Monday Rock City: A Conversation with Scott Ian of Anthrax

He’s been arrested with Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, schooled in the art of consuming massive quantities of hard liquor by Pantera founder Dimebag Darrell, passed out on Motörhead’s Lemmy, partied with rock and roll royalty at the infamous L.A. Riot House, penned comics for DC, toured with Public Enemy, shot hoops with the Beastie Boys, guest starred on Married with Children, played a zombie on The Walking Dead and dressed up as Gene Simmons on Halloween to interview a clueless Ozzy for Vh1’s The Rock Show. Now Anthrax frontman/madman Scott Ian tells the story of his sordid journey so far in the brand new memoir, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy from Anthrax. (Da Capo Press)

What could possibly be left on Scott’s bucket list? We’re about to find out….



Anthrax and Public Enemy

Anthrax with Public Enemy


One of my favorite parts from your book was the insane stuff about Al Jourgensen (Ministry). I interviewed him awhile back and was on the phone nearly two hours. He was trying to get me to come to his church.

(laughs) Seriously?




Yeah. Before I ran the piece, I called his church. Al’s pastor backed it up.

Wow… Uncle Al. That’s pretty crazy.


You were at the Viper Club the night River Phoenix passed. Al was on stage with Flea and Johnny Depp. You’ve seen a lot of heavy stuff go down but you describe the scene that night as “bad mojo” – what did you mean?

Just drugs. Suddenly I found myself in a room full of people on drugs. And I’m not a drug guy. I really don’t understand and never want to be a part of that.  It wasn’t fun and someone paid the price. But you could feel it in the air that night. It was a weird scene.



Scott & Cliff Burton

But you had been touring with Anthrax, doing shows with Metallica, Slayer – you had been on the road, seen some crazy stuff by then.

Yeah, but we were never around drugs. Maybe some weed or someone might be doing blow. But not heroin. Not hard drugs like that.


That’s right. You were the guy who trashed hotel rooms – sober.

It’s better that way. You can really get into the madness. And you remember it later.


What’s the rock star method for trashing hotel rooms?

Just break stuff!


Anthrax,_Scott_Ian_at_Wacken_Open_Air_2013What does it take to keep the show going for an artist in their fifties or sixties?

A lot of stretching. A lot of keeping in shape. Seriously, you have to take care of yourself and eat right – and not just while you’re on tour. Especially in the off time because it’s so easy to let things go. You’re hanging around the studio, writing songs, eating, drinking beer and sitting on your ass for months — and suddenly it’s time to go back on the road. And your body is going to be like, oh, hell no.When you’re in your twenties you can recover. But now? So it’s something we’re always mindful of. Anthrax is not a band who stands in one spot. Live shows have always been very athletic for us and still are. You have to stay on top of yourself.


Would you have ever imagined as a ten year old kid that you would be seeing KISS and Sabbath and AC/DC still going in 2015?

I never thought about it, I guess. Life just goes on and some things become a constant. The bands that I grew up on still have the ability to stay around this long. I think it would have been a lot harder for the bands of the 60s and early 70s to last that long, mainly because of the drugs. Later, bands started to figure out that if they were going to have any longevity, they would have to cut the drug use off early on and that’s what a lot of guys did. That’s why they’re still here.



Gene & Scott

I just read Paul Stanley’s book and he talks a lot about the work ethic that he and Gene put forth to make KISS successful. As a Jewish guy from New York, same sort of background, was that influential to you?

Definitely. Not only from my upbringing and having a lot of responsibility heaped on me at an early age -but literally from KISS. Because I was such a huge fan. Not that I knew anything about KISS when I was thirteen years old  — because they had such a big wall of mystery surrounding them and were able to maintain that back then. But as the years passed and the makeup came off and we began to tour with those guys, to see that work ethic up close and how much of their lives they had given up for this business — totally influenced by that. And not just KISS. Whether it’s Maiden or Motörhead, bands that I grew up on and later toured with and was able to see how they operate their business. I tell you, man, it’s nothing but a lot of hard work.


What do you think about all the KISS drama in the last year with the Hall of Fame and such?

It’s not my band so it’s not my place to say. Unless you’re in the band, especially a band that’s been going thirty-five years, you have no idea of what sort of relationship dynamics are taking place. Gene and Paul are calling the shots and more power to ’em.


What was the toughest part of the 90s for Anthrax? It seemed like you handled the grunge invasion pretty well, at least at first.

Well, yeah, at first. Sound of White Noise came out in ’93 and Nirvana was already massive by then and the landscape was really starting to change. We weathered that just fine. The record sold well and we were still playing big shows. But as the tour went on we could see things starting to take a downward turn. In ’95 we started recording the Stomp 442 record and our label, Elektra, had gone through a complete regime change and the corporate bosses cleaned house and got rid of all the people responsible for us being there. They told our management they didn’t want anything to do with Anthrax. That was a hard pill to swallow, going into that record knowing we didn’t even have a label behind us anymore. That was the beginning of a long hard road for us from ’95 until honestly, about 2009.


What happened then?

Really, it wasn’t until 2010 things started turning around. But we just did what we had always done. We weren’t a radio band or an MTV band. Anthrax broke initially because we made good records and were a great live band. So we circled the wagons and figured we would just be in control of the things that were under our control. And that’s making great records and playing shows. So we were able to ride it out and come out on the other side and get back on the map in a big way.



Dimebag & Scott

What’s your take on the changes in the music industry since Anthrax first began?

I really don’t have a take on it. I haven’t had any dealings with the music business since 1995. We have our own label through Megaforce — which is how we did Worship Music — and we do everything ourselves. We’ve got some good people that help us of course, Megaforce has been awesome and the Nuclear Blast people in Germany are great. But it’s different in Germany than the States.


What’s your advice for a 14 year old kid starting a band?

Play the music you love. That’s it. That’s all I ever did.


You’ve got a killer resume, lived your dreams and done just about everything. What could possibly be left?

I want to play a show with AC/DC! That’s the one thing I’ve never done.



Scott and Lemmy


Powerage or Dirty Deeds?

I’d have to say Powerage because that’s the first AC/DC record I got.



Anthrax as Run DMC

Run DMC or Beasties?

Run DMC for the same reason. I got into them first.


What did you think about NWA?

Loved ‘em. Especially the first record.


2377_4_27Marvel or DC?

Man. That’s a hard one. I was into both, reading Batman and Superman at the same time I was reading Spiderman and the Hulk. I don’t think I can pick.


Priest or Maiden?

I was having this discussion with a buddy of mine the other day. Even though I was a Priest fan first, I think I have to pick Maiden because they actually have more records I like. One day I went album by album and added them up and I believe there’s more Maiden records I’m a fan of. Or maybe it was the other way around?


Maiden and the Ramones were both big influences on Anthrax. Was Anthrax more Maiden or Ramones?

For sure, Maiden. But you know, why choose?




About Jamie Blaine

As likely to quote Axl Rose as Saint Augustine , J.M. Blaine is a licensed sex and suicide specialist who has worked in libraries, haunted houses, psych wards, megachurches, rehabs, classic rock radio stations and roller rinks.
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