Guitarist and songwriter Scott Ian is the one member of Anthrax who has been with the iconic thrash band for its entire 30-plus-year career, and with his bald head and wiry goatee, he’s also one of the most recognizable figures in metal. His band has been experiencing renewed success with recent albums Worship Music (2011) and For All Kings (2016), following the return of singer Joey Belladonna, and Ian himself is a heavy metal renaissance man: an author (working on his second memoir), a spoken-word performer, a radio and TV host and an occasional Vegas DJ.
Do you have any particular strategy for playing a festival like Las Rageous versus your own show? I approach every show exactly the same way: I get onstage and I do my thing, do my best to entertain the people that are coming to see us.
When you play a festival like this, do you get a chance to hang out with other bands or check out other performances? It all comes down to schedule. If we’re later on the bill, that affords us the opportunity to hang around and see some other bands. Summertime for us, certainly when we’re in Europe, is kind of like summer camp, because you’re playing festivals every weekend. You get to catch up with friends and bands that you pretty much only see once a year.
Do you think the audience for metal is strong right now? Absolutely. I can only base it on how much touring we’ve done in the last seven years. It’s more than we did in the ’80s. So yeah, I think the audience is really strong.
Are you reaching new fans, or mostly playing to an existing base? It’s new people. You don’t see a lot of 50-year-olds out there, let’s put it that way. If we’re playing to 3,000 people, maybe there’s 50 or 100 people that have been around a long time, but most of the crowd are anywhere from 18 to 30.
Do you meet fans who just discovered you guys on your most recent albums? Yes. These days it seems like a lot of people got into us on Worship Music and then started getting the back catalog, and then got For All Kings when it came out. After Worship Music and after we did the Big Four [concerts with Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer], there was definitely a big influx of new people who got exposed to us.
How do you balance classic songs with new material when you plan out your sets? We always play new songs. As much as we know what people want to hear, the new songs, that’s the most exciting stuff for us to play, because it’s the stuff we’ve played the least. Not to say that playing “Caught in a Mosh” isn’t exciting. I don’t think there’s been an Anthrax show since 1987 that we haven’t played that song.
Do you have plans for more DJ gigs in Vegas? If the Hard Rock [Hotel] hits me up and my schedule is open, it’s something that’s really enjoyable for me to do. It’s something I do at home anyway, with my friends. I play music, and we drink. So I get to do it at the Hard Rock with lots of people standing around banging their heads and yelling and singing along to metal songs.
Las Rageous April 21-22, doors at 4 p.m., $129-$499/weekend, $79/day. Downtown Las Vegas Events Center, 800-745-3000.