Anthrax's Scott Ian: AC/DC's 'Back in Black' "Fucking Blew My Mind" | Revolver

Anthrax's Scott Ian: AC/DC's 'Back in Black' "Fucking Blew My Mind"

"What did the album mean to me? Never stop doing what you love."
Scott Ian anthrax HUBBARD, Jimmy Hubbard
photograph by Jimmy Hubbard

Simply put, AC/DC's Back in Black is one of the biggest albums of any genre of any time anywhere. In December 2019, the Recording Industry Association of America announced that Back in Black has sold 25 million copies in the U.S. alone — more than the Beatles' White Album, Billy Joel's Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II, and Pink Floyd's The Wall. It's the best-selling hard-rock album of all time, right above Led Zeppelin IV. Globally, it's sold an estimated 50 million copies, making it the No. 2 most popular album in history worldwide, topped only by Michael Jackson's Thriller.

As such, Back in Black has influenced innumerable musicians who have followed in the band and the album's wake. One of those artists is Anthrax's Scott Ian. We talked to the thrash OG about his favorite track, what makes Malcolm Young "the greatest rhythm guitar player" of all time, and the inspirational message he takes from the album.

WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU HEARD BACK IN BLACK?
I bought it the day it came out at Moonshine Records in Bayside, Queens. The shop was across the street from where I lived so I got there before they opened in case there was a line to get in to buy it. I didn't want to risk them selling out. I was already a huge AC/DC fan and I was super excited to hear the record.

WHAT DOES BACK IN BLACK MEAN TO YOU?
I bought it on vinyl and cassette because I was leaving for Florida to visit my grandparents for two weeks. That tape didn't leave my Walkman for the duration of the trip. I put that record to the test — they were my favorite band and, with the loss of Bon, I was nervous that Back in Black wouldn't hold up. I listened to it over and over, killing the long, boring, brutally humid Florida days with Malcolm, Angus, Phil, Cliff and Brian ringing in my head. The record didn't only pass my test — it fucking blew my mind. To overcome such a horrible tragedy and come back with one of the greatest albums of all time? It was such a powerful moment for the band and their fans. So what did it mean to me? Never stop doing what you love.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BRIAN AS COMPARED TO BON SCOTT?
I am a Bon guy. That said, I love Brian. He's been there since 1980 kicking ass. Nothing but love and respect for him.

HOW, IF AT ALL, DID BACK IN BLACK INFLUENCE YOUR OWN CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT, OR THE WAY YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WRITING MUSIC?
I basically learned how to play guitar listening to AC/DC records. Malcolm was the best teacher ever. Now I had a new record filled with amazing Malcolm riffs to learn and push me forward as a player.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE BACK IN BLACK SONG AND WHY?
"Back in Black." The simplicity and perfection of the riff and the groove. It defines hard rock to me.

YOU'VE SAID THAT MALCOLM YOUNG IS THE GREATEST RHYTHM GUITAR PLAYER. WHAT MAKES HIM SO SPECIAL?
Malcolm is the greatest rhythm player. Malcolm's feel — his pocket, his economy of movement. He's a complete original. 

IS BACK IN BLACK SOMETHING YOU REGULARLY GO BACK AND LISTEN TO?
All the time.