Scott Ian is one of those rock stars who will be familiar even if you don’t know or care about his work as rhythm guitarist with Anthrax. Not only for his distinctive appearance – though the bald head and beard that looks like a racoon tail certainly helps – but because he’s something of a ubiquitous talking head in rockumentaries – at least US-produced ones. His reputation as a rock ‘n’ roll raconteur has, inevitably, led to him authoring books, of which Access All Areas is the second. I haven’t read his first, I’m The Man, but I imagine it follows the same format as this. Which is to say that this isn’t quite an autobiography; instead, it’s a collection of anecdotes from his life, often about the people that he know in the rock world, randomly collected and presented for the amusement of the reader, who is given a rare insight into what metal stars are really like.
Or perhaps not, unless you are the sort to be surprised that rock stars like to get drunk, pull pranks and call each other ‘bro’. All that sort of thing is here, sometimes at considerable length (a piece involving Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell goes on for ages, and frankly isn’t all that hilarious if you weren’t there). There are certainly some interesting revelations, foremost amongst them the fact that Nine Inch Nails main man Trent Reznor used to sit on a throne backstage after gigs, watching young women taking part in beer enema contests that culminated in the ‘winner’ eating a fruit loops / expelled beer combo. That’s some genuine rock ‘n’ roll debauchery right there, but in a world where Hollywood bigwigs are being hauled over the coals for any sort of sexual misconduct, I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing that respected film score composer Reznor will want to be identified with. Or perhaps he doesn’t care. I hope he doesn’t.
elsewhere, there are entertaining memories of Ian first discovering rock music via Kiss (his tale of musical obsession, outsiderism and finding your tribe will resonate with anyone who has at some point loved music more than life itself) and amusing tales of rock oafishness that Ian tells in a witty, conversational style – it’s a fun read. Of course, like any celebrity biography – especially one where the whole idea is to share entertaining stories about the characters you’ve met – it does sometimes get a big name-droppy, and there’s more than one humblebrag along the way. I’m not sure boastful stories about hanging out in elite New York nightspots are the sort of thing than your average Anthrax fan will relate to, knowing that they would likely be the ones being told “you’re not on the list” – but stories about being mesmerised by Madonna’s tits, seeing Lemmy in cut-off denim shorts or meeting an oblivious David Lee Roth are entertaining and suitably self-deprecating (or at least as self-depracting that a story about being invited to dinner with Madonna can be). There’s a lengthy piece about Ian’s involvement with The Walking Dead that might entertain fans of the show (I’m not one, so it rather lost me after a while), and he even manages to talk about his own music a little.
Where the book grinds to a numbing halt are the long chapters – there are two of them – about poker. This reminded me of when Christopher Lee went off on detailed stories about golf in his autobiography. I understand that it’s a passion of the author’s and that he finds this sort of thing fascinating, but for everyone else, it’s just dull. I doubt very much that many people buying a book by the Anthrax guitarist are looking for detailed, play-by-play descriptions of poker tournaments. Some editing here might have been in order.
For the most part though, Access All Areas is an amusing collection of stories, ideal for bathroom reading or dipping in and out of. There’s nothing especially revelatory, but that’s not what this is about. It’s a fun, gossipy look at the metal scene and as such, works very well for the most part. I imagine an audio book of this would be a lot of fun.