Anthrax's Scott Ian Discusses a "Ramones-Style" Set and The Walking Dead

See also: Why Isn't Corey Taylor of Slipknot Listening to Metal? See also: What Mayhem Band Has the Craziest Fans (According to Tom Araya of Slayer)? See also: Motorhead, Slipknot, Anthrax, and Slayer Unite for Mayhem Fest

It should come as no surprise that some epic musicians come off as jaded, bored, or misogynistic during interviews. Or just plain fried.

Not Anthrax founder/guitarist Scott Ian. He's refreshingly sweet and impossibly enthusiastic for a guy in a band named after a disease he read about in a biology textbook in 1981 because it sounded "sufficiently evil" to the members. He's a legendary musician, one who has achieved such longevity on the heavy metal circuit but he doesn't act like a big shot, and he seemingly never tires of chatting lightheartedly with the press.

Then again, Anthrax did re-emerge in the past couple of years as a classic comeback tale after internal fighting and tensions, a story that is all too familiar in the world of rock 'n' roll.

Through 10 studio albums, 20 singles, and an EP featuring Public Enemy, Anthrax has been one of the most popular thrash metal bands for decades. They were one of the first thrash-metal bands to sign to a major label (Island Records in 1985). The lineup has changed several times, but fan favorites Scott Ian (who has never left) and lead vocalist Joey Belladonna (who returned in 2010) will be ready to rock their stripped-down, super-charged 45-minute set at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival tonight, alongside drummer Charlie Benante, bassist Frank Bello, and guitarist Rob Caggiano.

The fact that Anthrax is opting for such a different set than fans have experienced before will overshadow -- at least for me -- the fact that the band visits more often, and more recently, than the other main acts Slayer, Slipknot, and Motorhead.

Plus, they just plain kick ass in concert.

Up on the Sun talked to Scott Ian about playing the side stage at Mayhem, the challenge of gaining new generations of fans, and about being a zombie on The Walking Dead.

Up on the Sun: Last time we talked, you had just had your baby. How is everything going?

Scott Ian: Oh, it's awesome! He's 11 months, and it's the greatest.

I saw Anthrax's set at Rock on the Range in May, and you guys rocked it. I know it's supposed to be like the special set you're planning for Mayhem on the more intimate Jagermeister stage. A tight 45-minute set is gonna make things get crazy. Can you tell me about it?

I'd have to say it's pretty much going to be exactly like that same set that we did at Rock on the Range, but a little bit tighter and a bit more honed. We haven't played that short of a set in a long time, so we just kinda winged it that day -- along with a shit-ton of technical problems we were having on stage. So, it was a bit of a mess for us, but apparently it didn't come across to the audience that way. [Laughs] Which is cool. But I think Mayhem will be a version of that set -- just a lot tighter on our end of things.

How are you deciding on what songs to include on the set list with all your hits?

[Laughs] I don't know . . . the ones we like playing, that the audience is going to get in to . . . we also pick songs that are shorter, not over six minutes. We just want to give people the most bang for their buck as possible. We're not doing any medleys. We don't like to do stuff like that, so we're just trying to squeeze as much as we can into the time we have. All kill and no filler is what we're trying to make happen. Among Anthrax, Motorhead, Slipknot, and Slayer, who do you think has the crazier fans?

Well, that's hard to say. I think between us all, you have a similar crowd reaction. Slayer and us have a difference where their energy is a little more intense and angry, whereas our show has the same level of intensity but is kind of more, dare I say, fun? It's super-intense -- it's metal and thrash -- but I think it's coming from more of a fun attitude than a violent attitude. And that's no rip on Slayer; they do what they do the best. Slipknot will obviously attract the biggest crowd of the day, being the closer. You have all of it. It's just a fucking massive carnival of freaks is the only way I can explain it. Them and their audience. I think people will be pretty wound up by the end of the day. Intensity-level-wise, I feel like each band gives off a very different type of energy and attitude from the stage.

Definitely. I feel like Slipknot has a younger fan base, too, so it may be interesting to see that dynamic with the wide age range.

It's not as wide of an age range anymore, as you think really. Especially a show like this. I'd think 80 percent of people coming to Mayhem are under 30, certainly -- maybe even under 25, coming to see all the bands. You know, we've been playing to a much younger crowd for years now, same with Motorhead. You know, you can't be playing to a crowd your age -- laughter -- because it'd be really boring. The only way you can survive is if the audience is renewing itself every few years, and new generations coming to see you. But Slipknot will certainly have the biggest crowd. That's for sure.

[Laughs] It's going to be one of the few times I can say that you have a band closing that people aren't going to be leaving after Anthrax, Slayer and Motorhead. There are not many bands that could follow all those acts and still have an incredibly excited audience. Slipknot will have no problem doing that.

You had a guest appearance on The Walking Dead. Tell me about that.

Yeah. I played a zombie in one of the webisodes leading up to season two. It was a trip, but I love getting involved in things like that since I'm a fan of the show.

Anthrax is scheduled to perform Friday, July 6, with Slipknot, Slayer and Motorhead at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival at Ashley Furniture Homestore Pavilion.

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Lauren Wise has worked as a rock/heavy metal journalist for 15 years. She contributes to Noisey and LA Weekly, edits books, and drinks whiskey.
Contact: Lauren Wise