Hair plugs, cancel culture and the song he refused to play on: the confessions of Anthrax’s Scott Ian

Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian against a black background
(Image credit: Press)

Official guardian of giant riffs with the mighty Anthrax since 1981, Scott Ian has had an eventful four decades in heavy music. Aside from writing any number of certified thrash classics and kick-starting the rap-rock revolution, he has been busy appearing in sitcoms, chatting with legendary novelists and former Beatles, and dodging rattlesnakes and pigs’ heads. No wonder he hasn’t had time to look after his beard properly. 

Metal Hammer line break

How do you keep your beard looking so epic? @ViciousRevenant (Twitter)

“Do nothing. That’s my secret. Once in a while, when it gets too wild, I trim the little hairs that start to go nuts. Other than that, I just let it grow. I probably should use beard oil, but I don’t. If there was maintenance involved, I would’ve chopped this thing off many years ago.”

When was the last time you spoke to Stephen King? Vernon Barnett (email)

“Ha ha! We’ve never actually spoken. We have emailed and texted quite a bit over the years, but I’ve never actually met him. I feel lucky enough to have his email address. The last time was late last year. Any time he’s got something going on, I’ll send an email with congratulations. That’s usually the catalyst for a little conversation going back and forth, and then a few months go by and I’ll email him again.”

Who throws the best parties, rappers or rock stars? Jane Matthews (Facebook)

“Well, it’s not like I’m hanging out at Jay-Z’s Oscar bash. Our friends in Public Enemy aren’t the party-throwing kind. Chuck’s not throwing big bling-bling parties on a yacht with Cristal. That’s very much not their vibe! But I’ve been to a lot of rock parties, whether they’re thrown by bands or by MTV and things like that. I’ve always had quite a bit of fun, so I’m going to say rock stars.”

When was the last time you’ve been within five feet of a creature that could have killed you? Maxwell Harwood (email)

“Where I live, it’s snake season right now, and I’ve been around very large rattlesnakes quite a few times. But I guess they won’t kill you because you just get to the hospital quickly and they can take care of that. So how about when I’m within five feet of any human? Because I’d much rather be around rattlesnakes than most people.”

The band Anthrax against a cream background

(Image credit: Press)

I got into Anthrax after seeing you on Married With Children. What’s your best memory of being on that show? Steven Wicks (email)

“That was one of the best weeks of my life! It was so far outside of our normal day-to-day activities as a bunch of dudes in a thrash band. Originally there was a scene where Christina Applegate’s character, Kelly Bundy, was going to grab my hand and walk me upstairs to the bedroom, to have her way! All of my friends watched Married With Children, so that was high fives for life, right there! But when we get to doing the show, suddenly that part’s not in the script. Apparently Christina came into the office after rehearsals and said, ‘Hey guys, I’d really like to change this part. I know my character’s a slut, but she’s not that much of a slut!’”

What was it like having Meat Loaf as a father-in-law? @jupiterscout369 (Twitter)

“I saw him when I was 14 on the Bat Out Of Hell tour, at a place called the Calderone Concert Hall in Long Island. I was a fan of his for my whole life, and then suddenly I’m walking into the house to take his daughter on a date and I’m practically shitting myself. I understood the pecking order. Who is the biggest rock star in the room? It’s Meat! But you know what? He was a great, great guy. Having someone like that as a touchstone and as family? Everything about it was fantastic. He was an incredible human being.”

Who’s the greatest ever Doctor Who? Vivienne Walmsley (email)

“The first one that popped into my head was Christopher Eccleston. David Tennant was amazing, too. There’s been so many great ones. I like Eccleston because there’s an intensity and an anger to him. I love that.”

If S.O.D. released Speak English Or Die today, would you be cancelled? Valerie Ellison (email)

“If it had never existed in 1985 and we tried to put that out today, no matter how hard we tried to explain the joke, yes, certain sections of people would cancel it. It’d have a much harder time now. We didn’t have internet back then! If people don’t know, Sargent D is a character I created because I wanted to try and make a comic book. I didn’t know how to write a comic book, so I wrote songs about this character who’s dead! He’s unliving, and hates anything alive. We explained it a few times in interviews back then, but either people want to hear it or they don’t.”

From one bald dude to another, ever considered hair plugs? @raw_tom (Twitter)

“Ha ha ha! If you truly are a bald dude, you’d never consider hair plugs. God, fuck no! That’d be the worst, dumbest, lamest thing ever. On every level, no.”

Will you ever re-record John Bush-era songs with Joey? Or the Neil Turbin ones? @dsjanasiak (Twitter)

“Well, Joey did re-record the [original Anthrax singer] Neil Turbin ones when he first joined the band. If you go back to the Armed And Dangerous EP, Joey sings Metal Thrashing Mad and Panic. But I don’t know that we would do any more re-recording. Of course, playing live, the opportunity is always there for us to play anything from our catalogue. We’re going out in the States soon, and people might be pleasantly surprised at the setlist. I’ll just leave it at that!”

What’s your favourite new band? Jess Brown (email)

“I don’t know how new they are, but I just got turned onto this French multi- instrumentalist called Igorrr. I love the sense of humour. One of the songs has Corpsegrinder as a guest vocalist  and the brutal breakdown part is all 8-bit videogame tones. So it’s brutal, he’s got Corpsegrinder, he’s got videogame noises… it’s insane. I love it.”

Who is the best comic book character of all time not called Judge Dredd? Nigel Sharpe (email)

“OK, so I’m talking strictly comics. We’re not talking about the MCU movies. I’ve got to go back, as a kid, to when I first really got into Marvel, my favourite character was the Hulk. I fell in love with comics as a six-year-old because of that character.”

When was the last time you were properly star-struck? Hazel Thorp (Facebook)

“In 2001, there was the concert for 9/11 at Madison Square Garden, and Jon Bon Jovi introduced me to Paul McCartney. I shook hands with him for a solid minute, because while he was still shaking my hand, Jon introduced him to Lonn Friend, who used to run Rip Magazine, and the whole time he was saying hi to Lonn, he never let go of my hand. I wasn’t going to let go of his hand – it was fucking Paul McCartney!”

What’s the one Anthrax song you’d wipe from history if you could? Cynthia Cohen (email)

“We covered Alice Cooper’s I’m Eighteen. I love that song, but I never wanted to cover it. It’s the only Anthrax song that I’m not playing rhythm guitar on. Quiet Riot had gone to No.1 with Cum On Feel The Noize, so everyone was like, ‘Let’s do a cover song, maybe we’ll get on the radio!’ I was totally against it but I got outvoted, so I didn’t play guitar on it.” 

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever witnessed at an Anthrax gig? Jaime Humphreys (email)

“When we played Donington in ’87, a pig’s head was on the stage. I don’t know how it got there. Luckily, we didn’t get many bottles of pee launched at us, but there was a pig’s head. To this day we can’t figure it out. Someone had to bring it to the show, they had to get it into the show… it probably weighed 15 or 20 pounds. How did they launch it? I still don’t have an answer.”

Why are you doing this when you should be finishing off the new Anthrax album? Terrence Haigh (email)

“We’re getting there! Everything got thrown for a loop for a couple of years. We had started writing before Covid, but then eventually we jumped back in, so we do have eight arrangements and half of them with lyrics. We’ve got at least another six really, really great things that we just need to start bashing out as a band. We’re not that far off!” 

Anthrax’s new live album/Blu-Ray, XL, is out now via Nuclear Blast. Their UK tour begins on September 27

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.