Scott Ian Thinks Stormtroopers of Death Would Be Canceled by ‘Certain Sections of People’ Today
Back in the '80s, Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian formed the farcically belligerent offshoot thrash metal band Stormtroopers of Death with Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, founding Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker and singer Billy Milano.
S.O.D., as the outfit were also known, released satirically hostile songs such as "Pre-Menstrual Princess Blues" and "Fuck the Middle East" on their 1985 debut album, Speak English or Die. A cartoon character created by Ian and illustrated by Benante, the morbid infantryman Sargent D., was the act's mascot.
Looking back on that time in a fan Q&A this week, Ian was asked if Speak English or Die would get him "canceled" today. In light of the modern atmosphere of cancel culture, it's a topic that's come up before.
Responding via Metal Hammer on Monday (Sept. 26), Ian answered, "If it had never existed in 1985 and we tried to put that out today, no matter how hard we tried to explain the joke — yes, certain sections of people would cancel it."
The guitarist continued, "It'd have a much harder time now. We didn't have internet back then! If people don't know, Sargent D is a character I created because I wanted to try and make a comic book. I didn't know how to write a comic book, so I wrote songs about this character who's dead! He's unliving and hates anything alive. We explained it a few times in interviews back then, but either people want to hear it or they don't."
Would Stormtroopers of Death Be Canceled Today?
Lilker expressed the same sentiment in a 2014 interview. He told Songfacts the album "probably would have had a harder time just because people seem to be more uptight now."
The bassist continued, "Nevertheless, it was what it was, which is saying it is what it is, but back then. And I don't regret it. Maybe minor aspects went overboard with certain lyrical things, but then again, we didn't really mean them. Perhaps if people realize that, then it's just more funny."
Lilker added, "Some of those lyrics I realized later might have gone a little overboard and some people might have misunderstood and thought that we meant it, but it was done on purpose because we found that a lot of people in the hardcore scene — this is before people used the word 'P.C.' — seemed to be very uptight and had no sense of humor. So we thought we would just give them something to talk about."
Cancel Culture at a Glance
What is cancel culture? AP News calls it a "mechanism where a chorus of voices, amplified on social media, tries to silence a point of view that they find offensive by trying to damage or destroy the reputation of the person who has given offense."
Dictionary.com terms it "the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive."
S.O.D. have briefly reunited three times. In 2007, they released their third album, Rise of the Infidels. Earlier this month, Ian told Loudwire which metal band served as his son's "gateway" to heavy music. Anthrax recently released Anthrax XL, a recording of their 40th anniversary concert.