Interviewed by Thomas Cairney
Metal icons? They don’t come much more iconic than Anthrax’s diminutive guitar hero. Axe in hand, he’s been ripping up stages worldwide for the better part of thirty years. Now he’s the latest hard-rocker to tackle the spoken-word gauntlet. What to expect? Thomas Cairney found out…
TC:You’re coming to the UK to do your own spoken word show, or rather “Speaking Words” show, can you tell me a bit of the story behind that, how did the whole thing come about?
SI: It came about pretty much umm… I got asked! (laughs) Our agent in the UK was putting together a series of shows. He asked me, Chris Jericho (WWE Star) and Duff McKagan (ex Guns N’ Roses) if we’d be interested in doing these talking shows, cause we all had tours coming up in Europe so we were all coming over anyway. So the idea would be that a night or two before the tour would start I’d be in town anyway, so I was asked if I’d be interested in trying this. So I said yeah without even thinking about it because it’s something that… well it’s not something I’ve been planning to do, but it’s certainly something that I felt I’d be comfortable trying and if it all were to go down in flames then f*ck it, you know? Who cares? I just felt like it was something I had to give a shot, I felt like yeah I can get on stage and do this, just talk to people for an hour and a half or two hours or whatever it may be.
I’ve got enough tales to tell from the past 30 years of my life that people will be interested in and will be able to relate to, whether or not they know anything about my band or if they’re even into this kind of music. There’s just so much ridiculous shit that I’ve been a part of that made me feel like I have enough to say. So I kinda just went in with that attitude, I didn’t do any rehearsal or anything beforehand, then two hours later I was in the dressing room and I just had this amazing feeling, I felt really high and had this big smile on my face. It’s a really organic thing just getting up there and spending two hours in a room with a bunch of people and almost having a one on one with them, there’s a lot of give and take and back and forth between myself and the crowd. It was really exciting for me cause I’d never done it before but I felt like I did it really well, so I said to my agent “I want to do it again! How can we do more of these shows?” and that’s what really got the ball rolling.
TC: Whenever I’ve seen you with a mic in your hand, whether it’s being interviewed or hosting the Kerrang! awards or something like that, you always look like you have a gift for public speaking and it’s something you’re really comfortable with. Are you consciously aware that this is something you’re good at, and if so did this have any influence on your decision to go forward with the speaking words shows?
SI: In the past I’ve done things here and there where I get to sort of dabble in it, like you said I’ve hosted the Kerrang awards, but there’s even like, the two or three songs in the set every night that I introduce and I get to talk to the crowd there. But obviously I hadn’t tried anything close to this, like standing on stage and talking for that length of time. Though like I said, it’s always something that in the back of my mind I felt like I could do., I just needed to go do it. Though I didn’t have a clue how I would actually ever get to go and do it, it had to be put on a plate and handed to me, so it really came down to just being asked “Do you want to do this show?” and of course I said yes. That gave me the opportunity to kinda open the door for myself. I can’t wait to do more of it, I did two shows in Australia when we were just down there in February.
I did a show in Sydney and a show in Melbourne, both shows were packed with like 250 people at each and it was great. I feel like the more I do them the better I get, so now I just get excited to do more cause I know it’s only gonna get better. But you know, two years ago, was I thinking about this? Absolutely not. But now I look for little windows of time where I’m maybe like “I want to do some of these shows in the states so when can I do that?”. It’s just enabled me to find another outlet for all this creativity I have in my brain I guess.
As you were saying, you’ve seen so much over the past 31 years and have loads of crazy stories to tell. From this, do you think audiences will get to see a new side of you when they come to the Speaking Words show? Is there anything you’re going to talk about that will really surprise or shock your long time fans?
SI: I think maybe the way people will just be able to relate to me as a human. When I’m on stage at an (Anthrax) show, it’s a show. When I talk to a crowd between songs some of that is me, but some of it is a character, like I don’t yell in real life the way I do between songs when I’m speaking in that kinda loud metal voice, it’s not something I do all day long that’s just something you do when you’re on stage. But what you see is what you get when you come to one of these shows, you’ll get to relate to me as a human being. And I think when I’m telling these stories and talking to people, this is really who I am, for better or worse, this is just who I am as a person. You’re getting to hear tales from my actual life.
When I do the Q and A with the audience, I tell people to ask me whatever they want, I’m not afraid of any question. So it’s all very reality based, I think maybe that’s the most interesting thing. You’ll get to sit in a room with somebody who you’ve maybe only seen from 35 feet away who’s playing guitar with loud heavy metal coming out of the speakers, so while you think you may know that person, until you get to have that real interaction like you will at these shows, you don’t know him.
TC: Sorry for bringing up a very obvious comparison, but how is your show going to differ from something like Henry Rollins’ spoken word shows?
SI: Different stories! (laughs) Yeah just different experiences really. I’ve seen Rollins do spoken word a number of times, I’m a big fan of his from, well obviously going back to the Black Flag days. I’ve always looked at Henry as not necessarily an idol, but certainly as a mentor from afar, you know? I’ve met Henry several times over the years and he’s always been very nice to me and I’ve always just thought he’s an amazing person, the way he’s handled his life and his business, and he’s written books and started a publishing company and so on, then obviously travelled the world telling the tales of that. I’ve always looked up to him as someone who’s just an amazingly talented human being who’s handled his shit really well, I have nothing but respect for that. I remember the first time I got to see him do spoken word and thinking “God, I would love to do that some day” but at that time I didn’t have a clue how I would approach it or whatever. Because back in the 90s or whenever I first saw him do it, I definitely wasn’t ready to do something like that.
But yeah, we’re different people who have different stories, different senses of humour, different philosophies or whatever it may be. These are my stories and like I said, with the material I have for this upcoming tour, it’s stuff that anyone can relate to. You could walk in that room and not know who the fuck I am or what kind of music I play and you would still really get it, and probably laugh quite a bit.
TC:Do you have any specific way of preparing yourself for the speaking words shows that’s different from the way you prepare yourself for going on stage to perform with Anthrax?
SI: I’m probably going to have to keep my mouth shut all day long because I’ve never spoken that much on a nightly basis. The physical aspect of it is something that that surprised me. After that first show in London, I was talking for two hours then I woke up the next day and felt really hoarse, and I remember thinking that if I was going to do this night after night I would have to be careful because I could literally lose my voice. I spoke to a doctor when I get home and told me that yeah, I’d basically need to keep my mouth shut all day long and I should warm up. I have a vocal warm up that I’m supposed to do but yeah, who would think that talking for two hours could be so physically challenging? But it is. Really that’s the only difference, it’s just a different set of muscles.
Mentally? No, there’s no difference for me. I’m walking out onstage and my job is to get up and entertain people. I don’t look at it any differently, whether I’m holding a microphone or holding my guitar.
TC: I know you are a big poker fan, what are you’re favourite two hole (starting) cards ?
SI: (laughs) Well obviously the ace, although I’ve gotten them cracked enough times to also kinda hate them. But there’s a lot of math in poker obviously, odds are if you’re dealt ace ace every hand, you’re gonna win more than you’re going to lose so yeah, looking down at aces is always a good thing. As far as like, not aces, and not obvious things like kings, I do have some weird favourite hands like queen/10, I’ve always liked that hand for some reason. Not to give away to much about my game but I’ll probably always play queen 10 even though maybe mathematically I’m not supposed to (laughs) Awesome!
TC: Back to music, who is your all-time fav guitar player?
SI: Angus and Malcolm Young. Both of them equally, I can’t have one without the other. It’s the pair of them that as guitar players and as songwriters, to me they’re the greatest ever. AC/DC is my favourite band. I look at Angus and Malcolm and I just think that nobody’s ever done it better than them.
TC: Here is probably the most important question, what is your all-time favourite sandwich?
SI: (laughs) Now this is an important question! You know what though I actually have an answer for it. In Philadelphia there’s a place called Dinic’s, that’s D-I-N-I-C apostrophe S, Dinic’s. It’s a sandwich stand in the reading terminal market, it’s a big food market place. They make this pork sandwich with pork and bitter greens, and to me it’s just the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. As much as I like a Philly cheese steak, I think this pork sandwich actually tops it. It’s the best sandwich on the planet.
Catch Scott on one of the following dates:
Thu 29 May Rugby The Vault
Sun 02 Jun Stoke Underground
Mon 03 Jun Manchester Sound Control
Tue 04 Jun Newcastle The Cluny
Wed 05 Jun Glasgow The Arches
Thu 06 Jun Cork Cyprus Avenue
Fri 07 Jun Belfast Limelight 2
Sat 08 Jun Dublin Button Factory
Mon 10 Jun Bournemouth O2 Academy
Tue 11 Jun London The Garage