Scott Ian, an American musician, best known as being the rhythm guitarist with thrash metal band Anthrax, chats with Kevin Cooper about why the UK is so special to the band, what is on the top of his rider list, playing Rock City and their forthcoming 2022 40th anniversary UK tour.

Scott Ian is an American musician, best known as the rhythm guitarist and co-founder of the thrash metal band Anthrax. He is also the guitarist and a founding member of the crossover thrash band Stormtroopers Of Death for which he is also the lyricist. He is also involved with a number of other bands.

Witnessing Kiss live at Madison Square Garden in 1977 had a huge impact upon Ian, and he admits that he was also influenced by British heavy metal bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Judas Priest.

Anthrax were formed in 1981 by both Ian and bassist Dan Lilker, and whilst the line up has changed numerous times, Ian remains the only constant of the band playing rhythm guitar on all of the bands recordings.

Anthrax have released eleven studio albums and twenty six singles and in 2012 won a Classic Rock Roll of Honour Award for the Outstanding Hard Rock Album. Between 1991 and 2015 they were nominated for six Grammy Awards.

Whilst busy rehearsing for their forthcoming UK tour, Scott Ian took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Scott, how are you?

Hi Kevin, I’m fine thanks for asking, how’s it going your end?

All is good thanks, and before we get started, let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

No worries man. It’s my pleasure.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

What can I say, life is good. We have just finished a big tour of the USA and I’m glad to say that it went great. It was our first tour back since lockdown and I have to say that it was pretty fucking fantastic (laughter). I am currently enjoying some time off at home with my family, and we are now getting close to coming back over there to the UK. I haven’t been over to England since 2019, well over three years now which is the longest that I haven’t been in England since 1984; since my very first time there. I have never not been to England for that long a period of time, so I am very excited about getting back over there.

How did you cope with lockdown?

(Laughter) well I managed to put on a little bit of weight during the first six months, there was a little too much food and a little too much drink I fear (laughter). Other than that, I don’t like to make light of the horrible scenario that the whole planet faced but, as someone who has done nothing but pretty much travelled the planet since 1984, getting to stay home for two and a half years for me, even in the most horrible circumstance, for me was not that much of a problem. It gave me the chance to spend time with my wife and son, get to be home and be like a family once again. All the fear of not knowing just what the hell was going on, of course was terrible, but at the same time, especially in those first few months where we were just basically at home.

We would go hiking, we would make food, and for me it was just an incredible experience. I don’t know how to frame it really, in a positive way, without it sounding shitty, but none of us got sick, none of my extended family got sick, and I really enjoyed my time 24/7 with my wife and son. It was a time to reset which I think I needed; in fact, I think that it was time that a lot of people in a lot of bands needed.

You have now been active in the music business for forty-one years. Have you enjoyed the ride so far?

(Laughter) I’m just getting going; we are just warming up (laughter). I honestly have no complaints. If you can make it this far in a band and still be playing with three of the guys who I have spent most of my career with, then there is absolutely nothing to complain about. Essentially, we have been able to make our own decisions, call our own shots for a very long time, and decide what we want to do and when we want to do it, and if you ever get to that point being in a band, where you are able to make your own decisions in that way and not really base your decisions on money so much, then that is a really good place to be. We do everything on how it makes us feel, it’s emotional rather than business, and let me tell you, that is a good place to be because it is all about having fun.

With Anthrax it’s all about, ‘is this going to be fun, yes, it is, well let’s go ahead and do it. Is it going to be creatively satisfying, yes, well then let’s do it’ (laughter). We have now been in that place for a long time, and I only wish that for every band out there, working their asses off trying to make things happen. Don’t get me wrong, it took us a very long time to get to that place and we are now in that place. For us to still be doing it some forty-one years in, it really is great. It makes me feel like I did back in the eighties. That has rarely ever changed; my attitude about getting to play shows has never changed. It really is a privilege, for me to get up on stage and share with people what we do, all around the planet, and we still do it for that very same reason.

Although 2021 was the bands 40th anniversary, the planned global anniversary tour was delayed due to travel complications arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, you are now bringing the tour to Europe beginning on 27th September with special guests Municipal Waste. Are you looking forward to that?

Oh man, so much so. As you know we had to cancel all of the European dates on this upcoming run. It was originally intended to be a much longer tour. However, because of the financials of this world that we live in, because this tour was all booked a long time ago, and now all of the costs involved with going on tour have doubled and even in some cases tripled which has made it impossible for us to come over to Europe and do the whole run. Having said that, we were able to save the UK leg and it was so important for us to be able to do that. We all felt like, ‘come on, we have got to do at least some of this. Can we just go and do the UK dates’.

So, we were able to figure that out and make it happen. So, it is now even more exciting for us as we are now able to at least come over and do some of it. Against all the odds we are able now to come over and do it and I really can’t wait. As I said earlier, we haven’t been over there in almost three and a half years, so it is really exciting that we get to come and play to you guys.

What is it that makes the UK so special to you?

The UK is where it all started for us; it’s where we broke in the first place. I look back at 1986 and that was the very first time that we played the Hammersmith Palais in London. It was our first ever UK date. Then we supported Metallica in 1986 on their Master Of Puppets tour, then jumping forward to 1987 we headlined at Hammersmith Odeon, and I have to say that we had never headlined anywhere that big before and sold it out. After that we played Donnington in the summer of 1987. That was our first festival, and that really just kicked down doors for us there. I think that really sent out a message to the rest of the planet that said, ‘hey, check these guys out’ (laughter). So, for us the UK was the first place that really welcomed us with open arms, and we have never forgotten that.

Tuesday 4th October you play Rock City here in Nottingham. Just how special a place is Rock City to perform in?

I love the fact that it is such a classic place for us to get to be able to play, because so many venues like that on the planet simply don’t exist anymore. There is nowhere in New York left from our early days, with the exception of Webster Hall which used to be The Ritz. I think that it’s great that we get to go back and play Rock City; it has still got the blood, sweat, and sweat (laughter). I won’t say tears, its blood, sweat and sweat which still coats that place as it has for decades (laughter). I love to be able to come back there and play a show. We don’t get to do that very often in most places, so I personally love it. I guess that you could say in Glasgow there is The Barrowlands, in a very similar way, but in general venues like that simply don’t exist anymore around the planet so it is always so much fun whenever we get to do that.

What can we expect?

I would like to think that most people coming to the shows have most probably seen us before. However, if you are in the group of people who have never come to an Anthrax show, who we of course welcome and love whenever there are new people coming, you are going to get to see a bunch of guys who are very excited to be there, be on stage, and hopefully the most energy that you have ever seen from a band live. We take a lot of pride in our ability to perform our music live, it’s been what we have been about since day one and that has never gone away. So, yes, get ready for a shit tonne of energy and maybe you would want to go out and buy some cream that you could rub on your neck the next morning because you are all going to be victims of a severe bang over the next day (laughter).

Does the more that you write and record, make it more difficult for you to put together a set list for the tour?

Yes and no, we are not The Grateful Dead, we can’t play a three-hour set, we are not Bruce Springsteen (laughter). Physically we can’t do that, we couldn’t have done it when we were in our twenties, it is simply too much, it would literally be too much. It would be like asking a football team to play a four-hour match. Physically, you are going to run down. You cannot perform at this level with this type of music, for longer than an hour and a half. The longest that we have ever played in our history is two hours and fifteen minutes at a show, so you know that we have a pretty good idea of the songs that we have to play; here are the songs that we want to play, and then maybe here are some songs that we haven’t played, let’s give them a shot. So, in answer to your question, it is not usually that hard for us to put a set list together.

Are there any thoughts regarding a new studio album?

Yes, there are, in fact we have been working on that very subject. We were already working on it pre Covid and then a year or so into Covid. Once we were able to travel again, we started working on it once again. We have got a pretty good batch of songs, ideas, and roughs that we are currently working on, and we will continue to work on them over the next couple of months. Once we get back from the UK, we have another writing session planned, and I would like to think that right after the New Year we could hopefully be ready to start actually recording it. We will see.

What is at the top of Scott Ian’s rider?

(Laughter) the top of my rider, are the two completely necessary things which are water and towels, which really if it came down to it, all that I really need is water. If I have a bottle of water, or should I say six bottles of water, I could play a show. Everything else is superfluous (laughter). I’m trying to think as it really is quite boring these days, whereas back in the day there would be a specific bottle of wine or whiskey, but I barely even drink anymore on tour. So, let me say, man just what is at the top of my rider (laughter). I am trying to think what I asked for on this last run, a stupid snack or something like that. Yes, there is a very specific brand of popcorn and I asked for it on the last tour. It is called Bjorn Qorn like the Swedish name, and it is a very specific type of popcorn that I am addicted to. I asked for that on a rider, and I ate a lot of Bjorn Qorn on that tour (laughter).

The rivalry between Anthrax and Metallica fans as to whose band is the better is well documented. Does that rivalry ever spill over into the band?

No, I can’t say that it has ever spilt over into any of us in the band or even into Metallica; certainly not in the early days. If anything, it was more of a thing where every success they had and every door that Metallica were able to knock down, was only ever good for us. They paved the way in so many ways back in those early days. We were all friends before either band had any success, and we still are to this day. So, no, no, certainly not. That never comes up in conversation (laughter).

I’m a big fan of Joe Jackson and his work so if I may, let me take you back to 1990 and your cover of Got The Time. What was the catalyst behind you covering that particular song and did you ever get any feedback from Joe Jackson?

That was our drummer Charlie Benante’s idea way, way back in the day. He just thought that it lent itself to heavy guitars. It was already unto itself a very punk rock kind of feeling song. Charlie thought that if we threw some heavy guitars onto it then it would just sound like Anthrax. We actually met Joe Jackson way, way back when and he had heard the song and he really did like it. However, he then told us, “you know my live version of the song is faster than your guys version” (laughter). And you know what, he wasn’t lying, his live version was way faster than ours. All that we hoped to do by covering the song was to pay tribute to an artist that we loved. We were all Joe Jackson fans in the seventies and eighties, and I just hope that we managed to do something cool with his song and I have to say that I think we have. If we ever put that into the set it certainly does go down really well.

On that note Scott let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it has been a pleasure.

Cheers Kevin thank you for your time, take care and I hope to see you when we get to Rock City.