Reviews

I'm the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, by Scott Ian with Jon Wiederhorn (Da Capo Press, 2014)

A founding member of Anthrax, Scott Ian helped set the blueprint for thrash metal in the early '80s, and has also gone on to become an influential guitarist along the way. One of the most outspoken and ubiquitous figures in the heavy metal community, it was inevitable that Ian would someday write an autobiography.

Hitting stores this week, I'm the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax follows Ian's early days growing up in a dysfunctional home in Queens, N.Y. to the many highs and lows of his band's four-decade career. The guitarist is a gifted storyteller, conveying each memory with an enthralling balance of humor, wit, and self-awareness. I'm the Man was co-written by Jon Wiederhorn, someone I worked with during my days at Noisecreep.com, and a veteran scribe who also helped pen the heavy metal history book, Louder Than Hell, and the excellent Al Jourgensen autobiography from last year.

Outside of Anthrax, the quickly-paced memoir also includes other facets of Ian's musical journey. I'm the Man features the origins behind Stormtroopers of Death, the celebrated crossover metal project he launched with Charlie Benante (Anthrax), Danny Lilker (Nuclear Assault), and Billy Milano (Method of Destruction) in 1985.

Speaking of Lilker, the bassist was an original member of Anthrax, but was later dismissed by then singer, Neil Turbin. In the book, Ian confesses that he didn't go to bat for his friend when he was fired from the band, and takes responsibility for it. That's the kind of refreshing honesty you won't find in recent autobiographies by Paul Stanley or Ace Frehley, two childhood heroes of Ian's. Now 50, Ian doesn't look back on Turbin's tenure with Anthrax too fondly, calling out his former singer's egotistical attitude, and questionable fashion sense. The rhythm guitar ace explains that he put up with Turbin's "tyrant" ways because he felt that losing a singer that early in Anthrax's run would have been too big of a setback to weather. Besides, their manager, Johnny Zazula (founder of Megaforce Records), had the band booked to tour their first album, Fistful of Metal.

At a few points in the book, he even admits that in certain periods of his life, he had no game in the dating department, which isn't something one would expect from a guitarist in a successful touring band. Ian's insecurities led to two marriages he says he should have never entered into in the first place.

During my high school years in the early '90s, I remember hearing a rumor that Ian, and/or Anthrax, had tried to copyright the NYHC logo. Many people in the hardcore scene talked trash on Ian about this, calling him a "poser" since he was a musician in a metal band, and, you know, there's no way in hell that you can love both kinds of music. That kind of silly thinking still existed back then. Anyway, Ian addresses the entire thing in his book, and while I won't ruin it for you, I will say that he doesn't hold back his feelings on the whole (ridiculous) affair.

Along with Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth, Anthrax are part of the "Big 4," and Ian offers up the kind of insider stories behind all the groups that trivia hounds will eat up.

One part of the book I was particularly looking forward to was the ousting of Joey Belladonna from the Anthrax frontman position. In 1992, on the eve of Anthrax signing a $10 million deal with Elektra Records, Belladonna was fired from the group, with former Armored Saint singer John Bush taking his place on their next album, 1993's Sound of White Noise.

Ian goes over the entire saga with great detail, saying that Belladonna's performance on Anthrax's previous album, 1990's Persistence of Time, fell short of his expectations. The guitarist says that the lyrics he had written for Persistence of Time were personal for him, and Belladonna wasn't delivering them the way he had envisioned them in his head. Ian says he probably didn't spend enough time with his then singer to work through the issue.

Oh, by the way, even though he was let go from the group, Ian says he and his bandmates gave Belladonna his share of the $10 million Elektra advance since they felt he deserved it for all the years he put into Anthrax. I always had wondered about that, so it was great to find out that they had done the right thing.

Ian dedicates a good part of the latter half of I'm the Man to the John Bush era of Anthrax. While Ian found the time Bush was in the band to be creatively fulfilling, a series of record label woes and poor business decisions, plus a change in Anthrax's songwriting style, brought on a commercially dismal period for the thrash pioneers.

Like the rest of his book, Ian handles both Anthrax's and his personal financial setbacks with brutal honesty, taking on some of the blame himself. He talks about being broke after his two divorces and the band's commercial decline.

I'm the Man closes out with the backstory behind how he met his wife, singer Pearl Aday; how fatherhood has changed his priorities; and Belladonna's return to Anthrax.

It doesn't matter if you're a devout Anthrax follower, or just a casual fan of the group, I'm the Man is a fun read, packed with juicy stories from Ian's colorful career on and off stage. As a fellow Queens, N.Y. native, I found the book particularly compelling since Ian's writing voice packs the same kind of warts-and-all grittiness I love about my hometown.

Just like the song it was named after, I'm the Man is irreverent, hilarious, and, at times, aggressive.

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