Anthrax's Scott Ian on playing Yankee Stadium, getting inspiration from 'Lost,' and facial hair
As any devil-horn devotee will tell you, metal is forever.
There will always be a cadre of kids looking to bang their heads, which is why hard and loud music has endured the ups and downs of the musical marketplace in the 21st century.
Case in point: The biggest concert event of the fall concerns a quartet of bands who were all founded in or before 1983. After a well-received weekend in Indio, California, earlier this year, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax have come east and will take the stage at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night, September 14. It will be a huge, loud spectacle, the kind that only metal veterans can deliver.
It’s an extra-busy week for Anthrax, who not only have the hometown show to look forward to (the founding members of the band are all from New York) but also their tenth album to promote (it’s called Worship Music, hits stores today and features the first recordings with singer Joey Belladonna in two decades).
EW caught up with guitarist Scott Ian to talk about the new album, the Big Four, and why he no longer buys Rolling Stone.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: With the Yankee Stadium show and the new album out, is this the busiest week in Anthrax history?
SCOTT IAN: It very well could be. It started last Tuesday, and now it’s really ramping up.
How did Worship Music come together?
We spent most of the time working on this record last fall. Joey rejoined the band in the beginning of 2010 and we spent most of the year on the road doing Big Four shows and then another tour with Slayer and Megadeth, which we called the Almost Big Four. We spent pretty much every day in the dressing room working on that record. We had something like 14 tracks, and it was just a case of listening to them and nitpicking the hell out of them. Once we finished that tour, we were ready to go back in and re-record stuff and let Joey go in and sing everything.
The song that really stands out to me is “The Constant.” Can you tell me where that came from?
That was one of the first songs that came together, at least musically. It went through a couple of different rewrites. The idea initially came from an episode of Lost called “The Constant.” It might be my favorite episode of that TV show. The message of that episode was that this character would literally do anything to get back to the woman he loves, and that included crossing time. It didn’t matter. Even if it meant him losing his life, he would have done anything to get back to the woman he loved. That episode really resonated. I just started writing these lyrics, not as though I can cross time, but I knew what it felt like to be on the other side of the world trying to get home.
That is one of the best episodes that show ever did.
There’s something about that Desmond character that always resonated with me. That song was originally called “Burn the Past,” and I just hated it. It was my title, but it sounded really kind of sophomoric, like an idea I would have had for a song title in 1986 or something. At some point, I just decided I didn’t care if people put two and two together and I called it “The Constant” as a tribute to my love for that TV show.
Let’s talk about Yankee Stadium. You’re a huge Yankees fan but you grew up in Queens. How did you not end up a Mets fan?
The first baseball game I ever went to was a Yankees game. This was probably in the early ’70s. We went to games before the original Yankee Stadium was renovated in 1976. My dad grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and didn’t follow them to L.A., but he would talk about them a lot. They had a pretty intense rivalry with the Yankees, so that made me gravitate towards the Yankees. Plus, I knew the right team to root for. I was a pretty savvy kid. Though at the time when I first started watching them, they were unbelievably terrible. I didn’t just jump on the winning ship when they got good in ’76. But they’re just inherently much cooler.
Does it bum you out that it’s a brand new building? Is it still meaningful to play Yankee Stadium?
As long as it’s where the Yankees play, it could be on the moon. It’s insane to me. This is where my heroes have done their thing, and now I’m going to get to do what I do in the same place. It’s completely mind-blowing to me. Just the fact that for the last few months I’ve been able to say the sentence, “We’re gonna play Yankee Stadium on September 14” is a huge deal, let alone the fact that we’re actually going to do it. Getting to say that to people is an incredible feeling.
What’s your big fan moment during the Big Four shows?
As far as Slayer goes, I always look forward to “Postmortem” and “Raining Blood.” I always look forward to “Angel of Death.” I’ve seen them play those songs probably 200 times since 1987, and I never get tired of them. Seeing Metallica play “Master of Puppets” is always epic. It’s like summer camp. I get to hang out with my friends and play these insane shows. It’s just the best possible scenario.
Are you going to do anything differently because it’s a hometown show?
The only difference for this show is that I’ll have a giant soap box to stand on and will be able to tell 50,000 people what I think about the Yankees and what moves they should make before the playoffs. I actually do plan on saying something about one certain pitcher that could cause some controversy, but I think I’ll get a big cheer. We’re not looking at this any different than any other show. People want to see certain songs from us. We’re not going to play the whole new album because it’s out this week. We might play one more new song, which would be different, but otherwise it’s going to be a crowd-pleasing set.
Your band has had its ups and downs, but is it gratifying knowing the demand for the Big Four has been so great?
Having weathered the ’90s, which was a terrible time for this music, and having been able to get through that and see this new millennium come by and see the scene get stronger and stronger again, it feels great. I always will attest it to the strength of this audience that loves the music. It didn’t matter what the media was touting as the next big thing. At some point around ’94 or ’95, Rolling Stone said that guitar rock was dead and that the Chemical Brothers were the future. I think that was the last issue of Rolling Stone I ever bought. Why would heavy metal ever go away? This has always been the alternative. When Lollapalooza launched and they called that alternative, we thought, “All these bands are on the radio. What’s that an alternative to?” The music we play, the music you’re gonna see the Big Four play, is the true alternative. I don’t see the Chemical Brothers playing Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
You have a legendary goatee, but who among the Big Four members has the best facial hair?
I have to give it up to Kerry King [from Slayer]. I’ve got this goatee thing going, but next to his goatee, mine looks like a chihuahua next to a Rottweiler. It’s really massive. I think if he took the rubber bands out of it, he’d be rivaling Billy Gibbons at this point. By far Kerry has got the best, and I guess I’m second.
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