Scott Ian of Anthrax on Worship Music, comic books, Doctor Who, VH1 and interviewing Ozzy
Anthrax (due Wednesday, October 19, at Summit Music Hall) is one of the Big 4 thrash bands from the '80s, and the only one originally based on the East Coast. More than most metal bands, Anthrax seemed willing to smile and display a wicked yet playful sense of humor -- even as its lyrics contained incisive social commentary and dark subjects -- and the band was progressive for its time in the way that it embraced hip-hop early on and occasionally incorporated elements of that style into its own music.
Scott Ian of Anthrax
A few years back, the band teamed back up with Joey Belladonna, who sang on Anthrax's most beloved '80s albums. Touring in support of Worship Music and in commemoration of its thirty-year anniversary, Anthrax seems to have a renewed sense of vigor. We had a chat with guitarist Scott Ian about Worship Music, Doctor Who, VH1 and his almost abortive interview with Ozzy for Rock Show.
Westword: Why did you pick Alex Ross to do the cover art for Worship Music, and did you give him any direction about the imagery you wanted, much in the same way a writer and comic-book artist might work together?
Scott Ian: We've been working with Alex for years now. He's done four or five things with us. We just wanted to work with him again. We just love the way his work complements our work, is how we really feel about it. Charlie Benante had the title Worship Music, and basically, I don't think it was much more direction other than that with Alex. The reason we work with Alex is he is who he is, and I don't think we need to give him too much direction to come up with amazing ideas. For the cover, we said, "Hey, it's called Worship Music. Let's see what you come up with." For the piece he did for the inside, where we're fighting each other as zombies, we told him, "Hey, can you paint us fighting each other as zombies?"
You covered "New Noise," from the Refused's 1998 swan song, The Shape of Punk to Come. Why that band and that song in particular?
The same reason we've ever done any cover: It's a song we've been playing, a band we love, something that's just fun for us to do. Asking what it is about the Refused I like is like asking "What is it about the food that you like?" I don't know -- I listen to their music, and they move me in a way that any music that I like moves me. I can't tell you specifically; it's just that I think they're a great band. I break music into two categories: music that moves me and music that doesn't. Genres don't mean anything to me, and the Refused makes me happy when I listen to it.
Worship Music was a long time in the making. What do you feel Joey Belladonna brings back to the band that maybe helped to gel things in a way that you were able to put out the album you wanted to?
He makes us sound like Anthrax. I mean that as no disrespect to anyone else, either. That was really the first thing I thought. It's one thing to hear Joey sing with us and sing the catalog that he was a part of when we did that 2005-2006 tour and we played the whole Among the Living record and some other songs. That's one thing, because you're used to hearing that. When I say "you," I mean I'm used to hearing that. So the big unknown, obviously, is what is Joey Belladonna gonna sound like on Anthrax in 2011, and how is that going to sound?
Of course we went into this thinking it's going to be fucking great, but you don't know until you know. And the first MP3 I got sent after he cut the vocal -- he already sang "Fight 'Em" with us live, so we already had a good idea of how great it sounded. But we hadn't actually heard him in the studio yet, and I think it was the song "I'm Alive," and I got the MP3, and my first reaction to it was, "This sounds like Anthrax. This sounds like the band that we were, but it sounds like the band that we are." The best thing I can say about it is that he sounds like he's been singing these songs for ten years, and he just learned them. So he really brought everything to this record and elevated it to a better record than I ever thought it could be.
How did you first get interested in comic books, horror and science fiction?
Initially, comics were just something I gravitated toward as a kid. There was a store across the street from where I grew up -- I'm talking the late '60s -- you'd walk in the store, and there would be the old-school comic rack you would spin. I was definitely initially drawn to the artwork and looking at the covers. So I started reading Marvel and DC -- Spiderman, Hulk, Batman, Superman, Fantastic Four. I was buying them off the rack as a kid. My interest in comics literally just came from me looking at covers and thinking they looked cool, and then I started reading them and got hooked.
Horror was probably because my mom was a horror fan when she was a kid, so when I was a little kid, we used to watch horror movies on Saturday mornings. So that's probably what got me started into horror at an early age. And sci-fi, it just all kind of goes hand in hand, all of it together. I was watching Star Trek -- not when it was originally on; I can't say I remember watching it in its initial run. But certainly, in the early '70s, I was watching the reruns already.
Who is your favorite Doctor of the Doctor Who series, and why?
I'd have to say the newest series, for sure. I think Matt Smith just does a great...I don't know, maybe just because it's the most recent, and I just think the writing gets better and better on the show. I'm not taking away from some of the other guys that have done it, because I think the actual actors themselves who have played Dr. Who have been great, but I just think the writing has been better on that show than it's ever been.