The Scream Queen Interviews Scott Ian of Anthrax!
May 23, 2018 – Fargo, ND:
As you know, I’m representing Guitars For Vets, a non-profit organization that gives guitars and guitar lessons free of charge to Veterans. What are you thoughts about having a program like this?
I think it’s great, especially after I learned more about it when I was initially approached. I didn’t really understand what it was and then I got educated on it and found out even therapeutically what it means for these guys, even just to pick up a guitar and learn how to even play a chord and what it could mean for their psyche.
It’s something I totally believe in because I truly believe music, as cheesy as it sounds, it is really a common bond through everyone on this planet, every culture, everywhere on this planet. Everybody has music. Something that comes from their culture, whatever it may be, but I think music is something that is generally, universally loved on this planet and brings joy to most people. So, if there’s any way I could help bring happiness and certainly help Veterans with guitars, it’s obviously a no brainer.
It’s very, very inspiring to have you want to know more and be a part of Guitars For Vets. With how inspiring music is, like what you were saying, what have been some moments that helped you spiritually, mentally, physically through music?
Music is a huge motivator for me. Just in so many ways. I mean, it’s obviously what I do with my life, playing in a band. But, it’s just the feeling… The feeling I get from still putting my guitar on and playing with my band; it’s never changed, going on 37 years. And even before I was in a band, just that feeling of playing guitar and how happy it makes me, it motivates me to do things in my life. Getting up in the morning and immediately having music on in the house– if I didn’t put music on, it would be a different day. Music in so many ways, shapes, and forms, just motivates me and I couldn’t imagine my life without music in it. It wouldn’t be my life anymore because so much of my life revolves around music and playing guitar.
As far as I’m concerned, music is life.
Yeah. I don’t know if we still do, we used to have– one of our companies for the band was called “No music, no life.”
What would you say to the Veterans going through PTSD or anybody in general…How would you say music would heal them?
I don’t know. [laughs] I have zero professional opinion on any of that. [laughs] I would like to think that the idea of focusing on something else outside of the world you’re in, outside of the bubble that your brain can get stuck in sometimes. I’m not talking about just PTSD, but in general in life.
Everybody gets up in the morning and has a bubble that they live in, whether it’s their school or work, whatever it is you do with your life. But to be able to change your focus and have to concentrate so hard on, let’s say learning how to switch from– it sounds really simple, but learning how to switch from a G-chord to a C-chord and back, smoothly…
I mean, I can still remember from when I first started playing guitar, like when I was 8 or 9 years old, thinking, “This is impossible, I will never, never be able to– how can your hand ever possibly, physically smoothly transition between these chords?” And then one day, it happens, and I was like, “Oh my God. That is the greatest feeling in the world!”
But the amount of focus and energy it takes to do that, it quiets everything else [in the mind]. Certainly in my world it does, if I’m trying to learn something. So, I would like to think that maybe it would be the same for somebody suffering from something like PTSD, to change their focus, to get out of that bubble and to be so focused on doing something here [guitar] and learning how to do this [play guitar], that it can maybe change their environment and get them thinking about something else, get them out of what’s causing them their problems. ..I don’t know, I’d like to think that.
I love that answer. I’m sure you’ve met many Veterans, many who have told you their stories…Do you have any experiences you can share?
Yeah! TONS. There have been plenty of guys going back to the Gulf-War in the early 90’s, who have told us over the years, just how much our music helped them when they were over-seas somewhere, doing whatever their job was at the time in the service.
Just to hear that, that something we wrote, a song that was on our record, meant so much to somebody and that it was getting them through their days in what is arguably the most– the toughest situations you could ever be in on this planet, whether you’re actually in combat, or you’re just over seas away from your family and you’ve never ever seen combat, but still, you’re out there serving your country for long periods of time.
Just to know that our music helped anybody get through that on a day-to-day basis, obviously it makes you feel good and you can only hope that we can continue to do this, anything that inspires or helps anybody who is willing to put their life on the line– certainly, it’s something that we take very seriously.
I like to think of your music as being alive… I’ve been an Anthrax fan for many, MANY years and to me I feel as if your music is alive. What do you think it is that makes Anthrax come alive, or how to you go about bringing your music to life?
I just think it’s our chemistry. Something that somehow…There’s really no answer to that question. We have ideas, we all have riffs, and then we get in a room and start arranging it into songs. And somehow it goes from an idea, to– it could literally be like, Charlie [Benante] has a riff, and we get in a room and a couple of hours later, we emerge with a song that didn’t exist before that. It still trips me out.
I try not to think about it too deeply because really, there is no answer. And if I did find an answer, it would probably be really boring because I do know that A to B, the process of where we start from a riff, we get in a room and I could sit there and write every single step down on the way and how we got from A to B in the song, but it would take the fun and a lot of the magic out of it. “And then we spent 45 minutes working on this one part…And realized we need to change–” It would be SO boring if you really analyzed the process of songwriting, I feel like.
You just have to be in the room. And when we’re in a room working on it, that’s what brings it to life. That’s where all of the energy comes from. Because for us, writing songs is still super exciting. That whole process of doing that is super exciting for us. And I think you can feel that on our records.
YES! And that brings me to my next question… You released For All Kings a year ago…
Wait– TWO years ago!
TWO years ago! Wow…
Yeah, I know!
I still don’t believe it’s 2018. [laughs] Anyway, how do you feel you connected to For All Kings differently than you did your previous records? How was the connection different?
Nope. ..Not for me. Other guys in the band might give you a different answer, but no, not for me. Same feeling, same attitude; all the same for me. To me there was nothing different about what we did on that record or as even compared to the one before [Worship Music] or even the stuff that we did in the 80’s. It’s very similar, like nothing’s really changed about how we do things.
There is a very magical feeling with music as you mentioned…When you’re creating your music, what is the most magical part, happiest part for you? Are there any specific riffs that you associate the magic and happiness to? Or is it all just the same?
I think it’s just when we’re in the thick of it and you realize you have something good and it’s just fun to play, you know it, when we’re jamming on something, when we’re smiling, when we’re banging our heads and we just know we have something really good… I don’t know how you know it, you just know it. You know when something is great, when you have a really good part, when your song is really coming together.
That excitement in the room–Certainly, to me, that’s the magic part of it because the day before, we didn’t have that. And now we’re there together, we’re all smiling and laughing and banging our heads, excited to play something over and over again for two hours. Knowing that “Oh my God, I can’t wait to play this live! People are going to go crazy!”
Just that whole feeling to me…I don’t get that feeling anywhere else from anything else I do, except when I’m in the room with the guys and we’re working on songs.
Is there a new album in the works?
No. Very, very, very preliminary stages. There’s a couple of really great riffs. Charlie’s sent around some really great ideas. But we haven’t actually started working on anything. We’ve just been too busy touring.