Artist Q&A: Catching Up with Scott Ian | Celebrating Metal with Anthrax’s Founder

Artist Q&A: Catching Up with Scott Ian | Celebrating Metal with Anthrax’s Founder

By William Glanz

Anthrax founding member Scott Ian is one of the most visible artists in metal.

In addition to achieving thrash metal superstardom, Ian also has elevated his profile through acting (he was a zombie in the television show The Walking Dead) and writing two books (I’m the Man and Access All Areas: Stories from a Hard Rock Life).

Ian, 54, had just finished the band’s Killthrax Tour when we called to catch up. With Slayer’s decision earlier this year to retire from touring, we’ve been reaching out to the musicians who helped make the metal genre what it is today.

Antrax rhythm guitarist, Scott Ian.

Ian is the second member of metal’s Big Four we interviewed. Last week we published our interview with Dave Mustaine of Megadeth.

SoundExchange: When Slayer announced plans retire after this year’s tour, we began to wonder about the legends of the genre – the Big Four of metal – and whether they would retire, too. Does Anthrax have any plans to retire? Or do you plan to continue recording and touring?

Ian: It’s not something we’ve given any thought to.

SoundExchange: You’ve said before that you are energized by performing. Can you even imagine calling it quits?

Ian: Someday, but it’s not something we’re talking about currently or will be talking about in the near future. It’s just not something that’s on the table at this point.

SoundExchange: Did Slayer’s announcement surprise you? What was your reaction when you heard the news?

Ian: No, it didn’t surprise me because I know them and we’ve spent a lot of time playing shows together over the last few years. So, being a party to… I wouldn’t say inside information because I didn’t know that announcement was coming.

When we got asked to do the Slayer dates we had no idea that it was going to be some kind of finale. But at the same time, I wasn’t surprised because I think it’s something that’s been floating around for a while.

SoundExchange: Anthrax plans to tour with Slayer beginning in May. How does it feel to be part of Slayer’s final tour?

I can tell you when we’re on the final tour.

SoundExchange: Do you have anything special planned for that tour to recognize Slayer’s career?

Ian: What do you get someone for 37 years? Is that a Timex? A G-Shock? What kind of a watch do get for 37 years? I don’t know. We’re going to get on stage and give it everything we have in the time we’re allotted.

SoundExchange: You’ve teamed up with Slayer for many tours over the years. Which of those tours or specific shows was your favorite, and what made it memorable?

Ian: I don’t know. You’re asking the wrong guy to pick favorites. I don’t know how to judge or what criteria I would use to say what was better.

They’re all good. Anytime we’ve toured together, it puts it on a different level. I think it’s something the fans really enjoy. I think Slayer feels similarly because they did ask us to be on the last run. We’re doing two legs here in the states, and there’s more coming that I can’t announce yet.

Instead of picking a favorite, I would rather say they’re a band that I certainly enjoy touring with. There’s a short list of bands that has always been great whether it’s Slayer or Iron Maiden or Metallica. You know it’s going to be amazing. I feel like it’s a treat for the crowd. I think fans get just as excited as I do when I get the call saying “hey, do you want to do a bunch of Slayer dates?”

Yeah, of course I do. I think when the audience hears that, they get just as excited. The proof is there because the shows are selling out quickly. When you see that announcement, that poster, that ad… it gets the blood going.

SoundExchange: Can the Big Four pull off another concert before Slayer retires from touring, and would you support another Big Four concert?

Ian: Certainly. Whether or not it’s going to happen… no clue. But we would love to be a part of it. Of course.

Anthrax (L-R) – bass guitar: Frank Bello; rhythm guitar: Scott Ian, lead vocals: Joey Belladonna; drums: Charlie Benante; lead guitar: Jonathan Donais

SoundExchange: Do you think there are any rising metal bands that will fill the void left behind by Slayer’s retirement?

Ian: No. That’s not a negative. There’s one Slayer. That’s it. There’s no one that fills that void, it’s just that Slayer won’t be there anymore. We’ll have the music to listen to forever, but there will only be one Slayer. There will only be one Anthrax. There will only be one Iron Maiden, and so on.

Other bands will become big and do their own thing, but they won’t replace Slayer or fill a void.

SoundExchange: Are you working on new music or have plans to go into the studio?

Ian: Eventually. We thought we were going to start doing that this year, but now we’ve got 60 Slayer shows to play. It’s kind of put a hold on getting together and writing because now we’ve got this exciting stuff to do.

But, yes, that is certainly the plan at some point.

SoundExchange: Anything you want to add about Slayer?

Ian: We love those guys. I’ve been a fan since the first record. I think it’s remarkable what they’ve done. They’re a band that’s never, ever, ever compromising. To reach the height of success that they have, it’s just a testament to how great they are at what they do, as well as how much people love them around the planet.

It really shows you that what they do matters. People love it, and it means something to so many people on the planet, and that’s because they’re great and great at what they do.

SoundExchange: People have said some very nice things about Slayer since they made the announcement about their retirement. Do you think they were surprised by that, or did they already know how much people appreciate them and their music?

Ian: I think they know. I think they have a good idea. The fact that they’re able to tour at the level they tour after all this time, that gives a good indication of where you’re at in people’s minds when you can go out and sell that many tickets.

That’s really a good barometer that shows you how people feel about you and still feel about you. People want to come back every time and see it again. That means a lot. To me, that means more than words. You play a show, and a year and a half later people want to see you again. They want to experience it. They want to feel it.

Read our interview from April 4 with Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine.