Anthrax’s Scott Ian Thinks Time Off Amid Pandemic Will ‘Do Wonders’ for Bands’ Creativity
Anthrax's Scott Ian was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. Ahead of the band's 40th anniversary livestream event featuring deep cuts spanning the entirety of their catalog, the guitarist reflected on four decades of history and the fun he had reliving such a historic career.
The 'Anthrax 40' video series was broken down into 11 separate episodes, which aired weekly leading up to the July 16 livestream event and featured band members past and present as they took fans on a journey through the detailed history of one thrash's biggest acts.
In the interview, Ian discussed which songs and albums from the discography he feels have been a bit overlooked or lost, while expressing the excitement of revisiting his music, as he doesn't often listen to his own albums.
He also looked ahead toward the future of Anthrax, who are aiming to release a new album in 2022. The pandemic halted the group's writing process, but Ian confidently stated that the events of the last year-plus will have a positive effect on creativity for all musicians.
Read the full interview below and to learn more about the 40th anniversary livestream, which will feature an unnamed special guest, head here.
Anthrax has been commemorating their 40th anniversary this year. What emotions were you unprepared to experience while recollecting so much history?
I can't really say there was anything unexpected. It's been a really nice trip down memory lane doing the episodes of this docuseries that we've been running every week now for weeks. We were already up to the Volume 8 record [at the time this interview was conducted].
If anything it's just been a lot of fun recounting the making of records and stories and giving the history the due that it deserves.
It's easy to just say 40 years, but how do you put that into any type of context? The weight of that is just unbelievable. Maybe the unexpected thing was the fun of reliving so much of the band's history and talking about it so much that in a weird way it lightened the load of 40 years because you can really look back on it.
The Anthrax '40' series really personifies the band beyond music. How are the different personalities and the way they interact ultimately inherent to the music?
It's everything — that's the Anthrax sound. It's what we are and who we are. Everything about us personally has gone into our music since day one. We've always been very open about who we are as people and our influences.
We've never been afraid to show any face to the public for better or worse. We've never been afraid to smile in photos. We've never been afraid to explore other types of music outside of thrash metal. Anthrax is us and I know that sounds very, 'duh, of course,' but it really is — more so than a lot of other bands.
So much of our personalities come out. I'm obviously a fan of many bands in many types of music and I don't know what I'm trying to say here really, other than we very much wear our heart on our sleeves. It's very apparent when you listen to us.
'Anthrax 40' Episode 1
It's clear that there's a lot of really good music still to come from this band. What's different about your eagerness to make music as a seasoned musician compared to a beginner learning the craft?
I very much feel like we look at songwriting the same way as we did 40 years ago. We're just trying to do our best in the moment and in the time that we have to make a record.
Every record is a photograph — or if I want to be more 'artsy fartsy' about it — a painting that is very representative of that time in our lives. It's the same going forward at this point into a record that will hopefully come out in 2022.
We actually started writing in 2019 — pre-COVID — and stepped away from things when COVID happened. We were all separate and apart and we would revisit some of the demos, but we weren't actively working on it. That's actually started up again over the last couple of months, reopening the books on the new material and thinking about it and working on it.
By the time we get to the other side of the writing process and decide we're ready to record it, I would have to assume it's certainly going to represent this time in our lives. Having gone through a pandemic I imagine that's in some way, shape or form going to come out through this next record. I can't tell you how yet, but I would have to think it's going to.
What overlooked music would you like someone discovering or rediscovering Anthrax to search out and why?
There's a few of our records that I wouldn't say got lost in the shuffle over the years, but ones that will always come up first — Among the Living, Sound of White Noise, maybe the last two records, Worship Music and For All Kings, probably because they're great records, but they're also the most current.
Re-listening to everything is not something I do on a regular basis. I don't go back and listen to our catalog unless I have to relearn a song if we're going to play it live.
Persistence of Time... I can't say it was overlooked because when it came out it did great. It went Gold immediately and it sold a ton of records around the world. There's obviously some big Anthrax songs on that record, but I feel like there's a lot of the deeper cuts on that record that people forgot about. I forgot about them.
"Keep it in the Family" is kind of a big one. We play that live a lot, but for me, that might be one of the best songs we ever wrote. I just think it's a masterpiece.
Some of the John Bush era — after Sound of White Noise things started to go awry a little bit with us and record companies. Some of those records did get lost, specifically, the Volume 8 record, which we put out in the summer of '98 and the label we were on quickly went out of business and you literally couldn't get it in the stores. There were no more CDs and there was none being made. It's kind of a lost album.
Now you can get it online and stream it, but to get a physical copy? I don't know if they're even out there. Volume 8 also has some amazing songs on it — "Inside Out" has a video which is like a take on a Twilight Zone episode. It's got Dimebag Darrell playing lead and he sings on that song. There's some great tracks on that record too, such as "Killing Box," that I feel like people are missing out on.
Anthrax, "Inside Out" Music Video
The world is navigating back toward a pre-COVID routine. What did you learn about yourself throughout the pandemic, both as a musician and a person, that you'll continue forward?
The main thing I just learned as a person and as a human on this planet is you really can't take anything for granted. Something like this comes along and shuts the whole planet down. I don't think many people ever thought that was going to happen. Well, maybe scientists and people who have been warning about this stuff for ages...
But me, as a guy in a metal band, [never] thought that a pandemic was going to happen and that everything you do is going to stop and live music is going to completely stop. All the people involved — fans, crews, people who work at venues — just the trickle-down factor of live music going away, I can't imagine how many billions of dollars were lost.
I'm not even talking about the actual human toll — the people who were horribly sick, people who died, people who lost people. When I think about what happened and what is still happening in a lot of places on the planet right now — it's worse now in Brazil than it ever was here in the United States and that's a year and a half into it.
You really can't take anything for granted and you really have to appreciate everything you're doing in the moment. You could wake up tomorrow and the world is going to kind of shake its finger at you and say, 'Nope, not yet.'
It really puts things, as they said in This Is Spinal Tap, in a little bit too much perspective.
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Not to make light of a horrible situation, but I'm lucky. I stayed home with my wife and my son for 15 months and there's nowhere else I would rather be. I got to take a break on a completely different side of this thing.
I think for bands in general, it's going to be an amazing thing creatively because every band is basically getting almost a two year break from the grind. Most bands can't ever say, 'We are taking two years off.' So the fact that every band got to step away for a minute to kind of clear their heads, it's going to do wonders for creativity.
Thanks to Scott Ian for the interview. Follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify and grab tickets for Anthrax's career-spanning livestream show (set for July 16), head here.