Scott Ian: Speaking Words

Scott Ian - promo shotThe Gate, Roath, Cardiff, 25 May 2013

I’ve long thought that there’s a rich but seldom tapped seam of fan and musician experience linked to the music we love. It’s the motivation, indeed, for Words and Music, and it appears that Scott Ian has had a similar thought, or, at least, one very much like it.

Scott has embarked on his Speaking Words tour with the conviction that his stories, memories and reflections will strike a chord and be of interest “to a certain audience”. He is right, and for over two hours, one man, his microphone, and a well-chosen set of photos and comic strip overheads, keep an enthralled audience both entertained and on the edge of their seats.

The Gate - Scott Ian

Shot posted by Scott a couple of hours before gig time

The venue is perfect – a converted church, with most of the 120 or so present primed on Worship Music. We all know it’s a privilege to see and hear such a big name at such close quarters and in such intimate surroundings. And with the pre-gig playlist – touchingly triggered by Scott himself from his on-stage computer – including the likes of Judas Priest (‘The Hellion’/’Electric Eye’), Iron Maiden, Motorhead (‘Love Me Like a Reptile’), Thin Lizzy (‘Don’t Believe a Word’), Dio (‘Stand Up and Shout’) and Rainbow (‘Kill The King’), we just know it’s going to be a good night. So let us play …

The gig proper kicks off with a reading that appears to be about drug addiction. The well-chosen passage tightens the mood before a killer punchline releases the tension and sets the tone for the evening. Thereafter, we are treated to a well-constructed and quick-witted performance from a man who clearly has a lot to say and a lot to offer.

This may only be Scott’s fifth Speaking Words show, and he may “get more nervous at these shows than a Big Four or a stadium gig”, but he comes across as fluent, intelligent, confident and professional. He even takes it in his stride when, early in the show, a man collapses in the second row (the gentleman concerned received treatment and was thankfully ok). He may not be “a stand-up comedian” but he is also very, very funny.

Scott Ian tour promoThe stories come thick and fast: his upbringing in a Jewish family in New York; his experience of, and attitude towards, drugs; his first meeting with Lemmy (the moral of the story: “Don’t try to keep up with Lemmy!”); his meeting with a sinister-looking German doctor; his second meeting, and subsequent friendship, with Lemmy (“Why on earth would you try to keep up with me?!”); his memories of departed friends – Dimebag Darrell, Jeff Hanneman, Ronnie James Dio and Cliff Burton; his inopportune seizures; and how difficult he finds it leaving his two year old son to go on tour.

Some of the topics and reflections emerge from an open Q&A session, in which Scott honestly answers questions on everything thrown at him  – no sacred ground, not even in a church. He makes sure that everyone who wants to ask a question gets to ask one, and he even holds a free prize draw in which everyone gets a chance to win a tour merch bundle and a signed Jackson guitar.

I learnt some stuff too. Did you know that the Wales and British Lions rugby captain Sam Warburton named his book, Refuse To Be Denied: My Grand Slam Year, after the Anthrax track on the We’ve Come For You All album?

Scott ends the show with a list of things you are well advised NOT to say or do when you meet a rock star – a kind of top 10 compilation of things people say to him or shout at him as he goes about his business. You’ll laugh and maybe even cringe a bit as he runs through his list. You know the kind of thing:
Fan: “Hey, I know you, you’re the guy in that band.”
Scott: “Anthrax?”
Fan: “No, that’s not it.”

Throughout he is a warm and engaging host, and I came away feeling that I’d really seen something of the man behind the music, both in humorous and serious moments. “Music should be what you feel and what’s in your heart,” he says, to enthusiastic applause from all around the room. We sense there is something in this passionate statement that we share.

Scott reflects on Jeff Hanneman’s passing too, even though it is clearly (and unsurprisingly) still very raw.  It is the first time, says Scott, that he has really been moved to think about his own mortality. He has always taken the view that you should: “Play every show as though you’re going to jail the next day”, but Hanneman’s passing seems to have given his perspective a wider and more emotional significance.

As for the funny moments, well, Scott’s story about making Slayer smile onstage is hilarious, and I’ll never, ever be able to look at pictures of Sebastian Bach again (not that I make a habit of doing that) without giggling.

But hey, I don’t want to give out too many spoilers. If you wanna hear Scott’s stories, you’ve gotta see the show. And really, you’ve got to see this show.

In these days of carefully-packaged, superficial talent show bullshit, the words spoken by Scott Ian were very refreshing. Catch this tour if you can – you will not regret it.

Scott Ian

Visit Scott’s official website

Scott’s Words and Music Q&A

About Words and Music

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