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

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Scott Ian (Anthrax)

Scott Ian - Anthrax (courtesy of Ish Fauxtography)

I’ve always had a soft spot for Anthrax. ‘Armed and Dangerous’, ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’, ‘A.I.R’, the manic laughter of ‘Madhouse’, and the whole of the Among The Living album – ground-breaking stuff that, as an eager young metal head, I lapped up. I always found them funny and down to earth. I liked the ‘Injun’ thing, I liked the humour, I liked that Scott was called Scott ‘Not’ Ian,  I liked that they played with passion, I liked that they weren’t afraid to experiment and, most of all, I liked that they wrote good songs.

As it happens, I gave my vinyl copy of Among the Living to an Australian kid called Will. He was my landlord’s nephew, and was a bit of a wild one. So his dad sent him to spend a bit of time in Wales to get schooled proper, like, and to help him grow up a bit. He didn’t last too long. He threatened another pupil with a knife, swore at a teacher, and got expelled. As a parting gift I gave him the Anthrax album. He couldn’t quite believe it. Metal gave us something in common, and I had good fun listening to music with him.

So, yeah, I’ve always had a soft spot for Anthrax. I have good memories of the landmark Master of Puppets/Damage Inc. tour, when they provided such capable support to Metallica, and of them joking around during Monsters of Rock appearance at Castle Donington (“Joey fucked up, Joey fucked up”!). It goes without saying that I was chuffed to bits when Scott agreed to take the Words and Music Q&A. It’s almost time for my medication now, so here goes …

Hi Scott, to get straight down to business, what does rock music mean to you?
It’s been a daily part of my life for so long it’s like eating or sleeping. Can’t live without it.

Who was the first artist to make an impression on you?
My earliest memories of listening to music come from what my parents played in the house: Neil Diamond, The Eagles, Woodstock Soundtrack, The Doobie Bros, Elvis, Bette Midler, Simon & Garfunkel. They had good taste. The first records I bought were Elton John 7″ singles.

Scott close-upAn album, song or lyric that means a lot to you?
Too many to list. Quadrophenia had a big impact as a kid.

An artist who has stayed with you over time?
Most of the stuff I mentioned already and then everything I got into on my own in the 70s. Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Ramones, Cheap Trick, AC/DC etc. etc.

My introduction to Anthrax live came when I saw you supporting Metallica on the UK leg of the Damage Inc./Master of Puppets tour.  Joel McIver says that these shows were the moment the thrash metal movement revealed its true strength in Britain. What do you remember most about that tour?
The crowds were amazing. Biggest shows we had played until that point. We felt like we’d “made it.” I also remember we didn’t have any money and we were living on really bad British pizza. That kept our heads in check.

I smuggled Lee Dorrian (Napalm Death/Cathedral) into the Cardiff, Wales gig. Lee and my mate Marv started the stage-diving! Not many people know that …
I don’t remember. I do remember the crowds back then like to spit on the bands if they liked you. That sucked.

There was a lot of damage to the venue (St. David’s Hall) that night. A local newspaper ran a piece on it next day and quoted the manager of the venue saying: “American groups tend to incite this sort of behaviour; the English bands, like Motörhead and Iron Maiden tend to be more civilised.”  That’s always amused me. Did you ever see that review?
No, never saw that. Funny though.

So, what would you say makes a rock gig special?
You can’t replace or mimic the energy that you get from a live show. It doesn’t exist anywhere else.

Scott Ian-close upYour most notable gig as an artist?
Yankee Stadium Sept 14 2011.

Your most memorable gig as a fan?
Recently… Roger Waters doing The Wall.

You played the Monsters of Rock Festival at Donington in 1987. I write about this event in my book. Is there anything you remember most about that day?
It didn’t rain on us. Mother Nature likes thrash metal. And it was the biggest crowd we’d ever seen and they were amazing for us.

I always liked the sense of fun and quirkiness around Anthrax, the comic book stuff, the dress sense. For me it set you apart, and made you seem more approachable, a ‘band of the people’. Did you think much about image at the time and the way you wanted people to see the band?
No. It’s what we wore all day long. What you see is what you get.

What did you make of some of the devilish or anti-Christian imagery that some of the other thrash and extreme metal bands adopted?
I never thought about it. I was too busy with my own band.

Soon after thrash established itself all sorts of genres, sub-genres and labels emerged – black metal, death metal, speed metal, doom metal and so on. Do you think labelling music in this way is helpful or limiting?
Same answer … I never thought about it. Too busy with my own band.

Rock music – music for all or a tribal affair?
All.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
Neither. It’s a choice, meaning, it chooses you and you can decide what you want out of it.

What do you say to a ‘rock star’ after you say hello?
Tell them you used to listen to them. That will really get the conversation going. Or mistake their identity.

Your best encounter with an artist as a fan?
Getting dissed by Sam Kinison. He told me to wait while he drove some girl to his house to fuck her and that he’d be back to take a picture with me after that. Awesome!

Your strangest encounter with a fan as an artist?
Getting mobbed in Italy and the crowd trying to turn the taxi we were in upside-down. Not sure what they thought that was going to accomplish.

Is there a particular piece of music, or album or performance for which you would most like to be remembered?
My career. 31 years and counting. Not many bands can say that.

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
I wouldn’t respond. Why waste my time?

And finally, what are you up to at the moment?
Touring Australia on the Soundwave Festival.

Anthrax - live at the House of Blues, Las Vegas, 23 March 2013

Anthrax live at the House of Blues, Las Vegas, 23 March 2013

CHEERS SCOTT!

All photographs courtesy of April Edwards at Ish Fauxtography.

Please check out the Ish Fauxtography Facebook page: www.facebook.com/IshFauxto.

Scott Ian brings his Spoken Word show to the UK in May. For more information on these special gigs, please visit Scott’s website.

Visit Scott’s website: http://scott-ian.com/

Visit the Anthrax website: http://anthrax.com/

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