Former personal trainer selected to front metal band



Mary Altaffer/associated press


Dan Nelson is the new vocal front man for the heavy metal band Anthrax.

The tagline for the 2001 movie Rock Star — “The story of a wannabe who got to be” — might as well have been about Dan Nelson.

The part-time singer and personal trainer from Long Island was just a regular working Joe until last week, when heavy metal icons Anthrax announced that the 31-year-old would become their new lead singer.

“The other night my friends took me out for dinner and one of them bought me Rock Star as a joke,” Nelson said Tuesday. “So I watched it and it was weird — the whole beginning of the movie is similar to what’s happened.”

It’s really a case of life imitating art that imitates life: The flick’s hero, played by Mark Wahlberg, is a photocopier technician by day who scores the ultimate gig when his favourite band asks him to become their singer. The movie is loosely based on the true story of Tim Owens, singer in a Judas Priest tribute band who was chosen to replace his idol.

Now Nelson gets to rock out with Anthrax, the group he idolized as a kid.

But unlike Wahlberg’s cautionary character, whose life spirals out of control with the pressures of fame, Nelson doesn’t plan on letting it go to his head. He has no plans to trash hotel rooms, either.

“No, I’m not that type,” the married rocker said, with a laugh. “I’ll be trashing stages. Every stage I play I’ll be destroying.”

Nelson’s big break comes courtesy of MySpace: Nelson met Anthrax guitarist Rob Caggiano several years ago and, buoyed by encouragement from his wife, Kim, recently contacted him through the social networking Web site to discuss a possible collaboration of sorts. Caggiano admired his pluck.

“I sent him my stuff on Myspace and he sent me a (message) back with his number and said, `Call me immediately,’ “ Nelson recalled. “I called him up and his response was, ‘What rock have you been hiding under?’”

Anthrax had a reunion tour with former singer Joey Belladonna last year, but talks to continue fell through. With that in the back of his mind, Nelson flew to Chicago to meet with Caggiano for a project he was working on. After a 10-hour jam session, Caggiano delivered a doozy: “I think you should try singing for Anthrax.”

Nelson auditioned for the band — Caggiano, guitarist Scott Ian, drummer Charlie Benante and bassist Frankie Bello — in late October. He said they had him “on pins and needles” for a month until breaking the good news.

“I was in shock,” he said. “I’m still in shock. I mean, who am I kidding? You know, I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”