Joe Trohman may have made his name cranking out emo-pop riffs with Fall Out Boy, but for years he’d been jonesing to play some ass-kicking thrash music. Now that his band has gone on a hiatus, the guitarist is finally realizing his vision with his new project the Damned Things, a supergroup featuring members of Anthrax and Every Time I Die. “The funny thing is no one knows what my guitar style is like because Fall Out Boy is not how I play guitar,” says Trohman. “It wasn’t a natural way for me to play.”
On a recent afternoon, Trohman is hanging in a Brooklyn studio with his bandmates (Anthrax’ Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano, Every Time I Die’s singer Keith Buckley and fellow FOB drummer Andy Hurley) as the group plays through rough and finished tracks from its debut album, due out on Island later this year. “How loud do we want it?” Trohman asks before putting on some of the new tunes. “Loud!” is Ian’s reliable response. Caggiano then lets the music rip — and it’s clear that despite the obvious generational difference, the Damned Things definitely gel on a musical level. Standout track “Black Heart” is a walloping hard-rock beast that mixes up Seventies arena-rock pomp (late-on-the-beat, John Bonham-style grooves and Queen-inspired vocal harmonies) with fat-bottomed bass notes and guttural, low-end riffage. And while the cheekily titled “We’ve Got a Situation Here” and “Ironiclast” suggest goofy Fall Out Boy territory, the tunes are pure dark, pummeling thrash that even Anthrax fans would embrace.
Trohman is a life-long Anthrax fan, so when a mutual friend dangled the opportunity to have dinner with Ian, Trohman jumped at the chance. “I was like, ‘That dude’s gonna hate me,’ ” he says. Turns out Ian wasn’t all that familiar with Trohman or his music. “I was aware of Fall Out Boy, but I can’t say I listened to them,” he tells RS. “I was surprised by his lack of hatred for the band,” adds Trohman.
Once the two linked up, they slugged back a few beers before Trohman worked up the nerve to show him some riffs he’d writing, including an early version of the new song “Grave Robber.” “I hate listening to music that I’ve written,” says Trohman. “But when I’m stoned, I love listening to it. These are totally stoner riffs.” Ian was equally inspired by the encounter and agreed to start working with Trohman on a new project, which they originally dubbed Methuselah. “You know, like, Methuselah — the oldest man in the Bible!” says Ian, affecting an old man’s Yiddish accent. “Leave it to two Jews to come up with the most Jewish band name of all time!”
Ian managed to rope in fellow Anthrax guitarist Caggiano while Trohman snagged FOB’s Hurley, and when they realized they needed a vocalist, Trohman was able to convince Buckley by text-messaging him. “He’s been bugged to do a million side-projects but I was the only one that he couldn’t ignore anymore,” says Trohman. When the band was writing and recording the record, they encouraged each other to make the fastest, fiercest music possible. “We were all really positive about pushing each other,” says Trohman. “No one was ever saying, ‘You can’t do that — you’re not good enough.’ “
When the band finally announced their new project, fans of both Fall Out Boy and Anthrax were a bit skeptical. “There were comments online from people, like, ‘I was expecting not to like this band but I like it!’ ” says Trohman. “Why wouldn’t we do this unless we liked it? ‘We’re gonna make some shitty music — hope you hate it!’ ” And don’t expect the Damned Things to be a one-off project. “If Anthrax would’ve listened to anybody we never would have gotten past our first record,” says Ian. “I learned a million years ago that you can’t listen to what anyone else says about your music.”