Why Spitz quit Anthrax and gave away guitars
Former Anthrax guitarist Dan Spitz has discussed his surprise departure from the band in 1995 – and why he gave away all his guitars.
The acclaimed axeman shocked fans by leaving the thrash giants just as they were enjoying a new lease of life with vocalist John Bush, and turning instead to a career as a watchmaker.
Spitz tells Hodinkee: “I had been living on a tour bus since I was 14 years old, and played in bands with others of equal skill set – but they were much older and I was.
“I excelled at what I was doing and Anthrax soon hit and was playing sold-out colosseums for years.
“By the time 1995 rolled around I was the first one in the band to have children, and I missed them when I was on the road. We’d do an album and tour for years at a time, then start the cycle over again. Time at home was not there.
“It’s a story you see everywhere – it became mundane, more like a job. I needed a break.
“I have extreme OCD. I do things either full-on or full-off and I like to do things that others have done before. I need that drive and that ambition. That’s why I decided to commit to learning the higher levels of watchmaking beyond what I did as a kid.”
Spitz says his childhood bedroom “looked like a small NASA station” and he always enjoyed mechanical projects. Inspired by his grandfather he began taking watches apart and rebuilding them when he was eight years old.
Spitz has returned to music in recent years, forming Red Lamb partly to promote awareness of autism, which his twin sons suffer from.
He believes there’s a close relationship between playing music and watchmaking. “It’s so similar it’s not even funny,” he says. “Learning to play a heavy metal guitar is a never-ending skill. It’s painful to learn – that’s what’s cool about it. Same for watchmaking: it’s an unending skill to learn. How good do you want to be? Can you go beyond the fifty percent and become one of the best one percent?
“Reaching the top is something that can’t be taught and can’t be bought. You have to be an artist to be the best, in watchmaking or music. You need to do it for the love.”
But his approach to his life’s work remains decidedly thrash metal.
“I’m not in this industry for a job,” he reflects. “I have no boss and could care less. If you ask me a question you’re going to get a direct answer. You’re going to get the heavy metal answer from the heavy metal dude. I need to be truthful and honest, and that’s the way it should be.”