Multiple lead singer changes. Record label bankruptcies. An album that took four years and a complete re-recording to finish. A band name that’s forever linked to post-9/11 domestic terror attacks.
Whatever the situation over the last three decades, the guys in Anthrax just roll with the punches. “We’ve become very good at dealing with things dealt to us,” says guitarist Scott Ian, laughing.
Thankfully, the “things dealt” to the popular thrash metal band are starting to be positives. On September 13, Anthrax released “Worship Music,” their first new album in eight years and a solid return to form. The following day, the New York natives played Yankee Stadium alongside fellow metal superstars Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer in a concert appropriately dubbed “The Big 4.”
Just before the Big 4 show at Yankee Stadium, Metromix spoke with Ian about the group’s legacy, his NYC roots and (surprise) his brief hip-hop career.
September 14 is going to be named “Anthrax Day” in the Bronx. Ten years ago, post 9/11, could you have imagined something like this?
Ten years ago every day was Anthrax day! The other anthrax. It was pretty trippy back in 2001; it was so weird to see our name on the covers of newspapers, in Time and Newsweek. I never got used to it. I’d see it out of the corner of my eye, and think, “Look, it’s the band!” And it wasn’t. At the same time, we got so much media attention, album sales went up, and we ended up on “The Tonight Show.” That’s when we realized it wasn’t going to be a problem for us, if Leno’s making jokes about us.
Do you ever feel like your band is slightly cursed? The anthrax attacks in 2001, lead singer changes, label bankruptcy…
Well, record labels, that’s out of our control. It sucks getting stuck in those business whirlpools. That’s been a frustration, but what would I change? Nothing. What’s to say I’d be here talking about our new record if things had been different? Now, if there’s a zombie holocaust next week, and we don’t get to release the record, yeah, maybe we’re cursed.
You recorded “Worship Music” with a different singer, then brought one-time Anthrax frontman Joey Belladonna back and re-recorded it. This all took four years. Was it stressful to do an album that way?
It definitely wasn’t normal, but not stressful, no. We had a finished record in 2009 and suddenly no singer, and we’re like, “What are we going to do?” So you do what you have to do, you work harder to figure out a solution. I’m not a religious person, but some things that have happened in the last three to four years seem like they were tests, testing our resolve, making sure we were worthy of making a record. But once Joey came back, everything seemed to go the right way.
OK, you gotta choose one: Who are you most excited to play with, Metallica, Slayer or Megadeth?
I’d have to say Metallica. Anthrax has toured with those other bands before a lot, but we’ve only done a few shows with Metallica.
Your profile on the band’s website claims you were in House of Pain for two gigs. True story?
I really did! It was some time in the ‘90s. Danny Boy from the band stage-dove at a gig in New York and broke his ankle. Everlast called me, and I filled in for a couple of shows. I knew the words already. It was my chance to fulfill my rapper dream. I’m not a frustrated rapper, but it is a genre of music I have affinity for.
One of your most famous older songs is “I Am the Law,” about the comic book hero Judge Dredd. Is that going to be in the new “Dredd” movie?
We’ve tried! It’s a nebulous thing…nobody can find anyone who has anything to do with that movie. That might be a message that we shouldn’t try. But whatever the movie is, it’s gotta be better than the ‘90s film. Sylvester Stallone and Rob Schneider? That sucks on paper. Who greenlit that? That person deserves to be fired.
You do reality shows, you’re writing comic books, you’re in two bands (Anthrax and the Damned Things) that are both touring, and you have a new baby. When do you sleep?
Well, I slept before the baby came! I do stuff I have time for. Anthrax is my 100% priority, but what am I going to do, say no to writing for DC Comics? And doing the Damned Things album, that was worth putting in extra time and effort.
Your goatee is fantastic. Is that hard to keep up?
Not at all. I try to keep it low-maintenance; I want my appearance to require the least amount of work as possible. I think it’s a pain that I have to spend three minutes shaving around it.
Slayer are now selling condoms based on one of their albums (“South of Heaven”). What’s the strangest Anthrax merch you’ve ever sold?
Slayer’s doing that? [Laughs] Actually, right now, all these indie record stores are selling Anthrax rosary beads, these beads with the Anthrax pentagram logo on ‘em. But that’s admittedly a tie-in to our new record, “Worship Music.”