Asked how ANTHRAX decides which songs off a new album to include in its setlist to keep everybody happy, Ian said: “That doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as keeping everybody happy, because, as the old saying goes, you can’t please everybody — which is true.
“As far as the new songs go, they kind of speak up for themselves, I think, throughout the process of writing and then recording an album. And what I mean is that we kind of have a good idea, by the time we’ve tracked a bunch of songs, which ones are probably gonna be the lead tracks, good idea which one will be the first one we wanna put out. Certainly by the time we’re mixing, we’ll already start having a good idea of, ‘All right, well, that one’s definitely gonna be live first time around, for sure.’ There’ll be a solid three or four that we know, ‘All right, we’re definitely gonna play these,’ and then there’ll be some maybes, and then there’s ones that you hope to just be able to get to through a touring cycle. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re not worthy of being played live, it’s just… I don’t know. It’s been like that every album. The songs just kind of speak up and they tell us. It’s kind of obvious, like I said — when we’re mixing, we’ll know. Like when we made ‘Among The Living’, we knew ‘Caught In A Mosh’ was gonna be in the set right away whereas maybe a song like ‘One World’, for whatever reason, maybe that was a deeper album track. I don’t really know how to explain it. I would think most bands probably go through the same thing. You just kind of have a good feeling for what’s gonna work live and maybe what people are gonna listen to in the comforts of their own home or something. I don’t know.”
He continued: “When we did ‘Among The Living’, the whole album — last year or two years ago, we did that European tour where we were doing a whole set of that… We would do a whole set of legacy and new stuff, and then we’d take a break, 20 minutes, they would reset the stage, ’cause we had two different productions, and then we would do all of ‘Among’. And that’s how quickly you see what songs work and what songs don’t, because you could do ‘Caught In A Mosh’, ‘Indians’, ‘I Am The Law’, ‘N.F.L.’, ‘Among The Living’ — those five are homeruns every time, no matter what, always. ‘A Skeleton In The Closet’ next, that’s a solid ground rule double. That’s six of ’em. And then you have ‘One World’, ‘Horror Of It All’ and ‘Imitation Of Life’, which are the last three songs on the record, I think, if I have my order right. And we would get to those songs in the set, and the energy in the room would just like… it’s like someone stuck a pin in a balloon. And it’s not that [people] don’t like those songs, and I think people were excited to get to hear them live, certainly for a lot of people, the first time, ’cause we didn’t play those songs a lot even in 1987. But, man, the energy would just die. And then we’d bring it back with ‘Antisocial’ at the end. So then we decided we needed to change the order [of songs] and not play ‘Among’ in the order, because what worked for an album sequence wasn’t working for a live sequence. And I don’t know if it’s just because we play ‘Caught In A Mosh’ and ‘Indians’ and those songs all the time, but they all have the record, so they could just as easily listen to ‘One World’ and those other songs. So, in a way, it was an interesting experiment. And we learned. We were, like, ‘Well, we were right on which ones were gonna get played live and which ones kind of [weren’t].’ And the same goes for ‘For All Kings’, and we’re certainly not done with that record. I think we’ve done five, I think, maybe six songs off that album now through the course of the last two years. And I wanna play ‘Defend / Avenge’; that’s one that really sticks out. I wanna play the song ‘For All Kings’; it’s another one that really sticks out in my brain that we haven’t done yet and I would love to do live. And we may do ’em, and we may hear crickets, but at least for me, I’ll be happy that I got to play it.”
Released in February 2016, “For All Kings” was called by some critics ANTHRAX‘s strongest album to date. Its arrival followed a five-year period during which the band experienced a rebirth of sorts, beginning with ANTHRAX‘s inclusion on the 2010 “Big Four” tour with METALLICA, SLAYER and MEGADETH, and continuing with the 2011 release of comeback LP “Worship Music”.
ANTHRAX recently released “Kings Among Scotland”, a live-in-concert DVD, via Megaforce.