Famous Firsts: Anthrax

Anthrax's Scott Ian gives us an insight into his music history – most notably his love for Elton John and how a Kiss gig changed his life forever.

What was the first album that you ever bought?

“The first album I bought with my own money was Kiss – Alive. I had got way into Kiss right around that time and I hadn’t bought any of their albums, I only knew about Alive actually. It was right around the time of my dad’s birthday, this had to have been November of ‘75, so the album had been out a few months. My dad’s birthday was in November and I only had enough money to get my dad a birthday present or buy Kiss – Alive, so I bought Kiss – Alive for my dad, for his birthday, knowing that he would look at it, smile and say thank you and then just hand it back to me. My plan worked perfectly.”

What was the first single you ever bought?

“Oh shit! No idea, I started buying 7 inches probably in the early ‘70s, when I was 7 or 8 years old, around ‘71 or ‘72. If I had to guess, it was probably an Elton John single, but I can’t tell you which, no idea. I love him, in matter of fact he played in LA this past weekend, two days at the Staple Centre, which is like the O2, a big arena, but I missed it! I had to be out of town. My wife went and was like ‘Oh by the way, it was like his greatest hits show” and she showed me his setlist. He played literally 35 songs, and every one is a song you could sing every word to, it’s kind of insane and I missed it. I was kinda bummed out.”

What was the first gig you ever went to?

“It’s super, super metal… that would be Paul Simon. My dad took me, my dad was a big fan, so that was the first show I ever saw, that was probably back around ‘73 or ‘74, I saw Paul Simon in New York with my dad. My dad also took me to see Elton John back around then. I’d really be lying to you if I could tell you I remember how the Paul Simon show was, but I remember enjoying myself. The whole concept of live music was amazing to me, so I’m sure I had a good time. Then my first show that I went to without parents was Kiss. Kiss was mind blowing! I saw Kiss at Madison Square Garden and I walked out of that show saying ‘I’m going to be in a band’ and I never strayed from that path. You can pretty much say that show changed my life.”

What was the first gig you ever played?

“The first gig I ever played was a talent show in school. Probably in like third grade or something, probably around 1973, I was 9 or 10 years old. It was just me and an acoustic guitar and I played Jim Croce’s song Bad Bad Leroy Brown, I played Wipeout by The Safaris and Blowing In The Wind by Bob Dylan.”

How was the first Anthrax tour?

“It was amazing! We supported Raven in 1984, in the States. It was our first time out there, our first time outside of the tri-state area, which is New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. We’d played a lot around that area leading up to that but now we were out playing across the country. We got to the West Coast, played San Diego, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Detroit. We played all over the country on that first summer tour of 1984. Even though we were in a van and whatnot it didn’t matter, we had a blast! I think back on those days and as hard as it was because it’s not like we had a full road crew, it was just us, or our one friend Joe working with us, helping with the drives and setting up drums, we were having the times of our lives. It was everything you worked so hard for was to be able get in the van and go, and we got to do that so I have nothing but fond memories of that. We were in a really good position because our album had come out in January of ‘84, Fistful Of Metal, so by summertime the wave that was to become thrash, or The Big Four, or whatever, that wave started to form at right around that time.

We could really feel a groundswell around us out on that tour. Raven had already established themselves, and a year before they toured with Metallica in support, and then of course Metallica had already started to blow up. We were in that same slot and the same thing was happening for us, we just really felt the insanity building around us. So many of the shows were just out of control. We did two nights in LA and I remember hitting the stage and just thinking ‘Wow, I’ve never seen a crowd react like this’. Then we did San Francisco and we played a place called the Kabuki Theater, and they had Exodus on the bill opening the show and that was a hometown gig for them. I’d heard of Exodus obviously, and I’m standing on the side of the stage watching Exodus play and I’m looking at this crowd, the Bay Area thrash mob, which I’d heard the tales of, but this was my first time seeing it. I’d never seen such an aggressive, insane crowd in my life! The headbanging, kids walking on each others heads, it wasn’t just crowdsurfing, it was head walking and I’d never seen anything like this. I remember standing side of the stage thinking ‘Holy shit, we have to follow this?’ But we went on and got the same reaction. To see what was going on around the rest of the country with this type of music, that kids all around the country were into our record and couldn’t wait to see us was so mind-blowing for us. We didn’t have the internet back then, there were no magazines, there was nothing for us. All we had was word of mouth and maybe people who would send an envelope with a dollar in to get a tape. We had no idea that there was a scene going on in all these other cities, and that people even knew who we were, so it was amazing!”

Anthrax’s new DVD Chile On Hell is available to order here.

Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.