The Gospel According To Scott Ian
Step inside the mind of the metal thrashing mad guitarist from Anthrax – Scott Ian!
He was there for the birth of thrash and became one of the key architects of the metal world as we know it. Ladies and gentlemen, may we present... The Gospel According To Scott Ian!
Life is a case of figuring out the game: what are the rules and how do I excel at it?
My parents split up when I was 11, so my brother and I lived with my mom, but even through all of that I just looked at it as, “This is what my life is. Just deal with shit.” Even as a kid I was very focused on being able to do what I wanted to do and figuring out how to make that happen. If that meant getting good grades to keep my mom off my back so I could do whatever the hell I wanted, then I got good grades so nobody would bother me.
My name change was purely practical
I changed my name from Scott Ian Rosenfeld just so I wouldn’t have to sign it for 33 years! Ha ha ha! I’d still be signing autographs at some in-store from 1988 if ‘Rosenfeld’ was still my last name.
If you really are serious about music, it has to become your one and only focus
And that means in front of family and friends and everything. I have only very fond memories of Anthrax’s early days. I didn’t have any money but that wasn’t the point. The point was that we were trying to be in a band, working our asses off to turn our dream into a reality. It’s all about sacrifice, as far as how you’re willing to live and the accommodations and being able to eat decent food and to have someplace to sleep. You can’t care about all that shit. You can’t care about anything other than getting on stage, playing a show and being the best band you can be.
I don’t pay attention to what fans are saying on the internet
Being online for me is a very focused thing. I use the ’net for email, to approve band-related crap like videos or merch items, and a tiny bit of bullshitting around the nerd sites that I visit to stay up on movies, comics and what’s going on in that world. I don’t do anything related to music other than iTunes – I avoid sites that have anything to do with music. If I’m on Twitter I’ll see Metal Hammer or Classic Rock and maybe find out some things through that, otherwise I’m still that same kid who grew up in the '70s – I find out about music through word of mouth.
You wanna talk about lineup changes, how about Megadeth!
They’ve had way more people in that band than we’ve ever had. Granted, Megadeth is not so much a democracy like Anthrax is, because Megadeth is Dave’s (Mustaine) band. And there’s nothing wrong with that either, because he’s had great lineups throughout the years. Anytime you’re in a band that’s been together as long as us, or Megadeth or Slayer, it’s just the nature of the business. I’m having trouble right now trying to think of a band that’s been together for 30 years – outside of Rush – that’s still the same original dudes, and they only have three dudes to contend with. It would be an interesting trivia question: how many bands that have been together for at least 30 years still have the original lineup? You can’t count bands where a member has died.
It doesn’t bother me what Gene Simmons or Fugazi do
If you don’t take care of the business, it isn’t going to take care of you. I’ve always been hands-on with the business side. I want to make sure our asses are covered. Whatever you do as an artist, it’s up to you. And it’s up to the fans to decide if it’s something they want to be a part of. If somebody wants to slap their logo on something, I don’t give a shit.
Did I ever reach the point where I felt like giving up?
Yeah, every time I watch Eddie Van Halen play, I ask myself, ‘What’s the point?!’ Seriously though, no. If anything, it’s the opposite. When I was 13, I broke my wrist skateboarding and I couldn’t play guitar. That was a depressing and frightening time. That’s when I realised how important the guitar was to me. It’s not like it just sat in the corner and collected dust and I didn’t care – I was really bummed that I couldn’t play for two months.
Looking back, there’s nothing in the past I would change
I’m a firm believer in not looking backwards. Unless I could have a TARDIS, then I’d take advantage of it. Not actually having one though, I don’t ever look back.
I’ve read comics since the 60s, so it’s hard to pick a favourite
Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns was a turning point but if I had to pick one, it’d probably be Watchmen. It was unlike any comic I’d ever read. But I like non-serious comics, too. I still love The Fantastic Four, Hulk and Spider-Man. Comics have always been fluid. I like certain writers and certain artists but I can’t say there’s any one comic for me, I’ve just been a fan since the late-60s.
I don’t have goals or a bucket list or anything like that
Well, other than meeting Stephen King. Personally it’d be to be a great husband and father to my son forever, but professionally it’s about the career and doing this as long as we want to do it. That’s my only goal – to continue being Anthrax as long as we want to, and as long as we can still make records that feel like we have something to say, that kick us in the ass and that we have fun playing. As long as we can physically go out there and do it and still come across as a live band, that’s my only goal – to continue being in a band.
Football is everything that American sports are not
I got way into the World Cup a few years ago. We were on tour in Europe the whole time the World Cup was going on and the energy was so infectious over there. I watched every single match of the World Cup. It was amazing. In football, they play straight through, there’s no bullshit. It’s not written by television over there. For me to watch an NFL game, where there’s more commercials than time on the field actually playing... I’m bored out of my mind watching that.
Being a zombie on The Walking Dead was great
I hadn’t planned on it, it just happened. It was amazing to get to be made up by Greg Nicotero and his team and to get to be a part of that. I may get the chance to do it again – fingers crossed. It’s much harder now that it’s the biggest show on television. I may get to go hang out and watch them shoot.
I am most definitely not a spiritual person
I’m a tangible person, very hands-on. I have to see it to believe it. Music is a weird thing because it’s a language that everyone can understand, so it does touch people on a different level around the world. You could go all around the cultures and put headphones on people and play a Beatles song and you’d probably get a thousand different people, all with a smile on their face, even if it’s something they’d never heard before. I understand why people consider music to be spiritual... it transcends the human experience. Where the fuck does music come from, I wonder? Every musician is capable of something amazing.
Originally published in Metal Hammer issue 262.