Anthrax: The Kings Rule
American thrash metallers Anthrax’s frontman Scott Ian on their new album ‘For All Kings’, Donald Trump and missing out on India
If American Republican presidential candidate [and all round bigot] Donald Trump gets elected to office this year, Scott Ian is sure it’ll be good for the Arts. Says the frontman of thrash metal veterans Anthrax over the phone from Indianapolis, “Granted, it won’t be good for the country or for the planet. But there’ll probably be a lot of funny jokes written.”
Currently on the road with fellow American metal band Lamb of God, Ian and Anthrax have a lot more things to concentrate on instead of America’s presidency. Part of the big four of thrash metal, Anthrax recently released their 11th studio album For All Kings on February 26th, via Nuclear Blast Records. It’s the first to feature their latest recruit, guitarist Jon Donais [from melodic metal band Shadows Fall], who replaced Rob Caggiano in 2013. Caggiano had been a part of Anthrax for a decade, but Ian says Donais has completely fit in. Ian adds, “Jon has been around for three years already! I think he got the gig. John’s worked out great. He plays amazingly on the record and he’s the most impressive dude we’ve had on the guitar live, so it’s awesome.”
In an exclusive interview with ROLLING STONE India, Ian talks about For All Kings, celebrating Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister’s life and writing thrash metal that’s condemning but also positive.
You’re about two weeks into the tour right now, how is it going?
We’re actually in Indianapolis, but yeah, it’s going quite great.
It’s fun [laughs]. It makes for great shows, especially the dates with Maiden in South America, those will be really amazing. Yeah, we go to South America – that’s a pretty regular stop for us to tour in. But we don’t normally get to play as big venues as we will play with Iron Maiden, that’s for sure.
I wouldn’t think there are any bands left on your tour wishlist, are there?
Pretty much the only band that we haven’t ever played a show with is AC/DC. It would be great if somehow, in 2016, maybe somewhere that will happen.
In addition to For All Kings, there’s Megadeth’s new album Dystopia and probably a new Metallica record out later this year. The last time the big four all had major releases out was in 1988. What was it like back then?
I don’t know [laughs]. We were working, you know? I can’t really speak for the other bands, but I just know, we were popular and super busy all the time just because we were constantly touring. So that’s what it was like. We were working nonstop.
I feel like thrash metal bands, more than anyone else, will never stop writing about what’s wrong with the world – but this album also sounds like it has a few positive songs.
I think everything I write has an underlying feeling of positivity. I am an optimist – that’s who I am as a person. I may be writing a lot of lyrics about this dark world that we live in, but I always do feel that underlying sense of… not necessarily hope, because I’m not a big believer in that, let’s say. But more positive in the sense that people do have the opportunity in this world to take control of their own destiny. I’m a strong believer in that. Granted, you get to a point in your life where you lose control of it – some people do, anyway – I think at some point, they really do have an opportunity to take control of what they’re going to do with themselves. Some people take that road, some people don’t. That’s because sometimes it’s the hardest road and most difficult, but in the end, if you’re going to make something of yourself and do something with your life that you want to do, it’s generally not going to be easy. That’s kind of where the positivity comes in. It’s being willing to work hard and I think we live in a world where less and less people want to work hard. They just want things handed to them – that just doesn’t happen.
You were talking about Donald Trump getting elected in an interview. If Trump gets elected, I feel like there are going to be a lot more pissed off metal records coming out of you guys and so many more.
Yeah. It would probably be really good for stand-up comedians and for the late-night TV talk shows. It’ll be really good for yes, probably, metal bands and artists [laughs]. Because any time government becomes a circus like that, it’s generally good for the arts, in some way, shape or form. Granted, it won’t be good for the country or for the planet. But there’ll probably be a lot of funny jokes written [laughs].
That’s a double whammy for you – you can do more spoken-word gigs and write Anthrax material.
[laughs] Yeah I just find it hard to believe that the guy would actually win, but… Four years ago, I don’t think anyone would have taken it seriously at all. Now, the fact that anyone even takes it seriously is pretty amazing to me. I think my actual quote was, if he wins, then America would truly get what it deserves.
For All Kings has already leaked online – is that something you’re dreading all the time now? How do you take the news?
It’s just reality now. There’s no way to keep that from happening. It’s the world we live in, so you move forward and you fix it. That’s all you can do.
I saw this interview where you’re talking about the changes in technology and interaction. You mentioned how it would have been really cool to talk to [KISS frontman] Gene Simmons on Twitter if it was around in the Seventies – what would you have asked him?
Oh, I don’t know. I have no idea! When I was a kid, I’d probably ask him about his boots or something. [laughs].
What has your experience on Twitter been like? Had trolls?
I don’t really pay attention. To me, it’s more of a one-way street. I don’t use it to argue with people. That would be a complete waste of my time. I just post stuff that I want to post and sometimes I answer people’s questions about things relating to the band or whatever. I’m not getting into any type of discussions with people over social media. I don’t understand anyone who would do that.
What was it like playing the Lemmy tribute shows with Slash and Robert Trujillo and so many more? It didn’t seem very solemn, the videos and photos felt like it was more of a celebration of his life.
[At Lemmy’s 70th birthday celebrations in December 2015], nobody knew he had cancer. It was kind of shocking to find out that all of a sudden, he was just gone. But at the same time, he lived life the way he wanted to live it, without any compromise, ever. So for me, that was something to celebrate and something to be proud of. There aren’t very many people on the planet who can claim that they lived every moment of their life exactly how they wanted to. Lemmy’s one of those few people and it’s definitely something to be learned from, regardless of the fact that his lifestyle certainly isn’t for everybody. The ideology of living your life the way you want, on your own terms, I think people should know. He lived without any regrets and I only celebrate it.
You guys had the worst problem making it to India last time, when the festival you were playing got canceled. Does that kind of experience put you off? Have there been offers since or is management much more cautious now?
Well, yeah. We would have much rather came and played a show. It’s frustrating when things like that happened, but it’s out of our control. I just hope we get to come there at some point. It’s one of the few places we haven’t been yet, so definitely look forward getting to come there.
I don’t know if there’s been any more offers yet, I’m sure our agent… I’m sure it’s on his schedule, but I don’t know personally if there have been offers or not.
What does the rest of 2016 look like for you guys?
We’re going to be touring pretty much all the way until Christmas. We have plans to be on tour not just this year, but next year too.