Since forming the seminal heavy metal band, Anthrax in New York in the early ’80s, guitarist Scott Ian has been a vocal presence and ambassador for thrash metal going on 35 years. Ian not only formed a band that would contribute to the bible of thrash metal, but managed to keep Anthrax alive, despite turbulent times and personnel changes over the years. Now, the band is at the top, and with a vengeance, having grown in popularity with the past two albums, including 2011’s Worship Music and 2016’s For All Kings. Over the past few decades, Ian has maintained a life as a professional actor, author, media personality and even professional poker player. Ian recently took time to speak with the Weekly about his experiences playing poker for large sums of money, the chemistry that Anthrax delivers on record and onstage, and his feelings about the Big 4, and the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Anthrax will join metal core hero Killswitch Engage, for this year’s second leg of the co-headlining Killthrax Tour, set to hit the House of Blues in Anaheim on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, with opening band, Havok.
I don’t know about the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. I think as a band, you become eligible after 25 or 30 years after the release of your first album But, really I don’t know anything about it, nor do I care. The only time it comes up is when I am asked in an interview. It means absolutely nothing to me, just like the Grammys, or any type of accolade for making music.
After over three decades of playing shows, are there any unique shows in Southern California that come to mind?
Oh definitely, it would have to be when we played in Downtown LA, at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in the mid-’80s. It was maybe 1986 when we played there. The place was known for throwing metal and punk shows. We headlined with DRI, Corrosion of Conformity, Possessed and a band called No Mercy, one of Mike Muir’s side bands. It was crazy, and not in a good way either. To this day it was the most violent, brutal out of control thing I have ever witnessed as a fan watching the other bands, and on stage. We actually had to cut the set short because people were getting beat up in the pit, it was just fight after fight, people got hurt, it was just insane. People had told us the place was a war zone. In ’86 I had only been to LA once or twice. And Downtown LA in 1986 is not like it was now, it was a war zone. That show still sticks out as one of the craziest nights we have ever had and that’s in 30 something years of touring that one stands out.
What are your thoughts on Anthrax being the only band of the Big 4 (including Megadeth, Slayer, and Metallica), to be from New York, while the other three are from California?
You know, it’s something I don’t think about. I don’t know maybe there should be a class at UC Irvine on thrash metal, but I couldn’t teach it I would have to go take that class. I can’t tell you why we came from New York and they came from the West Coast. Where do any bands come from when you really think about it? It’s about doing the right thing. But we are New Yorkers no matter where we are or what we do. I have lived in LA for over 20 years and I am still a New Yorker. I still approach everything I do, with the way I was brought up in New York, everything I learned, and the sensibilities I got as a kid and a teenager. It’s just who you are, you can’t change who you are from. I am very much a New Yorker. Everything I do is colored by being from New York, and early on to this day, it had to do with our attitude. We never felt like we were different from the people coming to see us. We were the people coming to see us, we were just metal fans who happened to jam well together and got a band together and we made things happen as New Yorkers. We always felt like we could be ourselves.
Are there any similarities between playing thrash metal on stage, and playing professional poker?
Obviously there is a commonality of aggression sometimes in poker…you need to play aggressively. But I would liken it more to athletics or sports because when I am playing cards, I am not running around jumping and banging my head. But maybe I should it would fuck up others peoples games. One of the main differences is poker is way more nerve-racking, and you might have to bluff, so I have never felt the kind of sheer nerves of certain poker games on stage. On stage you let all your emotion out, at least I do.
Be sure to catch Anthrax live, with Killswitch Engage, and Havoc, performing at the House of Blues Anaheim on Feb. 14th. For tickets and full info, click here.