ANTHRAX’s Scott Ian – Not Among The Living
March 16, 2017, a month ago
I’ve never told this tale. One of my first music industry jaunts was to represent McMaster University radio station CFMU at the CMJ convention in New York City in the late ‘80s. My first time in the concrete jungle of Manhattan. And when I was strolling in awe of my surroundings, lo and behold I crossed paths with a true rock star in my eyes; Scott Ian from Anthrax. Just a quick walk by and I recognized him immediately. And he knew I did. That’s the impact the Big Four had at the time. Bands just bursting at the seams which Ian addresses below. It would be years before I officially met up with him and his mates at Maple Leaf Gardens on the Persistence Of Time Tour. But what are the odds? Fast-forward almost 30 years later we are both sitting in a cabin while the madness of 70000 Tons Of Metal 2017 flows into motion.
But Ian isn’t here to party. Or to mingle with the fans. Or to watch bands. And odds are he may never leave his cabin aside from the two sets Anthrax will perform, arguably the biggest band to be featured on this cruise thus far.
“I’m here to work,” he begins in a serious tone. “I don’t really pay attention. Other than the two shows we have to play, I will be in my room working on my second book. I get four or five days of no interruptions, aside from playing two shows. And that’s really rare for me to lock myself in a room and not playing with my son. So I will get a lot of work done. On the Motörboat I wrote a bunch of lyrics on For All Kings, while everyone else was partying and losing their minds. I find these boats really good for that. So I kind of come for the opposite thing everyone else does.”
BraveWords: And you don’t feel the need to socialize with your crowd?
Ian: “No, I’m here to work.”
BraveWords: Given the attire in the ‘80s, this cruise is the perfect setting for you!
Ian: “Sure. And I forgot to pack shorts. Because we go straight from this to a European tour. And I was only thinking of being cold. But I literally didn’t pack shorts. Not that I’d be out and about on the boat anyway. But I’m still shaking my head that I didn’t bring a fucking pair of shorts!”
BraveWords: The Big Four are so vital to heavy metal, don’t you find it a bit surreal playing beside a pool?
Ian: “Yeah, again, I don’t think about it. I don’t pay attention most of the time where we play. I put on my guitar and go onstage and do my thing. Unless it’s horrible or something with technical issues, generally - and I know this sounds weird - the setting isn’t much of my concern. Because once I’m on stage I’m not paying attention to that. I’m just doing my best to translate what we are doing to the audience. And try my best to entertain people. I’m that focused.”
BraveWords: Anthrax have been firing on all cylinders with the latest being another triumph, For All Kings.
Ian: “Yeah it’s great. What do you want me to say? Again, it’s not something we think about. We just work. We just do what we do. We’ve never stopped working since 1981. In some ways, my life has never changed because the band still does everything the same. We put out albums a bit less frequently than we used to in the ‘80s, because all that changed business-wise. But we are still either on tour or working on a record. None of that has changed in 35 years. Things may come and go, and things may change around us, but I kinda feel like our centre has always held and everything else has revolved around that.”
BraveWords: And as time marches on, we see anniversaries being celebrated and we are seeing that with Among The Living. Judas Priest’s Rob Halford brought this up during a recent BraveWords chat about the 30th anniversary of Turbo. He asked me if there was any value to all this?
Ian: “I don’t care. I raise a glass and reflect for a minute - ‘wow, it’s 30 years’. But we released something at 25 for Among… But I look at it this way. People can buy something or not buy something. It’s as simple as that. We don’t tell people what to do or what to buy. We are celebrating Among… and we are going to play it in full for six weeks and probably never do it again ‘cause we’ll be sick of it (laughs)! No, we’ll go back to playing just a few songs in the set. But I am excited to play those songs on Side Two that don’t get as much play like ‘Imitation Of Life’, ‘One World’ and ‘Horror Of It All’. When people think of that record they think of ‘Indians’ and ‘I Am The Law’. It’s much deeper in my mind. And for some reason certain songs seem to fall off. And that’s why I’m excited to do the whole record ‘cause I think those are great songs as well. And certainly as a band it’s fun for us to play songs we haven’t played a lot. And I don’t feel like it’s being self-indulgent because there is a reason why we are doing this - we are celebrating the record. As well as For All Kings. It’s kind of a best of both worlds scenario.”
BraveWords: Are there any of the Big Four bands that you pay attention to release-wise?
Ian: “There’s no competition because I’m a fan of all of them. I always want to know what they are up to. Sometimes I get lucky and Kerry King (Slayer) plays me in the dressing room a whole bunch of shit before it has vocals on it. We are all close and I think I can safely say that. The fact that all four bands are doing it at the level they are doing it. And the amount of times we actually see each other. I think we’ve done 200 shows with Slayer in the past year! So I can safely say we are all pretty close. We may not hang out every day, but there is a bond. And you mentioned connectivity, there is certainly a bond between the four of us. And I can’t speak for anybody else in the other bands. Like is Kerry, Dave (Mustaine, Megadeth frontman) or Kirk (Hammett, Metallica guitarist) paying attention? If I had to guess, I’d say yeah. I think we all pay attention to what everyone else is doing because we all come from the same place. And I’m genuinely curious to see what riff Mustaine has come up with on the new album? What riffs did James (Hetfield, Metallica frontman) come up with on the new Metallica album? What his rhythm playing is going to sound like? I’m just saying I’m a fan. I’m curious. So I do pay attention always.”
BraveWords: So, as a fan what record really sticks out.
Ian: “In our history? Wow. Well my favourite Metallica record is Master, my favourite Slayer album is Reign In Blood and my fave Megadeth record is Peace Sells.”
BraveWords: So let’s talk about the future and the upcoming Killthrax Tour.
Ian: “We are excited. We do six weeks in Europe headlining, which we haven’t done in ten years ‘cause we’ve just been opening or doing festivals. And to do the US with Killswitch and play some really cool venues, is pretty exciting. Our latest album, For All Kings, has been out a year and it feels like we are just starting. So it’s exciting that we get to work. Don’t get me wrong, as much as I like time off and being home, I like working with my band. I love what I do. I love my job. I would hate to not be able to do it. But people connected with the record and that affords us the ability for us to go out and be a band again. I’m hoping by the end of this year, things will be bigger and better. And that will give us a real kick in the ass going into 2018 to start working on new material.”
BraveWords: Outside of music, how do you want to build the brand of Anthrax?
Ian: “I don’t know. You get offers to do things and either say yes or no. If someone calls and says do you want to write a book and I said no for seven years, until I did a bunch of talking shows. And then I realized I had enough material to write a book. I never felt that I’d do the work. I know I’d take the money and then it would never get done. And then I did the talking tours and then I realized that I had a book. Just writing shit out for that tour, I had a 100 pages written. So that’s when I said ‘yes’ and I enjoyed that process so much that I was hoping I would be able to do a second book. And then it got green-lit a few months ago, so I’m in the thick of it right now ‘cause I’m on deadline and I have about 25,000 words left. So I’m hitting hard. It’s all short stories. It’s not another autobiography or a continuation of the last one. It’s just all short stories that didn’t fit into the flow of the last book, because it would’ve taken you out of the story. But I’ve got 20, 30 fucking killer tales that go along with the last 40 years of my life that didn’t make it into that book ‘cause it didn’t fit into the timeframe.”
BraveWords: You are sounding like Stephen King now.
Ian: “I love writing. Since I started writing lyrics on Spreading The Disease, I’ve called myself a writer. And I love the challenge of writing outside of lyrics. I know I can write lyrics in the context of Anthrax. But can I do anything else? Then I got to write a comic book for DC. And now I’m writing my own books. And now I’m thinking what’s going to be the next book? This new book is pretty much done except for the writing part of it. But do I try a novel? Do I try to write comics? But I love writing. It’s something I will be able to do the rest of my life when I can’t jump around on stage anymore. I will always be able to write. That is something I rarely say no to.”
We finish our chat with the topic of classic thrash debuts from the likes of Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, Testament, Death Angel and of course Anthrax. So how has Fistful Of Metal weathered over time? It’s definitely one of my go-to albums to this day.
Ian: “Not me. I think we’ve written ten albums with better songs than that one.”