For three decades, Anthrax has been one of the most consistently interesting bands to emerge from the thrash metal heyday of the early 1980s.
Founded by guitarist Scott Ian, Anthrax has always stood out among the sweaty throng. The band was one of the first metal bands to incorporate rap music into their speedy realm and they also showed a diverse interest in covering songs from other genres. Anthrax's version of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" (see above) is still a highlight of the band's live shows.
And although Anthrax has seen its share of turmoil, the recently issued Worship Music shows that these guys are still on top of their game. In anticipation of the band's performance this Friday at the South Side Music Hall, Ian was kind enough to speak with DC9 about Anthrax's history and foreseeable future.
Your new album, Worship Music, was a long time coming. Why did it take so long?
We started writing in 2007. But it's not like we finished it that day. We went back and redid a bunch of stuff. We just finished up on the record this past June.
Your former lead singer, Dan Nelson, still seems to hold a grudge. Do you guys even talk?
I don't know nothing about it.
The band has had seven lead singers. Is the position of lead singer in Anthrax kind of like being a drummer in another metal band?
We've had two lead singers, John Bush and Joey Belladonna. Those are the only two that I count as lead singers of Anthrax.
Is that because those two were with the band the longest time?
I think that question answers itself.
Is being a part of the Big Four of metal [along with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer] important to you?
It's great. It's a privilege.
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Anthrax has always done some interesting covers, like Joe Jackson's "Got the Time." Was it important to you to incorporate different genres into the sound?
I don't know how to answer that question. We just do what we do. I don't know why other bands do what they do. With us, someone has an idea and we either like it or we don't. It's not brain surgery. It's just music and we have fun. Sometimes, there's just not a lot of thought that goes into it. I don't categorize music into genres. I never have. I either like it or I don't.
Do you consider the band trendsetting, seeing that you were one of the first to work with rap artists?
We were the first metal band to do that, sure, but we don't think of it as setting a trend. We didn't know what we were doing when we did it. It was just something we enjoyed doing. We just have to creatively do what we want to do. We do things for ourselves, really. Any band, if they don't answer that question that way, they are lying.
How did you end up appearing on the television show Married with Children?
It was awesome! That was an awesome experience. At the time, which I believe was around 1991, we were trying to get on The Simpsons actually. Some producer at Fox called our producer at the time. He told us that there was nothing going on with The Simpsons, but there was this script that called for a heavy metal band. Of course, we immediately said yes.
I know you were close friends with North Texas native and Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell. How did his death affect the metal scene?
Even if I take out the personal aspect of him being my friend, just if you look at it from afar, it's a huge loss. Obviously, it created a huge void that I don't think will ever be filled. He was one of a kind. He was the best guitar player of our generation. He elevated entertainment. It was so important to him to put on a great show. He never wanted to disappoint anyone. It didn't matter what kind of mood he was in or how hung over he was. I don't think we will ever see someone like him again.
Have you ever had an altercation with an audience member?
No, never. I mean, anyone can shout, "You suck!" and I won't even care. People can have whatever opinion and I don't care. I've never had any physically altercations in any shape or form.
Do you hate the label thrash metal?
No. It was just a term used to separate what we were doing from our predecessors. And I get it. We could play faster than the bands that came before us. I never say that we play thrash metal. I just say that we are a metal band.
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Anthrax broke out in the '80s. Why was that particular decade so big for metal?
I don't know why the '80s were such a big time for metal. The bands that are now called the Big Four all came around at that time. We all were around the same age and we listened to the same bands. We unknowingly started a scene. It was just the right music at the right time. It was just an alternative to whatever was big at that time. People gravitated to the music we were making. I've been so lucky to find something that I like to do and I've made a career out of it. That's all the motivation I need to keep making music. It's what I love to do. Why would I want to stop doing it?
A lot of metal bands have a hostile attitude towards organized religion. When you title your new album Worship Music, are you poking fun at religious music?
Not as far as I am concerned. My personal view is that music is as just a valid thing to worship as anything else on this planet. Music has been around longer than religion. I think music is, obviously, extremely important. Maybe if more people worshipped music, the world would be a better place.