Almost a decade ago, the multi-headed rock beast The Damned Things was born. Boasting members of Anthrax, Fall Out Boy, and Every Time I Die amongst its ranks, the metal don’t-call-em-a-supergroup’s debut album ‘Ironiclast’ was a fitting combination of powers. The sarcastic snarl of Every Time I Die frontman Keith Buckley took the fore, while guitarist Scott Ian – originally of ‘Big Four’ thrash metal titans Anthrax – cast out twisted riffs alongside him. At its core was the guitar and drum duo of Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley, who pay their bills in a little-known prospect by the name of Fall Out Boy. An unlikely rabble, their reign was as special as it was short-lived – just a year after ‘Ironiclast”s release, The Damned Things disappeared, the members returning to their day-job groups.
Until, that is, earlier this year. Seemingly out-of-the-blue, The Damned Things returned in February, bringing news of new album ‘High Crimes’. A decade on, the group had returned, this time adding Alkaline Trio bassist Dan Andriano to the fold, just in case that collective CV weren’t already strong enough.
‘High Crimes’ is evidence that their decade in the dark sapped none of The Damned Things’ spirit. Every bit as firebrand as that debut, the gang are reborn, taking the classic metal sonics of their first outing and imbuing them with another decade of collective punk energy.
Just hours before he attended the premiere of Game Of Thrones season eight (how fancy), NME spoke to metal icon Scott Ian about how the Damned Things project came back from the dead.
When did the idea of Damned Things come back into play? You’ve been away for a long time now – many people would have assumed that it was a one album project.
Scott Ian: “I think it was about two years ago. Joe had written some songs for this other artist, and that project fell apart. Joe felt like these songs were very Damned Things-esque already, and sent them over. That was the spark, right there. There was definitely a palpable excitement over the material, and this idea of, ‘Wow – we’re gonna get to do this again.’ It was a surprise to all of us as much as it was to the rest of the world.”
How did it feel to get that call from Joe? I presume you stay in touch, but you probably weren’t expecting to revive the band, right?
“We’ve been hanging out forever. We hung out as friends pre-Damned Things, and we’ve hung out as friends all these years – all of us have. It felt great. Any excuse I can use to hang out with these guys is just a win for me, because I love all these dudes, and we don’t get to see each other much. I don’t see Andy or Keith as much as I’d like to, so now I’ll get to hang out with them quite a bit over the next year or so. That’s a very exciting proposition.”
How does it feel to be revisiting something from a decade ago, and writing music as the Damned Things again?
“It feels all new to me. We didn’t do that much back then – there definitely felt like there was unfinished business. I’ve always felt like ‘Ironiclast’ was a great album, and we were a great live band. It’s just the circumstance – the fact that Anthrax, Fall Out Boy and Every Time I Die exist, and those are our priority. Even with interviews, talking about The Damned Things – it’s all new to me. With Anthrax, in a bad interview, it’s very easy to turn on autopilot. But with The Damned Things, I don’t have autopilot yet – I don’t have any stock answers for things… I just babble a bunch, because it’s all so new! [laughs]”
You’ve been in Anthrax for what must feel like forever. Now, you’ve got, essentially, a brand new band. That’s something you haven’t felt in decades…
“Even though it’s technically our second record, it does feel like a brand new thing to me. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in the position where I made a debut album, and then didn’t put out the second album for nine years. I don’t know that any band in existence has done that! It just a very unique, fun and cool situation to be in.”
How else does it differ from Anthrax? There’s much less expectation and history on your shoulders.
“With Anthrax, from day one – so you’re talking 38 years – we’ve only ever done exactly what we wanted to do. In the Damned Things, in that sense, it’s exactly the same thing. The difference is we don’t have 38 years of being in a band together. But musically, they’re completely different. This Damned Things record, to me, has a much more punk-rock feel to me than a tight, dictatorial metal vibe.
It’s interesting that that’s the middle ground you come to. Fall Out Boy to Anthrax is a big musical jump – why do you think it is that you all centre on this type of music?
“We just wanted to write songs that were like Thin Lizzy and Kyuss. [laughs] We all love so much music, and in The Damned Things, it really gives us a chance for all of us to do things differently, that we don’t do in our day-job. Keith is certainly different in The Damned Things than he is in Every Time I Die, vocally. And Joe and Andy are doing things in The Damned Things that they don’t do in Fall Out Boy, I’m doing something different to anything that I’ve ever done before, and even for Dan, it’s different to what he does in Alkaline Trio.”
The idea of a ‘supergroup’ is a very old school term – it’s not really something you see anymore. Is that how you view it? Or do you have a different term?
“No, I definitely do not see it that way! [laughs] If this was a supergroup, we’d be way down the list. If you called us a ‘mediumgroup’, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, that’s kinda right. We’re right in the middle.
“It was around the same time frame as ‘Ironiclast’ that Them Crooked Vultures made their record. Now that’s a fuckin’ supergroup – Dave Grohl and John Paul-Jones! Nothing against Josh [Homme], because he’s amazing too, but when you’ve got the dude from Nirvana and the guy from Led Zeppelin in your band, that’s a fuckin’ supergroup! I’m not putting myself or the band down – I’ve always just found the idea of a supergroup kind-of laughable.”
With Anthrax, you’ve got a really busy schedule supporting Slayer throughout the rest of the year, and the rest of these guys’ bands are hardly quiet. What plans do you have for The Damned Things – how much are you gonna be able to fit in?
“For me, there would be no point to just putting out the record. I love the record – I’m the biggest Damned Things fan in the world, I fuckin’ love this band! But if we can’t go out and play, it’d be a real bummer for all of us.
“We were able to figure out a schedule where we’re all… not on hiatus, but not as busy. We were able to figure out this window of time where we could all come in and say, ‘Let’s try and do as much as we can’. We’ve got U.S. dates coming up next month, and we’re certainly hoping to get over to the U.K. before the year ends. The goal is to get back to places we were before, and get to places we never got to go to.”
The Damned Things’ new album ‘High Crimes’ is out now via Nuclear Blast.