Band’s founding rhythm guitarist and sole lyricist, Scott Ian, talks touring, hitting 37 years together and his writing career.
Veteran thrash quintet Anthrax turns 37 this year. Known as one of the “Big Four” metal bands (alongside Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth), the long-running East Coast rockers are currently celebrating the milestone with their second consecutive co-headlining tour with metalcore colleagues Killswitch Engage.
When the “KILLTHRAX” tour wraps up, the band’s original plan was to head back into the studio for a follow-up to 2016’s For All Kings — their 11th studio album.
That was the plan until Slayer announced their upcoming retirement tour and asked Anthrax to join them on this summer’s North American leg — which just happens to kick off May 10 in San Diego.
And while Anthrax won’t join the farewell run until a few days later in Sacramento, there’s a good chance they will support Slayer on further legs of the tour.
Anthrax’s founding rhythm guitarist, and band’s sole lyricist, Scott Ian, will have to put his other writing career on hold as well.
After penning two successful tell-all’s — 2014’s I’m The Man: The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax and December’s Access All Areas: Stories From A Hard Rock Life — fans will have to wait a bit longer for Ian’s third installment of rock debauchery.
But according to the guitarist, who recently spoke with PACIFIC while traveling to Birmingham, Alabama, he just takes it all as it comes.
PACIFIC: The band has played some amazing shows in San Diego over the years. Do you remember Clash of the Titans? Alice in Chains opened up — (singer) Layne (Staley) was still alive — and the moment you guys took the stage, every chair on the Sports Arena (now Valley View Casino Center) floor ended up in a big pile.
SCOTT IAN: We actually had a guy that worked for all three headlining bands (us, Slayer, and Megadeth) on that tour. He was the head of security and venue liaison. His main job was explaining to venues and promoters that if they kept the seats in they had to sign a document that indemnified the tour from any damage responsibility. Back then, the promoters would say, “We’ve been doing shows for 20 years. We know what we’re doing.” But they still had to sign off on it if they wanted the show to go on. Otherwise, we would have had to pay more to replace the seats than we made on the tour. And yes, I remember that show well.
37 years… Wow. Congratulations. Any thoughts on 40?
Thanks. And yeah, I’m pretty old in band years. But other than having a shirt with four Xs on it, I can’t think of anything.
Saw some of the new live DVD Kings Among Scotland (which will be released at the end of April). You guys sound as tight as you ever did.
Well, I like to think that the longer you do something, the better you get at it. And I think I’d say that about any walk in life, any job you’re doing. If you’ve been doing it for 37 years and you still suck at it, you should’ve gotten out a long time ago.
And some people, of course, when they read that will say, “well, then, you guys should’ve quit a long time ago” (laughs). But for me, I’m better today than I was 37 years ago. I’m better today than I was 20 years ago. I know I’m a better player. I’m better at it because I’ve been doing it for so long. That’s a big part of it.
Just a part of playing together for so long?
For sure. People always ask me, “Hey, can I come watch sound check?” We don’t sound check (laughs). Maybe the first show of a tour or if we’re having issues with monitors or something. But we know what we’re doing. We play off of each other so well that essentially, and I should knock on wood when I say this, there’s just not going to be a train wreck up there. And if there is, the audience will never know. We’re way too good at covering it up (laughs).
The new, 2-hour DVD live show was filmed in Scotland. Is there a big discrepancy between metal audiences in Europe versus those in the U.S.?
It’s so hard to say. It’s so much more a feeling than a verbal statement when you’re playing shows in different places around the planet. Audiences feel differently no matter where you play.
The show in Milwaukee the other night was the best one of this run so far. It’ll probably be the show to beat. The crowd was just that much more into it, responsive, passionate, and doing an audience’s job. And I could say that about anywhere in the world.
When we play in Madrid, it’s probably going to be better than somewhere like Germany. Some places are just better than others. South America is the best. There’s no better metal audience than Santiago, Chile. They’re the best and take pride in it. They know they’re the best and don’t want to let bands down. They don’t want to slip and let a place like Argentina take the lead. And I’m not making this s**t up. It’s just the way it is.
But metal audiences are always great. There’s a certain bar that’s always there. It’s never a bummer — let’s put it that way. It’s just that there’s good and then there’s great, and then there’s insane.
And Milwaukee is vying to be the Santiago of North America…
Well, so far on this tour, they are.
You’ve written a couple of books now. Can fans expect more from you?
Maybe. It all comes down to if I have an idea and I have the time to work on it. So my answer right now is that I have no idea. And I’m not currently writing at this moment. There are a few ideas kicking around and hopefully I’ll have the time to start expanding on them. But both books were a ton of hard work and took a lot of time to write. So unless I know I can have the time to really do that and commit myself to the work, I can’t really get started.
And, after this tour with Killswitch Engage wraps up, you’re right back out on the road, right?
Well, we have a two-month break between this and the Slayer run.
For All Kings is two years old now. Will there be a next one? Have you started thinking about that yet?
Yes, there will be another release. There are no songs yet, but we have a bunch of killer ideas. And, it’s really a parallel to what I just said about me being able to go write books — we just need to have the time to start arranging songs.
We thought that was going to happen after this Killthrax run (laughs). We were going to get together, take some time and start arranging. (Drummer) Charlie (Benante) has sent me a bunch of awesome riff ideas. It’s always great when I get a call from him with riffs that he’s excited about. But now that we have the Slayer thing, which kind of came out of nowhere, we’ve put the getting together and writing thing on the back burner. It now looks like a lot 2018 will be touring for us. But at some point, we’ll all sit down together and get it done. It’s just not going to be as soon as we thought it was going to be.
The Killthrax Tour with Anthrax and Killswitch Engage
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 13
Where: House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave., downtown