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Behind The Song: Anthrax's 'I'm Alive'

Anthrax's "I'm Alive" has had a long road to the GRAMMYs. There song has gone through changes to the title and lyrics, the band went through three singers and the country has a different President than when the song was written.

Guitarist/lyricist Scott Ian told that the song's story began before Barack Obama was elected President. "That song was originally called 'Vampires,' and the lyrics were very skewed towards the then–current administration, which was the Bush administration." That was when the band was working with Dan Nelson, a relatively-unknown singer who joined in late 2007. They recorded and toured with him, but in 2009 -- before releasing any new material -- they announced that Nelson was no longer a part of Anthrax.  

They then reunited briefly with John Bush, who sang with Anthrax from 1992 to 2004. That didn't last, and then Joey Belladonna (whom Bush replaced in '92) rejoined the band. They decided to use the material that they worked on with Nelson for their upcoming album, but Ian felt "Vampires" needed a major reboot. "The lyrics seemed dated to me by then. It felt lame that I would be writing lyrics about Bush now (in the Obama era), it’s a little late, so I went back and changed it." 

So what is "I'm Alive" about? "The underlying thought in the song's my vision of people being sheep, and how easy it is to lead people in one way or another to get them to do something, or to believe in something.  We live in a country that’s completely polarized in this point. It wasn’t always that way. I remember before there were maps that say 'red state' or ‘blue state.’"

He continues, "The song is really about: think for yourself and don't become a brainwashed slave of this environment we live in. A lot of the record (2011's Worship Music) comes from that place. 2013 isn’t the future I envisioned when I was a kid growing up in the ‘70s and we used to think 'What is the year 2000 gonna be like?'  If anything, this country has gone backwards.  We’re less forward thinking. Being smart almost seems to be like a bad thing to half of this country! I’m confused by a lot of that and it comes out in my lyrics." 


Ian keeps up on news and world events, but wasn't aware that his band would be in the running for a GRAMMY nomination. He found out about the nom while Anthrax was on tour in Europe. "People started sending me emails saying 'Congrats on your GRAMMY nomination!'  So I Googled 'Anthrax' and 'GRAMMY' and there it was. I walked into our dressing room and said, 'Hey, we’ve been nominated for a GRAMMY.' It just sort of came out of the blue.”

As for his feelings about being nominated: "I really don’t care. Anytime anyone recognizes us for anything we do, most importantly the fans who buy our records and come to our shows and dig what we’re doing, of course we appreciate it.  When it comes to awards... this is our fourth GRAMMY nomination. I didn’t care in 1991 when we were nominated (for their album Persistence Of Time). I don’t mean to sound callous about these things, but it really doesn’t mean anything to me.  It’s one thing if you’re a new artist and you win a bunch of GRAMMYs and you’re on TV and it changes your life overnight. Us winning or losing this award isn’t going to make one iota of a difference in our career."

He does admit to one perk about the award, if they win: "Speaking specifically for myself, it will be really cool for my mom to say that I won a GRAMMY.  It will go on a shelf next to my Revolver Golden God award, and my Kerrang award.  And I don’t mean to sound like a d*** about this, of course I appreciate being in a category with some of those bands. If anything, give it to Iron Maiden, I don’t know if they’ve ever won one."  

Maiden, nominated for "Blood Brothers" from the live album En Vivo, actually won their first GRAMMY last year for "El Dorado." When informed of this, Ian says, "OK, then give it to us!"

-- Brian Ives, 

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