Legendary Rock Interviews: Q & A with Anthrax founder and main man Scott Ian

By John Parks

Anthrax founder and main man Scott Ian is an icon in the hard rock and metal worlds as the lyricist and guitarist behind one of the most revered heavy bands of the modern era. He has stories for days, and is now undertaking the task of telling some of those tales on his new “Speaking Words” tour, which kicks off this Thursday, Feb. 20, in Chicago. I had the chance to talk to Scott briefly before the tour starts about the speaking dates, his band, the next album and more. Read on …

Q: Your “Speaking Words” U.S. tour is starting out here in the Midwest in Chicago this Thursday. Obviously, Chicago is pretty important to Anthrax, so is this particular date one you’ve been looking forward to?

A: Oh, absolutely, yeah. I even thought about that when I first started putting together these dates. Originally, it was just gonna be like East Coast from maybe D.C. up to Boston or something, but then I was like, “Man, it would be so cool to be able to do this in Chicago and I don’t know when I’m gonna be able to do something like this again, so why not route it that way and start in Chicago and then head east and move on?” That was something that I was actually really proactive about making happen.

Q: You have been on countless cable documentaries on metal and rock and done countless interviews like this over the years. Do you think all that experience talking has prepared you confidence-wise to do these speaking gigs?

A: I’m sure that’s a part of it. Having had all those experiences, yeah, but even before doing all that stuff I never had a problem talking in front of people, so …

Q: So you’ve been cool with talking going all the way back to high school speech class?

A: Yeah, no problem whatsoever, not at all (laughs).

Q: Anthrax was always known for pushing the envelope of what metal bands could talk about, even including legitimate social commentary in songs. Do you still feel inspiration to write about such a wide variety of subject matter all these years later?

A: I’ll tell ya when I’m done with this next record (laughs). I don’t know, I really don’t know. Once again, I don’t think about it too much and I don’t analyze it. I’m about four or five songs in, lyrically, on this album, and if you asked me what I was writing about at this moment, I couldn’t even tell you because I finish things and then I move on. Right now, I am so in the middle of it that I couldn’t even tell you what I’m writing about. I’m trying to think of some of the songs I’m finishing, and I can’t even tell you a song title, which is pretty crazy, but just how it is when I’m actively in the middle of this process. It was the same when I did Persistence of Time. I didn’t know what the hell I was writing about when I was in the stages of writing that record. Only after the fact did I go back and look at it and go, “OK, this is where my head was at.” It’s a case of having a lot of ideas and then somehow breaking those ideas into the form of lyrics. That’s always been a challenge, but it’s one of the things I really love about being in a band.

Q: When you were taking those chances and talking about real-world problems, how often did it occur to you that you were operating out of the typical heavy metal lyrical vortex of sex, satan and power? Did other bands of the day make you aware of it?

A: I didn’t care. It doesn’t matter to me what other people do or think. The only thing I care about is what we do. I really, really don’t care or think about what other people think about what we do, and I never have since day one. I couldn’t care because, as I’ve said before, if I really cared what everyone else thought, then we would have been a Van Halen cover band in 1981 and Anthrax would have never existed. I never cared, and it just doesn’t matter to me one way or the other, good or bad. I mean, recognition is awesome, and I’m not saying I’m against that, of course any kind of recognition for what we do is good, but it doesn’t affect the way that I write or the way this band goes about things. At the end of the day, it just comes down to us dudes sitting in the room together and doing what we love and what makes us happy, which is all we’ve ever done from day one. That’s the one thing with Anthrax that’s never changed; there’s only one reason really why we do this, and that’s just that it really makes us happy to write this kind of music and get the opportunity to play this kind of music. Anything that comes after that, good or bad, is cake. To me, the fact that we get to go play shows is still great; just that act of playing shows for me is the BEST part of being in a band, that two hours onstage is the greatest part of it all. The fact that we get to write songs and make records is just gravy on top of it all and reminds us that people all over the planet love what we do. So, I definitely don’t take any of it for granted, but at the same time, it doesn’t have any effect on how we do things.

Q: Thanks for talking with me, Scott, and good luck on the U.S. “Speaking Words” tour. It sounds like a great primer for the book you have coming. Last question: How is the book looking and how far along is the project?

A: The first draft is being sent in tomorrow, actually, so yeah, it is moving right along. I am really happy with it and think we are right on track and am interested to see what the final product is gonna look like. I think it’s a really strong life tale. I didn’t wanna do a book like every other book in this genre. In so many of these books there seems to be the rise to fame, the excess and debauchery, and then the fall from grace and subsequent redemption or whatever. My story is not like that at all. It doesn’t follow that same story arc that so many rock books do … that whole Behind the Music story arc. I think mine is a really strong story of being able to make things happen. It’s not a “how to make it in the music business” sort of thing, but more of my personal story of who I was, where I came from, and how I was able to do it and what I did to make that happen. I think if anything, maybe, hopefully it could inspire other people to do the same thing.

Posted Feb. 18, 2014 

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