ANTHRAX Guitarist: If It Were Up To Me, We’d Do A Hundred More ‘Big Four’ Shows

Dave Pehling of SF Weekly recently conducted an interview with ANTHRAX guitarist Scott Ian. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

SF Weekly: Joey Belladonna sings as well as I’ve ever heard on “Worship Music”. How much of the vocal melodies were already established prior to his coming back in the band?

Scott: Well, they all were. The songs were written. When Joey came back, we had like 14 songs in some state of being finished. We didn’t even know what that earlier version of the album was going to be 100 percent, because not all of it was mixed yet. It was still kind of a work in progress at the point when everything got shut down. It wasn’t until a year later, almost when Joey was back in the band, and we were on tour with SLAYER and MEGADETH last fall in the States — that’s when we knew everything was moving forward and we were going to finish the record. On that tour, we just sat every day in the dressing room with a bunch of gear set up and listened song by song — a song a day, kind of — and really nitpicked even more than we normally would, because now we’d had a year to really live with the stuff. In some crazy way, we had the luxury of hindsight which we’d never had before. So we would just go through the songs and listen to them and say, “Okay, does anyone any issues with this one? Yes? No?” Some songs we felt still held up 100 percent, there was nothing to change, and we loved everything about them. There was nothing we could do to make them better. And then there were songs that we felt, “Okay, maybe this chorus could be better. We were never happy with this even a year ago, so let’s fix it.” And then there were some songs that were complete rewrites. So by the time we finished that run we had narrowed it down from 14 songs down to ten. And out of those ten, three were re-recorded. The bass was re-recorded on everything, but three songs were re-recorded from the ground up, rewritten lyrically and melody-wise. And I’d say there were five or six that stayed exactly the same.

SF Weekly: In other interviews I’ve read, you’ve talked about how songs were born out of the struggle of the past four years as a band. While lyrically songs don’t get into politics too explicitly, “Earth on Hell”, “The Devil You Know”, and “Revolution Screams” all seem to speak to current turmoil in the world. Did you draw on that as well, or does it just happen to mirror what you were going through personally?

Scott: Certainly “Revolution Screams” and “Earth On Hell” are definitely about what’s going on in the world, but more specifically what’s going on here in America and my general dissatisfaction with the way things are run in this country and the way things are probably going to be run in this country for the foreseeable future. I think the titles are pretty self-explanatory. In “Earth On Hell” the first line of the song is “The kids have gone wild in the streets.” I wrote the lyrics to that song years before all this stuff started going down in Egypt. It was weird when that all started kicking off and I was watching it on CNN. I basically wrote two songs about this exact thing: what if the people decide they want to take the power back? I’ve thought about this quite a bit throughout my life. I came up through the Reagan era. That’s my first real experience with politics. Obviously the Reagan era was good for some people and bad for some people. For me, that whole time in the ’80s I considered government bad for me in sense that they were trying to shut me down and the bands that I came up with during the whole PMRC thing. I think back to the ’60s where here in America the people did for a moment in time take some amount of power into their hands and were able to force change. That hasn’t happened since in this country, and now you see it happening all over the world. Everywhere it seems except for here. Obviously it’s not going to happen in China, not in our lifetime anyway. Basically, I would just love to see what would happen if that did happen here. I guess we saw a small version of it on Wall Street recently. At least we weren’t rolling tanks and shooting people, so there were some positives to be taken out of that. But “Revolution Screams” and “Earth On Hell” are very much about people taking the power back.

SF Weekly: As someone who grew up in the Bay Area during the early ’80s rise of thrash metal, I’m still hoping the “Big Four” will actually play here at some point. I mean, the Giants aren’t going to be doing anything at ATT Park anytime soon, so you guys could tear the shit out of the place. Is that still under consideration?

Scott: Well, you should go knock on [METALLICA drummer] Lars [Ulrich‘s] door. You’re in San Francisco [laughs]. Go ask the person who may have the answer to that. It’s funny that I’ve done 400 interviews I guess in the last month for this record and that’s the one question I’ve been asked in every interview. And I tell everybody, “What makes you think we have any say at all over what happens with the Big Four?” I mean, I get it; we’re a part of it and all that, but METALLICA is steering the ship. This is their thing. They installed this red phone with a big red “4” at our manager’s office and when it rings, you just say when and where. I’m obviously kidding about that, but it might as well be the truth. It’s an incredible thing to get to be a part of and we love so much the fact that METALLICA decided that this was something that they wanted to do, to have us and SLAYER and MEGADETH go out and do these shows. It’s just been amazing for all of us. The guys from SLAYER and MEGADETH will say the same thing that I’m saying about it. It’s just been incredible. The shows are awesome. If it were up to me, we’d do a hundred more Big Four shows. I can only hope there’s going to be more. All the guys in the bands want to do them, including the guys in METALLICA, so that makes me think there will be more shows at some point. But as far as when and where, I don’t have a clue. How they could not play San Francisco would be really curious, being that it’s obviously their hometown show. If they did L.A. and New York, how could they not do the Bay Area?

Read the entire interview from SF Weekly.