Anthrax’s Scott Ian Learned About Slayer’s Farewell on the Internet
Anthrax's Scott Ian was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The guitarist discussed why the band chose Scotland as the location to shoot their latest live DVD/album, Kings Among Scotland, what it's been like playing some Among the Living songs for the first time in decades, the end of Slayer and Anthrax's next album. Check out the chat below.
The Kings Among Scotland DVD is out now. It's a live concert DVD. It was filmed in Glasgow. What stands out to you about that night and that performance?
One of the biggest worries is you decide you're going to shoot a show and, of course, you want the crowd to do their part. So, you try to take that worry, that line item out of the thinking process. So there are certain cities we know when we are going to play that it is just going to be great.
There is no question. There are a lot of cities on that list but Glasgow is one of the ones that we have had such a relationship with going back to the '80s. We have had nothing but sheer joy playing in Scotland and I don’t know why it has always been so great. I know this for other bands too. It is just like one of those places much like South America.
We did a DVD in Chile too and a lot of bands do their DVDs down there. There are just places all over the planet that are just hot spots. We really wanted to document what we were doing on that tour playing two sets and the second set was Among the Living in full. We just kind of looked at the schedule and said, "Well you know Glasgow is a week in. So, we should have all the bugs out by then and we know how great that crowd is going to be and we love that venue. So, let’s do it there." It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy because it all worked on the night. There was no major disaster and the crowd certainly did their part and then it enables us to just have fun.
What do you recognize about the Among the Living songs now that maybe wasn't obvious to you when they were written?
It was really fun bringing some of them back. Some of them that hadn’t been played for 30 years. Songs like "One World" and "Imitation of Life" "Horror of it All," and "A Skeleton in the Closet," [though] we have played ["Skeleton"] on and off over the years. So it was really fun bringing those back because in a weird way [because] it felt like we had new songs to play.
Because of some of those songs, "Imitation of Life," we think we may have done a little bit actually on the Among the Living tour back in '87, but that is one of the ones that for some reason dropped out of the set. Probably because it is a brand new record and you see how songs like "Indians," "Caught in a Mosh" and "N.F.L." and "I am the law" and "Among the Living" all these songs are going over amazing maybe better at that time of that song.
Plus we had stuff from Spreading the Disease and Fist Full of Metal. So, we were already at a point in our career where we had more than enough material for a set. So, "Imitation" even "Horror of it All," even after Among the Living I don’t think we ever played "Horror" again. We played it a lot on that tour and then for 30 years I don’t know that we ever played it. So it was really great going back and getting to play those songs again.
Scott, we live in a world where hundreds of people are filming bands onstage at pretty much every show. How has that scrutiny forced you to change as a live performer? It wasn't like that when you guys started.
Back then someone would have to sneak a giant video camera in, in their overalls. We've realized for years now that anything that we do is going to be on the Internet that night. So uh, you just better not suck. [laughs] I mean it's not something I'm consciously thinking about when I am onstage.
I don’t care - but at the same time, you know it now. You know, anything that happens it is going to be, every now and then I’ll have someone come up to me and say, "That was so whatever." I’m like, "How did you see that?... Oh, yeah it’s on YouTube, I forgot."
I know that there are benefits to all the new technology that exists, but I think that there was a mystique back in the day of hearing about something or hearing about a live band and not being able to look them up.
Oh, I agree with that totally. I don’t look up bands set lists before I go to see them. I think that's such a bummer that people that. Like, why do you want it spoiled for you? Don't you want to just go to the show and experience it for yourself?
But sometimes you want to make sure that they're going to play your favorite songs.
Screw that! For me, you go to the show. And you go to the show and experience it. Everything, in the moment - not there sitting going "Oh, here's what they're doing next." What fun is that?
I was at a show the other night, and I did that and was like - I know what they're playing next. I feel like a total dick now. [laughs] But you're right. Back when you had no idea what it was going to be there was the excitement. It's different.
Look, I still go to a lot of shows and I don’t want to know. Hey, if people want to do it, fine, I'm not telling people they shouldn't. My personal opinion and the way I deal with it myself is - I don’t want to know. When I see Iron Maiden I don't want to know in advance what they're playing. I just want to go and experience the show.
Scott, when Anthrax started you guys were kids writing songs about comic books and Stephen King. Now being an adult and a parent, what's changed most in terms of your priorities as a lyricist?
It's still all about comics and Stephen King, it's just buried in metaphor. But when it really comes down to it, that's all I really know about this world. Silver Age Marvel Comics and Stephen King books. I can discuss that all day long. I'm really not kidding. Everything I do, and everything I write, in some way shape for form, probably still comes from the fact that I read comics from the time I could read and still now - my whole life. Comics predate music for me. I was playing guitar when I started reading Stephen King books but it predates Anthrax by years. It all comes from those things opening my eyes to a bigger world out there than the apartment that I was growing up in in Queens, [New York].
I would read these stories, these fantastical stories and realize that "Wow, there's just this whole other world out there and I want to be a part of that. I want to write about that stuff too." That's where it initially came from. Certainly, probably since Among the Living... I grew up a little bit by the time I was 23 and I started paying attention a little more to what was going on in the planet. So yeah, there's a lot of things that emotionally moved me enough that somehow lyrics come from that.
Whether it's anger or love, one or the other, but something has to move me so much for it to stick enough so that when we have riffs and we have musical arrangements, I start getting ideas of what that song - what the music is - what that needs to be about and it always comes from great emotion. So to go back to your question, certainly yes, having a son only made me hate the world more in a lot of ways.
You care about what's going to happen later on.
Yeah, of course. It adds more fear to your plate when you have the responsibility of a child and everything in the world that - I don’t mean to go into details, but yes. But at the same time, you balance that with the joy of having a child. But certainly as someone who writes lyrics in a metal band, yes it's only really brought it back to some very hardcore emotions and feelings on the last two records. I mean, the last two records were completely influenced by having a child.
Anthrax are part of the Slayer farewell tour — one of the bands with of whom you've built literally new and unique style of music. What do you feel when such close contemporaries decide to stop?
It's not something I'll even think about until they've actually stopped because they're still going now. So when they actually stop and then they're not Slayer anymore or not playing shows anymore, making records, then I'll have feelings to process about that. It's gonna be weird, it's gonna be a void without Slayer. They've been a constant for 37 years. But right now it's just really exciting to be out here on this tour. It really is an amazing bill. The people - it's the metal tour of the year, they say. I'm like, the metal tour of many years. [laughs] Of many many years.
Anyone whose head didn't explode when this lineup was announced...
And what's so great about it too, is that it really does - much like the BIg 4 shows when you had the four of us together, those shows really showcased how different we all really are. We all came from the same place, same time and place, developing the same kind of music but we're all completely different bands. This show really shows it as well. All of the bands are distinctly different and original having their own sound, yet we're all - it all comes from what we kind of, I guess, started at some point in the early '80s. When I say "we" I don’t just mean Anthrax. A whole bunch of us.
Do you think when Slayer stops that people will still yell "Slayer!" at metal shows?
I think the answer is yes.
There is an anniversary edition of State of Euphoria coming out, an album that the band has publicly regarded as a bit incomplete.
I know I have. I don’t know about anyone else in the band - but I certainly have been public about it.
In what ways will the new version finally make the album sound right to you?
It has nothing to do with production or anything. It had to do with the amount of time we spent working on the songs. I feel like half the songs are complete and the other half, those are songs needed another three-four-five-six months of work. They just don't sound like finished songs to me. The arrangements aren't where I think they need to be. I know loads of people where that's their favorite Anthrax record. It doesn't really matter what I think. It's what the individual who listens to the record thinks.
That's just my opinion of it; of the guy who's in the band who feels like, well, we rushed. We did rush, we had to finish the record to get out on tour with Maiden in the summer of '88, and I wish we would have spent three more months on those songs. But we didn't, and it is what it is and I'm glad people love the record. I love half the record, then there's another 25 percent that's okay and then there's 25 percent where I'm like, "Those really could have been better."
Is there anything you can tell us about the timeline for new music? What's up next for Anthrax?
We didn't think we were touring this year. We thought we were just going to do that "Killthrax" [Killswitch Engage/Anthrax] run, we finished that a few months ago. Then the idea was we were going to start writing and spend most of the year writing maybe doing one-offs. But spend the year writing and then get back in the studio, and then Slayer calls [laughs].
You don't say no to Slayer.
Yeah, and you know when they first called, they - nobody said anything. It's not like Slayer call, but an agent called an agent but there was no mention of it being any kind of a farewell at first. It was just, "We're putting together this show, we want it to be Slayer, Lamb of God, Anthrax, Behemoth and Testament. Are you in?" We're like, "Yes," before anything.
So did you not find out it was the farewell tour when it was announced?
I read it on the Internet, I'm not kidding.
Maybe they wanted to make sure no one would say anything.
Yeah, I don't blame them. So when I heard that I was like, "Holy cow, now it's even cooler." It was this first leg and the tickets went on sale and it did so well because it wasn't supposed to be initially that second leg that we start at the end of July. But it went so well and then everyone is clamoring for more shows. So they booked the second leg, then they said, "Do you want to do Europe?" We have Europe in November and December. That's as far out as we know we're a part of it at this point. Of course, if they want to do more, or if they want us to do more in 2019 I'm sure we would.
But yeah, obviously that changed the plans as far as what we were doing about writing. Maybe we'll get together at some point this year after this second leg we have a pretty good break between that and Europe, so it'll be nice to maybe get in a room and see if we couldn't get three or four things arranged. There are a lot of killer ideas that have been going back and forth.
Is there an iPhone of riffs somewhere?
Yeah, I haven't lost mine. More importantly, Charlie hasn't lost his. There's some killer ideas that Charlie has sent around. Very exciting sounding. It rids all my fears of, "Can we do it again?" I always have that feeling when a record is done, you go out on tour and eventually you ask, you start to realize, are we going to do this again? What if the riffs don't come? What if? I can safely say, the riffs are here. So, it's an exciting feeling to know that we're gonna get back in and start hammering some of that stuff together.
Thanks to Scott Ian for the interview. Get your copy of Anthrax's 'Kings Among Scotland' here and follow Anthrax on Facebook to stay up to date with everything they're doing. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show here.
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