Still Grinding, Still Hungry
May 17, 2018
"Playing a show has always been Christmas and birthday and Halloween and everything all wrapped up into one. Every time I get to play a show, that's what it feels like. Holy crap, I can't believe we get to do this and people are here and they want to see it."
Those are the words of Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, one of the most recognizable figures in heavy metal music, during a recent interview with Blabbermouth.com. As a musician, author, reality star and online entrepreneur, it would be easy for someone like Ian to lose interest in any one endeavor to focus on the others, but such is not the case with Ian and his music. Anthrax, the band he founded way back in 1981, continues to be his passion, and it continues to make new, relevant music and tour incessantly, playing 100 shows or more every year.
One of those shows this year will take place May 27 at Fort Wayne's newly renovated Clyde Theatre with longtime partners in crime Testament.
Ian, singer Joey Belladonna, bassist Frankie Bello, drummer Charlie Benante and new guitarist Jonathon Donais are currently on the road supporting their newest live album, Kings Among Scotland, a raucous, energetic opus that presents the band at its best - live and on the stage. The album is unique in that it is presented in two parts. One disc has the band performing "the favorites," songs that had been voted on by Anthrax fans, many of which the band hadn't played in decades. The other disc includes most of the songs that have been staples of the band's live set for many years. The best part? It's recorded in such a way that it is nearly as satisfying as going to the gig itself.
In reference to the songs the fans chose for the band, Benante posted on the band's website that "it was a challenge for all of us to play 'Among the Living' live. We've played a number of that album's songs in our shows over the years, but not all of them, and playing a song in a recording studio is not the same as playing it live on stage. So we put in a lot of time to get all of the tracks down perfectly. And I'll tell you, after we finished that set, as arduous as it was, we all felt a sense of exhilaration, like we could go out and do it again."
As one of heavy metal's Big Four -- along with Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth -- Anthrax helped reshape the genre in the 1980s by adding a more brutal attack and a punk sensibility. To that basic template Anthrax add a strong melodic sense in a way that distinguishes the band from its contemporaries.
In addition, Anthrax aren't afraid to tackle social and political issues as they did on "Evil Twin," one of the songs included on Kings Among Scotland. The song was written after the Al Qaeda-led attack on French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015, resulting in 12 people losing their lives over a cartoon that was deemed to be "offensive."
"We're still murdering each other over the same (things) that people were murdering each other over thousands of years ago -- over whose god is better than whose god," Ian told Loudwire. "The fact that we haven't moved past that, I think pretty much speaks volumes on the human race."
Political or not, the fact that people come to an Anthrax show to have a good time is not lost on Ian.
"Look we're here to entertain people. This show shows up in a town, and for three to four hours every night it takes you out of that bubble that everyone has to deal with every day with everything that is happening on the planet. You get to come to an Anthrax show and vent, let all of that aggression out and have a really good time, have fun and leave with a smile on your face. That's really important in times like these, to be able to do that, and it's important for us to be able to do that too."
While some of his peers are retiring or contemplating retirement (the band is currently on tour with Slayer for that band's "retirement" tour), Ian doesn't see that decision coming any time in the near future for him or the other members of his band.
"Judas Priest and Iron Maiden have existed longer than we have, but Iron Maiden couldn't be more on top of their game, and look how long they've been around," Ian told the Tampa Bay Times.
"Angus Young is pretty much the only one left in AC/DC, but even Angus is seven or eight years older than me, and he's still out there doing it at the level he does. If those guys are still doing it, and they're six to 10 to 15 years older than I am, it makes me feel like I can do that too."
And, although he does recognize his band's place in history as one of the "Big Four" thrash bands, Ian doesn't see himself or his band as am aging veteran or as a grandfather of the genre in the way many metal fans do.
"I've never seen myself as an elder statesman," Ian continued. "Maybe someday, if everyone I've ever been a fan of is no longer here and there's literally nobody else left, people from my generation who are better prepared for the job than I am, yeah maybe, but what is the responsibility? There's no mayor of heavy metal. There's no professor emeritus of hard rock. What is the responsibility of being an elder statesman?
"The dudes in Maiden, they go to work just like I do and just like you do. They don't have a responsibility to anyone other than the people buying their records or buying tickets to their shows. There's no responsibility to the genre. That's something I've never understood at all.
"We're not just going through the motions. I feel we are hungrier now than we've ever been. And here's why: I think we want to fight. We feel like there's a place that we belong. There's something to strive for."