Interview: Scott Ian & John Bush, Anthrax


Anthrax have been through a turbulent time lately, what with the departure of singer Joey Belladonna. An awakward decision but one which may well bode well in the long term, now that new boy John Bush has cut his teeth with band's latest blast, The Sound of White Noise, which resonates with an altogether more cinematic sweep without losing any of their acclaimed hardcore edge.

I encountered the forceful personality of rhythm guitarist/ songwriter, Scott Ian and the mellow Mr. Bush and made the observation that White Noise is more varied, inward-looking, and more ambiguous than their previous efforts.

Scott picks up on my point.
"This time there was just a lot of spontaneity. We never really thought about anything when we were doing it. We knew as we were writing it that they didn't really sound-a-like. One day we could be working on a song like Only and then the next day we could be doing something like 1000 Points of Hate, the former being soaringly melodic and the latter living up to its vicious title. "I really enjoyed it because it's the first Anthrax album that has this real diversity from song to song"
Some of the credit for this 'diversity' should go to producer Mike Jerden (Jane's Addiction/ Alice in Chains), as Scott acknowledges.
"On this album he looks at each song as completely individual. It's the way we probably should have done all our albums."
However, I'd temper this by suggesting that a clutch of their of their new songs are still bludgeoned by frantic excursions into tedious thrash metal, ala Potter's Field. My own preference would be for songs like the aforementioned Only, the creeping melodic stealth of Black Lodge and the gargantuan This is Not an Exit, which though as bone hard as anything they've recorded, benefits by deft use of light and shade.


The background to Black Lodge is interesting.
"It was heavily influenced by Angelo Balaminto's work on Twin Peaks," explains Scott. "I always liked the idea of the 'Black Lodge' that they came up with in that movie. It's like kind of the embodiment of evil. Here we had this music inspired by Twin Peaks, so I figured we'll call it Black Lodge but I'm not gonna write a song about Twin Peaks."
Time to turn our attention to Bush. The ex-Armored Saint man is undoubtedly vocally well equipped enough to front the Anthrax juggernaut. Perhaps he's not that distinguishable from other vocalists in hard-edged American rock bands, but, unlike Joey, he's more in sync with the band's vibe. How does he see his role?
"I think that when it comes to music you paint different pictures. if you're doing something like Black Lodge you gotta adopt to that, and likewise if you're doing a song like Invisible. And it's not easy to do that. Probably, it's more of a mental thing."
Scott interjects.
"Specifically, in Anthrax's situation, it is a big difference working with John, because the previous albums where I was writing the lyrics and Joey was singing them, it would be something that would be impossible to get across 'cos he wasn't writing it. He was basically singing my thoughts and my opinions, and obviously trying as best he could to express something that he didn't have a part in. So, it just was never gonna be what it's supposed to be."

"I don't have the kind of personality to walk in and say, 'I'm gonna take over.' That was never my intention. I just want to be a part of it because I have a lot of thoughts and I want to express them. It's weird, the way Scott and I would write lyrics. I'd give them to him, and then it planted a seed maybe in his head, then he'd run with it."

However, it is drummer Charlie Banante who is largely responsible for the music.

"It's weird though," says Scott with a puzzled expression, "because Charlie's favourite band right now is The Smiths! So, with the riffs he comes up with compared to the music he listens to, it really makes me wonder 'cos I know this guy can't be stealing music from anybody!"
Bush rightly reckons this open-minded attitude to music is positive.
"I think it's good, it's healthy 'cos if all we were listening to was heavy rock all the time, it would be detrimental."
These points highlight a fundamental aspect of Anthrax's approach, which has always been to mix 'n' match diverging styles whilst, "keeping the Anthrax identity." Take the rap collaboration with Public Enemy or I Am the Man, which they did 7 years ago.
"At that time, to do a rap song in the history of metal was unheard of," says Scott. "We played that song at Donington in '87, the fuckin' bastion of heavy metal, playing a rap song and it went amazingly."
So, do it naturally, as opposed to 'trying' to do it?
"If we were trying to do it, then we would have a rap on this album. Bring the Noise was extremely successful, so we could have just duplicated that."
But they didn't. What we have instead is a fistful of 'psycho dramas.' Don't mess with these punks!

Mark Liddell
Riff Raff
July, 1993
Share on Google Plus


Post a Comment