Anthrax’s Scott Ian discussed imitating Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi in a new Sessions Panel interview.
So you found a teacher in the area where you lived and just started studying guitar? What were you working on at that time?
“It was very kind of formal, I guess you would say. Maybe ‘formal’ is not the right word and my guitar teacher meant well, he was teaching me scales, and he was teaching me how to read music, and theory, and all that kind of stuff.
“And I kind of went along with it for a few months, but it was really boring to me, and honestly, a lot of it felt like homework. It was starting to feel a lot like school to me because I didn’t want to sit there and play the same scale over and over again, and I didn’t want to sit there and have to write out these scales, the notation…
“‘This is what Pete Townshend did?!’ I just didn’t get it! ‘Did Jimmy Page start like this?!’ Who knows? Maybe he did. But all I wanted to do was have him teach me how to play Zeppelin songs and Elton John’s songs… This is ’73 or ’74.
“I was pretty heavy in Elton John at the time, and, of course, I knew Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix and The Who. And I just wanted to learn how to play songs, and he’s like, ‘No, you have to learn theory, and you have to learn this…’
“So I stuck it out for six months. At some point, he actually told my parents, ‘He definitely takes it seriously, it’s not a case of – if you invest in an electric guitar for him, it’s not just gonna sit in the corner and collect dust two months from now. He seems to be really into it.’
“So my dad took me out and we went to some music store, and I got a 1972 Telecaster Deluxe – the big headstock. I wanted a Strat but it was too expensive. And it was a used Tele Deluxe I got, it had two humbuckers so I was happy about that.
“And I quit guitar lessons right after that. I got my electric guitar, that was my mission! My parents were not thrilled that I didn’t want to take lessons anymore because, of course, they thought the guitar was now just going to collect dust in the corner.
“But I played it even more because I would just sit down in the basement with the guitar and play records on the turntable, and I would sit and figure stuff out.
“And it was quickly apparent that I had an ear to be able to do that, I was able to figure out the chords just by listening. And then that was my life, from that point on that’s all I did – listen to records and practice guitar.”
So when you practiced, you were playing the tunes and learning the changes, and working on solo lines? What were you working on?
“Learning the chords. As I got a little older, and I started getting into more and more hard rock – by ’76, I was really into KISS, Aerosmith, and I remember getting into The Ramones.
“Because we had moved back to Queens where I was born and raised, back to the neighborhood where I was from, so now I’m starting seventh grade, and I’m a guitar player, and I’m making new friends, and there are other kids playing guitar, and kids playing drums, and everyone’s into KISS, and Aerosmith, and Zeppelin…
“And just finding out about new music all the time because it was a great time for rock and music. And I would just sit in my room, if I wasn’t out jamming with other friends at their house or whatever, I would sit in my little room and put records on, and just figure out the chords.
“I would sometimes attempt to figure out lead breaks but in the time, it would take me to figure out one guitar solo on a song. I could learn the chords to the whole album and that was just way more interesting to me, to learn how to play the songs.
“And I remember even thinking back then, I was like, ‘Well, I could learn a whole Ramones record!’ And Johnny’s not playing solos like except maybe once in a while, he’d play like a melody line that would just match the vocal melody, but no guitar solos, no shredding leads yet.
“But I was just so interested in learning the chords and, of course, that’s what kind of turned me into becoming a rhythm guitar player. I really learned how to play guitar by listening to AC/DC records, and KISS records, and Ramones records – I forgot to mention Sabbath, they were one of the earliest bands I got into.
“Sabbath records and Zeppelin records… And when Jimmy or Tony [Iommi] would go off into the lead break, a lot of times there would be a guitar overdubbed still playing chords even though there was no second guitar player in those bands.
“A lot of time they would have a guitar overdub to play a rhythm part, and I would just learn whatever the rhythm part was, or I would just follow the bass. And yeah, it was just all about learning the chords for me.” Ultimate-Guitar transcribed his comments.