Anthrax and Slayer have joined forces for a pre-Christmas European tour, that had generated much excitement among the metal community, as soon as it was announced earlier this year.
As we are led into the Anthrax dressing room, we are greeted by all band members, who lounge around watching The Simpsons and shooting the shit, before stage time. The general atmosphere is calm, relaxed and upbeat, which is a good indication that all is well in the Anthrax camp.
OD – “FOR ALL KINGS” is due to be released early next year, can you talk about the reason behind the title of the record?
SCOTT IAN – The meaning to me for this title, is that everybody can be a king. Everybody can have control over their own lives, control over their destiny, just by growing up and becoming a responsible human being. I’m not necessarily saying that being a “king”, is being the boss in your relationship, or any relationship for that matter, a king of yourself is what I mean. Taking responsibility and ownership for your own shit, is basically what it means to me.
OD – How far back had the writing process begun for this album and is there any material on “For All Kings” which was written during that time period when Joey stepped in to re-recorded the “Worship Music” vocals?
SCOTT IAN – No, this didn’t really start until 2012. We were out on the road in America on the Mayhem Tour and then back over here (Europe) with Motorhead near the end of that year. Charlie (Benante, drums) stayed home from that tour, because that’s when his hand really started to become a problem, so that whole time he was home, he was working on the new material. Then in early 2013, when Frank (Bello, bass), Charlie and I got together in the jam room in my house, that’s when the official writing really started for this new album.
OD – Is there anything that will be considered a surprise on this album or have you stuck to the trusted Anthrax formula?
SCOTT IAN – No, it’s just the most metal record we have made in a long, long time! It’s Anthrax, but with extra metal (laughs)! There is way more thrashy stuff and heavy stuff on this record, also it’s just way more riff heavy, if you know what I mean? It’s way more proggy! (laughs) I’m just kidding, there is no prog on this album! Actually that was the original title of the album, we were just gonna call it ‘Prog” and have a circle with a line through it (laughs)! I like prog, I’m just fucking with you!
Seriously man all jokes aside, it’s not a Jazz album or anything less than what our fans and we collectively wanted to make. It’s a very heavy fucking record and that’s what we wanted to achieve.
OD – “Evil Twin” was released as a lyric video recently, are there any plans to put out a video for the next single off the album or does it not really matter these days?
SCOTT IAN – Not yet, as we are still talking about it. I can tell you that it won’t be for “Evil Twin”, but I’m pushing more towards the idea that it could be for a track called “Blood Eagle Wings” and it’s a bit of an epic track, so we feel like we could really do a sort of short movie for it! This is still in talks at the moment, so it might not happen. But talking about video’s, I really don’t see the purpose in doing videos these days and even back in the 80′ s when MTV had “Headbangers Ball”, I still was thinking “what’s the point?”. Nowadays there is nowhere that really plays videos, apart from Youtube! Videos aren’t free and it can cost a hell of a lot of money for us to make them and then you have to consider the fact, that people are not buying records anymore.
OD – Would you say that music videos are not really relevant any more?
SCOTT IAN – You know, I don’t really know! Our label Nuclear Blast say’s it is relevant and they are very, very excited about it. So, we have an idea and a director that we are hoping to work with, which I just can’t tell you at this point in time, in case it doesn’t work out, because it would be stupid to have mentioned it. But yea, there is someone that at this moment in time, said they are able to do it, so it really just comes down to scheduling and if it all works out and if it does, then we’ll shoot it in January and then it will be ready in time for the album to come out.
OD – In terms of song / lyric writing on this album, is it purely you and Charlie, who wrote the majority of the material, or are there parts there from Frank, Joey or Jon?
SCOTT IAN – Well, yea it’s basically myself, Charlie and Frankie for the most part and on this album Jon (Donais, lead guitars) wrote all the solos. All of Jon’s playing on the new record is the stuff that he came up with and wrote himself, demoed and sent to us.
OD – “Spreading the Disease” (1985) has just turned 30 years and is just a small statement in what has been a incredibly long career for Anthrax, when you think back to when you released that album, to the way things are now, is there anything that you miss from those days within the genre of metal and how things used to be with playing shows and touring?
SCOTT IAN – I still am! I don’t have any less excitement. My excitement about my band hasn’t changed since we began! I still get just as excited about writing songs, recording and getting to go in the studio and make a record. Every time I walk into the studio to record a new record, I still get the same amount of excitement that I did when I was laying down ‘Fistful of Metal” back in 1984. Getting to go on tour and bearing in mind that most tour buses are fucking gross most of the time, I still get that same excitement that I have always felt.
It’s like as soon as I step on the bus, I get this feeling like “here we go again, how is it all gonna pan out this time around”, or however long we are out on the road. In this case with Slayer, we haven’t done a seven week run in like twenty years and all of a sudden it’s like, okay we’re off, no cliche intended, but it’s like “okay, we’re on the road again” and for me that excitement has never died!
Now don’t get me wrong, I fucking hate travelling and ever since 9/11, flying is just one huge pain in the ass. It’s not what it used to be and that’s something that I miss. Air travel in the 80’s and 90’s was much nicer and convenient to use than it is now since 9/11, boo-hoo for me right? (laughs). But yea, playing shows is the greater than the hardship of travelling, I love getting on stage and playing show’s.
I think it was Gene Simmons (KISS) who once said that there is no other job that you can do that give’s you this reaction from a crowd, I mean you could get it from live theater or Broadway, The Westend or something like that, which is like a small house really. They don’t get to play festivals like Wacken Open Air, or Rock AM Ring or Bloodstock! They’re not doing the “Book of Mormon” in front of 80 thousand people, which they probably should, because it’s awesome (laughs)! Nowhere else do you get what we get in Rock, as far as getting on stage, playing the songs you wrote and having ten’s of thousands of people, loosing their fucking minds over it, so that’ s a feeling you don’t get anywhere else! It just doesn’t exist anywhere else on this planet, so you know when people ask things like “when are the Rolling Stones gonna quit?”, you know what? They’re never gonna call it quits, because why would they? It’s the adrenaline man. You don’t get that anywhere, this addiction, this drug doesn’t exist anywhere else and I don’t care if you’re a struggling dude playing with four of your friends in a bar, it still feels like that, I’m telling you!
I go out and I do other shit! I play in my wife’s band Motor Sister sometimes and with my friends, which is no where near the same level to what Anthrax does, but we could be playing to 30 people in a bar in L.A. and I am still just as fucking excited, because I get up there and do what I really love to do! So to answer the question, no the excitement for me has not changed at all.
OD – S.O.D also turned 30 and everybody was hoping for something to happen, is it wishful thinking to hope for a reunion?
SCOTT IAN – Easy answer for this one. There is not going to be a reunion. Zero chance of that happening.
OD – What are the chances of The Damned Things doing another album, were things left open to continue or was it a one time thing? Also, what are the chances of that album being released on vinyl?
SCOTT IAN – It’s not on vinyl? Really? I didn’t know that at all. That is something that I will make a note of.
OD – It would be great to see that come out as a Record Store Day release or something cool like that?
SCOTT IAN – Yea, for sure! I will look into that. Regarding The Damned Things recording some new material? Yes there will be some new stuff, because we’re all friends and that’s why it started in the first place. Joe (Trohman, Fall Out Boy guitarist) and I put this together out of our friendship and from just hanging out. We started writing songs and as we are all really good friends with each other, it is most likely gonna happen again. Obviously the big problem is our schedules, as we are all in different bands with Anthrax, Fall Out Boy, Everytime I Die, and Volbeat, it makes it a bit difficult for us to get together, but there are riffs, there are ideas and it’s certainly not dead in the water. There will be another The Damned Things record for sure! It could take five years to make and get released, but there definitely will be another record from The Damned Things, because we are all friends and we all love music and we feel that we feel like we have much more to say.
OD – You were recently announced for next years Bloodstock Festival, which is fantastic news. Having already graced the main stage there before, how important do you think festivals that really submerge themselves in true heavy metal are, such as Bloodstock, as opposed to other festivals that seem to be introducing a more alternative selection of bands ranging from mainstream rock, to indie style bands?
SCOTT IAN – I think it’s great. I mean we really love playing anywhere that we can and if I’m gonna be honest here, we like playing on those festivals that are a little bit different, now don’t get me wrong, we love playing metal festivals, but as a band and from a business perspective, if we get to be on these more mainstream bills, then we’re playing in front of lot’s and lot’s of people that may have just heard the name of the band, but definitely do not own any of our records. So we get up there an do our thing and I guarantee that a small percentage of that audience will go home when the show’s over and check out something online and then maybe steal some music (laughs) and eventually hopefully buy it and then maybe next time we are playing in their town, they might buy a ticket, because they really enjoyed themselves and now they want to come back and see us do a headline show.
As a band, that’s how your building your fan-base. Preaching to the converted, there’s nothing wrong with that either, because when you’re playing a show like Bloodstock, Wacken or Loudpark in Tokyo, which we just did in October and was mind-blowing! With those shows, we’re with our people and those gigs are way more exciting to play, it almost doesn’t feel like work, it’s more like Christmas morning!
When we are playing a more mainstream festival, which we don’t do all that often, sometimes we can end up playing these really weird bills. For example; we found ourselves in a festival in Sweden with Lana Del Ray and Kayne West and we were just looking at each other and thinking “what the fuck are we even doing here” (laughs). The only two metal bands that whole weekend were Anthrax and Iron Maiden and there was something like 40 thousand people out there watching us. It’s very possible that we made some new fans that day, but we were up there fucking working that shit, because people aren’t just going crazy because they know who we are and what we can do.
Whereas at Bloodstock, people are there to just fucking party! It’s like we’re here to see all the bands we love and we’re gonna fucking go nuts and in that case we work just as hard, as to not let our fans down. It’s a different kind of energy or course, because it’s just so much better when you’re playing to people who know our shit!
OD – When you think back to when you started out and being part of the whole thrash explosion, do you feel that you were part of something that was exceptionally special? It seems that since heavy metal really began to take hold, there has not been a ground breaking sub-genre within metal that has had the same impact as thrash!
SCOTT IAN -You know when you’re in it, it’s hard to see that.We always felt like we had something to say. Since day one, which was July 18th 1981, when Danny Lilker (ex Anthrax, Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth bassist) and I started the band, we felt like we really had something to say! There is a reason why Anthrax still exists as a band and a reason why metal-heads all over the world like us and that’s because we all felt like we had something to say and something different to give, that had not been done before. We’ve always felt that way and when things started to blow up around us, by around 1987, with “Among The Living”. During May and December of that year, we went from 500 people at a club show, to 5 thousand people in a large theatre, in just 8 months and we were thinking “where the fuck did all these people come from, where were they a year and a half ago?”!
OD – When you think back to that, it must have been mind-blowing?
SCOTT IAN – Yea totally, it was really trippy, but we were working so hard and just so in the thick of it constantly. We were so in it, our heads hardly came up for air, but there were a few moments that stand out that are all in a way financially related!
One was at the end of ’87 and I was standing there with Charlie watching Celtic Frost from side stage, as they happened to be opening for us at the Aragon Ballroom Theatre in Chicago to 5,500 people and the last time we had played in Chicago was in the Metro, to like 1,000 people. So we’re standing there and I say “when did all of this happen?” and Charlie looks at me, shrugging his shoulders like “I don’t know man”. I was just thinking “holy-shit, this is fucking insane”!! So that was one of those moments where I just stopped and thought about it all and then cut to like 1991 and we had just finished Clash of The Titans in the U.S. with Megadeth and Slayer, which was the biggest tour we had ever done and we got to headline Madison Square Garden.
Bear in mind, when this happened, I was still living in this tiny, shitty apartment and was basically near broke! I hadn’t made any money yet really. I had enough to not have a day job, but that’s about it. I was living in this small apartment and I didn’t have a fancy car or anything like that. I was just surviving for want of a better word, just working to eat, in a kind of “hand-to-mouth” way. About a month after that tour ended, the bands business manager call’s me up and he’s says, “where do you want me to send your check?”! I’m scratching my head and say “check?, check for what?”, because at this point in my career the only money that we ever received, was when you signed a new deal and you got a small little advance and if you were really lucky, you would get like $5,000 or something like that and I would normally be like “woo-hoo”, I can go buy a new T.V. or something like that.
So this guy is on the phone to me asking where to send the check and I’m asking him, “a check for what, what did we do. Did we sign a new merchandise deal or something?” and he answers saying “no, this is your profit from the tour!”, so I’m like “profit from the tour?”. You have to remember, this was in 1991, around the time of “Persistence of Time” (1990) and “Attack of the Killer B’s” (1991) and we had never made a dime on any tour up to that point, because we used to bring these giant stage sets out on the road with us. We carried those huge stage productions around with us, so every dime of profit from the shows, used to facilitate that. We never saw a dime on tour until that Clash of The Titans tour. After that I was like, ” it’s actually possible to make money from touring?”, so then after that, we were fucking done with the big stage production stuff, we were like, “we’re never bringing this shit with us again, fuck that, we can totally make some money!”
OD – The last time I saw you with a big stage set was on “State Of Euphoria” with the red and yellow ramps in Brixton Academy!
SCOTT IAN – Yea man, I remember that tour. You see Iron Maiden were our hero’s and that’s just what we wanted at the time. Every time we went to see Maiden live, they had this fucking huge stage and it was just awesome to see live! Iron Maiden is a band that we have always looked up to and we just have to keep doing the same thing and keep making the show bigger.
Then we realised, “fuck that shit”, as it was just costing so much to be carting that stuff around from country to country. Our manager at the time, used to say to us “you know how much that shit is costing you to ship to Japan?. You could just go with back-line,” and we would be like “we have to have our huge-fucking stage, we can’t play without our stage” (laughs). I would see the accounting afterwards and see that we had spent something like a hundred thousand dollars shipping fucking yellow and red ramps to Japan, or where ever we had shows around the world. We learned out lesson, but God-damn it, we had a hell of time and a lot of fun along the way (laughs).
For All Kings will be released on February 26th via Nuclear Blast. To pre-order your copy including limited clear vinyl, limited blue vinyl and limited CD box set, please click the graphic link below.
Interview / transcription – Oran O’Beirne
Photography – Stock via Nuclear Blast / Anthrax © 2015
FOLLOW OVERDRIVE FOR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEWS / COMPETITIONS / GIG LISTINGS / REVIEWS AND MUCH MORE!