Released: 2014, De Capo Press
In anticipation of the this autobiography I went back and read my reviews of recent Anthrax albums that I had written for Metal-Rules.com. Reading those reviews, one would probably conclude that I don’t like the band. While that may be a fair assessment, the reality is I do care a great deal. How could the band go from so good to so bad, so quickly and stagnate for two decades? I could never figure it out, until now. After reading I’M THE MAN by Scott Ian, it the monumental fall of Anthrax makes so much more sense.
I’M THE MAN is a really good looking book. The dust jacket must have been very expensive as it is full colour and embossed with glossy ink so Ian’s tattoo’s, bear and guitar strings are raised up. The 316 page hardcover has two sets of pictures on glossy plates with dozens of cool rare photos from the collection of Ian. There is a great photo of Ian looking up lovingly at Gene Simmons with the caption, ‘My Jimmy Cricket’, which will tickle die-hard Kiss fans who will get the joke. As a very cool bonus feature in the middle of the book there is a 16-page full colour comic written by Ian about drinking with Lemmy. Since Ian is a big Motorhead fan and big comic book guy, it makes perfect sense and it is really well executed. There is a nice foreword by Kirk Hammet but the book could have used a good Anthrax/Scott Ian discography.
The prose is easy to read as Ian takes us on a journey across his life, of course opens with the well-worn literary ‘hook’, a tale of him getting drunk and breaking into a baseball stadium and trying to steal some memorabilia. Then the tale starts in earnest following his day growing up in NYC. He has a bit of a rough childhood but grew up as a fairly normal, nice Jewish kid, comics, toys, not too much booze and drugs and of course discovering Kiss which lead him into the Metal. As a side note, reading the section about how without Kiss there would be no Anthrax, I get more and more annoyed at the revisionists who claim Kiss aren’t Metal. Kiss was the directly responsible for the creation/inspiration literally hundreds of Metal bands and Ian talks extensively about that in the chapter ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’. Those people who saw the ‘Tears Are Falling video on MTV once in the 80’s and decided Kiss aren’t Metal need to go talk to Ian or read this chapter.
The book is sub-titled ‘The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax’, which is just little glimpse into the humour laced through the book. Ian is a witty, engaging author with tons of good stories. He is known as a talker as evidenced by the success of his recent speaking tour and the book is much like his speaking style, rapid, fun and totally charismatic. I learned a ton of cool stuff about the band and him.
The history of Scott Ian and his band Anthrax are, naturally, inextricably linked. As I read I got a greater sense of why Anthrax changed so dramatically and I fully blame Ian, and admittedly, near the end he takes a lot of the blame himself. One thing that I found so revealing was that Scott Ian, when it comes to Metal and Anthrax is really naïve and even clueless. I know that sounds horrible and perhaps naïve isn’t the right word as he has been in the business for 30+ years but he honestly has no idea why Anthrax went into an almost 20-year slump. He blames EVERYONE else; the record labels, the producers, the managers, the industry, the internet, his band mates, his failed marriages, his addictions, worst of all he even blames the fans. He doesn’t see that the fans deserted Anthrax because they slowed down, stopped playing thrash, embraced modern Rock and churned out sub-standard records that had no balls. The bottom line they started writing crappy non-Metal songs that people didn’t want to hear and thats why people stopped buying their records. So he really doesn’t get it.
On page 273 he says that he thought his alt-rock side project The Damned Things would go platinum. Who was he kidding? In 2010, even the biggest bands in the world don’t go platinum, not even Ozzy or Aerosmith so to read that he thought, IRONICLAST would sell 1 million copies in the US alone, made me shake my head. He was surprised when it only sold less than 50,000 copies but no single Anthrax fan on the planet was surprised that it tanked.
Another gem of a quote was on page 297 where he said, “We lived through the nineties alternative scene and the nu-Metal phenomena and the indie-rock explosion, and all the cynicism and negativity that came with each.” He has to be joking. That is EXACTLY why they failed because they abandoned Metal betrayed the true fans and embraced short-lived trendy styles like Grunge and alt-Metal and they became cynical and negative. Of course, it is no surprise when they started playing Metal again on WORSHIP MUSIC it was their best selling, highest charting album in almost 20 years. He is so insular, so passionate about his craft and his band that he is detached from reality and in his conclusion he says he still doesn’t know why they have had a resurgence in popularity.
Reading all through the book how he kept saying he was not really a Metal guy, he liked rap, he liked industrial music, comics, baseball etc… and he had all these side-projects with the popular, trendy people, it made far more sense why the band didn’t have what it takes to be consistent over the long-haul like Tankard or Overkill for example. I absolutely do not fault him for his tastes and choices in his life but reading the book it became very clear why Anthrax suffered a massive drop in popularity. For much of the time would rather be out dating super-models and hanging out with movie stars at posh nightclubs in New York and LA etc. I guess you can’t blame him but it is easy to see how quickly he lost the fire for the true Anthrax once they had a little taste of success in the early 90’s. Dee Snider said the same thing in his autobiography, roughly, that it’s hard to right angry aggressive Metal songs when you are rich and famous and taking extended holidays to exotic locations. I guess Ian had to bottom out and learn the hard way.
Another big flaw was that he left out so much detail of the later years (ie. it was horrible. Like so many rock autobiographies he neglects the recent past in favour of a nostalgic and teary-eyed look back at the golden age. I fully understand that it is his life-story and not the definitive Anthrax biography but he had very little detail of the making of the last several albums. He covers all of 1996-2009 in just a couple of chapters, leaving out huge amounts of detail.
In an equally poor editorial decision move he entirely skips the two years with Dan Nelson as the singer and tells the reader to go look it up on Wikipedia. It was bad move that smacks of revisionism and trying to erase the past. If he was legally forbidden from talking about Nelson’s tenure in the band he should have said so, not just ignored two entire years of the story. I was very disappointed as myself and many others I know wanted to hear the story of one of the most controversial episodes of the bands career. Ian says he is a positive guy and doesn’t want to dwell on the negative or the past, which I fully believe but by skipping so much detail, it made for a very uneven, incomplete story. One day a neutral party will write the definitive Anthrax story and we may be able to fill in the gaps.
I’M THE MAN did very little to change my love/hate relationship with Anthrax, if anything it reinforced it, but now at least I understand why they band have not had an easy road. The lawsuits, the money-problems, the constant line-up changes, the failed tours, the fights, the divorces, the alcoholism, would kill any lesser band, but Anthrax is not a lesser band. They are one of the The Big Four, and now, at last they are standing tall and proud once again after emerging from decades in the dark. Revealing and insightful I’d recommend this deeply flawed, one-sided, but still excellent book for any Anthrax (or Scott Ian) fan, past or present.