Anthrax Guitarist Scott Ian Discusses "Speaking Words" Tour, Crowd-Funding Campaigns and More
Often heralded as one of heavy metal's more outspoken personalities, Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian has hit the road with a one-man, stand-up/spoken-word show.
His tour, fittingly titled "Speaking Words," began with a few shows in the U.K. and spiraled into a short North American tour and a live DVD.
Ian, who's in the middle of a two-week U.S. run, is running a Pledge Music campaign to fund the release of the Speaking Words In Glasgow DVD.
We recently caught up with Ian to discuss the tour and more.
GUITAR WORLD: How did the "Speaking Words" tour start? I know you had done some shows in the U.K. previously.
Yeah, that’s how it all started, basically. I got offered to do this one-off show in London in November 2012, and I said yes based on the fact that I had about five months to prepare for it. I figured that in five months I'd be able to come up with an idea of what I'd actually do [laughs], but I didn’t do anything. I did zero preparation, but somehow I just pulled it off.
I was able to get on stage, and on my wife’s advice, just go up there and pretend I was in a bar with my friends, just telling stories. That’s kind of what made this happen for me, and I had such a good time doing that, it snowballed into doing the other tours and shows in Australia and what not, and now this North American tour.
How has the response been?
People seem to be digging it! People who come out to these shows don’t really know what they’re getting themselves into. Maybe they have some idea of what it’s going to be like. But I haven’t had a disappointed crowd yet. I don’t think so, anyway. Everyone seems to be digging it.
For people who are going to the upcoming shows and don’t know what to expect, what is it like? Is it like a monologue, and then people questions?
I’m just telling stories from my life, experiences I’ve had traveling the world, and the experiences I’ve had with people I’ve met along the way. There’s a lot of humor, a lot of times at my own expense, and there’s a Q&A section in the show as well, wherein people are open to asking me pretty much anything.
I believe you did a DVD recording of the Glasgow show — and now you’re now trying to put that out through a Pledge Music campaign. How's the campaign going?
I don’t know, really. I don’t really follow it on a day-to-day basis because it’s an ongoing thing. I just try to send them updates and keep it moving. We’ll see how it turns out, but I made a decision that I didn’t want to go the normal route to put this out because I want to own my content and I feel that by doing this Pledge Music thing, it gives me a direct link to the fans and people who’re interested in this.
By them pledging, it enables them to own an experience. This is the only way they could get something like that. It’s not like you’re sending me money for nothing. You’re sending me money that helps produce the DVD, and you basically buy an experience, whether it’s just $10 for the DVD or $10,000 for me to come hang out with you and do a private show. So I thought it was just a great way to go directly to the audience.
A lot of artists are turning to these kinds of campaigns to fund albums and other projects. People — fans — tend to have positive and negative responses to this. I it as a pre-order — and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it! Your thoughts?
That’s just what it exactly is! If you’re going to take $10 to go and buy something at Best Buy, you’re giving Best Buy your money, and the artist at that point is getting the smallest piece of the pie. With something like this, the money is going directly to the artist, and you’re still getting your album or DVD. I think it’s the best way to do something. It makes the most sense. Even if you imagine a band like AC/DC doing their next record through a pledge campaign, they'd probably have 3 million people in advance pledging $10 to buy the next record. It just makes the most sense this way.
Do you think the business could eventually move to this method, as opposed to retail?
I hope so, because it’s the way for the artist to control their own destinies. It puts power back into the hands of the artists and takes it away from the record labels that have been ripping off bands and artists since record labels have existed! So I hope so. I'd love to see all record companies fail [laughs]. Not some of the smaller labels — don’t get me wrong. I think labels like Megaforce, Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast, they do abide by their artist. I’m talking about the big corporate entities. Nothing would make me happier than to see them all just go away.
In terms of "Speaking Words," you’ve talked about musicians that you look up to and admire when it comes to doing the stand-up thing — like Henry Rollins and Jello Biafra. What inspiration do you take away from those people, and what do you like most about their styles?
I can’t say I’ve taken any inspiration, but I saw Henry do it probably in the early Nineties. The only thing I took from that was, “Wow, that was a great show!” [laughs] You know, I was a Henry Rollins fan before I did any talking shows, and as a fan, going to see him have such a great command of the audience by just telling stories, I was impressed by the whole thing. But that was many years ago, and I can’t say I’ve been out researching that stuff for my shows. I just do my own thing.
When you’re doing these shows, are you cautious about addressing topics that might affect Anthrax in any way?
Not at all. If anyone is familiar with Anthrax and the things we’ve done over the years, I don’t think there’s any reason for me to worry about anything. We just do what we want [laughs].
You have a lot of friends in the music business. Can you think of anyone who'd make a great spoken-word artist?
Oh yeah, Lemmy! Can you imagine if he gets on stage with a drink and a cigarette and tells stories for two hours? He’s the first one that comes to mind, and he'd be incredible. I’d love to see Bruce Dickinson do it, and I think he did perform a show or two like that in Scandinavia last year, if I’m not mistaken. But yeah, those two come to mind immediately. I think Phil Anselmo would be great at it. He’s really funny, he’s got great stories and he knows how to tell a story.
You’ve been involved in music for all these years and you’ve had opportunities to get involved in other fields like TV, comic books and now this stand-up thing. Are there any other avenues you'd like to explore?
Right now, no [laughs]. I can’t say I’m thinking about anything else. Between writing the new Anthrax record and doing this right now, it’s pretty much filling up my brain.
In a recent interview, you said you and Anthrax aren't working on a schedule. So it’s clear you’re taking your time with it. You did that with Worship Music and the results were great.
That’s how we work on every album. We just don’t give ourselves a hard deadline because I don’t think as a band of songwriters that we should have to have one. I don’t think it’s the best way to work, truthfully. It doesn’t help me to have a deadline. If I have a deadline, it would certainly hinder my creative ability, and I think that goes for all of us. I just don’t know how you can put a deadline on something like songwriting. You have to be happy with what you’re doing, and if you write 10 songs and you’re like, “Well, this isn’t quite ready yet, but we’re going to record it anyway,” that doesn’t make any sense. So when we’re ready and we feel like we’ve got the record we want, that’s when we’ll start recording it. I can tell you, I think we’re very close to that because the material is awesome.
It won’t take as long as Worship Music did, right?
No, definitely not [laughs]. I can safely say that at the latest, we'll have a new record early next year.
You also did so much touring for Worship Music. It must be nice to be on a little bit of a break, aside from this current tour.
Oh yeah. Up until yesterday I was home since August, so it’s been a great break. And I’m only out on this tour for two weeks and then I’m off again until May before we go to Europe to play festivals. So yeah, it has been a really nice break as far as being able to be home with my family and kind of clear my brain to get ready to do it all over again.
There has been talk of more dates to be announced. Will there be another leg of the tour, maybe on the West Coast?
Nothing now. There are no plans right now for anything. I can’t really plan this too far in advance or announce anything because everything is based around Anthrax’s schedule. That’s obviously my priority, so I can’t really go ahead and book two weeks in October for my "Speaking Words" thing on the West Coast now because if Anthrax dates come up, then I'd have to move it. I just kind of have to wait and see when I would have a window.
I’ll also have to balance it out if I’m out with Anthrax, and whether then I would really want to fill all my time up because once I start with Anthrax again, when I’m not touring with Anthrax generally I would want to be home with my family. It’s just about finding the balance and figuring out when I’d be comfortable traveling that much.
Remaining dates on the ‘Speaking Words’ tour:
2/28 - Lancaster, PA @ Chameleon Club
3/01 - Baltimore, MD @ The Ramshead Live: Power Plant Live
3/02 - Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Live
3/04 - Boston, MA @ Hard Rock Café
3/05 - New York, NY @ BB Kings
3/06 - Syracuse, NY @ Lost Horizon
3/07 - West Warwick, RI @ Manchester 65
3/08 - Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall
Andrew Bansal is a writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, news, reviews and pictures on his website — with the help of a small group of people. He briefly moved away from the Los Angeles scene and explored metal in India, but he is now back in LA continuing from where he left off.