Scott Ian of Anthrax Wants You to Know He's Not the "Mayor of Heavy Metal"

Despite being one of the highest-profile members of heavy metal’s elite (thanks in no small part to his perennial hosting appearances on just about every show VH1 that has ever aired), Anthrax cofounder and figurehead Scott Ian wants you to know he is not the “mayor of heavy metal.”

The rhythm-guitar ace and lyricist has far too much on his plate these days to pay attention to a thrash resurgence or any other such musical trends, what with tracking a new Anthrax album, penning and releasing an autobiography, working with his multiple other bands, being an online poker pro, hosting his Blood Works TV series, etc., etc.

However, while Ian may be too busy to pay attention to whatever young bands are biting at the early Megaforce Records catalog, the seemingly tireless metal maestro is more excited than ever about his own band’s new material — just don’t expect him to tell you why. What Ian will open up about, however, are the ways metal’s founding icons are aging and why many of the genre’s original heroes still hold such a tight grip on its proverbial torches.

New Times: In the studio teaser for the new record, the band seems really excited about the material. Could you tell us a little about what to expect from it?
Scott Ian: Nope. People can hear it and make up their own minds about it. To me, it’s ten great new Anthrax songs that I’m really excited about playing.

I learned a long time ago that trying to describe music is like trying to describe a painting, and it’s something I just don’t do. I’m a fan of music, and I make up my own opinions, and I don’t really care what the band has to say about it. I guess it’s kind of boring to say, “We’ve got ten killer new songs and we’re really excited for everybody to get to hear them,” but that’s really the truth!

"... it’s just a really human story about a guy that put his head down and went to work every day, and just really persevered against all odds to make something happen in his life, and I think people really identify with that."

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Your autobiography, I’m the Man, has been out for a while now. Have you personally received any interesting feedback about it at this point?
All of the feedback that I’ve gotten has been really positive, and people seem to be really stoked on the book — which obviously makes me happy, because I worked really, really hard on it. My one caveat about doing a book was that I didn’t bore anyone, and I think that’s what we accomplished.

It’s different from a lot of metal autobiographies in that I don’t have the typical story arc, with the rise to fame and the drugs and all that crap. What I think makes mine work so well is that it’s just a really human story about a guy that put his head down and went to work every day and just really persevered against all odds to make something happen in his life, and I think people really identify with that.

It seems like every few years, there’s a new band that blows up aping classic thrash sounds. Do you have a take on the neo-thrash thing, and are any of those bands on your radar?
I haven’t really listened to any new metal since the ‘90s, so you’re asking the wrong guy really. I don’t really keep up. I got the new Maiden record — I’m excited about that!

Some people have this idea that I’m like the mayor of heavy metal, but I am definitely not that, and I have no idea what’s going on in any scene, nor have I really ever. I’ve been focused on one thing for 34 years, and that’s Anthrax. I still listen to the same 20 albums I listened to in 1981 — it doesn’t really stray that much further for me. Obviously I listen to all kinds of other music besides metal, but when it comes to new metal, the last bands I really got into in a big way were Pantera and Sepultura and System of a Down.

I know you’re a huge Motörhead fan, and I have to imagine it’s been tough watching Lemmy battle his recent health issues. Considering how relatively young the artform is and that it hasn’t lost too many of its icons, outside of typical rock ’n’ roll casualties, we’re in a unique position watching these heroes age and leave.
I talk about this a lot with some of my friends, that in our lifetime all of our heroes will be gone. It’s weird to be in that same position. In 20 years from now, I’m going to be 70 years old! What the hell am I going to be doing? Hopefully, still watching Lemmy crush it at 90!

"You can’t be old, mentally, and play this music. You can’t think like an old man and do this, it just doesn’t work."

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The other side of that coin is that a lot of the genre’s forefathers, like Maiden and Priest, have continued to make relevant, incredibly strong records well into their late careers, which doesn’t seem to happen too often in other genres.
I agree fully, and I just think it has to do with a certain kind of passion. You have to maintain a passion for what you’re doing. Maiden, Priest, Motörhead are the three. That’s the trident — the reasons why heavy metal exists, basically. Obviously you can add Sabbath to that mix too, but you don’t need to go any further than Maiden, Priest, and Mötorhead. That’s it! And that’s why they’re still doing it, because they’re the best at it. You can’t be old, mentally, and play this music. You can’t think like an old man and do this; it just doesn’t work.

And really, who is better than Iron Maiden? I say it all the time! That’s a big part of why I’m not listening to tons of new bands — because I could just listen to Maiden, and who is better?  

Motörhead with Anthrax and Crobot. 7 p.m. Saturday, September 26 at Pompano Beach Amphitheater, 1801 NE Sixth St., Pompano Beach. Tickets cost $38 to $78 via
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David Von Bader