Scott Ian: Anthrax’s Singer Issues Paved the Way for the Damned Things
Scott Ian’s new band, the Damned Things came together while the guitarist was treading water in Chicago. Before he knew it, he was in a new supergroup with Fall Out Boy guitarist Joe Trohman and drummer Andy Hurley, Every Time I Die vocalist Keith Buckley and bassist Josh Newton and Anthrax guitarist and producer Rob Caggiano.
“It’s really weird, because Anthrax really created the window for this to happen,” Ian told Noisecreep. “Because the band got so sidetracked by our singer problems, it really made it possible for me to [be in] the Damned Things. Obviously, if Anthrax had been working consistently and Dan Nelson never quit or John decided he wanted to work full-time, then I don’t think I would have had the time to do this properly.”
The Damned Things recently finished tracking their debut full-length album, which may be titled ‘Greatest Hits,’ and will release the disc on Interscope Records in the coming months. Before Anthrax launched their latest U.S tour with Megadeth and Slayer, Noisecreep talked with Ian about hooking up with members of Fall Out Boy, how the Damned Things are not exactly the sum of their parts and how being Damned is like being reborn.
When were the seeds first planted for the Damned Things?
The genesis of it was about four years ago. Joe and I were both endorsed by Washburn guitar and our A&R guy was a mutual friend who kept telling us individually that we had to hang out with one another. He even used to say to me specifically, “Look, I know he’s in Fall Out Boy but he’s a really great guy.” I was like, “I don’t give a f— what band he’s in.” There are plenty of bands I don’t like, but I like the musicians who play in them. And not that I hate Fall Out Boy. Truthfully, I didn’t know anything about Fall Out Boy other than they were named after a character on ‘The Simpsons.’
What was it like when you finally hooked up with Joe?
It was funny because I actually thought Pete Wentz was their singer, and one of the first times Joe and I hung out, I had just seen them on some TV show and I said, “How come that other guy was singing and not your bass player?” And he goes, “Uh, ’cause that other guy is our singer.” And I went, “Well there you go. That shows you what I know about your band.” But we quickly became friends. We had a lot of common musically and stuff we were into so we took it from there.
How did you go from friends to becoming bandmates?
One night four years ago, Joe was in L.A. for one night on his way to Japan, and he said, “Hey, you wanna come over to the hotel and have some drinks and maybe bring a guitar and we’ll try and write some riffs?” And I was like, “Yeah, why not?” I came over and we jammed and came up with a couple ideas that were really cool. And that was the start. From that point, any time we could work, we did. And it turned out we ended up having quite a bit of time when I was with Anthrax in Chicago where Joe was living. All my time away from Anthrax I was hanging with Joe, because we were writing and working on the Anthrax album with Dan Nelson that never got released. So all my time away from Anthrax, I was hanging with Joe writing this stuff that was to become the Damned Things. And the more we wrote, the more [we] realized it was becoming something real. That’s when we got Keith in the band.
Did you know Keith Buckley?
No, Joe did. We were literally driving around one night listening to Every Time I Die in the car, and we were talking about who we would get as a singer if we had a wish list, and I said, “F—ing Keith Buckley.” And Joe said, “Well, I know the dude.” So he texted him right there and invited him to jam with us. And then he said, “He’s never gonna get back to me. The dude never replies.” Two minutes later Keith wrote back and said, “Yes, yes, yes. I’m in. Don’t call anyone else.” We said, “OK, that’s a good sign.”
How did you get the rest of the lineup together?
We knew Andy Hurley would be the drummer. Right from the start Joe said, “Do you mind if Andy’s the drummer?” And I was like, “No, that’s fine.” And then we brought Rob [Caggiano] into the fold late in the game. We were just out one night late in New York and from me working with him in Anthrax, I just thought he’d be really valuable asset to this band both in terms of playing and production work. So we dropped the bomb on his head one night at a bar. We said, “Hey, do you want to be in this?” And he’s like, “F— yeah, I want to be involved in this.” He also got involved in the writing and the thing kept growing and growing till late 2009 when we felt we were ready to make a record. We had enough material and the songs were strong enough.
Are the Damned Things the sum of their parts, an amalgamation of Anthrax, Fall Out Boy and Every Time I Die?
I really don’t hear anything from any of our bands in this. It sounds like something completely new to me. We haven’t reinvented music or anything. It’s still hard rock/heavy metal. It represents the genres of music that we all come from, but it doesn’t sound specifically like any of our bands. For me, I hear a lot of elements of classic rock, I hear a lot of elements of older school heavy metal, but at the same time I hear a lot of modern rock as well. There are definitely influences coming from Rob, Keith and Joe because the three of them were really responsible for most of the melody ideas and the big choruses. Those guys are all influenced by all kinds of sh- all across the board. It definitely sounds fresh. The energy of it is amazing and I’m dying for people to hear it.
How many songs did you record?
We recorded 12 tracks. And some of the titles are ‘We’ve Got a Situation Here,’ ‘Little Black Heart,’ ‘Ironiclast’ and ‘Grave Robber.’ We don’t have a title yet. Keith’s been sending some ideas. Joe and I want to call it ‘Greatest Hits,’ but we don’t know if we’ll actually run with that.
Does Keith Buckley rant like a maniac, as he does in Every Time I Die?
No, he’s actually singing on it. The material definitely called for singing, not screaming. There certainly are elements of what people are familiar with from Keith, but people are gonna be really surprised. He can sing his ass off; he’s a rock singer. If you listen to Every Time I Die songs like ‘Wanderlust’ or ‘Werewolf,’ where he pulls back from the full-on screaming, you get to hear a little bit of where he can go, but Rob and Joe really pushed him in the studio and he actually went and took lessons with Melissa Cross. He said, “I could scream all day long and it’s no problem, but you guys have me scream for an hour and my voice is done.” So she helped him build up his stamina and strengthen his voice. He was totally into it, because he wanted to grow as an artist and he’s just so amazing on this record.
Were there any shenanigans in the studio?
Not really. It was a collaborative process, so when we were working on the record, the longest all of us were together in one room was maybe two or three days. But I’m sure we’ll have a bunch of stories soon because we have such a good time when we’re together. I’m super excited about everything we’ve got going on. It’s like getting to be in a new band again and starting from day one.