Metal icons Anthrax returned to Montreal at the Bell Center last Wednesday night as part of their reunion tour. Some 5000 fans had gathered despite the crappy weather to see these rockers give it all they’ve got. I had a chance to sit down with the band’s guitarist Scott Ian before the show and this is what we talked about.
The Concordian: Why did Anthrax want to reunite?
Ian: I don’t know. Charlie, the drummer, asked me last summer what I thought and I said “Why not?” In my mind I figured that if we didn’t do it now, we would never do it, so we should at least try.
The Concordian: Reuniting is not possible with every band because sometimes band members no longer talk. Why was it possible with Anthrax?
Ian: It was never bad blood, let’s put it that way. I can’t say that we’ve all remained friends or in contact over the last thirteen years but there was never really any bad blood between anybody. I think that’s what made it possible.
The Concordian: Now, when Anthrax gets up on stage, do you feel that there’s still that same old chemistry?
Ian: Sure, absolutely!
The Concordian: Anthrax issued two releases in September: The Anthrology and the live DVD. Why did you guys want to do that?
Ian: I guess we wanted to document what we were doing so we did the DVD, and the “greatest hits no hit wonder” thing, that was the label’s idea. Island came to us and asked us about doing it because none of that stuff has ever been remastered for CD, so it’s about time that some of it finally did get remastered. Also, if you’ve never listened to the band before, it would be a good introduction.
The Concordian: Anthrax has influenced so many bands over the years. What influences you today?
Ian: Wow! That’s a tough one. I don’t know about exterior influences or other bands. If anything what we do influences me, what Anthrax does, what we did on our last record, the challenge of doing something better than that. Just being Anthrax, I pick up a guitar and come up with ideas, it just sounds like us. I do listen to a lot of music but I don’t think that we sound like anything else specifically unless you still count like old Sabbath because that will always be in our music. I don’t think anything recently. I love System Of A Down but it would be kind of stupid if I wrote a riff that sounded like something of theirs: It would be kind of obvious and cheesy (laughs).
The Concordian: Do you think there’s a lot of good metal bands out there right now? Do you think the scene’s doing well?
Ian: Yah, I think it’s healthier than it’s been in a really long time. We just did Gigantour in western Canada with Megadeth and it was great! There’s a lot of other bands out there too that are just great. It’s the first time that there’s been so many good bands in a long time, I think.
The Concordian: It seems like a lot of bands are into the whole fashion thing now and you guys have always been known for just being the regular guys. What do you think of that?
Ian: I don’t think anything. Everyone does what they do. I will never judge anybody for how they look or what they sound like. If you’re picking up an instrument and a microphone and you are going to be in a band then more power to you and good luck!
The Concordian: Anthrax is associated with the organization Slave To The Metal. Why did you want to get involved with that cause?
Ian: This situation was pretty unique because it was based around the Anthrax vaccine that the government was trying to force the troops to take. Obviously, the name of our band is Anthrax, so we just felt that if there was anything that we could do by lending our name to raise awareness amongst a lot of people who are probably fans of our band, whether they are actually guys in the military or people who are fans of Anthrax who have family that are in the military, just anything we could do to raise awareness of something we thought was a really f**cked up situation. But normally, it’s not like we’re out there. We’re not Bono by any means or any guys like that who are out there and actively pursing an interest to make the world better. This just so happened to be the name of the band.
The Concordian: You guys have done a lot for metal music during your career. Have you accomplished everything you set out to do?
Ian: Yah, I accomplished that in 1983, which was going to make a record. That was about the extent of what I wanted. That was my goal. If it all would have ended after the first album, then that’s what would have happened. That was my drive in the beginning: I wanted to be able to have a band and go and record an album and take it from there. I accomplished that and made my goals way back when. The last twenty years after that have just been cake on top of it.
The Concordian: Does Anthrax have a mission today?
Ian: No. We’re a rock band. There’s not a lot of thinking behind it other than we know how good we are as a live band and the challenge of writing songs and the creative challenge of making records. That’s what drives us. If there’s any mission it’s just to try and be better than we were last year or three years ago.
The Concordian: I read in the biography on your website that one of the reasons Anthrax wanted to come back is because you felt there was some unfinished business and you wanted to educate your younger audience. Is that true?
Ian: I think that with anything, people should know where things come from. If you’re 12 years old and you’ve just gotten into metal because you saw a video on MTV or something from a new band, most people that are into this music do their own homework. They go back and they find out where it all started and where it came from. I think just seeing us live is a lesson enough. When people see us live for the first time, I think it gives them a very good understanding and knowledge of this music, where we came from, and bands that came after us.
The Concordian: Do you feel that Anthrax is still relevant today?
Ian: Sure! Why not? Whatever that really means I don’t know. Because relevant in the sense that people still like listening to us, sure! People still like to come and see us live, yes! What that all really means I don’t know other than it’s just fun to go out and see a great show and listen to a great album.
The Concordian: Over the years, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of things change. What has been the biggest change?
Ian: I guess the only big difference these days is that in the 80s everyone had worse hair. Kids getting into metal now don’t look as goofy as they did in 1986 or 1987. That’s about the only change. As far as the attitude, that’s all the same.
The Concordian: What are you most proud of?
Ian: Still doing it as a career. I think that’s the coolest thing that we’ve gotten to do this for so long. We’re in control of our own destiny now. We’re really not at the whims of, well in a sense we are at the whims of the industry and the business side of it, but we get to call our own shots and do our own thing and no one interferes with what we do creatively. It’s just nice to be in that position. Having that small amount of power to control your own destiny is pretty cool.
The Concordian: When this is all said and done, how would you like Anthrax to be remembered?
Ian: (laughs) I don’t know. My initial answer to that is that I’d like to be forgotten truthfully. Just leave me the hell alone! I’m just kidding. I don’t know. I guess as an individual or personally, just as a band that always did what we wanted. We were always ahead of the curve. If anything, that will be on my tombstone: “He was ahead of his time.” That’s been my curse and my prize my whole life.