Scott Ian: I Didn’t Realize How Much I Influenced Mr. Bungle Until Joining
Scott Ian was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The Anthrax guitarist spoke about becoming a member of Mr. Bungle as the band prepared to properly record their 1986 demo, which was just released as The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny.
At first, he didn't realize how much of an influence he had on the band in their early days, primarily because the quality of the original recording was quite subpar. Once he dug into the riffs, it became apparent just how much Anthrax and Stormtroopers of Death had on the West Coast group.
Elsewhere, Ian talked about the touring plans Mr. Bungle had before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the touring industry as well as offering an update on Anthrax's "riffier" new album.
You're on the Mr. Bungle record, which is the first new album in 21 years. It revisits some of the first material that the band ever recorded in 1986. In addition to that material, it also features re-imagined covers of the likes of S.O.D. and Corrosion of Conformity. Scott, what's essential when it comes to giving existing music a fresh coat of paint?
To say existing music, you'd have to use that term really loosely with this. If you're familiar with the original demo from '86, then you would know the quality of the recording. This is nothing against Trevor [Dunn] and the guys — at the time they did it was on this little four-track and everything, but you could go on YouTube and listen to what is probably a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy that got uploaded to YouTube.
This wasn't even a case of giving it a fresh coat of paint. This is really the first time it's ever been properly recorded, so I don't think anyone was approaching it as, "Okay, this stuff already exists and people are familiar with it and we're just rerecording it."
Everybody's head was thinking that this is the first time anyone's really going to hear these songs ever, including the guys in the band. It's the first time they've ever even heard these songs properly recorded where they can actually hear what they did. That's what makes this case kind of different.
It's not like when a band goes into re-record some of their greatest hits or an album. There's a lot of reasons to do that — usually, it's to own the master [recording] so when a big TV commercial comes along, you get paid, and the label and the publishing company don't. But this is totally different than that — this is the first time anyone really hears these songs actually recorded.
Mr. Bungle, "Eracist"
The original Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny represents the early days of a young band. What do you recognize in those songs that were similar to you as a young musician?
Well, definitely the riffs. When, when Mike [Patton] first approached me to do this, he already knew I was a big fan of Bungle and he said, "Stay with me here... we want to put the band back together, and we want to record the original demo from '86."
And he's like, "Did you say you're familiar with that?" And I was like, "Yeah, I had a really crappy tape of that". And he said, "Yeah, we want to do it, but the only way we'll do it is if you and Dave Lombardo are in the band, because that way we'll have the guys that influenced us in the first place to even write those songs."
I took it, obviously, as a compliment and all that, but I didn't really take it all that seriously. Maybe I have a hard time taking compliments in general, especially from Mike Patton. But then Trevor started making new demos of all the songs, so we'd be able to learn them because they couldn't even figure out what they were playing by listening to the old demo. Then they sent me these demos.
I started hearing the riffs and then I understood what Mike was talking about how Dave and I were a big influence. I could very much hear S.O.D. and Slayer and Anthrax and Possessed and Suicidal Tendencies. I could hear a lot of the influence on the music because they were writing the songs in '85 and '86 when all of that stuff was the genesis of that whole scene of thrash, crossover and hardcore.
The riffs were very, very familiar and recognizable to me. If I jumped back into my 1986 shoes, it all made sense.
Mr. Bungle, "Raping Your Mind"
The arrangements, on the other hand, made zero sense at all — seven minutes songs with literally, I'm not joking, like 93 changes in them. Even then, in '86, these guys who were teenagers at the time were so far ahead musically than any of us other bands at the time, such as or Metallica or Slayer or Megadeath or any of the other bands I've mentioned. Nobody knew because nobody had ever heard this in 1986.
It's kind of mind-blowing when you hear the degree of difficulty in this music and what they were writing and what they were doing at such a young age. It puts the first Bungle album that came out in 1991 into much more of a perspective when you hear what they were doing with thrash in 1986.
What's the reality about interpreting music that, to some degree, was originally influenced by you?
That kind of made it less intimidating and seemingly an impossible mountain to climb. I did recognize the riffs and I understood what Trey Spruance's right hand was doing on the guitar and that's what really clicked in my brain and made me able to listen to these insane seven-minute arrangements.
I get this. It's nuts, but I get it. I understand the riffs because a lot of it was directly influenced by stuff I was doing back then. It's just nice to be a part of that circle now — the circle has closed.
Although you're primarily known for Anthrax, you've also been involved with other bands playing various styles of heavy music. What's musically satisfying about playing with Mr. Bungle?
It brings me back to that time when this music was written. It really puts me back into that time and place mentally and physically, just remembering being in a room with my band, Anthrax, and writing what was to become Spreading the Disease at the same time when they were writing this stuff and I was writing the S.O.D. record in 1985.
It really puts me back in that time and place because all of that aggression all of the riffing. We're doing it 34 years later, which is the coolest thing about it. It's like I opened a time capsule and I found this thrash metal record from 1986 that nobody has ever heard and I get to be a part of it and it happens to be Mr. Bungle. The whole experience is just incredible.
What's the long-term plan for this lineup beyond The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny?
The original plan was to play shows around the release and we would have put together a run of dates. I don't know specifically where and when, but it would have been around the release and through November probably — certainly more U.S. dates and there probably would have been some European dates.
I know we want to get down to South America because Mike Patton's basically the king of Chile. We want to go to Japan, Australia... we want to play more shows. The shows we did together in February were so much fun.
It was basically like just scratching the surface and then we went straight from the shows into the studio because we would never be tighter than we were at that moment. We want to play more shows but when is anybody's guess.
If there's any silver lining, it's that people will certainly know the songs by the time we actually start playing some gigs.
Mr. Bungle, Full Show — Live in 2020
I'm a huge Mr. Bungle fan. I had a chance to see them a couple of times in the early days. This wasn't a Bungle show, but one show I saw in New York was Mike Patton with John Zorn at the Knitting Factory. They did it a few times and I think this was when you were still on the East Coast as well. It seemed like an hour and a half of them making animal noises.
I remember it was Patton and Zorn and there was an Asian woman sitting in front of — I don't know if it was a keyboard or a synthesizer and she was like making all kinds of crazy noises with her set up. Patton was basically making guttural sounds into a microphone, and John Zorn was playing saxophone and singing. It was an hour of that. It was insane. I was completely compelled to stay and listen to it the whole time.
Me too. It was so weird, but I couldn't leave. Anything around Mike Patton you never know what to expect.
Let me ask you about Anthrax, too. I've been reading a lot about new music. I know you guys aren't going to put anything out until touring picks back up, but is there anything you want to reveal about how the new music is sounding?
I know I said that in an interview [about not releasing an album if we can't tour], but it's not like anything is written in stone. That's where I am personally right at this moment, but six months from now, who knows where the world is going to be? We don't know. Maybe things will be closer to being back to normal. Maybe they will be further away from back to normal. Nobody has an answer to this, so anytime someone asks me about that, I really don't have an answer.
In my brain, I don't want to put a record out until I can play shows, and that's what I want to do. But of course, I don't control the world and I don't control what's going to happen with COVID. I think I can safely say we will certainly be ready to make a record next year.
We will probably go do that once we're ready to go do it. There would be no reason to have a record finished and then just sit around and not record it. Once we actually feel like we're ready to go into the studio, we'll do that regardless of where things are at on the planet and then just take it from there. At least it'll be in the ca, and then we'll be able to make a decision on what's the best course for us to take at that point. Everybody is in the same boat — there are no rules anymore. It's a completely different playbook and everybody's got to figure out what's going to work.
Can you tell us how you're feeling about the new music?
I love it. What do you think? It's terrible?
We're itching to hear any news about the new music — we're very excited! So anything you're willing to share is great.
It's always hard for me to answer that because it's just more Anthrax sauce.It always just sounds like Anthrax to me and I don't really go much deeper than that. If I had to compare it to the last record, it's definitely riffier. The songs have more riffs. There's already definitely more uptempo and fast stuff, but then again, we aren't finished writing. That doesn't mean the fast stuff we've written is going to go away. We're probably just going to write more songs and then we'll see what the album's going to be, but it's definitely riffier and definitely faster if I had to come up with two ways to describe it compared to For All Kings.
Thanks to Scott Ian for the interview. Get your copy of Mr. Bungle's 'The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny' here (as Amazon affiliates we earn on qualifying purchases). Follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify and find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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