On the frontlines: Anthrax's Scott Ian remembers the 90s

A press shot of scott ian

The 90s were a rollercoaster for Anthrax. How did you manage to survive the decade?

“We just refused to stop! By ’95 we’d gone from playing to 3,000 people to suddenly playing in 700- or 1,500-seater venues and our album sales dropped to 150,000 for the Stomp 442 album [released in 1995]. That sounds like a lot now, ha ha! It wasn’t like we put out a shitty record. The young kids just wanted the new shit and bands like us and Slayer and Megadeth were struggling. The whole thing was kinda confusing.”

How did you feel about grunge when that exploded?

“I was already a fan of Soundgarden and Nirvana before anyone had a name for them. I just thought they were metal bands. The first time I saw Soundgarden was on a tour with Voivod and Faith No More in New York. There was no question in my mind that this was a great band. I always thought that grunge was a shitty name for a genre.”

Did you have any idea that collaborating with Public Enemy on Bring The Noise would have such a huge impact?

“Yes, in the sense that when we did the tour together with Public Enemy, that was a ground- breaking thing. That was the same year as the first Lollapalooza [1991], which was a so-called alternative festival, but there was no metal on the bill. What we did was truly an alternative show, and for a metal band to be the architects of that, yes, I certainly think that was important.”

Did you like any of the rap-metal bands that followed in your footsteps?

“Rage Against The Machine were the best band to come out of that whole thing. They just took it to the next step. If Anthrax and Public Enemy opened the door, Rage Against The Machine drove a fuckin’ truck through it.”

What were your hobbies and obsessions during the 90s?

“My main obsession in the 90s, sadly enough, was booze. I didn’t drink in the 80s. It didn’t agree with me and I was too busy to be hungover! But around ’92, I started drinking and I turned it on big time in ’97 when we did a big US tour with Pantera. I had the best teacher in the world – Dimebag Darrell. Maybe booze was my way of escaping the fact that my band were having it harder than we’d ever had it before.”

What’s your favourite album from the 90s?

Meantime by Helmet [released in 1992]. They took all the best things I liked about metal and stripped it right down. When the riff in In The Meantime kicks in, it’s fucking insane. It’s pure getting-hit-in-the-head-with- a-hammer shit. From Pantera to Sepultura to Korn to Slipknot, all those bands… there’s so much Helmet in there.”

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