SCOTT IAN – Fistful Of Stories
Rhythm guitarist Scott Ian co-founded New York-based thrash metal outfit Anthrax in 1981, Anthrax having spearheaded the thrash metal movement alongside Big Four comrades Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer. Over the course of those 35 years, the ensemble have recorded 11 studio full-length affairs, beginning with January 1984 debut Fistful Of Metal, as well as having undergone a series of highs and lows. Scott Ian autobiography I’m The Man: The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax – issued in hardback format on October 15th, 2014 and subsequently in paperback format on November 24th, 2015, all through Da Capo Press – documents Anthrax through the years, as well as the man’s personal circumstances.
“At some point, I actually realised I had a story to tell,” Scott remembers. “I had been out doing these talking shows in 2012 and 2013, just getting onstage and telling lots of stories from my life. While I was doing that, I would be writing out a lot of these stories. Basically as I had them in my brain and would think of something, I’d think ‘Yeah. That was a good one,’ and then would write it out. At some point, I realised I had a lot of pages written – probably 50 or 60 pages of stuff – and could probably make this into a book.
“I had been asked to do a book many times over the years, and had always passed for a couple of reasons. I really didn’t want to do the work, because I didn’t think I would ever have time to do it. I just didn’t know that I necessarily had that kind of a tale for a rock ’n’ roll biography, but my stories were going over so well I figured ‘You know what? Why not figure this out?’ That was kind of what really got the ball rolling for me.”
Penning the autobiography, the axeman worked alongside Jon Wiederhorn, metal journalist and co-author of the books Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History Of Metal (May 2013) and Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen (July 2013). “I’ve known Jon for a long time. I don’t remember when, but a long time. We had done 20 interviews together, and then he asked me to write a foreword for his book Louder Than Hell. We had known each other for a long time, and I’ve just always really respected his work. I really felt like he would be able to capture an attitude and a feeling writing if we spent enough time together, and then me sending all of the pages that I wrote.
“I just felt really confident that he would be able to take this and… Because I had never written a book before, I felt confident that he would be able to take all of this information – whether it be stuff that I had written, or from when he came to my house for a week and we just sat and talked for a week – that he would be able to take all of that and put it into a cohesive story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and keep it from being boring. I think we accomplished that.”
The pair crafted I’m The Man chapter by chapter. “He would get a bunch of chapters done, send stuff, and then I would make comments where I would rewrite stuff,” Scott informs. “Sometimes it was easier for me to just read something and go ‘Well, that’s not really my voice. That’s not how I would say it.’ I would just rewrite sentences or paragraphs, but 90% of the time, the stuff he would send was pretty spot on because we had something like… I don’t know, 50 hours worth of conversation, plus all of the stuff that I had already written. It wasn’t like he was just going to go off on tangents and say things that I hadn’t said, or speak in some different language that didn’t sound like my voice. Most of the time it was just little things that I would have to change – it was never really that much.”
The composer’s aforementioned spoken word performances didn’t translate to the written pages and chapters, per se. “A written story and a spoken story, they’re just kind of completely different animals,” he explains. “When you’re telling a story in front of a crowd, so much of it isn’t necessarily the words you’re saying, but how you’re saying them physically and with body language. When you’re writing, you don’t really have all of those same tools to tell a story. You have italics that you can use here, capital letters, so it’s different. They’re two totally different things.”
I’m The Man is markedly different to other rock biographies, Scott submits. “I was never involved in drugs,” he laughs. “It’s not like The Dirt (Mötley Crüe, 2001) or Marilyn Manson (The Long Hard Road Out Of Hell, 1998), or so many of these books where most of the stories are very, very sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll related. My book isn’t really based in that at all, and I think that that’s the difference. At the same time though, there is certainly a lot of ridiculous instances and stories and things happening in my book as well, It’s just different than that.”
Nevertheless, the musician has smoked the odd joint. “Yeah, but that doesn’t equal to heroin junkie,” he chuckles. “I was smoking marijuana when I was 13, but the two don’t really balance each other out – if you compare that to what most guys in most bands have done in their lives. I don’t want to give the end of my marijuana tale away, but there is an end to my tale with marijuana. There is a whole story which I find quite hilarious and interesting as well, if you read the book. It’s more a case of my book is kind of like where my drugs or booze stories are the opposite; where all of these other people had these kind of crazy, epic, really fun times, most of the time when I’m telling a story about booze or drugs, it usually ends up terribly for me (laughs). It’s more about my inability to do drugs and drink than it my ability.”
Inevitably, certain passages were more difficult to author than others for I’m The Man. “I’m not the type of person in general that looks back and sits around reminiscing all that much,” Scott reckons. “I’m too busy, truthfully. I’m always moving forward; I’m in the moment, working and moving forward. Writing the book was a different thing, because in a sense, even though I was in the moment working on a book, most of that time my working was looking back and reminiscing. I guess I was okay with that because I was working, but at the same time, I was looking back at my life and just doing my best to kind of put myself in the shoes of me at the age of 13, or 17, or 25, or 35. With whatever parts of my life that I was writing about, I was really trying to get myself back into those shoes and into that time, and what my motivations were, and just who I was.
“That really isn’t an easy thing to do, especially when you’re looking back at times in your life that weren’t the best of times, whether it was because of friends dying, divorce, or family trouble – anything like that. I don’t sit around and dwell on that kind of shit ever, so it’s not the most fun thing to look back and analyse why your marriage broke up all these years later. I know why it broke up. I knew why back then, but to revisit it for your book, yeah, it’s not something that I prefer to sit around and talk about, or times in the late 90s when things got really tough for Anthrax. I can learn from all of that stuff and I have learnt, but it’s just such a weird thing to actually be sitting and thinking about that stuff deeply and writing it all down. It’s something that I had never done before, so it was strange yet at the same time a very fulfilling experience.”
Professional and personal events were no less or more difficult than the other to discuss. “The professional and the personal, I wouldn’t say one was easier to talk about than the other because once I committed to doing the book, I knew ‘Okay, this is going to be about my life’ and not just my band life,” the lyricist reasons. “Once I had committed to that, I really didn’t… I wouldn’t say one was easier than the other, because it’s all my story. I wouldn’t say one was harder or not. At that point, it all just became the same.”
I’m The Man omits nothing of note. “There’s certainly nothing worth talking about that didn’t make it in,” Scott confirms. “There’s stuff that we felt just didn’t really fit into the chronology of it, like the fact I played professional poker for four years from 2007 until 2011. I played professional poker online and had a whole bunch of stuff written about that, but it just didn’t fit. There was no way to kind of fit it into the story without it getting too tangential it felt like, so I figured ‘You know what? I’ll save this for another book’.”
The axe-slinger stopped playing professional poker following that four-year period from 2007 until 2011 due to government intervention. “The United States government shut down all of the online poker sites and made it illegal,” he elaborates. “I didn’t want to stop (laughs). I was forced to (laughs). I’m done for the time being. It’s slowly coming back in America; slowly but surely individual states are legalising it, so I’ll get to play online poker again at some point.”
Highlights of the professional kind include just Anthrax in general. “Let’s put it this way: my career is my biggest highlight,” Scott cites. “The fact that this will be my 35th year in the band, that is the thing that I’m the most proud of.”
How many years Anthrax will accumulate beyond their 35 years is uncertain. “I don’t know,” the guitarist muses. “It’s hard to say. I would like to say until it’s not fun for me, or until I can’t perform the way I want to perform physically. I don’t know. I really don’t know how to answer that.”
Of Anthrax’s 35 years to date, many aficionados critique and compare the eras of vocalists Joey Belladonna and John Bush. “I don’t compare,” Scott dismisses. “What’s the point? Like I said, I don’t sit around and analyse shit. I’m busy today worrying about the show I’m gonna play. For me to sit around and wonder about different eras of Anthrax is pointless. It’s all one long journey.”
Of Anthrax’s 11 studio affairs cut to date, the axeman’s favourite is currently February 2016’s forthcoming For All Kings. “That’s all I’ve been listening to,” he shares. “I’m so deep in it, I really can’t see anything else at this point. I don’t compare albums (laughs). I don’t do any of that stuff – I don’t know anyone in a band who does. We get in a room and we write songs that we wanna hear, because we don’t hear them anywhere else. We write songs that make us happy, that make us bang our heads, and then when we’re done doing that, we record them and put them out. That’s the same way we’ve been doing it since Fistful Of Metal.”
Scott offers a succinct description of For All Kings. “It’s a very metal record,” he judges. “Very, very metal.”
A 16-page graphic novella accompanied the hardback edition of I’m The Man. “It’s the story of when I first met Lemmy (Motörhead frontman), which was in a bar in London,” the songwriter recalls. “I had a friend of mine who illustrated it for me, so as I would tell that story at my live show, I’d be able to have these illustrations to kind of highlight some of the best parts of the story. It worked really well. When we were putting the book together, I wanted to do something different. Since I’m a big comic book fan and people relate me to comic books, I figured it would be cool to in a sense put a comic book in my book. So, I had him do a few more illustrations to kind of flesh it out a little bit, and added that in almost as a bonus track.”
Motörhead frontman Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister sadly passed away on December 28th, 2015 as the result of an ‘extremely aggressive cancer’, four days following his 70th birthday – and two days following his diagnosis. “He was the way you’d expect,” Scott tells. “He was Lemmy. What you saw in interviews and saw onstage, that was him. There was no difference in the man; no matter what he was doing, he was always just Lemmy. That was a pleasure to be around, because there was no bullshit ever at all. He lived his life exactly how he wanted to live it every fucking moment, and that’s not something most people can ever say, or most people ever get to do – no matter how hard you try. He was one of those rare individuals that was able to pull that off. I think everybody knew him whether you actually met him or not because like I said, what you saw was what you got.”
Slightly over a year has elapsed since the October 2014 hardback issue of I’m The Man, an effort which the musician feels has received a positive reception. “From what I can tell, people like my book,” he notes. “I can only go by what people come up and say to me, and almost everyone I know has said they really liked the book. If people don’t like it, they’ve been quiet about it (laughs). The reaction to me seems to be quite positive.”
Future written works are firmly in the pipeline. “I’m doing a second book, for sure,” Scott discloses. “I’ve already started working on it. It hasn’t been officially announced yet, but there’ll be an official announcement soon enough.”
The wordsmith’s second tome will be penned without the involvement of Jon Wiederhorn. “I’m gonna do this one myself,” he reveals. “I’ve kind of got this under my belt now, so I feel like I know how to do it now. I prefer to take on the whole responsibility of it because obviously, I’m not writing another autobiography. That would be weird (laughs). It’s a different thing. I’m not gonna go into the details yet, but it’s not a novel. It’s very much story based with stuff from my life, but all with a recurring theme.”
A compilation of road stories, perhaps? “No,” Scott dispels. “I didn’t want it to be like a B-sides, bonus tracks type of thing, like ’Here’s shit that I didn’t put in the first book.’ I didn’t want it to feel like just a bunch of leftovers. It’s kind of a new idea.”
In years to come, the axe-slinger could amass a bibliography to rival the likes of Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor, and Fozzy vocalist / WWE wrestler Chris Jericho. “I just figure if I have ideas, I would certainly always try to make it happen,” he figures. “I had the idea for the second book and the publisher felt good enough to do it, so I would like to think that at some point I’ll have an idea for something else, and hopefully I’ll get to do that. I’ve always considered myself a writer since I started writing lyrics for the band back in like 1985, and even when I was doing blogs online, or this or that. It’s just something that I really enjoy doing, and I’ve written comics. I wrote Lobo: Highway To Hell for DC (September 2010), so I really enjoy writing. It’s obviously something you can do forever, so it’s something that I hope to just continue to do.”
Having authored the comic Lobo: Highway To Hell for the DC Comics juggernaut, fiction writing is a conceivable path. “No idea….,” Scott ponders. “Yeah, sure, but I haven’t had a novel’s worth of ideas yet, let’s put it that way.”
Future book releases might be complimented by further spoken word performances. “Maybe,” the guitarist accepts. “I want to. It’s just from a scheduling perspective, it makes it really hard to know when. It’s something that I always want to do. It’s just finding the time, because obviously, Anthrax takes up quite a bit of my time. When I’m not doing that, I want to be home with my family, so it’s just kind of hard. It would be different if I didn’t have a family; if I didn’t have a family, I probably wouldn’t have a home. I would just go, go, go, but that’s not the case. I prefer to be home with my son and my wife. It’s just kind of hard to make it all work sometimes.”
Anthrax as well as a second written title aside, Scott is focused on nothing else at the time of writing. “I’m buried in Anthrax right now with the record coming out, and we’re on tour in the States,” he expounds. “We’re working full-on, 24/7 right now, and it feels great because that’s all we ever wanna do is just get to be a band.”
A successor to March 2015 Motor Sister debut full-length Ride is another possibility which has to fall to the wayside at least for the time being. “Once again, it would be a case of finding time to do it,” the axeman highlights. “That first record was all cover songs, because those were all written by Jim Wilson (frontman) and Mother Superior. We just went in and recorded it. We didn’t have to spend a year trying to write a record. There was no plan for that; it just came out of nowhere.”
I’m The Man was released in paperback format on November 24th, 2015 via Da Capo Press.
Interview published in January 2016. All promotional photographs by Matthew Rodgers.
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