MIKE COHEN meets thrash metal icon Scott Ian
ROCK legend Scott Ian may claim to follow no religion, yet he suffers from that common Jewish affliction . . . a Jewish mother.
The Anthrax guitarist says his father was fine when he decided to drop out of college to pursue his musical dreams.
But it was a different story with his mother, who was divorced from his father.
Scott claims her scream is still reverberating in distant corners of space.
"From the age of 13, music was all I wanted to do," he told me before performing his spoken word show in Manchester this week.
"I worked after school to make money to buy music equipment. I graduated high school in 1981 and Anthrax started that summer.
"I was 100 per cent focused on making the band happen. I felt we had something to say and I was going to do everything I could to make that happen.
"I started college in autumn 1981, but realised it wasn't for me. I would go to school in the morning then take a train to Manhattan to work at my dad's office as a messenger.
"After my first semester, I dropped out and didn't tell my mom."
Scott told his dad that he was spending his days hanging out at guitar shops, but wanted to work more to make money to support the band.
His father gave him his backing - but told him to tell his mother.
"That night I went home and me, my brother and mom were eating dinner and I told her," he recalled.
"There was all the usual Jewish mother guilt - 'you are supposed to be a doctor, you are supposed to be a lawyer, a dentist. Who are you to ever think you will make it in a band?'"
She was so upset by his decision that she threw him out of the house and he ended up living with his dad in Long Island for most of 1982.
But Anthrax rehearsed in Queens, so the situation wasn't ideal for Scott.
"Finally I was able to talk my mother into letting me move back in," he said.
"She had seen us in clubs, that solidified her belief that nothing would happen and I was wasting my time, but she knew not to mess with me, because I wasn't going to listen to her anyway.
"In 1984 we sold out the Roseland Bowl, New York, with Metallica and Raven and after the show we signed a major label deal, so she realised I knew what I was doing and that I had a plan.
"When we sold out Madison Square Gardens in 1991, my mom came backstage 'where Elvis played' and that was a big deal.
"She was pretty much able to figure out that I made the right choice."
Anthrax arrived on the scene in the early 1980s alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer. The bands became known as the 'Big 4' and in the past few years have been performing together again.
Britain's Kerrang magazine coined the phrase 'thrash metal' to describe the bands.
So how does Scott feel about being one of the founding fathers of a musical movement?
The man formerly known as Scott Ian Rosenfeld replied: "It will mean something after I die or when I'm an old man sitting in front of my house with a beer, yelling at the local kids 'get off my lawn, don't you know who I am? I am one of thrash metal's founders, you young punks'.
"I'm too busy thinking about today, tomorrow or next month. I don't really ever look back on accomplishments.
"When we first started, we hoped to make records and be Iron Maiden. We just wanted to write songs and play shows. It's still the same thing."
When Anthrax achieved global success, Scott says he was just as shocked as everyone else.
"We didn't have any expectations back in the day other than getting excited if we saw one person wearing an Anthrax t-shirt," he said.
"Among The Living was an album that was blown up for us. I was still living in my mom's apartment. It wasn't till after that record I was able to afford a little apartment five miles away."
Scott wanted to be a rock star after seeing Kiss and The Ramones.
He has become friends with Kiss frontman Gene Simmons - but says he still becomes a "sweaty 13-year-old when I'm talking to him".
He added: "I understand people love what we do and maybe have been influenced by our records, but I don't ever look at myself, the band or ourselves differently than I did in 1984.
"I still think of us a bunch of kids. I'm a grown man. I'm 49-years-old and I get to play guitar for a living. I know I'm one of the luckiest people on the planet.
"It's something I never take for granted.
"We played shows with Iron Maiden last weekend . . . 40,000 people in Barcelona with my heroes. I get to stand backstage and talk to (Iron Maiden guitarist) Dave Murray. As much as I know who I am in the world of heavy metal, it is still mindblowing. I think about that all the time. Every time we do anything I am still amazed by it."
As much as he idolised Kiss, Scott says The Ramones were "just as important for me as a kid growing up in Queens because they were much more reality based".
He said: "It was more attainable. These were guys who looked like me. Kiss were Marvel comics come to life.
"From 1975 to 1978 I lived and breathed Kiss. But The Ramones wore Levis, leather jackets and t-shirts, just like I did. They had long hair and played guitar. It wasn't a massive production.
"I look like that. I wear the same clothes and they are playing hard rock.
"Kiss and The Ramones both lit a fire in me as a young kid."
Scott - who is married to Meatloaf's daughter Pearl - recounted an interview he did with Gene for Revolver magazine.
He asked his hero why he had covered Disney song When You Wish Upon A Star on his solo album in 1978.
The bass player replied that when he moved to America as a kid from Israel, he learned English from watching cartoons, but still had a strong accent.
The first time he saw 'Jimmy Cricket' - as he called him - sing, it gave him hope that you can do anything you want.
"He was tearing up telling me the story then I start tearing up because here is my hero getting emotional telling it me," Scott recalled.
"It meant so much to him. It's an amazing story because he is my Jimmy Cricket. It's really cool that I got to share that moment with one of my biggest heroes."
Anthrax found themselves in the news in 1991 when they collaborated on Bring the Noise with rappers Public Enemy.
People picked up on Public Enemy's links to Louis Farrakhan, causing people to accuse the band of being antisemitic.
"Chuck D (of Public Enemy) thanked Anthrax in his Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speech," Scott said.
"In the same sentence, he said something about coming from a DJ culture and influences coming from all over the place, from Minister Farrakhan to Anthrax.
"Nobody raised a red flag in 2013 about that. Nobody should have cared back then. People were threatened by black dudes who had a point of view. They looked for any way to tear Public Enemy down.
"If they were really were antisemites and hated white people, why were they working with me, Rick Rubin and Lyor Cohen."
He added that he had also worked with Motorhead frontman Lemmy, who has been accused of antisemitism for his collection of Nazi memorabilia.
"Maybe Lemmy doesn't know I'm Jewish. Don't tell him," he laughed.
This led on to Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who died last month.
He had written Angel of Death in 1986 about notorious Nazi Josef Mengele, which had seen Slayer accused of being antisemites.
"I've written worse lyrics over the years than Jeff ever did," Scott said. "I've never been called to task for it.
"Jeff was my friend for a long time. I don't have a big extended family. Most of my grandparents passed when I was really young. I only ever knew my mother's father and he passed when I was 33.
"I haven't dealt with a lot of death. Most of the deaths have been guys in bands, Cliff Burton, Dimebag Darrell, Ronnie James Dio and now Jeff. They were my friends, not just acquaintances.
"Everyone knew Jeff wasn't in the greatest shape, but I didn't know he was close to death.
"The last time I saw him was at the Big 4 in Coachella two years ago. That night he was in amazing spirits. He was like a little kid.
"He came running over and said 'check out my scar' and he rolled up his sleeve and showed me a giant scar on his arm from all the surgery.
"The next day I was thinking that he was on the fast track to being back in the band and moving forward.
"Next thing I get a call saying 'Jeff's dead'. I was like 'Jeff who?'. Then Slayer are announcing it on their website. It's still odd and strange that I'm never gonna see that dude again. It sucks."
Scott finally gets his wish of performing in Tel Aviv in August, but he is not expecting any calls to boycott the Jewish state.
"We probably fly under the radar of the pro-Palestinian groups. I can't say I've ever met a Palestinian Anthrax fan.
"We'll go anywhere that will have us, as long as our lives aren't in jeopardy. I welcome everyone to listen to our band. Me being Jewish has nothing to do with anything.
"If anything comes down to religion, my attitude is 'I don't have anything to do with this. I don't understand your struggles because I don't believe anything you believe in. I play music, don't ask me for my opinions'."
He added: "I know nothing about my heritage. I'm a student of history. I've done my share of reading and studying about the world so I understand what Jewish history is, it doesn't shape me.
"My grandfather lost sisters in the Holocaust. For him the experience was much deeper. He was Orthodox and I was barmitzvah for him.
"I read it transliterated. I had the fast track barmitzvah. The whole thing was literally done in eight minutes.
"I used the money to fly me and my brother to Laguna Beach so we could ride our skateboards.
"My household wasn't a Jewish household other than visiting my grandfather for Passover.
"But all that meant to me was I liked the movie better with Charlton Heston. Passover meant two hours of old Jews being miserable and me and my little brother starving and wondering when we were going to eat.
"Now we have Passover, but it's not religious in any form. It's just an excuse to have some friends over and eat a big meal. We don't do the Four Questions."
Scott continued: "I don't believe in the Easter Bunny, but I'll take my little boy on an Easter egg hunt because he likes to run around with a basket and pick up shiny things.
"I formulated my own belief system along the way. I absolutely believe in love. It's a real and a tangible thing that you can tap into as a human. It's the greatest thing on the planet.
"To be in love with somebody and to have the love of your child is the greatest power on earth. So if there is a God, then that is what it is for me. But I don't put it in those terms."
Scott - who with side-project Stormtroopers of Death wrote the pro-Israel song F*** the Middle East - embarked on his spoken word tour because he had started forgetting things.
He has also been working with writer Jon Wiederhorn on his autobiography.