AN INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN POSEHN AND SCOTT IAN
BY JAMESON KETCHUM
Featured Photo by Tami Morrissey
“New music sucks, new music sucks, new music sucks.” That refrain cries out from every corner of Posehn’s new album, Grandpa Metal. The genius behind Grandpa Metal is comedian Brian Posehn, who’s enlisted the help of his famous and super talented friends to round out the best comedy/metal record of all time. Scott Ian, Corey Taylor, Joe Trohman and Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, need we go on? Jill Janiszewski from Huntress, Chuck Billy from Testament, and still we haven’t covered everybody who contributed to this hilarious and heartwarming piece of metal history. We gathered the figureheads of this triumph, Brian Posehn himself and Anthrax’s Scott Ian to discuss just what makes Grandpa Metal so darn special. Hint: it may be Ian’s love for Lady Gaga.
Grandpa Metal is just so much fun.
Fun is what I’m looking for. For me, it was just all these goofy ideas all on one record. I wanted it to be fun for metal fans, but fun for people who aren’t familiar with every genre of metal. What I really wanted to do for metal fans was write a record with a bunch of different types of funny songs on it. I hope I delivered that. It took me forever, but it was a lot of fun making.
Why the long gap between albums? I have to imagine it’s something that’s been stirring for a while.
The biggest reason is because Scott Ian and myself were really busy. We made this deal with Megaforce almost six years ago now, and we’d been calling it The Chinese Democracy of comedy metal records. It’s not like songs weren’t perfect and I was being Axl about them. It was just a long process. We were almost done about a year ago and realized we only had eight tracks at that point, and I wanted to fill out the record, so I wrote the last two songs with Joe Trohman of Fall Out Boy—he’s one of my closest friends and just a funny guy. He helped me get it done in time. My producer Jay Ruston kept checking in on me, saying, “Hey man, we should look at this at some point.”
What will catch people by surprise is that yes, the songs are hilarious, but they’re also great metal songs.
The songs that I’d done before with Scott, “More Metal Than You” and “Metal by Numbers,” I always felt good about them because they’re goofy and have funny lines, but they’re written by a guy who writes Anthrax songs (laughs). The songs are gonna deliver, the songs are gonna be structured and sound like legit metal songs plus all these guests that are playing on it. I’ve always said it’s really up to me to fuck this record up. The writing is there, so it’s all on me to deliver punch lines and funny performances.
Do you remember when and where you first heard metal as a kid? What do you think drew you to it?
For me, it was a bunch of bands that weren’t metal that got me into metal. I started off with Kiss, but I guess the first legit metal band I got crazy into was Iron Maiden around 1980 or 1981. It was similar to Kiss where it also delivered this visual thing with masks. I was still such a comic book nerd that it helped, having anything that goes along with this music that I hadn’t heard anything like before. They were the big ones and after that a melee of other bands.
There are a lot of theatrics in, as you said, nerd culture that could easily lend itself to the theatrics in metal.
Yeah, 40 years later I’m still a Maiden fan. That’s a big part of it. They’re a band that delivers on a lot of levels. As a nerd I loved that they read, too. They would write songs about books that they read. Other bands like Rush and Anthrax do that. Those are three of my all-time favorite bands that draw from different places for lyrics.
Do you think it’s just that new metal bands suck, or have we also softened or changed what the word metal means?
I think there is still good new metal. There’s not a ton on my playlist that’s new. I don’t think metal was ruined like Scott does. The lyric came from a real place. I think the last new band he liked was probably The Refused. When did they come out? 25 years ago? That was the last time Scott Ian was excited about new music (laughs). I’m trying to think of what I dig lately. Power Trip I really like. Havok I dig as far as newer bands. Red Fang isn’t new, but I love that kind of stuff. Some of the bands I made fun of with “Metal by Numbers” that have been around for 20 years are legit now. I wasn’t making fun of Unearth, but it’s funny because Unearth, who would be considered metalcore, now has roots. If you stick around long enough everything becomes old.
Yeah, I’ve been going to a lot of 20 year anniversary shows.
It’s crazy. I was just hanging out with Unearth and Darkest Hour. It’s the same thing. Darkest Hour is doing a 20th anniversary, and I’m like, “You guys are kids, what are you doing?”
Does metal take itself too seriously?
Metal fans maybe do. I was guilty of that as a kid. I don’t think Grandpa Metal makes fun of metal at all, but it’s poking fun of different things in the genre. When I was younger, if you wanted to legitimately be metal you couldn’t make fun of heavy metal. I hated Spinal Tap as a teenager because I didn’t realize those guys were fans. I was thinking wait a minute, these guys are making fun of The Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden—there were all these references in there and I was pissed about it. I thought, “Who are these assholes?” (laughs) Now I have way more of a sense of humor about the music I listen to, but as a kid I had zero. That said, part of the inspiration comes from bands that did have a sense of humor, like S.O.D. and Scatterbrain, because they did write funny lyrics and make fun of themselves and things within the genre.
Did you see the film Lords of Chaos?
I did. I read the book. I didn’t think the movie would be funny. It was amazing, and how taking such a bleak theme that they actually found humor in it. It had such great performances all the way around. I wish more people would have seen it and not just metal fans. That’s the thing, I feel like maybe it was hindered by its subject matter. People maybe said, “I don’t want to watch that. I don’t like that kind of music,” where it was just a really well made movie.
The “Take on Me” cover is great. What made you choose that song?
I feel like every song would be better if it was metal. If you do a metal version of any song, it’s an improvement. It’s such a song, that it’s engrained in everybody. If you’re my age, you’ve heard it your whole life. It just felt like it would be fun to do it with the people I did it with. Like if I could get Chuck Billy and Zetro from Exodus to sing this along with me, this will be amazing. To get those two and Jill from Huntress…every guest part on this record is just me reaching out to people I’ve known for years and asking if they’ll do this silly thing. Of all of them, that song is the one where I didn’t really have to convince people, but Chuck was like, “Really?” He asked me how I wanted him to sing it. I said, “Do Chuck Billy.” I had a picture in my head, and he did exactly what I said. Same with Zetro, I said, “Just be you. The song is already goofy, but you committing to it and going full metal with it is going to be fucking awesome.” And I was right.
I couldn’t believe how much “What Does the Fox Say” lent itself to being a metal song.
That was the other one! We recorded it a while ago. Corey Taylor was another guy who’s known for his sense of humor. I think he got it right away, like, “Don’t go in making fun of the song, but go in committing fully to it.” That’s what makes it great. He’s singing his ass off on it like he wrote it like it’s a Slipknot song. It’s perfect.
I can’t believe Weird Al didn’t sign off on letting you parody “Gump.”
We never even wrote it (laughs). It was just a basic idea. I love calling him Weird. I called Weird (laughs), and he was so cool about it. He said he’d do anything. I told him I didn’t want him to sing on anything, we were just going to do a sketch where I call you and you turn me down. I sent it to him, he laughed, and we recorded it.
As big as Weird Al is, I still feel like he’s underappreciated.
He is. I have a lot of comedy friends who aren’t Weird Al fans and I don’t understand that. For me, he’s so much a part of what I do. He is so smart. The originals that he wrote, the lyrics are really smart and funny. He gets respect, as much as someone who does song parodies, but he’s so much more than that.
Oh yeah, it’s gotta be a huge challenge to not only parody a song but make it funny.
Yeah, and to nail it the way he does, he has such an ear for it. Also, he’s not dirty. I tend to write jokes with curse words and I go blue, but I love that he’s made a career of being pretty clean.
Were there any guests you weren’t able to get for Grandpa Metal?
There was somebody in Metallica who couldn’t (laughs), but just because of schedules. John 5 was busy. I wanted to get some of the opposite of testosterone on the record for the guitar playing, so I asked Nita Strauss to do a solo, but she was crazy busy and couldn’t get to it. Other than that, everyone said yes.
You mentioned working with Joe Trohman. I love that you also rip on Fall Out Boy on the record. What was it like working with Joe?
That was Patrick Stump who made that joke. It wasn’t written. They threw themselves under the bus. They’re so funny that they totally get it. I asked Joe if Patrick would make fun of them and he said, “Absolutely,” and he went even further by throwing in that reference. Joe and I have been friends for about 12 years, and they had done The Dammed Things with the guys from Every Time I Die. Scott brought him to a dinner once that I wasn’t even at. My wife was like, “Oh, you’re in Fall Out Boy? My husband is really going to make fun of you.” Then I met him and I didn’t, and we’ve been friends ever since. He’s such a nice guy. We have a ton in common. I don’t know a bunch of their music, but the music he listens to we have in common. When I was getting close to wrapping up the album I knew I needed help on the lyrics for “Grandpa Metal” and I was a few songs short. I didn’t have writer’s block, but I couldn’t figure out how to crack the song and find the funniest version. He and I sat down and decided just to make fun of Scott full bore—the rest of the lyrics came together. I told him I was two songs short, so he wrote the music for “Monster Mosh” and “Big Fat ROCK?” and that was just us saying, “Let’s write a Rob Zombie type horror song, and let’s write something too dumb for Steel Panther.” (laughs) The idea was let’s write the dumbest song about a guy’s wiener that’s not even innuendo. The idea was like let’s do what Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith, and Kiss have done and talk about our dong, but let’s go even dumber. It’s so dumb. I feel like if anyone ever tells me that the song is dumb I’ll say, “Yeah, no shit. That’s what we were going for.” (laughs)
And it’s so catchy.
You’re writing a song with the guitar player from Fall Out Boy. He knows catchy, he can’t help it. He writes catchy shit.
You recently appeared in the first episode of The Mandalorian. You’re a huge Star Wars fan, so how incredible was that honor?
Oh man, I’m still giddy about that. To be part of the Star Wars universe and a good representation of Star Wars…I’m in a Marvel movie, but I’m in a shitty one. I’m in The Silver Surfer, so I can’t really brag about that, but to be a part of Star Wars and a part of something I really like and that my son really likes has been extra cool. He went to school the week it came out and he’s 10, every other boy in his class had already seen it and loved it. It’s the first time I’m his hero where I’ve done something where he’s like, “All my friends love this too and that’s my dad!”