Scott Ian on Anthrax’s ‘Among the Living': ‘You Don’t Know You’re Making a Classic Record When You’re Making It’ [Interview]
Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The axeman discussed touring with diverse packages like their current run with Killswitch Engage and The Devil Wears Prada, the new Anthrax beer, creating 'Among the Living' and more. Check out the chat below.
How are you doing, Scott?
How are you doing? How are you?
Let's talk about the new beer, Wardance Pale Ale. Back in the day Anthrax were sort of portrayed as non-drinkers, so it's sort of ironic that you now have your own beer. What consideration goes into deciding whether or not to put the Anthrax name on something?
Well we didn't drink in the '80s. I think the statute of limitations ran out on us being considered non-drinkers a long time ago [laughs]. You know we just wanted to basically do a beer that we wanted to drink. That's really all the criteria we had for it.
I was already a fan of the brewery Butternuts from upstate New York. I was already a fan of their beers. And luckily enough a friend of mine who owns a bar in New York City was friends with Chuck, who owns that brewery, and I asked him if he would be into doing a collaboration and come up with something that you know, we both thought was cool. And it all just worked out great. It's a very difficult job to be tasting beer. [laughs]
The last few years have been really great for Anthrax but it wasn't an easy road to get there. How have career obstacles shaped your ability to function as a band the way you do now?
You know for me, I don't look at anything as an obstacle. I just never really look at it that way. Every day is another day and every day we do whatever we need to do for our band, for our business to keep things moving forward. So whatever was going on in the '90s or 2000s or whenever, it's just another day. We're in a band so it's a weird thing to look at it as obstacles because we get to go onstage and play our guitars and drums, that's what we do. So things could be a lot tougher.
Anthrax is touring with Killswitch Engage and The Devil Wears Prada. What appeals to you about packages that feature different generations of metal bands rather than tours with bands from all the same period?
Well of course the hope is that it's going to bring in different crowds and expose people to all different types of metal. That's always the hope, that sometimes on package tours you could do 1+1+1 and it will only equals one because you are preaching to the same people every night. There seems to be a pretty good cross section of fans from the different bands and that seems to be crossing over too because, you know us and Killswitch we are flip flopping closing on this and people aren't leaving and of course that's always a good sign. So it seems to be working really well, it seems to be like a 1+1+1 equals 3 situation.
Jackson Guitars is producing a Scott Ian model. What's essential in terms of your preferences when building a guitar with your name on it?
There's a guy named Mike Shannon who is in the custom shop out at Jackson in California. He's been building guitars for me since 1982. He built a Randy Rhoads model that I bought at Sam Ash, New York in 1982. So he knows what I want probably better than I even know what I want. I'm in really good hands over there. So I don't even have an answer to that question.
I don't know anything about specs on a guitar, or neck sizing or — I just played a guitar in 1982 and I really liked how it felt. And that same neck shape and vibe and overall just idea is that any Jackson guitar I've ever played, Mike just knows what I need. Now that I'm playing these again, especially over the last few years, he's just basically making me that same neck and same guitar that I had back in 1982 except it's not a Rhoads shape, it's a King V shape. I'm very happy with it.
Anthrax did an anniversary tour commemorating Among The Living, which was the album that really established the band. Making that album, what made everything fall into place in terms of songwriting and musical ability?
We certainly had no idea back then. We were just a bunch of kids. When we were writing those songs and recording that record, we were like 22, 23 years old and just trying to do our best. It was gonna be our third album and in a lot of ways we were just very happy to be there. The fact that we were able to make that record and that anyone cared.
We knew we had some really good songs. "Indians" and "I Am the Law" were two songs that we were already playing live before we even went into record them. We were playing those on the Spreading the Disease tour and the reaction was good. So, we knew we had some great material, but you don't know you’re making a classic record when you’re making it. Maybe some bands did, but we didn't know when we were making that record.
We were just happy to be there working with Eddie Kramer in Miami and then mixing it in the Bahamas where Iron Maiden would make records. There was a lot of pinching ourselves, really, and a lot of excitement and smiling. Our dreams coming true. It wasn't until later that, of course then you look back on it and go, goddamn how did we do that? [laughs] We had a lot of great material.
Let's talk about the For All Kings vinyl box set. It includes Kansas and White Stripes covers. By the way, the 7" box set, it's a limited edition and it's out now. Scott, what do you think surprises people most about the different kinds of music that you like?
I don’t know [laughs] you'd have to ask people. I'd like to think anyway that if someone has been a fan of this band for a while that nothing would surprise them because we've never been the type of band that really follows one way or do things only one way or fit into a comfortable little box. We've never done things the easy way from the beginning. I think we've always challenged ourselves and challenged our fans along the way.
I think at this point in time, us busting out a Kansas cover, that seems pretty natural considering we did that Anthems [EP] with a whole bunch of '70s classic rock on it. A Kansas song is just something we didn't get to in that point in time. I've been wanting to cover that since I've been in a band. And the White Stripes thing, again, we've covered The Police in the past, Radiohead. All kinds of stuff. I don’t think it's that out of the box to do something like that.
Worship Music and For All Kings are really standing out as highlights in the Anthrax catalog. What effect do you think the caliber and success of those two albums will have on future Anthrax music?
Things certainly have been going at a good pace since 2010 when Joey [Belladonna] rejoined and we rewrote and reworked Worship and went in and made that record with Joey. It's been kind of nonstop in a lot of ways. There's just a really good positive energy around us. Were obviously very excited that people have connected so strongly with these last two albums because we feel like we made two great records.
There's nothing worse than making a record and putting your blood, sweat and tears into something and have it be ignored. We've gone through that in the past with records like Volume 8 and even Stomp 442 to some extent. It just feels great that people have really connected with this and are engaging with us on record and coming to see us live. All of that energy, all of that went into For All Kings and certainly it's just carrying over now on this record and all of the touring we're doing and going to do still over the next year for this album. I'm sure that you’re gonna feel it in whatever comes next, that's for sure.
Scott, what can you tell us about some of the plans for Anthrax beyond this tour?
We will get a break at some point, you can just keep going and playing to the best of your ability without taking a rest. But, this in May and we've got a few shows in Japan with Megadeth in May. We're going to do a short run of Europe in June into July because last summer we did pretty much the whole summer over there. So just a short run and then a couple of festivals of dates in July we're doing Chicago Open Air.
After that we take a break. A solid two or three months off and then things will ramp back up in October. We're gonna do a big run in South America and Latin America and probably another U.S. run either before the end of the year or at the beginning of 2018. And I know we're gonna do Australia in early 2018 and a whole bunch more, as well as at some point in there probably get together and start working on some new material.
Do you think that's gonna happen still this year after all this touring?
I don’t know. We haven't gotten that far. It's not going to be a new record this year but we probably will at some point, I would think get in a room and maybe get started.
Sounds like you’re gonna have busy year.
Yeah, very busy.
Thanks to Scott Ian for the interview. Pick up your copy of Anthrax's 'For All Kings' at Amazon or digitally through iTunes and keep up with the band by following their Facebook page. For more information on the limited edition 'For All Kings' vinyl box set, head here and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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