UTG INTERVIEW: Scott Ian Discusses ‘Speaking Words’ Tour, Anthrax, And NOT Watching The Grammys

Scott Ian

“I have as much to do with the Grammys as I do with the fucking Oscars.”

Scott Ian, guitarist of iconic metal band Anthrax, is a straight shooter. It’s probably rooted in his Queens, NY attitude, but regardless of where it came from, the man doesn’t dance around what he’s trying to say.

When I first found out that Ian would be going on the road with just a stage, microphone, and 30 years of stories, I decided that his upcoming ‘Speaking Words’ tour was one I must mark down on my calendar. After witnessing intimate spoken sessions with the likes of Zakk Wylde and Henry Rollins, I’m certainly eager to see what Scott’s spoken word show will have to offer.

Fortunately, UTG was able to speak with Scott for nearly a half hour, discussing everything from his upcoming tour to fatherhood and NOT watching the Grammys.

The interview gives some insight into Ian’s career, his upcoming book and DVD, a new Anthrax album, and a precursor to tales of madness with the likes of Metallica, Pantera, Van Halen, Ministry, comedians, and so much more.


So, let’s jump right into this. What made you decide to put together this ‘Speaking Words’ Tour, how did the idea come about?

It’s something I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to try to do, but I definitely wasn’t out there looking for it or being pro-active about trying to do it. Then I got offered to come over to London and do a show the night before an Anthrax tour was starting; I got offered to come and tell stories at this venue. They said, “We’ll sell tickets. People will buy tickets to come see you do this.” And I said, “Really? You think so?” But I had five months to think about it at the time, that’s why I said yes.

I figured, it was five months away, I’ve got enough time to get my shit together. Then I spent five months doing absolutely nothing to prepare for the show, I had all these big ideas that I was going to be a professional and write my show out and invite a bunch of my comedian friends over the house and do the show for them and ask them to give me notes, try to be really pro about it. When it comes to music, I’m pretty pro about preparation. So I figured it should be the same with this, [laughs] but it so wasn’t. I didn’t do anything. So, I’m in London the night before the show and I was gonna call my agent and just cancel because I didn’t know what the hell I was gonna do. I just felt like “Fuck this, I’m gonna cancel it, I have no clue what I’m gonna do.” It’s not like I was cancelling a big rock show or something, no big whoop. Then my wife just said to me, “Why would you cancel it? You know all these stories, you are all these stories. You could sit in a bar with your friends and tell these stories all night long and that’s really all you’re going to be doing tomorrow night.” That kind of just put it into context for me, so I said “Fuck it” and just winged it.

I stayed up most of the night the night before at that point and kind of put a set together in my head of things that I thought would be good to talk about or stories that I wanted to tell. I showed up the next night and just did it. I was nervous as fuck for the first 5-10 minutes, my hands were literally shaking. After getting a couple of laughs where I was hoping to get laughs I just calmed down and that was it, and two and half hours later I was in my dressing room with my agent and I was like, “How do I do more of this?”

You got hooked.

I loved it, it was so much fun. That’s how the UK tour came about, then a show in Germany and shows in Australia, now this US/Canada run. I’m just having a lot of fun doing it.

At the end of the show you do a Q&A session where you claim “No questions are avoided.” Have you gotten any crazy outlandish or stupid questions so far?

Nah, because look, if someone asked me something really stupid, it’s not a case of avoiding a question, but it doesn’t mean I have an answer for it. I don’t have an answer for every question that could possibly be asked of me, but off the top of my head I can’t think of anything really stupid or annoying. Most people, if they have the balls to actually ask a question in front of an audience, you’d be surprised, when people are standing alone with you or just three or four people outside after a show, that’s one thing, but when you’re in a room with 250 people and you have to stand up and ask a question, people get real shy real quick. I think if you have the balls to actually do that, you’ve probably already thought this out and taken the time and it’s probably not gonna be really stupid.

I was getting pretty consistently every night some of the same questions, because the tour wasn’t long after Jeff Hanneman (Slayer) died. Almost every single night I got a asked about Jeff- if I knew Jeff, or if I have a good story about Jeff. Of course I was getting asked every night, “What’s it like to have Meat Loaf as a father-in-law?” Sometimes people just yell shit out, but then I just make fun of them then move onto the next person.

For the VIP Meet-and-Greet package fans get a “post-show hangout” with you. Is that just a quick photo opportunity or do you actually hang around and talk with the fans?

It was like the show after the show. Most of those nights ended up literally an hour in the dressing room with whoever was there for the meet and greet and people having beers and hanging out and me talking for another hour. It really did destroy my voice on that tour, I had no idea that just talking for so long every night could actually make you lose your voice. After four or five days in a row I had no voice. I had nothing but a little croak coming out. I had to stop talking during the day. I would not talk from the time I woke up until pretty much showtime, then I would do almost three hours and then almost another hour generally afterwards. When you’re talking for almost 4 hours straight, it really does a number on you. Certainly I’ve never talked that much in my life, my muscles had to get used to it.

It’s a total hangout, it’s not like Santa Claus at Christmas time when they’re just shuttling people through, “Stand with Scott in front of the backdrop! NEXT!” It’s definitely not like that. I can’t get away with doing a KISS meet and greet, let’s put it that way.

Scott Ian FLEXIN

You had mentioned earlier that you didn’t really stick to any sort of script like you thought you may have. Is there any sort of structure to the show?

There is definitely a structure, certainly when I was on the tour and getting to do it every night, that is when I really learned how to do this. I’m still not claiming I’m an expert at anything but I’m certainly better now than I was before I did that UK run, because you get on stage in front of an audience 15 nights in a row and every night you’re just learning. Same as being in a band, you know. When I first got on stage in Anthrax and I’ve got a guitar, you know, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing or how to move, things just start to happen and you develop over time, it’s the same in this.

Yeah, there is definitely some sort of a structure, because there are some stories that have illustrations and/or video involved so obviously if I’m gonna do those, I’m set up for that. But I’m not stuck to any setlist, let’s put it that way. I can decide what stories I want to do on the fly, basically. I found I was pretty good at, in the UK, at gauging the room in the first ten minutes or so and then that would tell me where to go story-wise, and when I say gauging the room I mean, “How drunk are they already?” That would tell me basically, okay, shorter stories, not 45-minute stories where maybe they’d have to pay attention and follow for the payoff at the end. Maybe shorter stories work better in this scenario, you know? It wasn’t like that every night but you can pretty much tell from the energy of the crowd, “Okay, these people have been drinking since 2 o’clock,” so I’m not gonna confuse them.

We’re promised some “drunken tales of debauchery and ridiculousness”- aside from Anthrax, I saw Lemmy from Motorhead in a trailer for the show online. What other characters/bands can we expect to make appearances in some of your stories?

I’ve got what I consider my favorite Dimebag Darrell (Pantera) “experience” because it’s more than just a story, it’s kind of a centerpiece of the show in a lot of ways because it’s a two-parter and the whole thing probably takes about 45 minutes or so to get through, so Darrell features prominently. I don’t know if I did it every night but I’ve done that one quite a bit. I think there was even nights where I didn’t do the story in the set and then the Q&A comes along and someone says “Hey, tell us a good Darrell story!” or “Didn’t you know Dimebag really well?” and that kind of opens the door for that.

Scott & Dimebag

I’ve got a couple of crazy experiences with Al Jourgensen (Ministry) which also goes along with this Steven Spielberg of all people story–people wonder “How the fuck?”, but come and see the show and it all makes sense. Who else? Off the top of my head, there could be Metallica stories and Slayer stories. Sam Kinison. I’ve got a great David Lee Roth night out that Kirk Hammett and I in New York bumped into him in a restaurant and decided to just kind of follow him around, it was quite interesting.

Have any other rock artists influenced this sort of spoken-word-esque thing you’re doing? I once saw Henry Rollins do an intense spoken word and have seen Zakk Wylde do something similar with a Q&A.

Well, I did see Henry back in the early 90s because I was just a big fan. I’m pretty sure I saw him do when it was a lot of the stuff from his book Black Coffee Blues. I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure it was early 90s when I actually saw him do a talking show. I loved it. Because I’m a huge Rollins fan and to see him that much more intimate and personal and be able to entertain an audience for two and a half hours with just his tales- you know, he doesn’t have a band up there it’s just him talking and telling stories and he had the audience in the palm of his hand the whole time. I was just really impressed and inspired and I think that was probably the initial inspiration that kind of stayed with me forever, this idea that “I think I’ll be able to do that someday, I’ve got fuckin’ great stories, I feel like I can tell a story.” I feel like I would definitely say Henry was an inspiration.

Henry Rollins

I’ve never seen Zakk do his thing but I can only imagine it’s gotta be really entertaining because he can definitely tell a story and he’s got great ones and he’s a funny motherfucker. Some day, my dream would be to do like a “Big Four of Storytelling” or “The Monsters of Talk” or something. Get together with someone like Zakk and people like that, go out and do a show where we all tell stories and then we could do a grand finale because I’m sure there is a story where we were all in it together.

I know Rollins told a lot of anecdotal stories. He’d go from talking about eating pancakes with Black Flag to more political and topical stuff. Is your material more light-hearted “on the road” stories or do you get into more serious subjects?

I’m definitely not political in any way shape or form at this point. Just because I’ve got so much other stuff to talk about right now. It’s definitely not my- look, I’m not an expert on politics, I’ve just got my opinions like anyone else. That’s not to say that someday I wouldn’t get more political, but right now I just have enough material to not have to start writing that material, certainly next time around after I do a bunch of these tours, doing a lot of this material and certainly after my DVD comes out, and I have a book coming out later this year. At that point I’ll probably have to have new material.

At the same time I look at it almost like stand-up comedians. I could go see stand-up comedians, guys that I love like Patton Oswalt and Louis CK or Brian Posehn, and I could see them do the same joke every couple of months, a joke I’ve been hearing for years. It’s almost like hearing a band play one of the songs that you love. I get the same thing out of it, so who knows? Maybe at some point down the line people may have heard some of these stories but they may still wanna hear them again. I don’t know really how it works yet. But I know at some point I am going to need more material.

I’m glad you brought up the comedians. I saw on your blog that your wife had just thrown you a surprise party with a bunch of your favorite comics. Are you a big fan of stand-up?

Yeah, my wife and Brian Posehn put together a party at this comedy club for me. Brian and Patton Oswalt and Brendan Small and Sarah Silverman and this other comedian Ron Funches, they all basically did sets for me. It was pretty fucking amazing. I was honored, it was awesome.

Brian & Scott

You’re 50 years old and Anthrax has been a band for over 30 years. How does it feel to still not only be relevant but a staple in this genre? Has the allure of metal and the road changed for you at all?

No, because for me, it’s work. It’s what I do. Look, I’m lucky in the fact that I get to do what I want for a living, it’s all I ever wanted to do. And it’s what I’ve been doing for a really long time. At the same time, it’s a shit-ton of work. It’s not just sitting around on my ass watching ESPN when I’m off tour and waiting for the next tour to start.

People don’t get it, and I’m not saying that my job is harder than most people’s jobs on this planet because it certainly isn’t, I’m just lucky that I got to do this and I worked really hard to be able to get to do it. And I work really hard all the time to still be able to get to do it. It shows me that the work I do all the time and the time I have to spend away from my family, sometimes that in the end it’s all gonna be worth it because people still care and I still have fun doing it. If I didn’t have fun playing shows, I wouldn’t tour anymore. I’m not looking for reasons to leave home, but it’s still really fun for me to be in a band and go play shows. And these talking shows are really fun. Believe me, I’m not getting rich off these talking shows. The experience of doing it is such a cool thing and it’s so new to me and it’s such a cool learning experience for me trying to after all these years learn a new trick. It’s been really exciting.

Has being a father made your career any more difficult to manage?

Oh, absolutely. Profoundly. Completely different, because before having a child, my wife and I could come and go as we please, whenever, wherever. No pets, no kids. It was complete freedom, now it’s the exact opposite of that. It makes things much harder, not only just that aspect with the ablity for us to have freedom, even now, it’s not just like my wife and my son can come out on tour with me. We’re not the type of band that has four tour buses and I don’t have the money to have my own tour bus on a tour, so it just makes things difficult and the sacrifice of not seeing your family is fucking huge.

I didn’t really understand it before, you know? Charlie and Frankie in the band, they both have children, and I would see what they would go through. But you can’t really understand until you have a child. Then you realize, “Oh, fuck this, I don’t want to do anything.” I assume, if you’re a halfway decent parent, that’s how you would feel. I know plenty of dudes with kids who can’t wait to get the fuck out of the house, but I’m not one of them.

Switching gears a bit – Anthrax is recording a new studio album, what can you tell me about it? How different is the recording and writing process now compared to Fistful of Metal back in 1984?

If I could really remember writing Fistful of Metal, I’d be able to answer that question. I don’t even know if I have- they’re not memories, more if anything my memories of that time are from photographs. Sometimes it’s hard to actually remember 1981, 1982, 1983. A lot of that time in the band we just spent as much time as we could at The Music Building in Queens trying to write songs and trying to get a lineup that would stay together and be as committed as Danny Lilker and I were. When we got the lineup together with Neil Turbin and Charlie and Danny Spitz, that’s kinda when we knew we had a band and that this was gonna be Anthrax.

Fistful Of Metal

We didn’t have a process then at all, it was just riffs. Danny Lilker would have ideas or I would have ideas and we would somehow just write songs, we’d put them together. Now it’s the same in the sense that every song starts from a riff with us. Charlie has riffs, I have riffs, Frank has riffs, everyone has ideas. The three of us just get in a room and just start playing. I guess in that way it’s exactly the same although we’re not together seven nights a week like we were when we were 18 years old doing it.

When can we expect the new album to be released?

I don’t know. I’d like to say before the end of year but we’re not on any kind of hard schedule.

Anthrax has recently welcomed Jon Donais from Shadows Fall into the band. How has he been adjusting to being in Anthrax full-time?

I don’t know, you’d have to ask him [laughs]. It’s fine with me, you know? I love the guy. He’s awesome. He’s a great player and I love hanging around with him, so I’m thrilled.

I’ve read some articles where you had expressed your happiness for Public Enemy getting into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Anthrax was one of the pioneering bands alongside Public Enemy in mashing up genres and making it absolutely kick-ass. How do you feel about the fusing of genres today? The Grammys tried really hard to do that, so did the Super Bowl. What do you think of it all?

I DON’T. I live in such a bubble, dude, I don’t know. I don’t pay attention, I listen to Iron Maiden and AC/DC, I have no idea [laughs].

I don’t blame you. Did you even watch the Grammys?

No. People ask me that, and I guess people just assume because you’re in the music business, but seriously, I have as much to do with the Grammys as I do with the fucking Oscars. In my life it has no meaning at all. A lot of people get really excited around us or certainly around me that we get nominated, but you know, it just doesn’t mean anything to me. It doesn’t change the way I’m gonna do anything. It’s not gonna change the way people look at this band. It’s not gonna make us more successful- our fans don’t give a fuck. “Who gives a shit?” has kind of always been my attitude towards it. Anytime you’re recognized for anything- yeah, I’m not gonna lie, of course it’s nice. Yeah, it’s cool when anyone recognizes you in any way, shape or form, even in a negative way.

I was talking about this earlier about something I say in my DVD where it might hurt someone I knows feelings in another band even though it’s a joke. I’m not gonna tell you what it is but I’m kinda on the fence about whether I’m gonna leave it in or not. My wife actually said to me, “Well, how would you feel if it was that person saying the same exact thing about you?” And I’m like, “I’d be fucking stoked!” Just the fact that that person was even talking about me and/or my band on his DVD, I’d just be like, “HA! Did you hear what he said about us? That’s great!” But you know, that’s the way I look at it. Just fuckin’ spell my name right, I don’t give a fuck. None of it really matters to me, good or bad. It doesn’t change the way ever that we’re gonna do anything. We’re always gonna do the things that Anthrax does, the way we do them. None of that outside influence comes in and really it never has from day one, otherwise we would’ve been a Van Halen cover band in 1981, because that’s what people were telling us to do in 1981.

To answer your question, it’s not something I like or dislike, I simply don’t know.

Despite not catching the Grammys, were you able to catch Metallica’s performance of “One” on Youtube? They had a pianist perform with them.

No, I haven’t seen it. Anything I ever see on Youtube is something my son wants to watch, and it’s usually not gonna be Metallica at the Grammys.

You had mentioned that your book is coming out soon. Is it an autobiography, is it a collection of stories?

It’s about me, my whole life. Up until- actually, I don’t really know where it’s gonna end yet. I might just have it end where Worship Music (2011) ends, I’m not sure yet. It’s a lot of stories that I’m telling at my show, but obviously a lot more than that because it would be a really short book if it were just that. But yeah, it’s a tale that I think anyone can relate to, because I came from really nothing, a really lower-middle class origin in Queens and just worked my fucking ass off to make this happen from the time I was 16 years old. I’m living proof that you can make it happen. You can’t wait around and wait for someone to hand you something and I think that’s a lot of what this book is about.

Do you know have a ballpark timeframe of when the book is coming out?


Any Anthrax dates coming up?

We’re going to Europe in the Summer to play a bunch of festivals but outside of that, that’s it right now.

To catch Scott Ian’s ‘Speaking Words’ tour, check out the dates below:
You can buy tickets and VIP passes here.

2/20 – Chicago, IL @ Mayne Stage
2/21 – Westland, MI @ The Token Lounge
2/22 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theatre
2/24 – Cleveland, OH @ Agora Theater
2/25 – Toronto, ON @ El Mocambo Club
2/26 – Kingston, ON @ The Mansion
2/27 – Ottowa, ON @ Ritual
3/01 – Baltimore, MD @ The Ramshead Live: Power Plant Live
3/02 – Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
3/04 – Boston, MA @ Hard Rock Cafe
3/05 – New York, NY @ BB Kings
3/06 – Syracuse, NY @ Lost Horizon
3/07 – West Warwick, RI @ Manchester 65
3/08 – Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall

Follow Scott Ian on Twitter.
Check out Scott’s website.
Yeah, he’s on Facebook too.

Interview conducted by: Derek Scancarelli
To see Derek’s concert photography, check out D. SKANK PHOTOGRAPHY.

Derek Scancarelli

Derek Scancarelli is a feature writer, interviewer, videographer, photographer, radio-er and more. In 2015, he received his MA in Journalism in New York City. In addition to Under The Gun Review, Derek has worked with Noisey (VICE), Alternative Press, New Noise Magazine and many more. He also pushes some buttons at SiriusXM.

Comedian Jim Norton once called him a serial killer on national radio. Enjoy the internet with him on Twitter.
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