INTERVIEW: Scott Ian speaks words about his “Speaking Words” tour

Anthrax main-man Scott Ian isn’t about to quit metal and hit the after-dinner speaking circuit or anything, at least not just yet. But following a successful one-off spoken word show in London last November he has booked a 16-date spoken word tour of the UK. He’s calling it Speaking Words, because a spoken word tour sounds too “fancy pants”, and it’ll give him a chance to air some of the stories accrued over a 30-plus year career as a touring musician. Who knows: this could be the start of something big, Scott Ian as a stand-up comic or talk show host. Who knows But if not, well, it’ll be pretty cool to hear all about how Anthrax’s ordinarily inflappable riff-master ended up with a load of shit in his pants the first time he met Lemmy, and all that sort of thing.
Have you gone mad, public speaking is terrifying?
Scott Ian:
“Y’know it’s weird, I know a lot of people are terrified but I don’t find public speaking terrifying for some crazy reason. Maybe there is something wrong with me [laughs].

Is this something you’ve wanted to do for a while?
Scott Ian:
“Yeah, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve always been trying to figure out how can I do this, how would I ever make this possible. I’ve seen Rollins do it all these years; I saw Rollins, maybe on the first time he ever did a tour I went to see what it was going to be about. I mean, I am a huge fan of Rollins’ music and I had read all his books at the time, so I really knew that he had a point of view and something he needed to express and he did it really well. It’s something that I always wanted to do and I finally had the opportunity this year; doing this one-off show in London. I was approached by the band’s agent, who basically put it together, and asked, ‘Are you interested in doing this?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely. I’ve been kinda waiting for this to happen but I didn’t know how to kick-start it.’ I did the one show in London and I enjoyed myself so much, I had such a good time with it that I was like, ‘Can I do more of this? How do we do more of this?’ They came back and said, ‘There’s a lot of interest in it, do you wanna do a tour?’ I was like, ‘Sign me up! Let’s find a window when it works and go and do it.’”

Where did you get the material from? Was it something that you had sketched out in advance?
Scott Ian:
“No! I did absolutely zero rehearsal. I didn’t even know how to prepare for it, truthfully. The show was booked months in advance, and I had all these months to think about it, and think, ‘Okay, I’m going to put a whole show together . . . ‘ Because I am friends with a lot of stand-up comedians and a lot of writers, and I am a big fan of comedy and certainly live stand-up comedy. I’ve seen my friends do it and I think that it’s the most challenging thing in the world just to sit down, write jokes, get on stage and make people laugh. I mean, I think that’s the hardest thing in the entertainment industry. It doesn’t get any more raw than that, and I am certainly not a joke writer nor am I a stand-up comedian but I just feel that my life is in so many ways ridiculous. The last 32 years of my life spent in a metal band; I’ve got so many stories, whether it’s shit that I’ve done, people that I’ve met, stories that I know from other people . . . I’ve kinda been in this bubble for so long. I sit around in bars with my friends and I’ll get around to telling stories, as we all do, and most of my friends are in this industry or connected to it somehow, so we all have stories and we all sit down and tell stories to each other and crack each other up. I always felt that people need to hear this stuff. This shit is hilarious. It’s just a really fun thing for me to do, to relate to people on that level. That’s what it is. That’s what the material is; it’s shit that I have been through in my life.”

How much of it is biographical?
Scott Ian:
“I don’t go as far back as the whole, ‘I grew up in New York and this is what happened to me as a child . . .’ It’s not that. Maybe someday I’ll get into that but right now it’s just a lot of crazy stories and crazy shit, and just stuff to share that I think an audience of people who are a fans of my band would be interested in. In fact, you certainly don’t have to be a fan of my band or a metal fan because the stories are just so inherently ridiculous [laughs], and inherently funny, that it doesn’t matter if you listen to this kind of music. Some of it is about me meeting my heroes through the years . . . If you have any sense of humor at all I tend to think that you’ll find some humor in this.”

How did the London show go?
Scott Ian:
“At the London show, I did no rehearsal and I kept getting more and more stressed out about it as it got closer. I was really starting to stress out about it, like, ‘What the fuck am I gonna do? I don’t know how to do this. I have no fucking idea what I am doing. I gotta get on stage in a couple of days.’ And then my wife and I, and my son flew to London and got in about three days before the show. I got in a panic about two days before; I had really no clue. I had planned sharing some stories. I was going to invite my friends over and regale them with my witty tales: I never did any of that. My wife Pearl just said to me, ‘You know these stories. All this stuff is in your brain.’ And that totally calmed me down, ‘cos I do know ’em, it’s not like I was going to walk on stage and forget everything that had happened to me over the last 30 years.”

And there was a Q&A, too, right?
Scott Ian:
“I winged it. I mean, I just walked on stage and an hour-and-a-half flew by. So I said, ‘All right, let’s do Q&A.’ And that added almost another hour on because people ask questions and those questions lead me down other paths and they open other doors to tell stories. And I had been pretty clear about it, people could ask me anything they want.”

Is that not a bit dangerous? Was there not something that you’d dread getting asked?
Scott Ian:
“No. I don’t care. If it’s something I don’t wanna answer I’ll say, ‘Sorry! I’m not answering that one.’ It’s hard for me to imagine what someone would ask that I would be afraid of answering.

Can you see this Speaking Words business taking your career to weird new places, like Rollins. Could you see yourself acting or writing?
Scott Ian:
“Well I pretty much write all the time. I think the actual impetus for me to start to stand up in front of people and do this was I started compiling a lot of these stories earlier this year, and like writing them out long-form, literally typing them out, because someday I will do a book so I might as well start now having all these stories and anecdotes and things like that . . . In case I ever forget. I’ll already have that part [of the book] done. And it was kinda during that that I thought it would be fun to share this with people, get on stage and talk to people about it but still not really having any idea of how to do that because . . . Well I guess I could have called my agent and said, ‘Hey, I want to do a spoken word show.’ And we could have worked it out. But it just seemed so out of the ballpark. It’s just weird how it worked out that my agent put on these three shows; they did one with me, one with Chris Jericho, and one with Duff McKagan. It was just his idea to do this, that all three of us had something to say, and I was like, ‘God, this is such perfect timing for you to come up with this idea. I’m always writing, and I already do write for DC Comics; I’ve got one series for them about Lobo and I am writing another one about The Demon, so I always get to write. As far as acting? That’s a whole different ball game. Of course, I would love to try it, but, [laughs] I’m not going to go out there and start going to acting classes, going on auditions. That’s not something that I am interested in at all. But if the producers of The Walking Dead called me and said, ‘We want you to be on the show’ I’d go do it and figure it out as I went but it’s not something I am actively pursuing or anything like that.”

Of course you’ve already appeared on The Walking Dead, albeit briefly.
Scott Ian:
“Yeah, but that’s pretty easy though! For me it was, anyway; I have been dreaming about that my whole life.”

**Scott Ian’s Speaking Words tour kicks off on 24 May 2013 at O2 Academy, Oxford**