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Metal Mistress #3 – SCOTT IAN

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“I love what I do, somehow I have been able to play in a band for my entire life and that is all I ever wanted to do. I love that I get to do that.” – Scott Ian

Of course, we all know the bigger bands they are in now, but what about the “other” bands?

The ones that your favourite musician was in before joining their current band that has delivered what observers like to refer to as success?

The black sheep of the relationship.

The mistress.

Starting today and continuing every Wednesday, HEAVY brings you the stories of the bands that preluded – or in some cases co-existed – the juggernaut that launched the main careers of some of the world’s most popular artists.

While there are some that are well known – such as Gary Holt (ExodusSlayer), Henry Rollins (Black FlagRollins Band), Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters), and Rob Trujillo (Suicidal TendenciesMetallica), there are some that may shock and surprise you. Like Alice Cooper’s High School Beatles tribute Parody Act or Iggy Pop’s early band the Iguanas or Bruce Dickinson’s flirtation with Samson...

HEAVY has dug deep for some of these, but the one thing every tale has in common is each band helped shape the performer you see, know, and love before you today.

This week we focus on Scott Ian who has contributed much more to heavy metal than just as guitarist for Anthrax

Scott Ian Rosenfeld is better known as just Scott Ian, rhythm guitarist and co-founder of thrash metal titans Anthrax.

The great man was also responsible for Stormtroopers Of Death, plays guitar for The Damned Things, plays with his wife in Pearl, and even played a handful of shows as part of the 2020 reunion tour for Mr. Bungle.

Heavily influenced in his formative years by seeing KISS live at Madison Square Gardens in 1977 (he later appeared in an episode of Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels and visited Gene’s home and spoke of the impact KISS had had on his life and career), Ian was also inspired by bands such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and the Ramones. He stated that Malcolm Young, Rudolf Schenker, and Johnny Ramone were his biggest influences to pursue rhythm guitar.

His style of playing guitar and songwriting, which includes fast, alternate picking, was largely moulded on that of legendary German outfit Accept, although over the years he has developed a style unmistakably his own.

In 1981, Ian and bass player Danny Lilker formed Anthrax, hand picking the band name from a biology textbook because it was “sufficiently evil”.

“Anthrax, it’s something that gets you sick, it’s horrible, strong. It’s a heavy-metal band name if there ever was one,” Ian later said.

Anthrax released their debut album Fistful Of Metal in 1984, with the line-up completed by vocalist Neil Turbin (who had replaced original vocalist John Connelly), drummer Charlie Benante and lead guitarist Dan Spitz. The release included a cover of Alice Cooper’s I’m Eighteen.

The album received a mixed response with AllMusic saying Anthrax sounded more like a Judas Priest cover band, however in 2019 Decibel inducted Fistful Of Metal into their Hall Of Fame.

To this day the album is cited as one of the best early examples of thrash metal and set Anthrax on the path to becoming one of the Big 4 of thrash metal.

It was also to be Turbin’s only release as frontman, with Matt Fallon and Joey Belladonna to fill the roll over the coming years. Fallon was briefly hired in late 1984, but he and the band soon parted ways. The remaining members decided to play live shows as a four-piece billed as The Diseased with Ian on vocals, performing hardcore punk covers until a permanent singer could be found.

Shortly after the release, Lilker was also fired from the band. He later said, “After I was thrown out, the guys unfairly said, “Well, it took him 30 times to record the bass track for I’m Eighteen, and if you listen to the bass track, if you didn’t know the whole story, you would say, “Well, that’s weird, isn’t it?” It’s only, like, five notes.”

Joey Belladonna joined Anthrax in 1985, with his first release being the Armed & Dangerous EP. Later that year, the band released Spreading The Disease, which to this day is highly regarded as their best album.

Bored with staying idle during leftover studio time, Ian, Benante, Lilker and vocalist Billy Milano formed Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D), a crossover of hardcore punk and thrash that paved the way for a genre of music that had been untried before then.

The band recorded their debut album in just three days and in 1985 released the brilliant Speak English Or Die, with their live release from Speak English Or Live in 2001 the perfect embodiment of a band at the peak of their game with zero fucks given.

S.O.D were considered offensive and racist by many critics, with Ian describing the songs on Speak English Or Die as “ridiculous” and “just a big inside joke”, adding: “Some people thought we were racist, and those people are stupid.”

Lilker also added, “The lyrics were never intended to be serious, just to piss people off.”

After numerous breakups and two more albums – Bigger Than The Devil (1999) and Rise Of The Infidels (2007) – Ian said in late 2011 after being asked about any more reunions: “No. I think I can safely say that yeah. It was never supposed to be anything more than it was. As far as I’m concerned, we did too much with it. It started out as a comic book strip that I drew in the studio and then turned into this record that we made, but you know, that’s all that it is for me. It’s the opposite of The Damned Things for me. It was never meant to be a real band with a schedule and making records and touring. S.O.D. was supposed to be the ‘anti’ of that, it was supposed to just be about having fun and never having it turn into something real where all of a sudden it’s not just fun anymore – it becomes a job, it becomes a business. And I’m glad everyone around the world got to see it at least once because in ’99 and 2000 we played everywhere, and I don’t feel the need to go out and do that again.”

Anthrax released their third album Among The Living in 1987. The album was considered Anthrax’s breakthrough album and portrayed a different side to the band, bringing out their humorous, experimental style. It was also dedicated to Metallica’s bass player, Cliff Burton, who died in a vehicle accident while Anthrax were on tour with Metallica in 1986.

The B-Side for Among The Living’s second single I Am The Law was a rap/metal hybrid called I Am The Man, which is thought by many to be one of the earliest recorded songs that gave birth to a new genre.

“It’s kind of like the death business – funeral homes are never gonna go out of business. I don’t think guitar-based bands are ever gonna go out of business.” – Scott Ian.

Anthrax also appeared on the title track of rap band U.T.F.O’s album Lethal. Their respect for the genre extended to Ian wearing Public Enemy shirts on stage and to publicity photoshoots, with Public Enemy returning the favour by naming Anthrax in their 1988 single Bring The Noise. Both bands collaborated on Bring The Noise when the song was re-recorded and released in 1991. The song was a surprise success, which led to Anthrax and Public Enemy joining forces for a tour which changed the face of metal forever.

“Everything I do is metal. When I clean my house, it’s metal.” – Scott Ian

1990 saw Anthrax release Persistence Of Time, a more serious album that was darker, more technical and more progressive than Among The Living.

Belladonna was fired in early 1992 with the band auditioning Mark Osegueda from Death Angel and Spike Xavier from Mind Over Four before settling on Armored Saint vocalist John Bush. They released Sound Of White Noise in 1993 which musically was a shift from the earlier thrash metal influences to a darker sound influenced by alternative rock. The album received mostly positive reviews, with Dave Connolley of AllMusic writing that Bush “has a lower-register voice than Belladonna, and the result is menacing, premeditated, and sinister.”

Anthrax released Stomp 442 (1995) and Volume 8: The Threat is Real (1998), both with drummer Charlie Benante playing most of the lead guitar parts. Pantera’s Phil Anselmo also provided guest vocals on Killing Box, with Dimebag Darrell playing guitar solos on Inside Out and Born Again Idiot on Volume 8. The compilation album Return Of The Killer A’s came out in 1999, but the next two years were plagued by problems with their label and personnel changes.

After the deadly anthrax attacks in the United States in 2001, Anthrax released a statement saying they would be changing their website to offer information about the virus in response to the high volume of people searching anthrax.com.

They flirted with the idea of altering their name as well, jokingly saying they would change their name to “something more friendly, like Basket Full of Puppies” before playing a 9/11 concert later that year in boiler suits bearing letters that emphatically spelled out We’re Not Changing Our Name.

What many believe to be the classic Anthrax line-up of Ian, Benante, Spitz, Belladonna and Frank Bello reformed for a tour in 2005, at some shows playing Among The Living in full. Hopes were high that this line-up would record a new album, however, when that didn’t happen, Anthrax named Dan Nelson from Devilside as the new frontman, with Rob Caggiano rejoining on lead guitar.

Anthrax started a brief tour opening for Iron Maiden in early 2009, but by mid-year, the band’s manager confirmed Nelson had left the band due to illness. Nelson refuted this, saying he was fired. All remaining shows were cancelled except for their August appearance at Sonisphere which featured the return of John Bush on vocals. Fan response was so overwhelmingly positive that Bush stayed with the band, who toured Australia as part of the Soundwave Festival in 2010. Afterwards, Bush said Anthrax intended to re-record some tracks from the upcoming album but left the band for a second time after refusing to commit full time for the proposed Big Four concerts which saw Anthrax tour with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, marking the first time in history that the four bands credited as pioneering thrash metal would appear together on stage.

“If you’re asking me if anyone will be ever as big as Metallica, I would say no,” Ian has stated. “I would also have said in 1983… I wouldn’t have thought Metallica was going to be the biggest heavy metal band in the world, so who the hell knows?

Besides releasing Worship Music in 2011 and the live DVD Chile Or Hell in 2014, Anthrax did little except tour until the release of For All Kings in 2016, which debuted at #9 on the Billboard Top 200, the highest performing album of their career.

Tours with Killswitch Engage, Lamb Of God and Testament followed before Anthrax were offered a slot on Slayer’s Farewell Tour in 2018.

That year, Anthrax also released the live DVD/album Kings Among Scotland, with bass player Frank Bello telling Blabbermouth in an interview late last year when asked about a new album: “We’ve been going back and forth with stuff. Scott [Ian, guitar] and I flew out to Charlie’s [Benante, drums] house in Chicago. He’s got a nice little studio there, so we do it there, and just do a bunch of demos. Yeah, just getting back to it, and living with the songs, making sure it’s the right stuff. And we’re gonna continue that and make sure it’s the right record. And it will be the right record, ’cause we won’t let it out without it.”

In 2020 Ian performed with Mr. Bungle as part of their reunion shows, after vocalist Mike Patton listened to early Mr. Bungle demos and decided the sound could be improved by the addition of a second guitarist.

“I had no idea if he’d do it,” Patton admitted in an interview with Metal Hammer. “We don’t know each other very well, but I knew he was a fan, and he had come to a bunch of our shows over the years and had been really nice. So, I thought, ‘You know what, let’s ask Scott if he would do it.’ I reached out and… I think he was really freaked out. I think he thought I was going to send him the new Bungle thing, and I had to explain ‘No, I want you to be in the fucking band!’”

Ian also recorded The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny and The Night They Came Home with Mr. Bungle.

Between 2009 and 2012 and then 2016 to now, Ian was also a part of The Damned Things, who released the albums Ironiclast (2010) and High Crimes (2019). The band also features Fall Out Boy‘s Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley, Every Time I Die‘s Keith Buckley, and Alkaline Trio‘s Dan Andriano.

When asked to describe the band’s sound on the first album, Trohman said the band was aiming for a blues- and riff-oriented heavy/classic rock sound, combining elements from their own bands; “going for a traditional hard rock sound combined with the heavier aspects of Anthrax and Every Time I Die and the hook-laden choruses of Fall Out Boy.”

Ian once said in an interview with guitar.com, “So that, to me, is a good barometer for what’s going on with hard rock and heavy metal in general. So many new bands in metal have come through in the last 10 years, and then, of course, you’ve got the grandpas like us and – I was gonna say Slayer, but they retired – us and Megadeth and Metallica. And even bands that I consider to be new bands, like System Of A Down or Lamb Of God, these guys who have now been around going on 20,30 years. I think it’s really healthy.”

Next week Cocolesexbomb takes us through the life of the musical enigma that is Jack White.

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