Scott Ian formed Anthrax in 1981 when he was 18 years old. Fast forward 35 years and we’re chatting with the rhythm guitarist as the metal band prepare to release their 11th album, For All Kings. Needless to say we had a list of questions longer than the band’s history, but here are our top 5 with Scott Ian.
1. Some of the best music comes from unlikely places
When discussing the new album, Ian was thoughtful, but I didn’t realise just how reflective he’d been.
“I sat and I listened to every song, writing down one line about what each track is about and somehow subconsciously, or unconsciously, it kind of tells the about my entire time with the band. From the first song ‘You Gotta Believe’ until the end of the record with ‘Zero Tolerance'” Ian confessed.
“Song by song it actually really does tell a story, which I certainly wasn’t planning on. It was not a concept record by any means, and no-one else would see that. It’s all because I know what every single line in every track means and where it comes from, and what the emotions were behind it. The whole record is basically the story of me selling my soul to metal, and my journey over the last 35 years…I didn’t realise that happened until about two weeks ago.”
2. You can never stop learning from Lemmy
“Outside of being on tour together or the fact that we both played in bands, I became personal friends with him over the years,” Ian remembered. “That’s the most important thing to me, I guess, one of my heroes became my friend and I got to spend time with him, and I’ll always remember that”
Ian also contemplated what makes the rock ‘n’ roll legend so special.
“He was a very smart, funny individual and I learned so much from him. From even before I knew him, he was one of the biggest influences on me and on Anthrax,” he said. “We’ve learned so much from him and never stopped learning from him. Through the Motorboat (Anthrax and Motorhead toured together on a cruise in 2015), that was really the last time I got to say hi to him.”
3. State of Euphoria isn’t Ian’s proudest record
Ian is no stranger to the fact that music often comes from dark places, even when all seems well out on tour.
“I think if anything we probably learned a lot from the fact that State of Euphoria was a record that we weren’t happy with. It felt like it wasn’t finished. We had to get that record done in time to go out on a tour with Iron Maiden, and we rushed. It still needed about six months of work.
So I think the fact that we made that record and then had to go out and tour that album for two years, that probably had a lot to do with our mindset going into Persistence of Time.”
4. Jay Ruston (the producer and secret sixth member) is one hell of a guy
The producer has been deemed the ‘sixth member of Anthrax’ by many, and from speaking to Ian, it’s easy to see why.
“We’ve been working together now almost five years, and he’s worked on everything we’ve put out since Worship Music,” Ian said. “He’s a very good read on personalities, and he just really knows how to work with you and make you do your best.”
5. One inside joke can change your life
Another big part of the rhythm guitarist’s world was his time in crossover thrash band S.O.D. (Stormtroopers of Death), with Ian revealing what really stuck with him.
“The fact we just did something that was a complete, total inside joke that most people around the planet got the same way we did and made people laugh in the same way – it made us laugh,” he chuckled. “We took a crossover sound but we weren’t a hardcore band trying to sound metal, we were kind of a metal thing trying to do hardcore. I think we created something new at the time, but at the same time, it was never meant to be a real band or be an ongoing thing. We made a record that was 22 minutes long, and every song in some way, shape or form is a joke or a parody.
So yeah, just the fact that Danny Lilker and I, you know, I dreamed up this crazy idea based on a comic book character, and I didn’t know how to make a comic book. So I started writing songs, and Danny came in and we finished writing the record, and the rest is history,” he concluded.