A lot has rocked Scott Ian’s world for better or worse since the rhythm guitarist and his thrash band Anthrax put out an album of all-new material. Understandable, given that it’s been seven years.
The better? Anthrax embarked on a successful reunion tour in 2005 with long-time singer Joey Belladonna (including a stop in Corpus Christi in which they played 1987 breakthrough Among The Living in its entirety); Ian became an online poker player; he married rocker Pearl Aday and played guitar in her band this summer opening on tour for her father (the legendary Meat Loaf); Anthrax got the chance to visit the set of Syfy smash “Battlestar Galactica,” and the band made history with several Big Four shows in Europe — the first time that Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax had played on the same stage together.
The worse? After the reunion tour, Anthrax found itself in an unwanted game of musical singers. Belladonna didn’t stick around; Dan Nelson joined and made an album called Worship Music only to mysteriously depart before the record and tour saw the light of day, and early-’90s singer John Bush returned to do a few shows but didn’t rejoin permanently.
But you know what they say about the more things change . . .
Namely, the Slayer/Megadeth/Anthrax juggernaut that kicks off the Jagermeister Music Tour this Friday in Dallas and Saturday night at the AT&T Center should look and sound familiar. Those three first aligned forces as part of the Clash of the Titans tour in 1991.
This time, Slayer will perform 1990’s Seasons In The Abyss in its entirety, Megadeth will play 1990’s Rust In Peace (as they did March 26 at Stubb’s in Austin — visit links below), and Anthrax will open the show with a set of “hits” — with Belladonna back for his third tour of duty.
Ian was also a founding member of the mid-’80s thrash band Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.) with Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, former Method of Destruction (M.O.D.) singer and current Austin resident Billy Milano and one-time Nuclear Assault and Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker.
Ian, 46, phoned me last week to discuss 26 years worth of Anthrax and other perks:
Q: I’ll start with something I asked Kerry King last month. Other than it being 19 years since Clash of the Titans, what do you think is, or will be, the biggest difference for Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer touring together?
A: Well, we kind of just did it in Europe with the Big Four shows. I don’t know that there was a big difference . . . I’m trying to think. I don’t really feel like there’s that huge of a difference. I don’t know. That’s a really good question. Obviously other than physical things like there’s a couple different dudes in Megadeth, and we have (lead guitarist) Rob Caggiano. Certainly, a lot in the world has changed. But it’s probably the reason why Anthrax, Megadeth and Slayer are able to go out and do this for so long.
Q: When was the last time Anthrax was in San Antonio, and what sticks out from previous visits?
A: I don’t know. I don’t remember specifically. It’s been a couple years. I don’t think it’s been too long. It’s always been . . . San Antonio, since the ’80s for us, has always been a great hard rock and metal city. We played Sunken Garden a lot, and I remember the shows there were always insane.
Q: You’ve been outspoken about John Bush being your preferred vocalist over Joey. Were there any mences to fend when Joey returned to the fold?
A: No, you know what, we’re all grown men. We’re all individuals, and we all have opinions. We made a decision when we were asked to do the Big Four thing, and we asked Joey to do it, and we felt he was the right guy for the gig. That was the band; it was from that era. We didn’t have to go to therapy or have a big session of “You said this” or “I’m sorry for that.” We just got together in New York and were like, “What do you think? We’d like you to be part of this.” If anything, all of that crap came out during the reunion tour, and that’s why we weren’t able to move forward. This time around, we had the 18 months of the reunion, and this time, it was just a matter of being a band again.
Q: Dan Nelson’s time with Anthrax was mostly during the recording process, which is when bands are out of the public eye for the most part. So what really happened with him?
A: He made a record with us and then decided he didn’t want to be in the band anymore. All I know is he made a decision not to be a part of it and called us the morning we were flying to Sweden — he actually e-mailed our manager — to do Sonisphere shows in 2009. And he said he was too sick to get on the plane. I’ve been doing this for about 30 years, and it’s definitely one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.
Q: Now that the Big Four is in the books, how would you describe it?
A: Amazing. Probably the best shows I’ve ever played. It was just the most fun, to get to be a part of it. The four bands together for the first time; not even the fact we were playing together, but physically hanging out. The night before the tour, we had a dinner that Metallica put together. Even that was just the first time the 17 guys were together. Even if you broke it down from the guys who were there in 1983, we all had never been in a room together. Separately. It was just an amazing moment. It was like, “Holy s—, can you believe we get to do this? People care so much after all these years.” It’s a really gratifying and humbling moment: “Wow, we’re going to walk on stage in front of 100,000 people in Poland.”
Q: You held a poker contest for a fan to win Sonisphere tickets for the London show. How was the response?
A: Well, you have to learn how to play poker, first of all. But the response was amazing. But a funny thing, ironically, the guy who wins the tournament doesn’t have a passport. UB.com (Ultimate Bet), the company who runs it, was very specific in their rules and regulations. There’s all kinds of legalities, and one of the things was you have to be able to legally have the prize. Initially, he said, “I want to go,” and he didn’t have a passport. And we went to the next person, the dude who came in second, and I’m not kidding you, they had to go through the top 50 places. No one had a passport. So now this thing turns into a big sociological experiment. I had read that the U.S. had the lowest amount of people who had passports, and this showed me that’s true.
Q: So what would you do if you ever win the World Series of Poker?
A: Wow. I’d probably put, after taxes, I’d have enough to go to In-N-Out Burger. No . . . I’d put away most of it. Certainly, my guitar collection would get a little nicer and more vintage. I collect a lot of first edition horror books. Other than that, I’m not really a car guy. I like to eat well, but you don’t need 9 million dollars to do that. If I was going to splurge on something crazy, I’d probably buy myself a ’58 or ’59 Les Paul or Flying V.
Q: Billy Milano resides in Austin these days, and he attended the Megadeth/Testament/Exodus show in March. That got me thinking about the S.O.D. days. How do you look back on that time?
A: It wasn’t really an S.O.D. period. The record came out in ’85, we played seven shows, then went out to our bands. Two years later, it blew up. In ’85, no one really cared outside of New York and New Jersey. When there was a real demand for it, we were like, “Sorry, we’re too busy now.” But that’s what it was meant to be. It was meant to be the exact opposite of album, tour, album, tour. It was meant to just have fun. I actually think we toured too much for it. We should’ve done just one run. I love the fact that after all this time, people still care about it.
Q: What’s more difficult — playing guitar in your wife’s band or opening for your father-in-law on tour with that band?
A: Neither is difficult. I love playing with Pearl, I love playing rhythm guitar in that band. I am a rock guitar player, that’s how I learned. I come from KISS and Ted Nugent and Cheap Trick and AC/DC. It’s right in my wheelhouse. I get to watch my wife sing her ass off every night and destroy people. As far as Meat, they treat us amazing, it’s fun being out there with him. You would think it’s a no-brainer: “Oh ok, Pearl is opening. People will automatically like his daughter.” But it’s the opposite. Meat Loaf’s fans are hardcore, one-tracked minded fans, like Slayer or Rush fans. If she doesn’t kick ass, they’re going to twiddle their thumbs, then go crazy when he comes on. That is the only difficulty.
Q: What did you think of the “Battlestar Galactica” finale, and what was it like meeting some of the actors and sitting in the fighter jets in Vancouver on the set?
A: Getting to go to the set, we had a day off on the reunion tour. We got invited down. The day we were there, the whole cast was pretty much on set. It was a really lucky day for us. The director told us that normally there’d just be a couple people there doing a scene. We were about to tour the set, but then Aaron Douglas, who played Chief Tyrol, he’s an old-school metalhead, and he came running to find us. He was like, “Don’t go with them. Come with me.” And he gave us the tour. We were on set while they were shooting scenes, and I got to sit in Starbuck’s viper.
Q: Anthrax’s appearance on “Married with Children” was one of countless funny moments from that show (see video, top left). You guys had some dialogue, and you sang your intro part to “In My World.” How was that experience?
A: I don’t even remember why we chose that song for that time. It may have been because we did a video for it, and we were pushing it as a single? I don’t even know. And that intro is so long. But it was great, amazing to us. The strange thing was how it all came together. Someone from our label, we’d asked them to reach out to Fox to get us on “The Simpsons” because we were huge fans of that show. But no one was ever called back. A couple months later, out of the blue, a call comes in from some producer from Fox. We had been in a celebrity softball game a couple years earlier with the “Married With Children” cast. They were like, “We thought Anthrax would be perfect for an episode.” This was, like, February of ’92. We couldn’t believe it. We were asked to fly to Los Angeles to do an episode and were like, “Really? Are you serious?” Everyone was amazing to us. Ed O’Neill was the coolest guy. We’d do table readings, and he’d pull us aside and give us advice on how to read our lines to get a better laugh. We didn’t want to leave. We were like, “Can’t you just write us into the script somehow?”
Q: Would Al Bundy approve of your marriage to Pearl?
A: I don’t know. Why wouldn’t he?
Q: Because marriage goes against all he stands for, right?
A: Oh, yeah (laughs).
Q: Was any TV footage from “Supergroup” scripted by producers, and will Damnocracy ever record an album?
A: No, that was a TV show. We would’ve loved to at the time, but that was the only time it could’ve happened. Just logistically, and sadly, VH1 didn’t understand what they had at the time. They had never done a show like that at the time and haven’t done one like that since, and they didn’t afford us the time. If we could’ve blocked out a month in the studio, maybe it could’ve been done.
Q: Is Bring The Noise or I’m The Man more responsible for the development of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park-type bands?
A: Definitely not I’m The Man, but there’s a chain of events that happened. Rage Against The Machine is responsible for that type of sound. All we did, or Run-D.M.C./Aerosmith ever did, we were just dabbling in it and treading lightly in it. When Rick Rubin sampled guitars on LL Cool J’s record in 1983, that’s what got me. It all started with him. I’m The Man — we all enjoyed hip-hop, and that’s what we were listening to. Public Enemy was our favorite band at that time. We did the song, the video and the world tour — but that was it. We weren’t a crossover group. We were satisfied and never had to do it again.
Q: What’s the latest with your comic book ventures?
A: I’m actually working on my second book with D.C., but I can’t say who the character is. We’ll probably announce it late next month. Book 1 will be out hopefully by April.
Q: How about plans for the next album with Joey?
A: Yeah, we’re going to be actively working with it on this tour. We’ll get things musically arranged. I wrote all the lyrics to that record (Worship Music). We have six songs that we are extremely happy with that don’t need changing other than Joey singing on them. The goal is to have the record out next year. Whether it’s summer or fall, we don’t want to rush anything.
- WHO: Slayer, Megadeth & Anthrax
- WHAT: Jagermeister Music Tour
- WHEN: 7 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 25
- WHERE: AT&T Center
- TICKETS: $15.03, $50.73, $72.46 at ticketmaster.com
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