2011, Features, Interviews — October 5, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Scott Ian of Anthrax


“The fact that I’m still listening to the record almost three months later, generally when an Anthrax record is finished I don’t put it on again unless it’s 15 years later and I need to relearn something, so I’ve been listening to this album like as a fan now for three months and that’s strictly because of Joey”

Scott Ian is probably one of, if not the most recognizable person in Metal today.  With a career spanning over 30 years in his band Anthrax, and as the only original member who has been there through it all, numerous line up changes over the years has seen voices come and go, but with their newest release ‘Worship Music’ an album many years in the making seeing the return of veteran Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna, Anthrax are back in a big way with one of the albums of the year!

In Australia with his band The Damned Things, and in a MTRBWY first, both of us were able to talk to Scott about, well pretty much everything.  From Anthrax, The Damned Things, The Big 4, ‘Acting’, Tattoos as well as getting the chance to talk to his ‘fan’ side about Battlestar Galactica and DC comics with a guy that truly loves it.  It was so cool to be able to speak to a legend of the industry so we hope you enjoy this one.

Read it ’til you can’t…

To start, I saw the show yesterday and I have to say that you are one of the most passionate and energetic performers I’ve ever seen, what is it about show time that gets you so pumped?
Oh the Damned Things show?  It feels like a week ago already… jet lag. I don’t know, it’d kind of just in me, it’s the way it’s always been, from the first time I ever played on stage doing anything it just, I think it’s just my natural reaction to being in front of people, I really don’t know.  I mean it’s not a thing where I say ‘well now it’s time to entertain’ but that’s a part of it, I understand it’s show time and you have to give 110% but I never have to think about that, it just is.  It just happens, from the first time I ever played in front of people it’s the only way I can be.

I noticed you weren’t as ‘jumpy’ on stage yesterday as you normally are…
Well it’s different in The Damned Things, it’s not a jumpy band.

How do you treat going into a Damned Things show differently than you would an Anthrax show?
I don’t.  It just is what it is; it just happens the way happens.  I don’t conciouoysly think of anything I just get on stage and I play, when I’m on stage I’m not thinking about anything because I’m so focussed and in the moment on what I’m doing and I just react to the songs how I react, if I jump I jump, if I don’t I don’t, if I bang my head I do, if I don’t I don’t, it’s not like I have a choreographed idea of what I’m doing song by song, it just happens.

Tell us how you ended up playing in a band with 2 of the guys from Fall Out Boy?  Something that if 10 years ago someone threw out the idea of that it would’ve more than likely been laughed under the table.
We were just friends and we started writing songs together ha ha.  It turned into something real enough that it would be worth all the extra work.  Neither of us were looking for extra work on our plates because we were both in full time bands, but we just felt like the stuff we were coming up with deserved our time.  Once the others got involved it just became something really cool and different for both of us and I think we made a great record.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately over the last two years to have doneIroniclast with The Damned Things and Worship Music with Anthrax, to be involved with these two records in such a short amount of time, I kind of surprised myself a little bit.  I obviously love music, it’s what I do, it’s what I’ve been doing with my life, not only in a band for 30 years, but even before that when I was 12 or 13, that was all I cared about.  I’ve gotten to do this my whole life, it’s all that I ever wanted to do and it’s what I have fun doing and I feel like I’m getting to do it more now than I have ever gotten to do before and it’s even more satisfying now.  It’s just all good, it’s awesome!

Photo courtesy of Lens Of Rock

Are you working on new music with The Damned Things?
Not yet no.
Are you going to?
I’d assume so, but when and where and how, you know, but that’s all stuff we don’t have to worry about, it will either happen or it won’t.  We all love being in The Damned Things and we all love the record we made and I think we can make a great second record it’s just a case of how.

OK, on to Anthrax…

With so much talk over the years of Joey returning to the band, why was now the right time?
It was the only time I guess.  We needed a singer and he was the right guy.  I think we knew that for a long time and it just took us a long time to get to that point where it could happen and it could work out the right way.  We did the reunion think in 2005 / 2006 and it was basically just going out and playing all the old songs but there was no new material created.  Going in to this thing we had a record written already , we just knew Joey would be great on it, we didn’t know how great he was going to be on it but we just knew it was going to work and the proof would be in the pudding once he sang on the songs, it would wither be great or it wouldn’t be and obviously it’s incredible, it’s even better than any of us thought it would’ve been.  It’s the same exact scenario that we had with ‘Spreading The Disease’ that was a finished record and we found Joey and he came in and sang on that album, his first album with the band and sang those songs like he’d been singing them for 20 years.  Same on this record, he just learned those songs and he sounds like he’s been singing them for 20 years, it’s crazy how the same scenarios happen twice with him in Anthrax.

What was it like the first time you heard him sing one of the songs and it just gelled?
We weren’t there, when he was in the studio none of us were there, it was just him and Jay Ruston the producer, then he emailed us an MP3 afterwards, it was either ‘Fight Em’ or ‘I’m Alive’ I can’t remember which one it was any more but we were all around our computers obviously at the same time because about seven minutes later, everyone had hit reply all and everyone was writing ‘Holy Shit!’ and ‘Fuck Yeah’ Blah blah blah amazing, so we were all sitting around waiting obviously and everyone had the same reaction.

Well that pretty much covers my next question how stoked are you with the end result?
Obviously, just very stoked.

Is it fair to say this Worship Music is the album that Anthrax needed to make, rather than what others needed Anthrax to make?
I don’t know, it’s the album that we made haha! We just do our best every time, we try and write the best songs we can write in the period of time we are making a record.  We just don’t worry about anything else other than that and stay focussed on what we are doing.  There really isn’t any outside pressure on what we are doing, we just do what we do.

For anyone, such as the younger generation who may discover Anthrax for the first time with Worship Music, how representative would you say this album is of Anthrax?
I think it’s very representative of this band.  I think it’s got everything that this band has kind of done on one record, that’s the way I feel about it.  I just think it’s the best songs we’ve ever written, song for song it’s the most complete.

The whole album is amazing, I don’t skip a track and that’s pretty rare these days…
It’s kind a record and I feel the same way about it, I kind of have to block out 50 odd minutes or whatever it is because I can’t listen to one song, I have to listen to the whole thing through.  And the fact that I’m still listening to the record almost three months later, generally when an Anthrax record is finished I don’t put it on again unless it’s 15 years later and I need to relearn something, so I’ve been listening to this album like as a fan now for three months and that’s strictly because of Joey, because I haven’t heard Joey in this band since 1990 really singing on an album when we finished ‘Persistence Of Time’ so I’m able to sit down and listen to this like I’m listening to someone else’s band which is awesome.

The title specifically, ‘Worship Music’ where did that come from and does it mean anything in particular?
Charlie came up with it, to me it means music is worth worshiping.  It’s as simple as that ha ha.

Were you ever worried that the new album would never see the light of day?
No, definitely not.  It had to be Joey, its just who I am, its who we are.  Sometimes shit just has to happen for it to be right and I don’t know how it happens some times but you put your mind to something and you set your mind on something and you just make it happen and that’s how it was for me from the time I started this band, from 1981 when the band started, nobody gave a fuck for two and half / three years until I met Johnny Z and it turns out he was a guy that was going to start a record label, so therefore we had a way to put a record out.  But nobody gave a fuck about what we were doing and it was me and some other like minded people once Charlie was in the band and Danny Spitz was in the band it was very much a like mindedness and attitude of Fight Em Til You Can’t which is kind of a zombie themed song but it’s really about that we’ve been fighting zombies for 30 years, fighting against everything in this business that’s fought against us every step of the way for 30 years.

How did the song Judas Priest come about, was that intended as a tribute to Judas Priest?
It started out as just a working title, it was just after we had heard about Judas Priest saying they were going to be doing a farewell tour, so we were looking for a way to basically pay tribute to them.  We have obviously been fans forever and they were such a huge influence on Anthrax.  They have taken us on tour many times and we’ve gotten to become friends with them over the years.  I can’t say enough about what Judas Priest means to this band and even our individual lives.  I mean we all started listening to them in the late 70’s.  We just started calling one of the songs that was a work in progress at the time, Judas Priest so we would have a name for the song and it just ended up sticking.  For some reason it just made sense and I feel like the way we pay tribute to them is just by writing a really great metal song and what better way to pay tribute to one of our greatest influences than hopefully writing a song that would make them proud! 

In terms of song writing and the way the band writes, has that changed significantly over the years?
No, not really.  I think we have just gotten better at knowing what we want.  I think that’s the best way I can explain it.  I just feel like we have a better sense of who we are as Anthrax and it helped us through the song writing process for this album.  We got stuck a lot less on this album than in the past, when writing the songs.  Just knowing it ourselves and knowing what we wanted to hear. 

You toured here with Anthrax last year at Soundwave, how was that experience to be playing live here again in Australia?
Well we were here in 05 / 06 before the last one a couple of years ago, I don’t know, it’s always great playing in Australia.

Any firm plans to hit Australia again with Anthrax?
Some time next year I’m sure it will happen, I mean why wouldn’t we?

The Big 4, when you were asked to be on that bill, what was running through your head?
They couldn’t do it without us ha ha otherwise it would’ve been The Big 3 ha ha I mean its something that we’ve always had in the back of our minds and you hope someday that show is going to happen and then even just talking to the Metallica guys you know we’ve been friends forever and once and a while it would come up and then one day it actually became a reality that the phone call came in to our manager and he called us and said ‘Hey they’re seriously talking about The Big 4 and here’s the window of time, there’s no when and where yet, they’ve just asked if we could block out this time in the Summer of 2010’ and we’re like yeah, wherever, that’s priority, of course we’re doing this, we would do this rather than do anything else and all the other bands said the same thing, so it’s something we’ve all wanted to do forever and it’s lived up to all expectations.

Are there any plans or talk in place at all to bring it to Australia?
Of course, if it was up to me we would bring it everywhere but it’s not up to me so I don’t see how we could not play Australia with it considering all four bands have great history here and obviously have huge fan bases here and I think you know Metallica knows how big it would be here if it was to come to say Sydney and Melbourne so I don’t see how we could not but I’m not the one making those phone calls, so I can only do my best to keep saying ‘let’s go play here and let’s go play there’ and we’ll see what happens.
Well you can go back and tell them we want it…
Believe me, they know.  It also takes a promoter to call and make an offer, it has nothing to do with me ha ha

Whilst it may not be exactly the Big 4, you are about to head out on tour in the USA with a couple of other metal mainstays in Testament and Death Angel, which has particular significance given Anthrax was the first band Testament toured with.  How did that lineup come together?
Well we had thought of Testament like kind of right out of the box as we’ve been doing all the Big 4 stuff for over a year now and they are one of the bands who’s name keeps getting thrown around “what if there was another band, would it be Testament or Exodus” and none of us really buy into that kind of stuff as it’s like, what would be the point?  We have been friends with Testament for so long and we thought it would be really cool and why not?  Why not play with some of the bands that were kind of like on that second wave of thrash.  Let’s put something like that together, people are excited about this stuff now and why not tap into that.  It’s like a no brainer for us because Testament is such a great band and we have all known each other for a long time.  It’s one of those situations that makes touring that much better and easier.  Same with Death Angel, we have known those guys forever and it’s the same thing. They were out with us in Asia just recently and also good friends of ours.  It’s just great that bands you are friends with are also having great success and it makes sense to put a package together and go out and have fun.

Have you noticed any significant change to the demographics of the Anthrax fan base?  Is it now younger, older, more female, prettier haha?
Well based on the Big 4 shows, I would say about 80% of the crowd is between the ages of 16 and 25.  That’s pretty much the same, as when we started and I would think in any kind of music generally, the fan base would turn over.  I mean look at The Rolling Stones now, they’ve got three generations of young fans, kids, their parents and their grandparents coming to the shows!  Right now we’re maybe at like kids and parents, or older brothers and younger brothers, but it’s definitely a younger audience that’s for sure. 

You have toured in over 30 countries and now that you have conquered Yankee Stadium, is there anywhere else high on the list to play that you yet haven’t?
I can say that we have never been to Israel.  That’s one of those places that bands like Metallica and Megadeth have been there and a lot of other bands I know have been there and it’s one place we haven’t been yet.  So definitely interested in getting to do that someday.  I would love to also play China.  I know bands have just started playing there and that would be really cool.  It’s always amazing to go into a country for the first time.  We are playing Jakarta for the first time and I expect that’s going to be pretty insane.

As the 1 member of Anthrax that has been there from day 1 which 30 years, great effort, what is it that you love so much about this band?
I just love playing music, it’s what I love to do and I get to do it in Anthrax, which is just obviously a good place to get to do it.  I don’t know, it’s what I love to do, I really don’t know any other way to explain it, there’s nothing more fun for me to get to play guitar for a living and write songs and play song and play shows and everything about it and everything else that leads in to as far as I would’ve never gotten to have written comic books if it wasn’t for, well maybe 30 years ago if I would’ve focussed on that I could’ve done that for a living but now I get to write comics because I was in Anthrax you know what I mean?  It’s just a great place to get to do shit for all this time.

Over the 30 years you would’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry with the internet and all sorts of things, did a lot of it scare you as it was coming along?
No, you know we’re obviously aware of everything that happens around us and outside of us but you just have to focus on what is important and that’s writing songs and making records and playing shows and that’s what we’ve done from the beginning, we really keep it very insulated as far as how we deal with things and the business, the internet and all that other kind of stuff, we’re aware of it, we know it’s going on and all you do is just try and navigate those waters the best you can.  Look forward and figure out the best way to do things but not worry about shit that you have no control over.  I could talk about how bad the internet is for the music industry from now until the end of time but what is that going to accomplish?  It’s not going to change anything so I worry about what I can control and what I have a say in and everything else you just try and hope for the best.

Photo courtesy of Lens Of Rock

Whilst much has changed as far as lineups and such over the 30 odd years of Anthrax’s existence, what has stayed the same?
Our attitude, certainly, that has been the same.  It’s never changed since day 1 and the best way I can sum it up and the best way I can describe it is the song Fight Em’ Till You Can’t.  It’s basically who we are as people and it’s what we’ve been doing since we each joined Anthrax.  It’s all of our attitudes, we are all very like minded when it comes to that, it’s what we’ve been doing the whole time we’ve been in this band and that has never changed!

With about 48 bands going at once when do you find time to be Scott Ian, just the guy, not the rock star? Do you ever slow down?
48 bands? Ha ha.  I’ve never had more than one band going at once, you know, anything I’ve done outside of Anthrax with Pearl or The Damned Things is because I had the time to do it, it’s never been the case of anything taking away from Anthrax, I’ve never once said I can’t do something with Anthrax because I’m doing this with another band, I’ve never once said that, so there’s never been a conflict.

How did you get involved with Alex Ross?
Yeah we’re just massive fans.  I don’t even remember how we originally thought of using him, I’m sure it would’ve been me initially because I’m the comic book guy but at some point Charlie and him connected and hooked up because they both live in the same city and they started hanging out so that’s how the relationship started. He’s the best.

As a ‘Fan’ of bands and comics etc, as I am, with many tattoos and the likes, how do you feel when people show you Anthrax tattoos?
It’s great, it’s awesome that somebody would commit to that kind of thing.  I know what it means because I committed to having Angus and Malcolm (Young) and Gene Simmons on my body and I know the level of commitment that it takes to do that, so it’s something that I think it’s incredible and I have absolute appreciation for it.  It’s pretty amazing.

What was it about KISS that made you want to be a rock star?
I know it’s weird to say this about KISS but for me it was the music, it was the songs, I loved their records and when I saw them live at Madison Square Garden in 1977 I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Never in the context of putting on make up and breathing fire and having fireworks and explosions going off, it was just about being in a band, that’s what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be a guy on stage with a guitar playing to people and it just so happens that KISS was one of the first big shows I got to see, I had seen Elton John, I had seen Paul Simon and they were awesome but those were with my parents.  KISS was MY first thing and obviously it made a huge impact on me and it was just wanting to be in a band, I wanted to know what it felt like to be that guy on stage playing to people, I had to know.

Acting is also something that you’ve dabbled in with Married With Children all the way through to Walking Dead…
Not really.  I’ve never acted, I’ve just shown up and listened to a director tell me what to do, I don’t have any idea what acting is.
Well what is it that you enjoy about showing up and listening to a director tell you what to do?
Just to be a part of something outside of my comfort zone, try things different and generally anything I’ve done like that is something I’m a fan of so once again just to see the inner workings of how things are done and how things are made and to actually be a part of that process is really interesting to me.  Like I said, I am not an actor and I don’t know that I’d ever try and attempt something that would be considered serious acting.  It’s not hard to put on zombie make up and shamble around like a zombie, I’ve seen enough movies to be able to do that properly but to convey real emotion with somebody like lets say in a scene or something I’d probably have a hard time not just cracking up laughing so then again who knows, maybe you put me on the spot and I’d be able to do it.  I don’t know that anyone would ever hire me for a job like that, there’s plenty of qualified people out there that don’t have a goatee where people wouldn’t be like ‘Hey it’s that guy from Anthrax.’  Cause I know how I feel a lot of time when you see guys in bands doing a cameo or doing a role and I’m like ‘Oh come on…’ I can’t think of the guy outside of what they are, except for Gene Simmons who I thought did a really good job with some of those movies in the 80’s as a bad guy, I think he was great and should do some more acting, truthfully.

So what’s easier, ‘acting’/TV or recording a new album?
Definitely making a record because its what I know how to do, it’s a shit tonne of hard work but its hard work I know how to do and it’s hard work I’m really good at in the context of my band, so that’s a no brainer and I have no body to tell me how to do it because I already know what I’m doing.

I need to talk Battlestar Galactica with you.  As a huge fan, what did you think of the end of the show?
Ahh… some things I loved, some things I hated.  I really hated that they went the religious aspect.  I really didn’t like that now we’re supposed to just swallow the fact that they’re angels? Or something?  To me, look, religion was a part of that show for a long time, they would delve into that aspect of it, The Gods and blah blah blah but I just felt it was a cheap way out at the end to explain Starbuck and Six and Baltar and now they’re like angels, I just thought for a show that was written so well for four seasons I felt it was an easy way out.  I felt like it was a cop out, it was too easy, I would’ve rather have seen an unhappy ending, they don’t find Earth or something like, but anything but the deus ex machina, the Hand of God and that disappointed me about a show that I have invested so much in to.  There was other stuff about the ending that I liked too but it was really kind of overshadowed by the fact that disappointed me, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough because I basically felt like I looked at it too much like a guy who, like I write comics, I’m a writer and I just felt disappointed in the dudes writing the show and that’s an easy way out.  It was just too easy, it bummed me out.  I still have fond memories of that show because it was fucking awesome, I just don’t think about the ending.

What about the DC reboot?  Fan or not?
You know I’ve only read so far Action Comics, Detective Comics, Animal Man, OMAC, maybe one or two more so I’m only about six or seven issues in, oh and Justice League and actually the only one I’m on the fence over was the first Justice League, I felt like it’s a lot of exposition and I get it but I really liked the Detective Comics, I really liked the Action Comics like Superman was kind of a prick in a weird way and I kind of thought that was cool in a weird way and OMAC I loved because it’s a total throwback to Jack Kirby, so far so good, I’m digging it. So far.

Are you planning on sticking around in Australia to go see your father in law play?
I don’t think I’m going to get to see him play but I’m going to be in Melbourne like two nights the same as him so maybe we’ll go have lunch or something.


Essential Information

From: USA

Band members: Joey Belladonna – Vocals, Frank Bello – Bass / Backing Vocals, Charlie Benante – Drums, Rob Caggiano – Guitar, Scott Ian – Guitar / Backing Vocals

Website: www.anthrax.com

Latest release: Worship Music (2011, Nuclear Blast / Riot! Entertainment)


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