METAL THRASHING MAD WITH ANTHRAX
One of the most enjoyable side benefits of Saltyrockz has been that it’s given me the opportunity to get back in touch with a bunch of people I knew and worked with back in the Kerrang! and Metal Hammer days. You know how it is. You spend plenty of time with people in bands, then life gets in the way and somehow the trail goes cold. But the joy of email has meant that these last few weeks I’ve been catching up with Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian after far too many years of radio silence.
At one time I was very close to Anthrax. Presumably like just about every other young rock fan in the ’80s it was the dual pincer attack of Anthrax and Metallica that turned me onto Thrash. I remember being given a copy of ‘Armed And Dangerous’ by the band’s manager at the time, the notorious Johnny Z. I was over in the States interviewing another of Z’s acts, Raven, and ended up listening to a pre-release tape (remember tape?) on the plane on the flight back home.
I’d never heard anything like Anthrax before. The riffs were raw and untamed and nastily aggressive, but Joey Belladonna’s vocals were right out of the top drawer. As far as I was concerned the Thrash Metal I’d heard up to that point was let down by the singing. Always enthusiastic, but in the main unburdened by talent. In retrospect maybe I just didn’t understand the concept of truly aggressive vocal delivery. That’s what Steve Perry will do to you! No matter. Anthrax had a sound that I could relate to, but which was still obviously different and hugely exciting. Something new was happening, and alongside Metallica, Anthrax were at the forefront of whatever it was.
I have no clue where I first met Anthrax. That’s what the ’80s will do to you! I do remember, though, that I was charmed by the New York five piece from the start. Drummer Charlie Benante, guitarists Scott Ian and Dan Spitz, bassist Frank Bello and the aforementioned Belladonna made me feel welcome in their camp from the off and I soon seemed to settle into a routine of regular work with them.
While Metallica’s supremely-focused ‘Metal Or Death’ approach to their work understandably gained them respect, I felt more drawn to Anthrax and their more open-minded approach to music. They made no secret of their love of rap and skate culture and were the innovators of the whole ‘Bermuda shorts in metal’ routine. I remember that there was a signed Anthrax skateboard propped up in the Kerrang! office for ever and a day where Charlie had written “I’m going to HoJo’s cool pad”. He never made it, which was probably a good thing since I was living in a shitty bedsit in Birmingham at the time! Luckily for me we ended up having our rendezvous in more exotic places like The Bahamas, where Saltyrockz snapper Ray Palmer and I spent a few days arseing around in the sun while the band worked furiously to try to get the ‘Among The Living’ album finished in time to satisfy a particularly voracious record company. Still, at least we still had some time to hang and frolic on the beach, as Ray’s images for the Kerrang! cover story proved.
Reading back over the piece just now made me realise exactly how exciting and how different Anthrax were at the time. “What do I care if some asshole wants to walk around with fuckin’ women’s clothes hanging off his body and more make-up than my fuckin’ mother,” Scott said to me at a time when Hair Metal was all the rage. “Years from now he’s gonna have to live with that!” True that. All that Scotty has to explain in 2009 is the Bermuda shorts! Mind you, though, 20 years from now he is going to have to answer for that lunatic beard he’s been sporting recently! Wonder if he’s thought that one through, properly!
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HoJo rocked as a top journalist on legendary UK metal magazine
Kerrang! and now runs a way-cool rock T-shirt site at www.saltyrockz.com.