TR+ Extended Version – Welcome Back: Anthrax

In 2016, Scott Ian – he of the beard and baggy shorts – celebrates 35 years as the guitarist and creative mainstay of Anthrax.

The band, one of thrash metal’s Big Four along with Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer, will be releasing For All Kings; a fast and furious collection full of righteous loathing towards extremists of every hue, that will delight fans of their last album, Worship Music. “People who liked Worship Music will love this album,” promises the happily married dad of one and son-in-law of Meat Loaf. “It’s just a better record.” Now all he’s got to do is hope his back holds out…

Your 2014 biography I’m The Man ends on an up note, with you resolving personal and career issues, but Anthrax’s new album has a heavy, indignant feel. Were you in a dark place recording it?

Well, we live in a dark place: Planet Earth, which is infested with humanity. I’m an optimist by nature and a happy person when I’m in my bubble with my family and friends. But we’re all stuck on this planet with a bunch of fucking assholes, so that’s where most of the darkness on the record comes from.

Is Evil Twin a post-Charlie Ebdo song?

It’s not specifically about that. That was just the straw that broke my back and I needed a way to vent about it. It’s about any murders in the name of religious extremism or ideology that I have borne witness to in my lifetime.

Did you have Donald Trump in mind when you wrote Zero Tolerance?

No, the lyrics were written well before these monkeys started their presidential campaign. But I certainly have a lot of fodder for the next record! [laughs].

How do you see things playing out in the US?

I don’t. It doesn’t matter who the president is, if it’s Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, everything will stay the same. It might be harder for Moslems to get into America if Trump wins, according to his rhetoric, but other than that I don’t foresee any changes.

You say you’re an optimist, but are we all going to be here in ten years’ time?

Oh yeah. I think mankind is way too narcissistic to destroy itself. If anything we’ll run out of water before we bomb each other into oblivion. I’m sad for my son, who is going to be dealing with who knows what kind of a planet.

Not long ago a (Moslem) shopkeeper pulled a gun on you. Frightening?

No. I was too angry. The fact that the guy pulled a gun on me because I was a Jew, it brought up a lot of emotion. He’s telling me I’m a Nazi for his people. Am I fuck, you motherfucker! I have nothing to do with you or your people. I live in Los Angeles! I’m not oppressing anybody! I went to that store every day to buy beer or whatever, and now this little punk kid is telling me that my people are oppressing him. It was unbelievable.

Who are the Kings in For All Kings?

Every man, woman, child. That’s the silver lining on the record. It’s my belief that everybody has the opportunity to take control of their destiny and make a change. And the reason I feel I can say that is that’s what I did in my life. There’s plenty of times I could have gone off the deep end. But I was able to work my way through it. That’s why I say in the lyrics, “The king is dead – long live the man in me.” It’s more important to just be a person, not to be king or the boss. Just be a loving, empathetic, responsible human being.

Are you amazed to still be doing this?

Yeah. There were a lot of shitty times where I’d wonder: “Why do I keep going?” But I always ended up with the same answer: because it’s my baby, my child. And you would never abandon your child. I was never afraid to deal with it. And I’m glad I did because here I am at the start of 2016 and the band is bigger almost than we’ve ever been.

How does this album compare with Worship Music?

It’s like comparing Spreading The Disease [1985] with Among The Living [1987]. On Spreading we introduced ourselves to the world. On Worship Music we re-introduced ourselves: Joey [Belladonna] rejoined and we became Anthrax again, and we made a great record that people connected with all over the planet. Then over the next three or four years we went on tour with a band that was able to write For All Kings. It’s an even better record.

Are you still doing the Mother Superior covers band Motor Sister?

Yes. We’re all just friends, we just hang out regardless. So Motor Sister is something that can always happen. “Are you in LA next Saturday? Cool, let’s do a show.”

The bottled urine bombs, the Al Jourgensen tomato paste on penis incident – how much of Anthrax’s mad scenes will you hide from your son, Revel?

Ha ha. Here he is at four-and-a-half and he’s such a cool dude. He’s very well-adjusted. He’s been hanging out in this world since he was three months old, so he gets it already. Not that he’s been witness to anything crazy like that yet. But I think by the time he’s in his teens, crazy shit like that won’t freak him out.

Can you shock a dad who’s in Anthrax?

He’s going to have it tough, because his mum [Pearl Aday, Meat Loaf’s daughter] and dad will have seen and done everything.

Do you call Meat Loaf dad?

No, I call him Meat.

You’ve had your hard-partying moments.

But it [partying] was never continuous. Actually, I did have a continuous period from late ’97 to 2003 where I was a pretty regular drinker, which I learned with [Dimebag] Darrell. And I kept that up for about five/six years. When I met Pearl in 2000 we raged pretty hard, but we quickly realised we didn’t need to be drunk seven nights a week.

How does it feel to be a pioneer of a whole genre?

I’m extremely proud. Especially since nobody initially gave a shit about what we were doing, except for the dudes in the band and some of our friends – and then a very small underground audience of people around the world who were trading cassette tapes. Now we’re in our thirty-fifth year. Who has a career that long? Not many bands. The fact that we were just a bunch of fucking kids who loved Motörhead and Iron Maiden and just played shit a little bit faster – and we added a branch to the heavy metal tree! How the fuck did we do that?

What’s it like being in Anthrax when you’re fifty-two?

I have to stretch a whole lot more, just to make sure my back doesn’t seize up. When you’re twenty-five you generally don’t have back problems. When you’re fifty-two your back sucks, especially when you’ve been wearing a guitar on stage for thirty-five years, jumping around like I do. It definitely takes its toll.

A good way to keep the weight down, though, presumably?

Yeah, it definitely keeps my weight down. It’s also a good way to keep physical therapists in business.

Classic Rock 220: News & Regulars

Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.