"The Internet has taken the mystique away for fans!" - Anthrax's Scott Ian talks to Metal as Fuck

The legendary metal personage gets to grips with English slang and also tells us about the band's excellent new album, Worship Music.

“How’s the sprog?”

The question is followed by an awkward, though mercifully short silence. “The what?”.

Y’see, despite having been interviewing people for years, I still dread the over-the-phone breaking the ice process. So I thought, well, Anthrax stalwart Scott Ian, recent father, bound to enjoy a bit of banter about the newborn, sorted. I should have just asked in plain English.

“Oh sorry, it’s an English term for a small child, or a baby.” Ian sounds dubious. ‘I’ve never heard that before. Sprog? And it’s English?”

“Yes. Sorry.”

Oh dear. The interview is in bits and we’ve not even been on the phone a minute. Looking at my hastily scribbled notes for salvation, I decide to stop trying to create a rapport and just get on with it – it’s what you, the reader, would want after all, right?

The various and many trials and tribulations that Anthrax has undergone just to get to this point – as we speak the band’s new album, Worship Music, is less than a day old in retail terms- are well documented. It must be a relief to finally get it out? “It is a huge relief. I’m very happy to get it out there.”

It’s eight years since your last all-new studio album came out, which is an entire lifetime for many bands. Once you decided to go into production for Worship Music, how long did the process actually take? “It’s hard to say. Going on what we’ve done in the past, the process of writing and recording a record for us takes anything between nine months to a year, We got very good at working on a two year cycle – write and record an album, tour for a year, start again. And the actual recording and mixing a record only usually takes about seven weeks. But for this one, we wrote some songs, you, know, that guy Dan Nelson was in the band, then Joey Belladonna came back, it took a while.”

To my mind, and whilst we're talking about the various vocalists involved during the gestation period of this record, Worship Music sounds very much like the quintessential Anthrax record. It takes the best bits from all the bands eras and incarnations (although I have to say I for one would welcome the return of the stage armour and tiger-stripe guitars, which do appear to be missing). It has the classic Anthrax sound. Doesn’t that come about whoever happens to be singing for the band? Don’t you just come up with ‘Anthrax music’ and then let the vocalist stamp his authority on the whole thing afterwards? Scott seems a bit taken aback by the silliness of the question, and has to pause before giving me an answer. “Well, it certainly helps to know who you are writing for! Usually when we write, and certainly for this record, it was just me and Charlie (Benante, Ian’s longtime drumming associate who is no mean axe exponent himself) in a room together, but when things go well you want all the other people to come into the room. Usually the vocalist is there for the whole process, and so has some ownership of the songs, even if he does come in last with the vocals at recording time. This time, Joey came in late, almost all the songs were written. What we had we felt was very good, but we were able to redo some stuff knowing that Joey would be singing, and we were able to improve on what we’d done. When Joey recorded the songs, he did it on his own. We just left him to it.”

One of the first songs to make it out from the Worship Music sessions into the public domain was Fight it til You Can’t, which the band aired at selected live dates on the fabled ‘Big Four’ run of shows that has provided such a momentous backdrop to the metal landscape over the last year or so. Is there any chance this touring extravaganza might reach Australian shores? Any chance at all? "I can’t answer that question. When it comes to the Big Four, you know Metallica calls all the shots. They call us, we say when? We’re all sitting in a room, and there’s a Red Phone in the middle of it with a big ‘4’ on it. We’re basically waiting for it to ring! I’d like to think that that tour would go everywhere at least once, and Australia is one of those markets that it should go to. I think I can speak for everyone else in those bands and say we’d all love to come back to Australia. We’ll see.”

We can hope, eh? And anyway, Anthrax has more pressing touring commitments in support of Worship Music anyway – this upcoming tour in the US with Testament sounds pretty exciting? “Really exciting. We’ve known those guys for a long time… you know I think we took Testament out on their first tour in, like, 1987. I think this is a really good time to be taking a bill like this, Death Angel is coming out with us too, and everyone seems to be really excited about the whole thing.”

And quite rightly so. Maybe the powers that be could see their way to steering that particular package down under... But anway back to the matter in hand. Its thirty years since you formed Anthrax. How daunted would you be feeling if Worship Music was your debut release? Is it much harder for bands to make rock n’roll a viable career option now?  “Absolutely it is. Even with the internet making it easier for you to get your band known, it’s a lot harder than what it was. For a start, nobody buys records anymore. Sure, you can tour – but audiences for shows are much the same size as they were, they aren’t getting any bigger- and sell t-shirts. But what other professions do you know where you might only get half the money you used to get? And another point I'd like to make there is that its hard for the record companies too. If nobody buys records there's no money for them to spend on developing bands, you know? They just won't do it. And the internet has ruined the print media, magazines, it’s taken away the mystique from being a fan. I didn’t need the internet to find the bands I liked when I was young, you know? If I could take things back to the way they were before the internet I’d do it in a second.”

It’s become a massive double edged sword for artists, of that there can be no doubt, and, whilst the topic has certainly got Ian’s goat up – for the first time in the interview he’s become really quite animated and passionate - there we have to end proceedings. We bid each other farewell, me to continue with my Saturday morning clothes washing duties, him to living with the best album he’s put his name to in nearly a quarter of a century. And possibly waiting for that big red phone to ring...