Anthrax: ‘Euph Control

At the Manchester Apollo on March 8, ANTHRAX kicked off their headlining State Of Euphoria world tour, having already opened for Ozzy in the States, and won a gold disc for the LP. “Could this be the start of something big?” STEFFAN CHIRAZI asks SCOTT IAN. Meanwhile, FRANK BELLO stuffs a pair of socks into his Bermuda shorts and contemplates the very same question

TODAY’S METAL stars sure don’t behave like their not too distant predecessors.

Maybe the focus is different, maybe it just doesn’t matter any more.

All I know is that Anthrax don’t wear socks down their shorts, unlike, say, such past heroes as Saxon’s Biff Byford, who used to wear ’em proudly down those silver spandex strides whilst singing such great songs as ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’.

Dinner time on the Ozzy tour, it’s US support band Anthrax’s last night with the great man and Thrax bassist Frank Bello and I are having more than a mild chuckle about the above subject.

We both loved Saxon and, yes, we both used to think of Biff as some kind of Metal God, standing proudly, hair flying, crotch, erm… bulging.

Cock-sock-rock!

It comes like a bullet from our mouths, bits of lettuce spraying everywhere as we nearly choke on our salads.

I suggest to Frank that maybe Anthrax ought to try and spark a ‘cock-sock-rock’ revival — y’know, bundle some sausage-style items down their trousers and speak proudly about their newly-acquired ‘attributes’ in interviews.

“I’d better be outta here — I have t’get ready,” mutters Frank.

Did I say the wrong thing, maybe?

One thing is for sure, though. Right words or wrong words, times change, shit happens and Europe’s tastes take large shifts.

The ‘cock-sock-rock’ era of Saxon has long since passed, and in its place has arrived an age of harder, faster, more down-home Metal. These days there are bands like Anthrax around to whip up the fever and induce the hero worship.

And on the eve of Anthrax’s much-anticipated tour of Britain supported by Living Colour, you can be sure that the band can do no wrong.

Even those of you who have been moaning about the small amount of UK dates Anthrax are playing this time around can take heart from the following words from Mr Scott Ian:

“These are not our only UK gigs for the year,” he says. “We will be coming back to do a bigger UK tour in the Summer…”

Yep, you can stop hyperventilating, John Ormthorp in Carlisle, they will return.

YES, BELIEVE it when I say that Anthrax love Britain.

This despite having all that equipment ripped off in Liverpool last tour; despite the fact that they never got it back.

See, little disasters like that can’t dampen their enthusiasm for a country they clearly feel is home from home.

And there’s a bonus for the fans who’ll be in attendance at these latest British shows: a support band in the shape of Living Colour.

The band are maybe the hottest ‘new’ Stateside band to rear its stargazing head in quite some time. Versatile, and boasting string-burning guitarist Vernon Reid, many feel that they will give Anthrax a serious run for their money.

In the light of all this, it’s well worth asking Scott Ian all about the decision to take Living Colour on board. To what extent can this be seen as a history making move?

“Ha ha! Well I dunno about it being ‘history-making’ or anything,” he chuckles, “but maybe people are talking about this pairing because there aren’t very many black rock bands around. I don’t know why that should be — it’s a pretty interesting question in itself, and I’ll probably end up asking Vernon Reid exactly how they did it, how they stuck it out.

“I dunno, maybe blacks who are into rock music don’t feel there’s a market for them because of the fact that no one’s really come through and smashed big like that for a long time now, nearly 16 years.

“I think you will see a lot more of the whole black rock scene coming up and I definitely see some major headway being made by some black rock bands.”

Why don’t we see more black kids at Metal and rock gigs?

Is it simply down to racism, or is there maybe more to it than that?

“I think there may very well be a subconscious racist attitude in there somewhere, not anything that’s maliciously planned, just something that is there,” muses Scott. “But there is also the undeniable fact that very few black teenagers listen to Metal. That will explain why generally you see very few black kids at Metal shows.”

But is that really a simple fact? I don’t think so, personally.

“Well it’s in the same way that — forgetting the Beastie Boys — you really don’t see that many white kids at rap gigs or buying rap albums. That’s definitely true, the predominant rap audience is black, whilst the Metal one is white — and I don’t think that’s racist.

“You grow up as a kid, you hang out with your friends, and that’s your peer group. You all get into something, and that’s by and large what you stick with.

“But back to Living Colour. As far as they go, it’s something that they’ve stuck with for years already. Vernon started the whole black rock coalition thing here in NYC, pointing out that, ‘Yeah, black people play rock music too — it wasn’t just Hendrix’. It’s taken Living Colour years, but they’ve done it and that’s a real cool thing. Plus they really have broken all boundaries across the board — they aren’t Metal, they aren’t rap, they’re just a rock band that’s pretty much open for any audience.”

BUT WHAT about the people who’re saying that Living Colour could blow y’all offstage?

“Ahhh… we really don’t care what anyone says about stuff like that. We’re taking them on tour with us because we all like them so much. We met up with them and got on real well, so the idea became a reality. Not only do we end up touring with a band we really like, but the fans also get a real great show as well. It’s two different sounds, and that makes for a good bill.

“That’s always our thought when picking a support,” furthers Scott, “making sure that the package is good and that the bands are interesting. We never worry about, ‘Who’s gonna blow away who?’ or any of that crap…”

Would you consider taking Living Colour out on the road with you in America?

“I dunno. Generally, as far as the Anthrax audience goes, we feel that European kids are six months to a year ahead of American Metal fans. Metal bands break in Europe first because the kids there simply catch onto things that much quicker. Living Colour’s career took off in Europe first. They didn’t even break here in the US until eight or nine months after the album’s release, when MTV started to pump the ‘Cult Of Personality’ video. But that’s just how it is in the US and Europe…”

Fishbone are another of Anthrax’s fave bands. Would you like them to support you at some stage in the future?

“There’s the perfect example of a band that everyone in Anthrax loves, but we just really don’t know if even kids in Britain would be ready for them yet. I think that would be a case where personal taste would be in conflict with what’s good for a bill. The last thing we wanna do is pick a band solely on our tastes if that band doesn’t fit the show.

“We’ll never do that, it’d be a bad thing. But things change, people get into weird bands, so who knows? But right now that’d be a bad move for us and the fans.”

I’m extremely impressed with the new Anthrax stage set-up. A mock-up of the State Of Euphoria LP cover, the whole stage is littered with ramps and circles, all emblazoned with a vividly dangerous collection of reds and yellows, just so as Anthrax can be sure you’re all paying attention.

The set itself is something of a Greatest Hits package running from ‘AIR’ to ‘Medusa’ and beyond (plus one or two little surprises, promise the band). Your body’s gonna have its work cut out just keeping the pace.

Nonetheless, it does seem to me as if Anthrax are always being criticised for something or other, whether it be their Bermuda shorts or their flirtation with rap. Could make a lesser bunch paranoid…

“It happens to all bands. I dunno if it’s fair to say that we get picked on particularly. Even if we did start complaining about people putting us down, it’d only make them pick on us even more. They’d say that we take things too personal.

“But it’s always happened in the past. When we were in Europe with Metallica in ’86 the big thing then was, ‘Who’s gonna blow away who?’. And then that review came out in Kerrang! saying that we blew them away. And to tell you the truth, we thought that whole thing was just stupid. We did really good shows, and then Metallica came on and did really great shows too. It wasn’t like the crowds left saying, ‘They sucked’. The crowds were really into the whole thing. It would have been fine to say that we were doing good as Metallica’s support and that it was goin’ real well for us, but to say that we were blowin’ them away was just stupid. We don’t look at things in that way.”

In case you were unaware, State Of Euphoria is now a gold album. I ask Scott just how it feels to look at the coming year and realise that the majority of it will be spent promoting what, to him, must be a rapidly ageing record?

“It is weird, yeah, just the way things have worked. The way we would’ve done things, under normal circumstances, would have been to tour Europe first off. But of course the Ozzy tour of America came up and it would have been stupid to turn that one down.

“The album actually went gold fairly quickly, some time in December I believe, but the basic disadvantage of the Ozzy tour in retrospect was the fact that most of the kids already had our new record, so it was actually quite difficult to work out exactly how many new fans we did manage to convert. So in a sense this year will be spent pushing the album hard for the first time.

“WE HAVEN’T done anything yet,” furthers Scott. “As I said, the sales didn’t go crazy just because of the Ozzy tour and we’ve actually ended up doing only 36 shows in the US to support the record.

“What’s even more weird is the way time has gone since the Ozzy tour. We got a six week break before the UK dates. So our real ‘State Of Euphoria’ tour will start in Manchester on March 8. That’s the beginning of the whole thing for us, because we’ll be headlining.”

Which is exactly what will happen on their return to the States. Anthrax will kick off a heavyweight US date schedule with Exodus and Helloween in tow, all under the MTV ‘Headbangers’ Ball Tour’ banner.

Strange turn of events I think, especially when you consider the fact that MTV has finally proven to be a major factor in the selling of rock/Metal in America.

Yes, it’s a cast-iron FACT, my friend: MTV sells albums.

Ask Bon Jovi, Poison, White Lion, Europe, Whitesnake… all products of almighty MTV pushes and all multi-platinum thanks to them.

Coverdale especially could tell you a thing or two, having spent the best part of 20 years tirelessly plying his trade before seeing one five-and-a-half minute piece of footage and a pair of shapely legs catapult him into the limelight.

And even though two years ago it seemed inconceivable, the realms of Thrash/Speed Metal are set to benefit richly from MTV exposure.

Whether you like it or not, the old Venom in the new video age would’ve been a sizeable outfit, and Anthrax will undoubtedly benefit from MTV’s promotional clout.

Scott Ian: “In the span of the 30 shows we’re doing under the MTV banner we’ll probably generate 10 times more excitement than we did on the Ozzy tour.

“MTV is just that powerful, and I don’t know if it’s a good or bad thing. MTV revived Living Colour’s album on the strength of one video push and put it in the Top 30. I look at a fact like that, and just think it’s kinda sad that it takes MTV to make such a great band and album happen.”

WHILST IT’S interesting to discuss such topics, I feel it’s about time that the whole Ozzy/Anthrax tour was explained.

The facts: Anthrax endured repeated efforts to oust them from the tour. Anthrax’s last date was in Sacramento, and Geezer Butler and Zakk Wylde didn’t even know this until I mentioned it to them. Winger joined up as the new support act the next day, and lasted two weeks before the whole tour was cancelled.

Scott has a pragmatic attitude about all this: “On the third week of the tour, our management started to tell us that the Ozzy camp were saying that there were problems with things like the amount of T-shirts we were selling, and that kinda made us nervous.

“But throughout the whole thing I really don’t think Ozzy himself was involved, I didn’t get the feeling from him or the band that it was their doing. They were really nice to us.

“We wanted to finish the tour, but we kept on hearing all this stuff about us being pulled off it.

“Actually, the promoters were behind us at all times, saying that the tour they’d booked was with Anthrax as support and they didn’t wanna take it any other way. Once we knew we had our last date we adjusted to it, and we were just expecting Winger to go out and finish it off. But then the tour only lasted for another two weeks anyway, so… I dunno, I guess it was just a kinda f**ked up situation.”

With the usual editorial axe hanging over me, a final mention for the kids in Cardiff, who waited outside the hall on the last UK tour for Anthrax to sign autographs, only to see the band pull away.

Scott: “Yeah, I always felt real bad about that. We didn’t see them because there’s a long ramp outside the door and we didn’t look down to see if anyone was there. But this year we’ll definitely make sure that we sign autographs and stuff out there. I’d ask those kids to make themselves known, but I suppose if I do that then everyone will say, ‘That was me!’, y’know?”

Of course, Anthrax may not be playing Wales until that promised Summer British tour, but Scott Ian wanted to make sure that Cardiff knew it hadn’t been forgotten.

That’s the kinda guy he is…

© Steffan ChiraziKerrang!, 11 March 1989

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