We’ve Got A File On You: Scott Ian

Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

We’ve Got A File On You: Scott Ian

Alexandre Schneider/Getty Images

We’ve Got A File On You features interviews in which artists share the stories behind the extracurricular activities that dot their careers: acting gigs, guest appearances, random internet ephemera, etc.

Scott Ian is the rare rhythm guitarist whose personal fame has arguably eclipsed that of his band. The Anthrax founder is instantly recognizable to anyone who’s spent any time around heavy metal over the past 40 years, his cue-ball head and pharaonic beard iconic even in silhouette. His magnetic personality has led to gigs hosting talk shows, appearing on reality TV, and making cameos in feature films. He’s written comic books and memoirs, and he’s served as a kind of informal ambassador and historian for metal, talking about the genre at length in documentaries, interviews, and social media posts. Even onstage, he’s more of a co-frontman to lead singer Joey Belladonna than a typical sideman, riling up the crowd with his hardcore-influenced backing vocals and the dizzying blur of his right picking hand.

Born Scott Ian Rosenfeld to a Jewish family in Bayside, Queens in 1963, Ian became obsessed with music as a teenager — not just the swaggering hard rock of KISS and Led Zeppelin, but the foundational hip-hop of Run-D.M.C. and Grandmaster Flash as well. That omnivorous sensibility helped shape the band Anthrax would become; their collaboration with Public Enemy on “Bring The Noise” was an opening salvo in the rap-rock revolution of the ’90s. Anthrax are the most famous of Ian’s bands, but he’s also played with crossover provocateurs S.O.D., hard rock supergroup the Damned Things, and avant-garde weirdos Mr. Bungle. He also collaborates with his wife (and the late Meat Loaf’s daughter), Pearl Aday, in Motor Sister. What started as a tribute act paying homage to LA power trio Mother Superior has taken on a life of its own. With the band’s second full-length, Get Off, out this week, we spent an hour on Zoom with Ian, talking about the new album, having Meat Loaf for a father-in-law, the early days of Anthrax, VH1’s Supergroup, and much more.

Motor Sister’s Get Off (2022)

For the first Motor Sister record, you re-recorded a bunch of Mother Superior songs, but with Get Off, the band wrote new original material together for the first time. How did that transition happen?

SCOTT IAN: Well, I don’t know if it’s really correct to call it a transition. We always knew we were going to write songs as this band, we just didn’t know when, because of schedules. But that was always the plan. Once we got to make that first album, which was just basically a tribute record, we always knew we were gonna do it, because we’re all friends. We all hang out together. Pearl and Jim [Wilson, guitar and vocals] have been writing songs together for like 21 years in her projects. We always knew it was just a matter of time. And then, you know, sometime around 2018, Jim sent over some demos that he said he thought would be cool riffs that would work really well with Motor Sister, and we all got very excited, and eventually were able to get in a room and start turning those riffs into songs.

There’s a real lived-in, live-in-the-room feel to this record. It sounds like you guys are all like having the greatest time. Is my impression of that correct?

IAN: Yeah, because like I said, we’re all really close friends. Joey [Vera, bass] and his wife Tracy are great friends of ours, and I’ve known Johnny [Tempesta, drums] since seemingly high school. I’ve known Jim since the late ’90s. We’re all hanging out together. The hard part has always been getting all five at once, which means we could go make music. Whenever all of us get to be in a room, making music is just like the bonus. It really is just getting to hang out with your best friends, but you’re also playing music together. It’s the only situation in my life where I have that. The fact that we get to spend and lots and lots of time together under a microscope in the studio only just makes the friendship that much more fun

In Motor Sister, you get to collaborate with your wife, Pearl. What’s that experience been like?

IAN: I’ve got to be in and out of her band over the last 20 or so years, too. If I was around and she had something going on or she was going out playing shows, sometimes they needed a second guitar player, so they would let me show up and be a caveman. [Laughs] But yeah, this is a different animal, because first of all, it’s not her solo thing. It’s more of a band. Not that hers isn’t a band, it’s just different. I was a huge fan of Mother Superior before I ever met Jim, and then he became this really important person in our lives. But yeah, it’s just amazing that we get to do this. The few times we get to play shows, I get to look over at stage right and see her going nuts and singing her ass off and feeling it as much as I am and know that we’re experiencing this same thing in this moment. That’s a very rare and beautiful thing to be able to do with your spouse. It’s amazing.

Your father-in-law, Meat Loaf, sadly passed away earlier this year. What’s something that you learned from getting to spend time with him over the years?

IAN: That’s a good question. I mean, I’ve always had a very strong work ethic, but I think Meat’s was even that much more intense, certainly when it came to putting on a show. I’ve always been very much of the mind that getting on stage is a privilege, and if you don’t do your job, if you don’t give everything you have, then you shouldn’t be there. And watching him do that decade after decade, and never losing that idea that this isn’t your right, it’s a privilege. He truly felt like he owed that audience his life when he was up on stage.

It’s one thing if you’re 25 years old and you wanna play every show like you’re going to prison the next day, but it’s different when you get to your 40s and your 50s and your 60s and so on, and I never saw him flinch. I never saw him show up any less than he was the night before. He’s known for saying it: never never ever ever ever stop rocking. He would sign off every concert with that to the audience, and it wasn’t some bullshit stage banter. It was truly what he believed in his soul. When he got on that stage, there was no stopping him until he literally had to take oxygen at the end of the night. It was very inspiring to get to watch that. I mean, I saw him as a kid on Bat Out Of Hell in ’78 at the Calderone Concert Hall in Hempstead, Long Island when I was like 13 or 14, and so I got to see him, obviously, long before I knew him, and I could compare my memories of that show as compared to whatever the last time I saw him play live was, a few years back in Vegas. And really, there was no difference. It was that same dude. He looked a little different, but mentally, it was the same dude on stage, and that was really impressive to me.

Starting Anthrax (1981)

You started Anthrax in Bayside, Queens in 1981, when you were still a teenager. What were your hopes for the band when you first started it? Did you have any concrete goals?

IAN: To find a drummer. [Laughs] To find other dudes to jam with. That was the main one in the early days. I wanted to work as many nights a week as we could to try and write songs and try and get gigs, and other people weren’t really on that same page. So when I say I had aspirations, it was literally just finding people who were willing to shell out the 20 or 30 bucks a week it was gonna cost for rehearsal rooms if we all split it five ways, because they felt as passionate about it as I did. You quickly weed people out when you tell them, “Well, if you wanna do this, it’s going to cost you 20 bucks on Friday, because we gotta pay the studio.” So that was my initial goal, to find a lineup that actually thought that this would become something real, and it wasn’t just dudes hanging out playing Judas Priest covers.

With [original Anthrax guitarist Danny] Lilker, I always knew we had that, and it was because the two of us just meshed so well as friends and musically. Then it was just a case of finding the guys that felt the same, that really thought, “We can’t just cover Judas Priest, we could be Judas Priest.” That was the early days, for at least a solid year, year and a half. Then we almost had the lineup that recorded Fistful Of Metal. It was Danny and I, and we had Neil Turbin on vocals who we knew from high school, and Danny had since moved to bass. We had Charlie [Benante] on drums and then Danny Spitz was the last piece of the puzzle on lead guitar, and that whole lineup came together at some point in late ’82, early ’83, something like that. Then we knew we had five dudes who all felt that starting a heavy metal band is actually a career choice.

And it started moving really fast from there. Tell me about the gap between Fistful and Spreading The Disease, where you bring in Joey Belladonna for the first time, because that, to me, feels like a moment where the train started to accelerate.

IAN: We were excited that we got to make Fistful. We couldn’t believe that [Megaforce Records founder] Johnny Z was going to give us money to record an album properly, and put it out on a label that he started with Metallica and Raven. All our dreams and everything we were hoping would happen, things were falling into place. But in the wake of Fistful, we knew we were gonna make the vocal change, ’cause we went out on tour on the back of that record, and we just knew it was not gonna continue with Neil. It was just a bad scenario, and we made the decision to move forward without him. We had already written most of Spreading The Disease at that point, and remember, Lilker was out of the band at this point too. So Frankie [Bello] was in, and most of Spreading was written, and we went into the studio in the fall of ’84. We went up to Ithaca and started recording without Joey. We didn’t have a singer yet. We just figured it would work out. We found this kid from Jersey who was in for about five minutes. When we found out we might be opening a show for the Scorpions, his line to that was something to the effect of, “How could we go play with the Scorpions? They’ll blow us away.” I looked at Danny Spitz and we put the kid on a bus and sent him back to New Jersey.

And then we found Joey, like lightning struck. Carl Canedy, who was producing Spreading, he had heard Joey singing in a cover band in upstate New York, and he was able to find a contact for him, and we got a hold of him. I think he was living way up in Plattsburgh, New York. A couple of days later he showed up and that was it. He liked what he heard, we liked what we heard, and that was that. Joey was really kind of the missing piece of the puzzle. We felt like the thing that was setting us apart from our scene that we were a part of, with Metallica, Slayer, Exodus, Megadeth, was now we had a guy that was like Bruce [Dickinson] or Rob [Halford] or Ronnie [James Dio]. Because that’s what we always considered Anthrax. As much as we loved more extreme metal and all that, in my mind, Anthrax always had to have a singer. And that’s no knock on Tom [Araya] or James [Hetfield], ’cause I loved what they were doing. But it wasn’t gonna work for what we were doing musically. Joey certainly did. We felt like we found our Halford. And obviously the proof was in the pudding, ’cause things really started to take off after that.

All those bands you mentioned as peers were West Coast bands, which is something I wanted to ask you about. You guys were kind of off on your own while a scene was exploding on the West Coast. What was it like watching that from 3,000 miles away?

IAN: We never really paid too much attention. We did in the context of, we were fans of all those bands. We were friends early on with those dudes, Metallica even earlier because they came to New York. But you know, ’84, ’85, ’86, we all met each other because we all started traveling around the States, hanging out at [NYC metal club] L’Amour’s with Slayer at a Mercyful Fate show, or playing SF in ’84 on the Fistful Of Metal tour and Exodus opening for us, and us having to follow that in their hometown which was a fucking joke. They destroyed us, and then they destroyed our dressing room. But we never really paid too much attention to the fact that there was a scene. We were just so busy that we never stopped working. It was constant. We were writing songs, or recording songs, or we were playing shows. We were constantly moving, constantly working. We just did our thing. Even though we were a New York band it’s not like we played New York twice a month, you know what I mean? We played everywhere. Our intent and our attitude was, “We’re going to be worldwide.” That’s what Anthrax is. “We’re going to be a touring band that plays the world like all our heroes before us, and we’re not just gonna be a local New York band.”

Collaborating With Public Enemy (1991)

You grew up a hip-hop fan as well as a metalhead. Did it ever strike you as strange that there was so little crossover between metal and hip-hop?

IAN: Well, yeah, me being someone who thinks my opinion holds more weight than the rest of the world, if I like something, then of course it’s great. And I fucking loved hip-hop early on, and most of my friends did not. When Iron Maiden Killers came out, I was also listening to Grandmaster Flash. When Number Of The Beast came out, I was listening to Run-D.M.C. So yeah, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why everyone I knew in the rock and metal world didn’t feel hip-hop the same way I felt it. Why wasn’t rap music moving people the same way it moved me? Why weren’t they hearing the same aggression in it that I was hearing? I could listen to Agnostic Front or I could listen to Venom or I could listen to, you know, LL Cool J, and they were all moving me in the same way. There was an aggression there. There was a link for me in my brain, my heart, whatever.

Even when we did all the stuff we did with Public Enemy, I remember Chuck [D] telling me — because we were hanging out somewhere before the tour, and I said, “What do you think the makeup of the of the audience is gonna be?” And he said, “Oh, Black people won’t be coming out for this tour.” He said maybe 5%. I was like, “Really?!” He said, “Yeah, if we’re out on a rock tour, Black people don’t come. If we’re out on a rap tour, Black people come.” Of course, I had this idea that maybe we’re going to get exposed to a whole generation of Black teenagers who maybe would never get exposed because their dad or older brother didn’t listen to metal. And I couldn’t have been more incorrect. Chuck was right. It was white college kids and metal fans.

You could see the difference in the audience when Public Enemy played and when we would play. The barricade to halfway back to the soundboard, the place would be going nuts and then the rest of the place would be filled up and then when they would go off and the stage would change for us to come on the audience would switch. The key was everybody stayed. That’s what really worked on that tour. It wasn’t like Public half of the audience left when Public Enemy was done. Everybody stayed, because even the white hip-hop fans were curious enough about what’s this metal band all about, and are they gonna do “Bring The Noise” together. And of course we did at the end of the night, so they had to wait for that. You would definitely see a lot of lightbulbs going off over people’s heads at the end of “Bring The Noise” because when you put the two groups on stage together and then felt the energy of that, I think that’s when 6,000 people were like, “Oh shit, now I understand.” We did sell a lot of records on the back of that. So did Public Enemy. It certainly did a change a lot of people’s attitudes.

You said Chuck knew that the crossover was gonna be tough, but it was still important to him to collaborate with you guys and to bring Public Enemy and Anthrax together in that way. What did it mean to have a rapper who you admired sticking his neck out for Anthrax?

IAN: Chuck’s a rock guy, deep down. He grew up listening to classic rock as much as he did R&B and soul. I won’t say that Chuck was buying Slayer in 1984, but at the same time he was definitely a part of that world musically. I mean, you could hear it in Public Enemy. So were the Bomb Squad. Hank Shocklee and Eric Sadler and all those, they all loved rock. Of course, I was a huge fan of [Chuck’s] before I ever met the guy, and then when we met and we became friends at some point in, I don’t know, ’87, ’88. We had mutual friends who worked at Def Jam, and this guy named Scott Koenig who managed metal bands worked at Def Jam for years. He had an issue of Kerrang! magazine on his desk in like 1987, after we had played the Donington Festival, and I’m wearing a Public Enemy shirt onstage and the magazine just happened to be open to the feature on the festival, and there’s a picture of me in front of 80,000 people in a PE shirt. Chuck was in the office and happened to see this magazine on Scott Koenig’s desk, and he had heard of us as a band, but we didn’t know each other. He was blown away. He couldn’t believe that I was wearing their shirt, and promoting Public Enemy in front of a rock crowd like that. So that’s when I heard, “Chuck wants to meet you guys.” We got to meet, and we would start hanging out here and there and bump into each other.

I always knew before I knew him that we were gonna work together, ’cause I had to have his voice on the track with my guitar. I just had to make that happen. I was obsessed with that idea for years, from the time I heard Yo! Bum Rush The Show, I just thought his voice was as heavy as the best rhythm guitar tone. It was like listening to Hetfield’s tone on Kill ‘Em All coming out of someone’s mouth. It was just aggressive. We were able to make that happen, and I’m so glad Chuck wanted to do it. And we got to take it that step further and tour the world with it, which was just mind-blowing. We did that in 1991 and 1992 and are still talking about doing it again, all these years later. We’re still friends and we talk, and we keep threatening to make that happen again. He’s like, “Scotty, you know where I live.” So who knows.

Appearing on Married…With Children (1992)

In 1992, Anthrax appeared on an episode of Married…With Children. Had you done any acting before that episode?

IAN: Well, if you call that acting.

Technically.

IAN: You’d be surprised how hard it is to actually just play yourself, because you’re speaking someone else’s lines that they wrote for you, and it’s hard to just be natural. Ed O’Neill told me, “You don’t have to be yourself. You’re playing a version of yourself, because why would you be in this house with these kids?” So just loosen up, basically, is what he told me to do, and I did my best to listen to him. But no, before that, I don’t think I had done anything else, or any of us had done anything else before that. I feel like Joey had like a cameo or a little tiny bit part in some horror movie named Pledge Night, maybe in the late ’80s, but I wouldn’t really call that acting either. So this was by far the most challenging acting jobs we’d ever had, or maybe ever have. But it was amazing. Man, that week was one of the best weeks in the history of the band, getting to do that.

Did you get to meet Fred Willard? He played a timeshare salesman in the episode, but he’s not in a scene with you.

IAN: Yeah, he was on set. You’re there the whole week. You get there on a Monday, and you do your first readthrough, and then you come back on Tuesday and you all sit around the table and you do another readthrough because they make changes. And I’m like, “Wow, this is the easiest job in the world. We sit around, everyone reads their parts, and then you go home.” I was like, “What a job! These people make millions of dollars, right?” And then Wednesday you show up, do your readthrough, and then you go down to the set and they start all the camera blocking, so you actually walk through all the scenes that you’re doing, and they tell you where you need to be, and then Thursday, you’re rehearsing it on set. By then, you’re supposed to have all your shit memorized, and then Friday you tape. You do two shows on Friday in front of the audience, the early show and then the late show, and between the two shows they’re still rewriting jokes, which was kind of hard and frustrating for us, not that we had a lot of lines, but it’s pretty nerve-wracking and you don’t wanna fuck up.

There was one bit that was in the script where Christina [Applegate], Kelly Bundy, she takes a hand of one of the band members and walks upstairs with the band member to have sex. And it turned out it was me. So, of course, I was super excited about the fact that everyone I know is going to watch this on television. We rehearsed that all week, and then on Thursday we do rehearsal on the set, and the scene where she takes my hand to walk upstairs is not in there anymore. I asked one of the producers after what happened to that scene with Christina, and he said, “Oh yeah, we all thought it was funny, but she came into the office last night after rehearsal and said, ‘I know my character’s a slut, but she’s not that much of a slut.'” My dreams of television glory were thrown out the window.

But it was an incredible week. We were all fans of that show. We took David Faustino to see Metallica at the Forum, and we walk in with him and whole sections of the arena started chanting, “Bud! Bud! Bud!” He got pretty hammered that night too, and then the next day when we came back, one of the producers came into our dressing room and said, “No more taking cast members out to metal shows, please. They need to actually show up for work.” So we kind of got in a little bit of trouble for that.

Working With VH1 (2000s)

You were on all those VH1 clip shows — I Love The ’80s, 100 Most Metal Moments, et cetera — and you hosted Rock Show for them for a few years. How did that relationship with VH1 start?

IAN: I remember I started getting calls to do those I Love The ’70s and I Love The ’80s shows. I guess somebody thought I had a point of view and I’d be good to comment on whatever the hell they were wanting me to comment on, and I would give them good sound bites, ’cause otherwise they would have stopped calling. But they kept calling, and I kept getting asked to the point where I remember at some point they literally called and said, “We’re doing the I Love The 2000s,” and I’m like, “Yeah, but it is that. You gotta wait 20 more years.” It’s fun to talk about the Fonz if you’re doing I Love The ’70s, ’cause I watched it as a kid, but eventually those became a little silly.

The Rock Show thing really just came out of nowhere. They had a show on with a different guy hosting. I did have friends who worked at VH1. I knew a lot of people from the early days of MTV, and so I knew people who had moved up the ranks and now were running things in different departments, whether it was talent or production, and someone said, “Hey, we want to make a change, and we think you might be good to host this. You’re good on camera, you know how to speak.” And I was like, “That’s all it takes get this job? I know how to speak? I can read?” So they had me come in and just we did a practice segment, and I could read off the teleprompter without it looking like I was reading off the teleprompter, and I guess that’s how I got the job because they said I look natural. It was perfect timing for me because this was like in ’01, and there wasn’t much going on in that moment with Anthrax. We were writing what was to become We’ve Come For You All, but we weren’t touring at that moment, so I was able to do it. It was nuts because I live in LA, and they were flying me to New York every Monday. So I would get up Monday, go to the airport, get in Monday, tape on Tuesday, and then go back to the airport and fly back. So it was like this crazy 24-hour turnaround, and I think I did that 48 times. So, you know, I did rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles. I will say that.

That commute did get a little a little annoying after a while, but I was happy for the work and for the job, and certainly it was higher profile than not doing a show on VH1, so it did keep the brand and the band out there in a time where things had gotten smaller for Anthrax.

And then in 2006, you did Supergroup, which was appointment viewing for me and my high school friends at the time. It was very chaotic, in a good way. What was it like being in that house?

IAN: I had a lot of fun. Look, I went in there, and I was very clear to the producers — the same people that put me on Rock Show — they asked if I wanted to be involved, and I said, “Well, you gotta tell me who’s gonna be there, because I’ve worked too long to build up a certain reputation and I’m not gonna throw all of that away by going on some dumb reality show.” At the time, there was that thing The Surreal Life, if you remember that trainwreck. I had gotten asked at some point to do that, and I told him, “I’ll do it for a million dollars.” And the producer just started laughing. He was like, “It literally pays 50 grand. Why a million dollars?” I said, “So then when people ask me why I did it, I could say, ’cause they gave me a million dollars.'”

But I was never gonna throw away my career on something stupid like that, so I said, “You need to tell me who’s gonna be there.” They said, “We can’t, that’s the rub, is that you guys show up and you don’t know who else is gonna be there and then can you guys become a band.” I’m like, “Alright, well, I’m just gonna be straight up like with you. If it’s gonna be one of these scenarios where it’s a bunch of celebrities in a house together, I’m just gonna leave and I’m not gonna give you some big reality show drama moment. In the night, I’m just gonna grab my backpack and go, and you can have your money back. I don’t care. I’m just not gonna be a part of that.” And he was like, “Scott, don’t worry. I swear to you, you will not be embarrassed.” And I was like, “Alright, I’m holding you to this, ’cause if I if I leave, it’s on you.”

I knew everybody. Actually, the only one I hadn’t met was Jason Bonham. We had we had met briefly years earlier when they were shooting that Rock Star movie with Mark Wahlberg, and Jason was in the band. So we had briefly met a million years before that, but I didn’t know the guy. But I knew Sebastian [Bach], I knew Ted [Nugent], I certainly knew Evan [Seinfeld], so I was happy with the cast of characters they put together. I’m never gonna embarrass myself, but I didn’t think it would be embarrassing for me to be involved in. If anything, just the goofiness of the show was probably the most embarrassing thing, because they just really didn’t know what they were trying to do with this show. This idea of, “Can they can they learn a set of each other’s songs and play a show at the end of two weeks?” It’s like, are you kidding me? We’re all guys who have been in bands forever and you really think we can’t learn a set of, like, a dozen songs?

There was never a question, and they would create these weird drama moments, like when Evan packed his bag and left. That never happened. They happened to be filming him when he was bringing a suitcase out of the house. It was so silly, and all we wanted to do, the five of us, was they gave us this studio to jam in, so let’s take advantage of that. Because we were really having fun playing together as musicians, and I loved jamming with Jason and I loved getting to jam with Ted. Ted was a hero of mine, so yeah, all that was great, and I took advantage of getting to live like rock stars for two weeks of my life, because I’ve never had that scenario before. We were living in that ridiculous mansion in Vegas. They had limousines on call for us whenever we wanted, in the hopes that we were just going to constantly go to strip clubs, which none of us wanted to do. They constantly were trying to get us to do stupid shit for the reality show, like jump out of a plane. None of us wanted to do any of that. And they were like, “No one’s gonna watch a show about a bunch of dudes making music!” We’re like, “Well, then you should have thought of a different fucking idea ’cause that’s what this is!” It’s probably why there was not a Supergroup season 2.

Writing Lobo For DC Comics (2009)

DC Comics

You wrote a Lobo miniseries in 2009 for DC with Sam Kieth. He’s a legend in the comics world. What was your working relationship like?

IAN: We emailed and talked a bunch, but I never actually met him. I was very excited when I found out he was interested. My editor is this guy Ian Sattler at DC. He told me Sam Kieth was interested in doing the book, and I was like, “Done, don’t call anyone else.” I was a big fan, so it was a really cool relationship. I had never done this before, so I didn’t know what I was doing. I wrote a story, and then I had to learn how to break that story down into dialogue, and I didn’t know how to lay out the comic panels. I sent the story to Sam, and he said, “Don’t worry, I’m gonna do the breakdown and we’ll figure it out.” I would maybe give him some notes once in a while, but the coolest thing about working with him was when pages would show up sometimes, and I’d be reading, you know, going along, “OK, he’s gonna say this here, and this is where this happens,” and then suddenly I’m like, “What is this? Who’s this little girl character?” And I would hit him up and go, “Hey, what’s this?” and he’d go, “Oh, I don’t know, I just started going nuts. I was just drawing, and I just went crazy because I was inspired by this and that. Just take it out, don’t worry about it.”

I took it almost as a challenge. If he was inspired by something I did to just draw, then I’m gonna take what he did and work it into what I wrote. He was drawing like a lot of this crazy, surreal shit and then I’m like, “This is now part of my story.” It was really cool to do that, because it certainly opened my mind to get out of the box. He kind of broke down that wall for me, and really helped me understand what I was doing and creatively freed up my brain.

You wrote a Judge Dredd story for the Among The Living graphic novel. Obviously, you’re a huge Dredd fan, so what was it like to contribute to a canon of comics that has been a part of your life forever?

IAN: It was incredible. We’ve been asked for years and years about doing something comic-related, and we always pass, because it’s always someone’s got a pitch where [Anthrax] will be superheroes. And that’s like, no, no, no, no. Unless Grant Morrison’s gonna write it. We got Grant in this book, though. When Z2 came, and I’ve known Josh [Frankel] and Z2 for a long time, he said, “Look, we really wanna do this book. I know how you feel about it, but what if we did a thing where we had different writers, and they’re not just writing what the lyrics to the song are, but whatever they are inspired to write about.” Charlie and I were totally into the idea, depending on who we could get. I had very high expectations. I literally sent a list in of all my favorite comic writers, and guys from bands that that I respect and love as lyricists. Grant Morrison was the first name on my list. We’ve talked many times about things, but working together it just didn’t seem like it was something that could happen. Ian Sattler, who wasn’t at DC anymore, I brought him in to edit this book because I loved working with him at DC. He knows everybody, so he could connect to anyone in the comic world. He hits me up and he goes, “Grant’s in.” I was just blown away. As soon as Grant was in, as far as I was concerned, that’s it. We’re doing the book now. And then as the other names started, you know — Brian Azzarello and Rick Remender and Gerard and Mikey Way. As the list grew, it was just like, holy shit. This is turning into something really incredible, and then all the artists fell into place.

So they asked me right off the top, do you wanna do “I Am the Law,” and I was like, “Yeah of course, but don’t we need permission?” They hit up I believe it’s Rebellion in the UK who owns Dredd, and they said, “Yeah, we love Anthrax.” They’ve given us permission over the years to do merch and stuff. “Scott needs to send the synopsis over, because they need to green light it essentially to make sure it works in there at the context of whatever the rules are about Judge Dredd,” and so I sent over this story, and they said yes. They greenlit it, which I was thrilled about. I had to flesh it out, and I actually talked to Grant a little bit about that, and Grant helped me with the ending. And then working with Chris Weston, who’s one of my favorite newer Dredd artists over the last ten years, the fact that he was involved, it’s just mind-blowing to me.

I still can’t believe I got to do it. You know, just that that dumb idea I had in 1986 because I didn’t know what else to write about, and the chorus riff that Charlie had in this music just sounded so anthemic to me, and I kept singing, “I am the law!” over it, but who’s gonna take that seriously? It’s from fucking Judge Dredd! We can’t say that! But like, fuck it, who cares. And we went with it, and all these years later, I got to write an actual story using that character. It’s one of those things that’s hard to believe, that somehow that door opened because we were a bunch of kids writing riffs. It’s amazing to me.

The Big Four Shows (2010)

We talked about those early days of the thrash scene coming together in the ’80s, and fans started basically asking for a Big Four show right then. When did it go from a dream to something you were actively working towards making happen?

IAN: Charlie and I were at the Metallica Hall Of Fame induction in ’09, and we were at the party the night before. Lars [Ulrich] came over, and I was just shooting the shit, and he just offhandedly says, “What do you think about doing some Big Four stuff?” And, honestly, I was pretty drunk. I said, “The what?” He said, “The Big Four shows,” and I’m like, “I don’t even know what that is? What’s the Big Four?” He goes, “Us, you guys, Slayer, Megadeth.” I’m like, “Oh!” It was so from left field. It’s not something that I’d ever in a million years thought he would ever bring up. He’s like just kind of shaking his head, and we’re having a drink, and then we start talking about 800,000 other things, and I didn’t think anything of it at all after that moment. Then a month or so later, our manager says, “I got a call from Metallica’s managers, and they wanna know the band’s availability in these windows because they’re starting to plan the Big Four shows. Are we interested and available?” Like, can you say yes and yes any faster?

It was simple as that, and it was pretty much like that for all the bands involved. Everybody wanted to do it. Most importantly, Metallica spearheaded the whole thing and put together all of those shows with military and surgical precision, like they do everything in their world. The shows couldn’t have been better on every level, from hanging out with your bros backstage to the logistics of a massive production like that and giving all four bands a stage and the ability to look great and sound great. Hats off to my brothers in Metallica for making all that happen.

This is a tough one, because I know you have friends in all these bands, but with Slayer officially retired: if there was hypothetically going to be another Big Four show, who gets the call to replace them?

IAN: I have to answer that initially with: You can’t replace Slayer. I think that goes without saying. But let’s just say that the Big Four phone started ringing again. I would joke with people for years that after they initially called and asked us, we had to have this red phone installed in our rehearsal room, and it was it was for Big Four news only, so when that phone rang we knew it was coming from Metallica’s management. People believed me! But if the Big Four phone was to ring again, and Slayer is not going to come back, I would only assume that it would then go Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Exodus. I would hope that’s what would happen because that’s what almost happened at Yankee Stadium. Megadeth was not on the show, and Exodus had already been asked to replace them, because at the time Dave [Mustaine] had back issues and he was literally in a hospital bed in Los Angeles. And just insanity and planes and things happened and obviously the show happened the way it was supposed to, but I always remember Metallica’s manager Peter [Mensch] saying, “It’s a shame, those guys busted their asses to make it happen and come out here and open the show. I promised them I’ll get them something like this someday in the future.” So, fingers crossed. We’re all doing it just for Exodus.

Metal Lords (2022)

You’re in the new Netflix movie Metal Lords as an Obi-Wan Kenobi-style metal elder. It’s you, Kirk Hammett, Rob Halford, and Tom Morello. Forty years after you started Anthrax, how do you process being seen as this kind of figure by the younger generations?

IAN: The guy who wrote the movie, Dan Weiss, is a friend of mine, and he’s almost my age, so it’s really not so much like the younger generation, although he was a big fan growing up. He just had this funny idea to have the angels and devils on the kid’s shoulders, and I’m just so stoked that he thought of me to be a part of it. When he hit me up, he just said, “Hey, I’ve got this really funny idea for this scene in the movie. What if it was like you and Kirk [Hammett] and whoever, and you’re arguing over whether or not this guy should cheat on his girlfriend.” And I was like, “I’m in. I’ll do anything you wanna do.” I will say I was really nervous about acting because, again, I’m not an actor, and we’re trying to just, again, be some weird version of ourselves, and we all know each other. They actually just kind of let us go sometimes and ad-lib back and forth.

I like the movie a lot. I thought it had a lot of heart, and it I think it definitely speaks to and speaks of metal in a way that you know is real. You can’t get away from some cliches, because like everything becomes a cliché, but at the same time I think it definitely had a lot of original thoughts and feelings, or at least real thoughts and feelings about metal. I could so identify with so much, even the stupidity of “You can’t have a girl cello player, it’s not metal!” Yeah, I said shit just as dumb as that when I was 17 years old. That’s what made it. What’s “not metal,” I could have written you a list with 4,000 things on it, you know what I mean? It was very much very much that kid that you knew. The way he was written is, you know, pretty much an unlikable asshole, and I knew plenty of people like that, including myself.

Yeah, I think every teen metalhead has a very unearned sense of elitism, where you don’t actually know shit but you wanna make it look like you know fucking everything.

IAN: 100%, yeah. 100%. I knew everything. I remember you were competing with, like, who knows more extreme bands, who’s into the most underground shit, who’s the first. I will always give it up for Danny Lilker. He’s the first guy I ever knew who listened to black metal. Real black metal, like the underground Norwegian shit that everybody started talking about years later when they had already burned the churches and murdered each other and all that. Lilker was into them years before any of that happened. I don’t know who even knew about black metal before Danny Lilker, so he’s got that cred, always.

Get Off is out 5/6 on Metal Blade.

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