"2011 was the best year of my life," says Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, mere weeks before the second leg of Anthrax's latest tour kicks off. "It feels like 30 years of hard work has finally culminated."
The New York-born-and-bred metal masters were one of the first thrash-metal bands to sign with a major label. Over the course of 10 studio albums, they have cycled through eight lead vocalists. Their sounds have ranged from colorful and lighthearted to dark and progressive, and collaborations with such legends as The Who's Roger Daltrey, members of Pantera, and Public Enemy have cemented Anthrax as metal statesmen.
But 2011 found Anthrax riding a comeback wave. After the acclaim of the Big Four concerts, featuring Anthrax alongside Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer. The group's new album, Worship Music, marked the return of classic vocalist Joey Belladonna and felt like a victory lap.
Anthrax is scheduled to perform Tuesday, January 24, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.
With the start of the New Year, Ian says he has been busy within his two worlds — Worship Music's second single, "I'm Alive," was released on January 4, and he and his wife, Pearl, daughter of famed singer Meat Loaf, have plenty to contend with at home: a new infant son.
The guitarist spoke with New Times for a look back at Anthrax's catalog and one of his favorite guitarists, Dimebag Darrell.
New Times: Twenty-eleven was a flurry of accomplishments for you, professionally and personally. Which are you most proud of?
Scott Ian: My son being born is my favorite part of the last ongoing seven months. Professionally, having people react so well and really connecting with Worship Music. Yankee Stadium was not just a highlight of last year, but a highlight of the last 30 years.
NT: What is your favorite track off Worship Music?
S.I.: It constantly changes, but I'm thinking maybe right now "The Constant," because we haven't played that one live yet, and I'm really excited to.
NT: When you look back over the years at Anthrax's catalog, which albums are your favorites?
S.I.: The hard part is I'm so close to it. If I were to listen to every record, I would start being hypercritical, because I would instantly go back to what was happening at that time. I just know too much [laughs]. I'd rather have people who go out and buy our records do the analyzing. Among the Living, Worship Music . . . and maybe Sound of White Noise or We've Come for You All . . . Those records are probably the ones I could listen to and just say, "Wow, this is a great record."
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NT: Worship Music's "In the End" pays tribute to Ronnie James Dio and "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, and you also played the Dimebash tribute show in December. As a guitarist, how do you sum up Darrell's influence?
S.I.: Well, getting to play Pantera songs is always a pleasure. Dime was revolutionary — what he did was the biggest influence on every metal guitar player that's come since, in any band that's done anything. What Eddie Van Halen did in the late '70s and '80s, that's what Darrell did in the '90s and 2000s.
NT: As one of the earliest thrash metal bands to be signed to a label, what do you think has been the biggest challenge?
S.I.: [Long pause] I guess being able to maintain something at a certain level for this amount of years would be the biggest challenge. The fact is, any band around as long as us will have their ups and downs. It's just making your way through all that. At some point, if you didn't want to do it anymore, you would know and you would stop. But I've always wanted to be in Anthrax. It's like a family.