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Interview: Scott Ian


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In his 30-year career, co-founder and guitarist in thrash metal group, Anthrax, Scott Ian has seen and heard a lot.

Now he is sharing it with a live audience on his Speaking Words tour around the UK and Scott talks to The National Student about talking all night, hosting the Relentless Kerrang! Awards and his thoughts on "pimpin'" modern day hip-hop.

scott ian How is the 'Speaking Words' tour going?

It’s a lot quieter! Obviously it is a lot different than travelling around with a band but at the same time, I’ve been so busy every day I just really haven’t paid that much attention.

I’ve done this tour with six nights in a row so far I haven’t even had time to think about it. The difference is; with Anthrax after the show is done I get on the bus, have a beer and then I wake up in the next city. With this, the difference is in the travelling, there’s a lot of driving everyday. When we are driving places, I try not to talk. I found that doing these shows night after night it’s a lot of work on my actual voice. I’ve never done this before. I’ve just got to shut up until showtime.

 In a weird way, this is a lot more work for me but I accept it because I’m out here solo and all the responsibility is on me. I’m embracing that. 

Are you looking forward to hosting the Relentless Kerrang! Awards this year?

I’ve hosted it for the past seven or eight years so it’s obviously something I enjoy doing by saying "yes" and they must enjoy me as they keep inviting me back. We’re mutual friends with each other and it’s great fun for me to do. They write a script on a prompter for us and stuff but the guys who produce it are really cool and they let me talk shit and be an idiot and I’m really good at that!

Which nominees do you rate the most and would like to see win an award?

I’m personally friends with the guys from Fall Out Boy so I hope they win everything they are nominated for. If I insult anyone else, I apologise but I have to support my friends!

What importance has Kerrang! magazine had for metal music over time for you?

Somewhere in my storage at home, I’ve got probably the first 200-300 issues of Kerrang. I started buying it way back in 1981 I went back and found all the back issues. It was like the bible for us back then.

In the states, we didn’t have magazines talking about bands like Iron Maiden and we did have some rock magazines like Circus, Creem and of course, Rolling Stone. But none of them were really reporting on the wave of British heavy metal. They didn’t know anything about it.

The only way to find out about these bands was to get Kerrang! so it’s been a huge part of my life for years and years. Getting to be on the cover numerous times over the course of Anthrax’s career was a big deal. And when they asked me to start hosting the awards show, I instantly said yes because it was a huge part in my life.

Taking a step back to the late 80s, you were and still are known for your wide taste in music, especially in hip-hop. Do you think the backlash in the collaboration you did with Public Enemy helped to form any of the nu metal music today? Can it still be seen in the industry?

You know, people ask us, do we think we created certain genres of music that the press named after we did what we did with Public Enemy. I never thought we invented it. It certainly opened a door, even just a window for people to jump out of. I truly believe that Rage Against the Machine were the band that drove a train through that door; they took the influences in their individuals and came together to make a band out of it.

Whereas with us and Public Enemy, it’s not like Anthrax became a rap group and it’s not like Public Enemy became a metal group, we just collaborated together and did something great. We didn’t then become one unit and continue to make music like that. Whereas, Rage Against were that unit and this is the music that they were creating from their souls which blew up massively on a worldwide level.

So I think if anything, whether or not they’d want the credit for it, it’s definitely Rage Against the Machine for me that created rap metal, nu metal, whatever you want to call it.

Everything that came after them showed that a direct line had to go back to Rage. The only thing I can personally take credit for is, there have been guys in bands that have come up to me and personally told me the influence that we bring to them specifically some of the dudes from Linkin Park told me years and years ago that the first concert they ever saw was Anthrax and Public Enemy in Los Angeles.

And they left that show saying that’s the kind of band we want me to make. I know the guys in Rage Against the Machine and I know Tom (Morello, guitar) and he was a fan of ours and Public Enemy's and what we did. I’m not saying 'Bring the Noise' was a direct responsibility for Rage but I know that it’s something they are certainly fans of.

Do you think there are any collaboration between acts that you’d like to see currently?

It’s not something I really think about. The collaboration with Public Enemy came from 1986-89, they were my favourite band so it was a case of me wanting to work with me favourite band. I always felt like Chuck’s (D) voice and my guitar tone would work really well together. It was trying to figure out  a way to make that happen. Ever since then, no I have never even thought about working with Public Enemy again, but certainly if that opportunity came up I would certainly explore it. But at the same time, there’s no pressing need to go do anything with anyone else at this point in time.

Do you still listen to hip-hop today?

I really haven’t listened to any new hip-hop since probably the early 90s. I listen to all of the stuff I listened to from the 80s into the 90s. hip-hop lost me in at some point in the 90s when the west coast scene got really big and the attitude and the vibe of the music kind of slowed down and changed and I insisted it wasn’t for me, anymore.

The lifestyle that they were speaking of in their lyrics was something I couldn’t identify with at all. A lot of the aggression and attitude I liked about rap in the mid to late 80s and even early 90s changed. I just stuck with what I knew and liked. It’s the same with any kind of music I just look at it as, it either moves me or it doesn’t.

I can’t identify with the ‘big pimping baller’ lifestyle that seems to be what most people have been rapping about for ages now. It’s just something I really don’t give a shit about.

Within Anthrax, do you have a favourite band member to work with? Is there anyone you think brings the most to the band with you?

Joey (Belladonna) for sure. I think he kind of proved it, coming back to the band after all these years and singing on his first record with us at 21-years-old and giving a performance above and beyond anything I’ve ever heard in my life. For me, it’s an honour and privilege to get to work with that guy everyday. He’s only got better with age and for singers that’s a really, really hard thing to do to maintain that muscle and be able to do that on a level that you were able to do in your twenties. Joey is better now than he was 25-years-ago and how that happens, I have no idea, but I’m just happy to be there and be part of it.

Have you begun work on the new album yet?

Not officially but soon. We’ve come up with a lot of ideas and over the summer we have a break coming up where we’re going to start writing and see what can come up with. When we finish touring in September, that’s when we’ll really start to focus on the new material.

What stand-up or spoken word performers do you think you’re influenced by?

It’s hard to say. I’ve seen Henry Rollins do his thing as I saw him do spoken work when he was first doing it. That must be, what, in the 90s? I don’t even remember the first time I saw Henry do it, I was a fan of it. Here’s this guy from these bands that I’ve been a fan of all these years,  and now I can sit here and watch him talk at me for three hours and I’m thoroughly entertained by it. He’s the only one I’ve ever really seen other than stand-up comedians, which is a completely different thing as they are writing jokes, I’m relating my life which can be funny.

Certainly, where I’m at now is probably similar to what Henry was doing at the beginning. His show has evolved greatly over the years because he’s taken it down many different paths because it became political and he travelled the world and talks about it. You can find out about things going on in remote villages in Africa when you go and see him.

What does it feel like to have your music played on Mars? What would the martians say?

I think that they’d have heard us saying ‘Anthrax are the first metal band to be played on Mars’ and they’d turn around and say ‘Bullshit! We’ve been listening to it with the radio waves coming from earth forever. We were listening to Sabbath in 1970!

We’ve already heard this Anthrax shit so play some new stuff’. That’s what I think they’d say. We just immediately assume this is the first time martians would have heard anything but how do we know that? I tend to think if there are martians there they’ve been listening to metal from the beginning.

Who is the most unexpected person to say they’ve been listening to your music?

Years ago, the Queen mother actually.

You’re joking?!

I am, yes! I don’t know actually. Strangely enough, generally it’s not something I’m surprised by as a lot of people listen to many types of music. But one time in an airport, I was waiting in the lounge and actress Melanie Griffith was in the lounge too. I saw her sitting there but I don’t talk to anyone if I see someone famous. So we were both walking to the flight gate at the same time and she turns around to me and says ‘I just want to let you know that I am a huge fan of Anthrax. The last album I loved it, keeping doing what you do, you rock!’. And it wasn’t that I was surprised, because she’s super cool. It was unexpected!

Students who want to be like Anthrax or trying to break into music. What would be your top advice to them?

The business has changed so much now as compared to when we started. I wouldn’t be able to give advice on a band as to how to do it, because I don’t even know how the music business even works anymore. The only advice I can give on a creative level, whatever music you love and whatever you love to play as a musician and song writer, that’s what you have to do and don’t ever listen to what anyone else has to say as to what you have to play or what’s trendy because that’s what we did.

We only ever played the music that we wanted to play against everything at the time. If we had listened to what people were saying to us in 1981 we’d have just been a Van Halen cover band. We only ever cared about the music we wanted to play so stayed focused and on that path and never ever strayed from that. Now I’m not saying that just because if you play the music you want to play, that you’re gonna make it, but at least you’re doing what you want to do and that will make you happy. That’s the only reason why I’ve ever done this; it makes me happy.  

I’ve heard that you’re a Doctor Who fan. Did you manage to go to the Doctor Who convention in whilst you were touring in Cardiff last week?

No I didn’t! People were telling me about it but I just didn’t have the time.

Scott Ian's 'Speaking Words' continues until mid-June in the UK. For tour dates visit,

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