Time and again, Australia has proved itself to be at the forefront of the global …
Gather round all ye little children for there are tales to be told, especially if you like swearing! Scott Ian, co-founding father of thrash metal and legendary guitarist of Anthrax will soon be here on his spoken word tour, One Man Riot!, sharing with fans anecdotes and shenanigans from his 38 years in the biz.
It’s been a helluva career for Scott Ian and there’s a Pandora’s Box of material from which to pull the discussions for these shows. “That’s why the show’s three hours long sometimes – because I keep talking,” chuckles Ian. “I do have a lot of stuff to pull from and a lot of just gets done in the room, on the night, with the crowd.
“Every crowd is different and it really affects the way I’ll be up there. I’m pretty much figuring it out in the first fifteen minutes. I’ll walk on stage knowing what I’m going start and end with but after those first few minutes, I see what gets laughs, I see what people react to, that’ll give me a good idea of where to go next and so on. I’m lucky that I feel I do have a lot to say and lucky enough people give a shit!”
These days Ian takes to the stage with his recollections with a natural ease–but, if you can believe it, he wasn’t always confident about this endeavour. “My wife [Pearl Aday] gave me the best advice for this the night before my first ever show–I tried to cancel it because I didn’t know what the hell I was gonna do–‘I can’t go do this, I don’t know what I’m doing’–she said, ‘You’re not cancelling! Some of these stories you’re gonna tell you’ve been telling your friends in bars for years. You know these stories, they’re a part of you. Just walk on stage and pretend you’re in a room with your friends.’
Being in a band is fun–I get to play guitar with my friends–that’s what I would write as my job description.
[ Scott Ian ]
“That’s what I did, though it’s not hard to imagine because a venue is a bunch of people standing around drinking, so it really wasn’t that much of a stretch. It was just a room full of my friends who I was gonna tell stories they’ve heard six times, but we’re all drunk so we’ll find them funny again!
“That’s how I look at it, that I’m gonna be on stage hanging out with a bunch of people who are in essence, my friends. We all come from the same world but unlike my friends who’ve heard it all before, these are people who care and really want to hear what I have to say.”
Don’t rock up to Ian’s performance expecting it to be some sort of delivery of gnarly poetry, in fact, expect the unexpected. “The first tour I did, I used to open the show with a passage, seemingly from my book (but mine wasn’t out at the time.) I would walk on stage and there would be a stool in the middle of the stage, one light on the seat. I’d walk on stage with my phone in my hand, reading glasses on, and I didn’t say hello, I would just sit and start reading–[it] was the opening chapter of Anthony Kiedis’ book Scar Tissue.
“He gets right into, talking about how he was sitting in his house and a woman shows up in fishnets stockings, and she’s got this case full of custom needles and she ties his arm off and shoots him up and blah, blah blah … I’m reading this whole story, and talk about being able to hear a pin drop!
“The first time I did this in London there were 40 or 50 people in the crowd that knew me, like actual friends, that I could hear, I could hear them saying ‘I had no idea. I had no idea. When did this happen?’ And that’s when I knew, ‘I have these people by the balls now!’ I put my prop down, took my glasses off and said, ‘Hold on, you thought that was about me?!’ and I’d get a he laugh from that so I knew I was on the right track.
“When you talk about expectations, I wanted to do shows where people were gonna have no fucking idea what they were getting themselves into, in a negative way almost. Like I’m gonna dig a hole for myself right at the start before they realise I’m kidding. It’s different now, now I know what I’m doing but in the beginning, I felt like I needed that hook. But still, I don’t know if people understand, I’m not a stand-up, I’m certainly not reading poetry–there is a music portion of the show now! I was deadset against having a guitar on the stage but I figured a way to add music to the show which I’m very excited about …”
At this stage of the conversation, we’re not even halfway through. With stories within stories within stories, once Ian gets going it’s hard for him to stop—but it’s also hard to not listen. Captivating is the tone when he speaks and gripping are the words he shares, a spoken word event with Scott Ian is an evening at which you may not mind losing all sense of time.
Tying in what Ian’s already shared, you might imagine that to a degree, Ian still doesn’t have a clue what he’s gonna do, and judging by the knowing chuckle with which he responds to this suggestion, you might be right. “I kinda like that because it’s just more interesting for me, certainly than having a set list,” he says, “If I’m stuck to a set list and it’s not going well then I’m screwed. I don’t ever want to have questions after a show and I feel like going with the flow, almost like being a DJ, knowing what song is gonna work next, that’s how I feel on stage telling these stories.”
It’s at this point it feels appropriate to tell Ian how interesting it has been to share with him such a colourful and vibrant conversation, one full of voice and volume changes for dramatic emphasis, full of mutual laughter and intense one-sided listening. It’s easy to imagine yourself sat cross-legged on the floor for three hours like a starry-eyed kid listening to grandpa tell his stories, a scenario Ian finds amusing.
Something is driving him to get out and share these stories. “Because it’s fun,” is Ian’s simple reasoning. “Years ago we [Anthrax] got to the point where we were able to dictate what we wanted to do, and understood we’d be able to do this as long as we wanted to do it. Having had that freedom for so long, basically all my decisions come down to is, is something gonna be fun for me to do? Being in a band is fun–I get to play guitar with my friends–that’s what I would write as my job description.
“But standing on stages and getting laughs because of the way I tell a story, and just the inherent ridiculousness of a lot of these tales, it feels great, it’s just amazing. I just think I know how to tell a story pretty well in front of a crowd.”
Scott Ian One Man Riot! Spoken Word Tour:
Wednesday September 26 // Goldfields Theatre // Melbourne
Saturday September 29 // Metro Theatre // Sydney
Monday October 1 // The Tivoli // Brisbane