It’s been six years since the four biggest thrash-metal bands – Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax – embarked on what they dubbed the “Big Four” tour, but the memories are still fresh for Scott Ian. In the latest installment of Rolling Stone’s “Had to Be There” series, the Anthrax guitarist recalls the feeling of sharing a stage for the first time with musicians he’d cut his teeth alongside and how he wished it had lasted longer.
The four bands began the tour with a Warsaw gig on June 16th, 2010, and they preceded it with a dinner hosted by Metallica. “It was a great energy, an intense vibe with all of us in that room for the first time in history,” Ian tells Rolling Stone. “It was fun just seeing everyone tear off into groups and seeing, like, ‘Oh, look, there’s Kirk [Hammett] and Dave Mustaine having a big hug. Never thought I would see something like that happen.’ Or, ‘There’s James [Hetfield] and Dave, all smiles.’ It was 17 dudes who all pretty much came from the same place at the same time just enjoying each other’s company.”
Less than a week later, Hammett texted Ian saying that Metallica wanted to get all the bands together for the fourth date of the trek in Sofia, Bulgaria, which was to be filmed for a worldwide broadcast. “I said, ‘That’d be amazing. On behalf of Anthrax I’m answering yes,'” Ian recalls. “I think it was the next day maybe that they came back to us with covering Diamond Head’s ‘Am I Evil?’ We already knew the song so it’s not like we had to learn it. Everybody ran through it back stage with Metallica to make sure it wouldn’t be too much of a train wreck but it was in everybody’s wheelhouse. And it went down great obviously.”
Ultimately, all of the members of Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax were able to perform that night, along with then–Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo. That group’s Kerry King was editing video of Slayer’s performance for the broadcast during the performance, and the other members chose to sit it out.
Nevertheless, Ian remembers a special night. “It was really an amazing feeling to be up on that stage,” he says. “I look at pictures or I can watch it back on the DVD and you just see that lineup of James and me and Mustaine and it’s just like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing.’ I’m kind of almost able to look at it as an outsider, from a fan’s point of view, and go, ‘That’s so cool.’ Once again, another great idea from Metallica.”