified as having a form of autism. "It was mindblowing," Spitz says. "Now the whole world wants to know more."

Spitz began writing songs for what would eventually become his Red Lamb project following a reunion with Anthrax in 2005. Mustaine got involved after hearing some of the music. "Me and Dave Mustaine have been friends forever, and we're kind of quiet friends on a daily basis," Spitz says. "He's just a wonderful human being. I was out there doing stuff in his studio and helping him on a technical aspect, and he was like, 'Play me your stuff.' We usually do not talk about music – our friendship is based solely on our families. He listened to it and really wanted to help."

Co-writing with the Megadeth frontman was a natural next step, Spitz says. "Dave has stayed at my house, and he's one of the few people that understands what we go through on a daily basis with two identical twins that are autistic, and also being away from them out there at his studio recording, and the phone calls that just don't stop of meltdowns and breakdowns," Spitz says. "Who better to co-write what I feel is one of the most important songs of our times than the both of us?"

Red Lamb (which also includes singer Don Chaffin, bassist Randy Coven and drummer Patrick Johansson) self-released their debut LP in February  via iTunes. The group is currently in talks with a booking agent to launch a tour.

"We're not just a band giving to a cause, asking someone, 'Will you please buy this product, because a portion of this product will go to help this needy person in this country,'" Spitz says. "I view Red Lamb as more of a permanent fixture of bringing awareness to the world of what this family lives every day. And that's what people need to know and people need to see."

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