One of my favorite guitarists since high school now has an autobiography to call his own, and if he has been someone who had felt like he could’ve been your buddy at high school (or the cool guy at the record store who would always know not about the cool stuff, but the “next” stuff), you will definitely enjoy reading I’m The Man: The Story Of That Guy From Anthrax (Da Capo). If you became familiar with Ian in the 1980’s through Anthrax or maybe with the Stormtroopers Of Death, you’ll know that Ian is a fan of New York City for life, and he talks about his upbringing in Queens. He talks about his childhood, his relationship with his parents, his interests as a kid and what lead to some of his first musical influences. One thing lead to another and he knew he was hooked, but he didn’t realize how hooked he would become to the point where it would become a major part of his life, even though that’s what he wanted. Making music discoveries came a number of ways, with one of the biggest being that of his Uncle Mitch. If there is a moment where the seeds were planted, Ian describes it as being introduced to Black Sabbath’s first album in his uncle’s collection. On this album that he described as acid rock (a term he had not heard of before), he looked at the cover, heard the music, and knew he had to have more. Along with an uncle who appreciated comic books, that also started his fascination with superheroes, which would develop not only into Ian’s own interests in comic book collecting, but also songwriting.
The book continues about getting involved in sports a bit, dealing with friends at school and also discovering the wonder of girls. He touches on problems his parents had but knowing that his music could allow him to get his mind off of the domestic issues and carry him to a new places. In time he’d have his own guitar, an acoustic one at that, before having his own electric, and it was as if you could visualize the transformation from Scott Rosenfeld, Queens rocking kid to Scott Ian, rock’n’roll guitarist. These things lead to him going to clubs, finding new music and bands at record stores, and getting involved with hardcore and punk rock during a time when headbangers and punks would never mix together, especially in New York. These gatherings would eventually head to him gathering his bands together to form a band and in time would help form Anthrax. Even though we know Anthrax as being one of the sources of thrash and speed metal, Ian talks about it as an eventual development, not just through hard rock, heavy metal, and NWOBHM influences but whatever he had felt like bringing into his playing style. The sound was rough yet abrasive and with a level of confidence that didn’t involve him in saying no to anything or anyone, he went out to get his music throughout the city, not being aware that his music would travel much further.
Interesting moments in this include meeting up with the members of Metallica for the first time, getting to know bassist Cliff Burton and becoming a deep friend with Kirk Hammett; meeting up with Johnny Zazula; flying to Europe for the first time to do shows; and meeting with some of his musical heroes during the 1980’s, which included everyone from Lemmy of Motorhead to the guys in Iron Maiden. Outside of the personal friendships, Ian reveals the inside information about the recording industry, how things began as a band releasing their first record on an independent label to being a group-in-demand by a major label to getting advances that were beyond what they were expecting. The thrill was exciting and when Ian brought in his love of rap music into Anthrax’s world for a few minutes, that only helped open the world for them a bit more.
While the 1980’s were very much a peak for the band, the 1990’s began as a world of fantastic adventures for the group but in time, Ian found that not everything turns to gold and that if one thing can get worse, it might lead to what feels like an endless thing of other bad things to happen. He touches on how Anthrax were signed with the same label as Metallica (Elektra Records) with a new singer, had faith with the label only to realize his decisions were disapproved by the label heads, only to lose faith when the label’s decisions lead to less-than-impressive results in terms of sales. One thing leads to another, and it becomes a blame game, trying to maintain the integrity of yourself and the band while trying to let the label know you are the band worthy of the contract. Then for the label to let you know they’re letting you go. While Ian didn’t come from a wealthy background, he admits he had never been rich when Anthrax were at their highest point but to hear him talk about how he was literally scrounging to make ends meet is devastating, especially when I had assumed they were getting attention and selling fairly well. They were selling decently but to be caught within the period when the almighty grunge and alternative music was the biggest thing around, anything metal-related wasn’t doing good for everyone within the community, unless you were Metallica and Pantera. Dealing with the personalities within Anthrax are brought up a number of times, and as someone who was the face of the band and the main lyricists of most of their songs, he was putting his life on the line every day, only to find things around him were falling apart.
There is very much a positive side to I’m The Man, for despite the downside to being part of a rock band and dealing with the business of the industry, he talks about some of the parties and celebrating he did with different bands, finding sexual lust with ladies while trying to balance it with wive #1 or wive #2, and discovering that doing certain drugs is not good for him. There was a time when Anthrax always came off as a very clean band, not exactly Straight Edge or anything like that but unlike Metallica who were the Alcoholica boys, Anthrax seemed to be like their younger fans: comic book readers, movie buffs and nerds, and headbangers who may have done stupid shit at high school. It seems Ian’s primary vice was drinking beer, and it was never heavy. However, the person that changed him as a drinker was Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell, and that chapter in a book is worth reading from paragraph to paragraph. In time, he met up with the woman who would become the love of his life, which also happened to coincide with Anthrax’s new level of success.
Throughout I’m The Man, Ian talks about changing perspective not only of his music and career, but his own life, changing priorities and understanding that age and maturity can lead to good and better things. His work regimen was always strong, but it’s balancing it with everything else around him is also what keeps him going, even when there were low points along the way. You might read the book thinking it will be nothing but inside stuff about the band and the recording industry, and it does touch on all of this quite well. It also has Ian looking at the world from a personal perspective, to show how he loves his music but is also someone with a mind and a sense of humor. He isn’t afraid to tell everyone he is still a man-in-the-works, someone whom he will continue to work on throughout his life, and now will pass on his experiences in his life to his son.
As the lyric said, “now we’re Anthrax and we take no shit/and we don’t care for writing hits” and in I’m The Man, we learn how Ian didn’t take shit from anyone, be it his life or his career. It’s a wonderful book that has its share of wonderful peaks and depressing valleys, but it does lead to something positive and eventual good morals to the stories shared. To the man who made me want to find NOT shorts and actually lead me to shaving a rectangle in my stomach so I could have a half-assed version of the NOT shaving on his chest, thank you for your music and efforts behind Anthrax and S.O.D., your efforts will always be honored.