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Hard Rock Examiner interview: Scott Ian of Anthrax

Scott Ian of Anthrax will be talking at BB King's this week
Scott Ian of Anthrax will be talking at BB King's this weekCredits: Elliot Levin / New York Hard Rock Examiner

Scott Ian is coming back to New York City, and boy does he have some stories to tell. The Queens, NY native and his world-famous beard have toured and partied around the planet with Anthrax and metal’s most legendary personalities, and he’s ready to share his life experience with anyone ready to listen.

Scott will be hosting his “Speaking Words” tour at B.B. King’s this Wednesday, and he was kind enough to speak with me by phone this weekend to talk about his show, drama with the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, his justification for dissing the Mets, and more:

Examiner: Hey Scott, how are you doing today?

Scott: Good, how are you?

Examiner: I’m alright. We’re talking because you’re coming here to New York this week to perform your spoken word tour at BB Kings, how’s the tour going so far?

Scott: The tour’s been great so far. Some really good shows, Chicago was great, Ottowa was great, it’s been a lot of fun so far.

Examiner: You’ve been touring as part of a band for over 30 years, is it an adjustment to tour solo?

Scott: Well, from a production standpoint it’s obviously much different, because I’m just out here by myself with a tour manager who also doubles as the merch guy and driving, and we’re in a rent-a-car and we’re driving out right after shows. So from that standpoint yeah, it’s a huge adjustment. I’m used to getting on a tour bus after the show and having a beer and going to sleep in my bunk. There’s a level of comfort when I’m touring with the band.

But at the same time, I embrace this. All the responsibility is on me, it’s just me out here, and I enjoy that as well. The fact that I’m doing something that’s outside of my bubble, and still outside of my comfort zone, and it’s a new skill set for me and I love that I’m learning how to do this after all these years.

Examiner: So what exactly will you be talking about on stage?

Scott: Well if you want to know exactly, you gotta come to the show. (laughs) That’s why I’m doing a show. I’m telling stories from my life. Even from pre-Anthrax, but a lot of it is from travelling the world in my band and experiences I’ve had and people I’ve seen and met. You don’t even need to know anything about my life. And when you come see the show, you’ll be like holy crap, I can’t believe this is real.

Examiner: I’m surprised that there’s not much leaked video of your show on YouTube yet. Do you prefer it that way?

Scott: Yeah. That’s because I take it down when people decide that they’re going to put my content on YouTube for free. Call me crazy, but I’m one of those crazy artists that thinks you shouldn’t give your content away for free. I know that’s a crazy way to think these days but I come from the old school. Where you used to buy albums and videos. And I still do, I still buy my music and dvds. So I feel like if I have enough respect to do that, then everyone should have enough respect to do that.

Examiner. Do you feel the same way about live Anthrax videos on YouTube?

Scott: I think it’s idiotic. I think the fact that someone would come to a show, spend the money to come to the show, and stand there holding their freakin phone over their head for 90 minutes is pathetic. It completely defeats the purpose of coming to a live show. I think it’s a joke. I’ve seen Bruce Dickinson go off on audience members for doing that. Granted he’s in Iron Maiden and they’re big enough to say that to their audience, but I think it’s idiotic and I don’t understand that mindset at all. You’re standing at a live show and you’re watching it through a screen on your phone.

Examiner: Are you encouraging crowd participation for these shows?

Scott: Well I’m doing a Q&A, so I guess you can say that. I do a Q&A section where I’m not afraid to answer anything.

Examiner: What’s the weirdest question you’ve been asked so far?

Scott: Who would win in a fight of Judas Priest song titles - The Exciter or the Painkiller. That’s the weirdest thing I’ve been asked so far.

Examiner: And who did you pick?

Scott: I said I’m going to go with the Exciter, for no other reason than I think that’s a better record than Painkiller.

Examiner: BB King’s is one of the more metal-friendly venues in the city. Have you ever played there before?

Scott: No, not yet.

Examiner: Do you have a favorite New York city venue?

Scott: Favorite New York venue would be The Ritz, which is now Webster Hall. We never played there since it’s been Webster Hall, but some of our favorite shows in the early days were at The Ritz on 11th Street, ‘84, ‘85 and ‘86. I’m sad to see Roseland go, I love Roseland. It’s a great venue, if I had to pick one that would probably be my favorite venue. I mean, outside of the Garden. I think the Garden is the greatest venue in the city, but we’ve only done it once. But Roseland we’ve done many times.

Examiner: I love that wide floor there, great for mosh pits.

Scott: I love Irving Plaza too. We’ve had amazing shows through the years at Irving Plaza too. I think the vibe in that room... I’ve seen such amazing shows in that room too. New York is lucky in that aspect in that there’s a lot of cool places you can see people play.

Examiner: Do you think there’s longevity in this spoken word thing? Would you want to do it again?

Scott: My attitude towards this is, I’m having fun doing this and that’s why I’m doing this. I’m at a point in my life where I’m not trying to leave home anymore. I’m not looking for reasons to travel. I get enough of that with my band. I just want to be home with my family. But this is something that I’ve really been enjoying, and I do want to keep doing for sure. I’ve even talked to the band’s agent about when Anthrax starts touring again later this year or next year, when we have a night off in a city if I can try and get me a talk show when we’re there.

Examiner: When this tour was first announced it made a lot of sense to me, because you’ve been a talking head contributor to VH1 and MTV for years so you’re clearly comfortable talking and being a representative for the genre.

Scott: When this band first started in 1981, I didn’t know who I was yet. I was 17 years old. I didn’t know what my role in this band was going to be, other than I was a very tenacious person and I think that had a lot to do with those early years, pushing and banging doors down. But I had no idea that at some point in time I would become the mouthpiece in a lot of ways for the band. It kinda made sense to me years later because a lot of my favorite guys in bands, a guy like Steve Harris, he certainly wasn’t the singer of Iron Maiden but in a lot of ways he was the frontman, at least in my mind he was. And you got Gene Simmons in KISS, and I guess he and Paul Stanley are co-frontmen even though Paul is the guy that talks to the crowd. But Gene Simmons was always my guy in KISS, so I don’t know... it just organically happened. I started writing lyrics for Spreading The Disease and that kind of just opened my mind to being able to express myself. And I suddenly realized I had no problem talking in front of people, I actually enjoy it. Generally in the set I would introduce maybe one song in a show, and I would always look forward to that 30 seconds of getting to talk to the crowd.

Examiner: Speaking of KISS, the hot news story of the week is that they’re not going to perform at their Rock n’ Roll Hall Of Fame induction, and you took to the Internet and defended their right to not perform because they can’t work out the drama since Ace won’t play with Tommy.

Scott: I think the question that people need to be asking... given the fact that people ask me about this, the Hall of Fame, literally, it means nothing to me. It’s so outside of my world and my bubble that I’m in. I think the question people really need to be asking is who cares about the Hall of Fame? I wish I’d thought of this the other day. I only thought of this today. Because every night at the Q&A I get asked about KISS and the Hall of Fame, and yeah- I’m a f*cking huge KISS fan since 1975. And I’m friends with those dudes. And I think Paul Stanley kind of brought this up, I saw this in an interview the other day, who cares about the Hall of Fame? Outside of the self-appointed guys who vote on who’s getting in, who gives a sh*t about the Hall of Fame? I don’t understand. I don’t get it. Maybe if someone could explain it to me I would have more empathy for the situation, but I have no need or care or want for the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. I’m not going to go to Cleveland and look at a thing, my memories and my emotions are all based in the love I have for bands and the music they make and what it’s meant to me in my life. I don’t need these people to tell me these bands are great. I already know this. I have a Hall of Fame in my head.

I have such respect for all of them, Ace and Peter too, I’m friends with all of them. I don’t want my friends to be mad at each other, I wish they could all be happy. I wish it would be like the KISS movie, where there would be a whole bunch of dudes up there in makeup, the two Aces can fight each other on stage. That would be a moment I would watch! They should’ve gotten Vinnie Vincent, and they could’ve had a hologram of Eric Carr...

Examiner: Well Scott, now I have to ask, who would win in a fight: Ace or Tommy?

Scott: Who would win in a fight? You know, nothing against Tommy, he’s the nicest guy in the world, but Ace is old school Bronx. My money’s on Ace.

Examiner: Motley Crue recently announced that they were retiring after a final tour (full details here). What’s your take on bands formally retiring?

Scott: I have no take on it at all. Retire. Or don’t retire. Or come back after you’ve retired. I don’t care. Why do people get so upset when a band says they’re done and then come back? Everyone goes back to see them again. Obviously people aren’t that upset because, if five years from now Motley Crue does another show, are people going to go? Of course they are! So I’m not saying I think they’re going to do that, I just really don’t care.

Examiner: Let me wrap up with a couple of quick questions. There’s something that’s been bothering me since the Big 4 at Yankee Stadium, and I think I need to clear it up with you. You and I are both from Queens, but you dissed the Mets from center field at Yankee Stadium. (Read all about that epic day here) And I know you’re a lifelong Yankees fan, but what the hell, man?

Scott: That was basically just because Eddie Trunk was there. And me and Frankie from Anthrax and Eddie have incessantly busted each others’ balls about baseball for 30 years, so getting to have that pulpit to be a bully from, I was going to take advantage of. That was strictly done because of my friendship with Eddie. If I could diss the Mets from center field at Yankee Stadium, I’m going to do it.

Examiner: At Metal Masters 4, Philip Anselmo called you the best Jewish guitarist in heavy metal. Do you agree? (Read my review of Metal Masters 4 right here).

Scott: I’m the only one!

Examiner: Well Marty Friedman comes to mind...

Scott: I’m joking, I’m joking. Well Marty Friedman is a much better guitar player. I don’t know, I’m very good at doing one thing and that’s playing rhythm guitar in Anthrax so I do that really well. I am certainly the best rhythm guitar player in Anthrax.

Examiner: Finally, what would you say to someone who’s on the fence about coming to Wednesday’s show at BB Kings?

Scott: I’d say get the f*ck off the fence! There’s nothing to be on the fence about, if you like to laugh, if you enjoy humor, then you should come to this show. If you want to hear stories about people like Dimebag Darrell and Lemmy and KISS and all kinds of other crap, or get the chance to ask me about something that I may know about, there’s no reason to be on the fence. Come check it out. I guarantee you’re going to like this show!

Scott’s show is at B.B. King’s this Wednesday at 8pm. Tickets are still available for the very reasonable price of $15. As always, get monthly previews of New York concerts delivered right to your inbox by subscribing to the New York Hard Rock Examiner at the top of this page, or follow me at twitter.com/NYROCKEXAMINER.