While planning both European and North American tours, celebrating 35 years as a band and releasing its latest album “For All Kings,” thrash-metal band Anthrax managed to find time to create its own beer. The collaboration with Garratsville, New York’s Butternuts Beer & Ale is a pale ale called Wardance, and it will debut across New York on March 27. DRAFT spoke by phone to Anthrax guitarist and lyricist Scott Ian about Wardance, his favorite beers, the band’s tenacity and more:
DRAFT: You’re in Europe right now on tour, correct? Where exactly are you?
Ian: I’m in Austria, Vienna.
Do you get to drink much beer while you’re over there?
We’re only in Vienna today; we literally got here a couple hours ago so I don’t know I’ll drink much beer here today, but on tours, yeah. I don’t drink a lot on tour because unlike a lot of other people in rock bands, my main priority is being able to function and play a show the next day and that’s something I can’t do hungover. I’m not 23. The hangovers get worse, but that doesn’t mean I don’t drink. I have at least one or two beers on the bus after the show.
How did you get hooked up with Butternuts Beer and Ale?
I was already a fan of [Butternuts] Porkslap and I’ve been drinking that for a while. My friend Phil owns a bar in Manhattan called Daddy-O, which is my favorite bar to go to. At some point around the time my book came out, I did a promo, reading, meet-and-greet thing at Strand in Manhattan and I said “Free beer makes any event better.” Phil called Chuck from Butternuts and they sponsored it, sent out a whole bunch of cases of beer. That was the beginning of the relationship. We had been trying to get an Anthrax beer happening, but couldn’t find a partner it would work with. We talked with Sierra Nevada for a while; my brother works for them, but they’re kind of too big [to collaborate with us]. We’re a little bit under the radar. I talked to Phil and asked if Chuck would be interested in doing a collaboration with us and Chuck was so down.
“Wardance” references a dance your fans do during one of your songs. Why name the beer that?
We went through a whole bunch of ideas besides just calling it Anthrax. Wardance seemed perfect because it’s a lyric in one of our songs and it’s the high point of the show most nights when people go really, really crazy. Everyone involved in the project thought Wardance was a great idea, rather than doing a stupid pun on one of our album titles. Believe me, we came up with every dumb name you can imagine, like Among the Drinking.
Where did your interest in beer start?
My interest in beer began as a kid wanting to get fucked up, and beer being the easiest and cheapest thing to drink. But as far as really drinking beer, it was probably coming to Europe the first time. I came over to England in 1984 to do promo for our first record; before that, I didn’t really drink anything in the formative years of the band. I wasn’t sober for any reason other than I was too busy and drinking didn’t interest me. But coming to England in 1984 and hearing ‘Beer in America sucks, wait till you get to Europe, that’s where the real beer is.’ The beers in England actually tasted good. Then spending tons of time in Europe over these 30-odd years, I’ve been lucky to go deep into Belgium and Germany and drink the best beers in the world. And then eventually America started to catch up some time in the mid-90s and now you could just as easily drink something amazing there.
Were you drinking anything specific as you worked on “For All Kings”?
We’re always very well-stocked with a full range of Sierra Nevada products in my house. I’ve been a fan of them since the beginning, long before my brother worked for them. It’s never changed; they make a great product. That’s important to me. I probably got into IPAs before the big IPA boom and all that, but I kind of got burnt on IPAs sometime after two or three years of heavily drinking them and now it’s just really drinking pilsner. My favorite at home is that Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella; that’s my go-to.
What’s the secret to keeping the band going for 35 years?
Your love for what you do has to trump everything else, otherwise it would be very easy to not do it anymore. Being in the band, still for me, it’s still what I want to do with my life. Getting to play shows, that’s the ultimate payoff. It’s still worth all the time and all the travel and time away from home … not so much time away from my family but I’m lucky enough to have them come with me for weeks at a time so that breaks up the terribleness of not being with my son. Being in a band and being on stage … if I didn’t want to do it, believe me, I wouldn’t.
Do you have an after-show ritual?
Yeah, and beer is a part of that. Over in Europe, I think it’s hard to pin down one beer as being the best beer in the world. There’s so many different kinds and how do you pick one? Over the last few years, I’ve got to have [The Alchemist] Heady Topper a bunch of times. It’s fucking great, but is it the best beer in the world? But in Germany and wherever we can get it, that Franziskaner … that to me, is probably my favorite beer in the world. It’s pretty easy for us to get that in most places when we’re on tour in Europe. Or we stock up on enough of it in Germany to last some part of the tour. I put a big bag of ice on my neck and grab a Franziskaner and I am pretty happy.
Responses have been edited for clarity and space.