By Brian Ives

They’re one of metal’s most enduring bands, but Anthrax has always drawn from diverse influences. Over the years, they’ve had hits with covers of songs by Public Enemy (“Bring The Noise”), Joe Jackson (“Got The Time”) and French heavy metal band Trust (“Antisocial”). On their latest release, Anthems, they turn their focus to classic rock, covering Rush, Cheap Trick, AC/DC, Boston, Journey and Thin Lizzy.

Rhythm guitarist Scott Ian is a huge AC/DC fan – he got an Angus Young tattoo from celebrity artist Kat Von D on an episode of L.A. Ink a few years back – and says that there were about 30 to 40 AC/DC jams that the band could have covered. How did they narrow it down to just one? Ian tells, “I asked [singer] Joey [Belladonna] what song he wanted to do, and he suggested ‘T.N.T.'”

Some of the bands on Anthems have been covered by Anthrax before: they’d already done Cheap Trick’s “Auf Wiedersehen,” with former singer John Bush; this time they took on “Big Eyes.” Likewise, they revisited Thin Lizzy-they previously did “Cowboy Song” with Bush– on Anthems they covered the more well-known “Jailbreak.”

One band they hadn’t covered yet was Rush; in fact, the EP was named after the Canadian rock band’s, “Anthem.” Rush’s version, which opens their second album (1975’s Fly By Night) is not one of their big radio hits, but Ian says that his bandmates are Rush fanatics and wanted to go for a deep cut: “I’m certainly a Rush fan but [Drummer] Charlie [Benante] and [bassist] Frankie [Bello] and Joey are like, Rush nerds.  They know every single thing about Rush.”

Anthems‘ release is timely, as Rush will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month. They’ve been eligible for well over a decade, and Ian says he’s not surprised that they are finally getting their due.  “People take Rush seriously, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but everyone has a respect for that band whether you like them or not.”

Although he’s quick to note that he doesn’t pay too much attention to the Rock Hall, he gets a bit more passionate when talking about another band that has been ignored by the voters: “A lot people have a problem with KISS. KISS is just as important as Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. The people who vote on these kinds of things – I don’t know who these people are – I think they’re the kind of people who never, ever liked KISS. If you like Alice Cooper, you should like KISS. But a lot of people didn’t take them seriously as a songwriting entity.  I feel like they’re never gonna let KISS in, which is pretty f****** lame when you consider what they’ve accomplished.”

He continues, “I was reading an interview with someone from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he said that one of the main criteria to be considered into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is, what influence have they had on music? KISS has influenced bands that are already in the Hall of Fame! They’re one of the most influential bands of the last forty years!”

This year marked the first time that Deep Purple made the ballot, however they didn’t get the votes needed to be inducted: “How many people started playing guitar because of the riff to ‘Smoke On The Water?’ You can pinpoint that riff as the starting point to more guitar players than any other song in the history of rock. So it’s just amazing to me that a band like Deep Purple isn’t in.”

Ian adds, “Nothing against my friends in Metallica, but even if you asked them… When Metallica were inducted [into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2009], James [Hetfield] name checked a bunch of bands from the stage, saying maybe you should put these bands in as well.”

The bands Hetfield mentioned were Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Rush, KISS, Ted Nugent, Alice Cooper, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Motorhead.  Had he extended his list a bit more, he might have included slightly younger bands like Slayer and Anthrax. And while Ian probably wouldn’t care about being inducted, as he told when Anthrax was nominated for a GRAMMY earlier this year, “It would be really cool for my mom.”

For now, Anthrax kicks off a U.S. tour later this week, check their website for dates. And Ian will do a “speaking words” (as opposed to a “spoken word” – he notes that he’s speaking, but it isn’t poetry) tour of Europe starting in May. Check Ian’s website for details on his “speaking words” tour.


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