In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.
The hater: As the rhythm guitarist for Anthrax, Scott Ian has been a heavy-metal icon for almost 30 years. Along with his rotating cast of bandmates, the Queens-born rocker helped create thrash in the mid-’80s, landing his group in the “Big 4” acts of the genre along with Megadeth, Slayer, and Metallica. He’s also founded other semi-popular bands, including The Damned Things, Pearl, Stormtroopers Of Death, and Damnocracy. Ian has also appeared on a number of VH1 programs, including all the I Love The… shows, Rock Show, and When Metallica Ruled The World.
Ian is on tour this summer with Anthrax, playing dates in Europe, Canada, Wisconsin, and California.
The hated: Morrissey’s “Suedehead” (1988)
Scott Ian: For me, it just comes down to the most unlistenable sound quality in Morrissey’s voice. I picked that song because I don’t know much about Morrissey’s music but I can’t listen to his voice; it’s unlistenable to me. And I know that it’s one of his bigger songs, so I think most people will be familiar with it.
It’s just something about his voice that I just can’t listen to it. It’s completely unappealing to my ears; there’s no sound on this planet that is worse than that.
The A.V. Club: So it’s a musical thing and not that Morrissey, as a person, is annoying to you?
SI: No. It has nothing to do with him as a person. I don’t know the guy. He could be a wonderful human being. I just don’t like the sound of his voice. I know plenty of guys in bands where I’m not a fan of their band, but I’m friends with them. It has nothing to do with Morrissey. I just can’t stand the actual tone, the pitch, the timbre, whatever other adjectives there are to describe it; it’s completely unappealing to me.
AVC: Can you explain what it does to you or is it more of an instinctual feeling?
SI: It just makes me instantly turn off the device that it’s emanating from, as you’d do with any sound that bothers you. It’s just an instinctual move of one of my hands to whatever power button I need to push to stop the sound from assaulting my ears.
AVC: Have you always disliked Morrissey’s voice?
SI: I’ve always hated it. From the first time I heard his voice, I never understood why anybody could listen to it. There are guys in my band that love it, and I just don’t understand it.
AVC: But you can understand that, right? People might not like your band, but that’s okay.
SI: No, I get it. It has nothing to do with my band. I’ve pretty well accepted that there are people who might say the same thing about my band or my guitar-playing or my face or anything of my band. It has nothing to do with that. I got asked the question and stuck my neck out and answered it. The sound of his voice, for me, I just can’t take it.
Believe me, I’ve spent hours and hours talking about this with my friends and, literally, sitting at a table with Kirk Hammett [of Metallica] in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago and Mark [Osegueda] from Death Angel. I brought this up and we all tried to come up with what we liked to listen to the least, our most hated song or artist or sound, and Kirk and I actually agreed on Morrissey. Mark didn’t. Mark liked Morrissey. We had some stiff competition. I actually brought up ’80s Peter Cetera, and I would still rather listen to that than Morrissey.
AVC: I talked to Joe Trohman earlier this year, and you’re in The Damned Things with him—
SI: He loves Morrissey.
AVC: I was just about to say, “I bet he loves Morrissey.”
SI: He has a Morrissey tattoo.
AVC: Oh my God, really?
SI: Yes. Who did he pick?
AVC: He picked Lou Bega’s “Mambo No. 5.”
SI: I went through all those novelty songs because novelty songs don’t hold any weight. They kind of are what they are. Novelty songs are something that are easily avoidable, and I find that they kind of come and go. They’re really hot for X amount of time. Like I brought up… who’s that Korean dude who has come up recently?
AVC: Psy? He did “Gangnam Style.”
SI: Right. That’s something that I went out and looked for just find out what the fuck this thing was that everyone is talking about. I looked it up on YouTube because I’d never heard it. I find it easily avoidable. I don’t listen to any regular radio, and I certainly don’t watch any video channel, so things like that are very easily avoidable if you’re only listening to two stations on Sirius that aren’t going to play that stuff. So I excluded that stuff from the decision process because, yeah, Morrissey as a songwriter and The Smiths as artists and writers are certainly better than any of that novelty kind of stuff. I broke it down to the sound I least want to hear and that turned out to be Morrissey’s voice.
AVC: What other sounds don’t you like? For instance, I don’t like the sound of Styrofoam being torn apart.
SI: That’s a pretty shitty sound. But not as bad as Morrissey. If I could have thought of a worse sound, even outside of music, I would have said I don’t even have a hated song. I hate the sound of nails on a chalkboard or something. I don’t like that, but it’s more tolerable for me.
AVC: You’d rather hear nails on a chalkboard than Morrissey’s voice?
SI: I’m telling you, man. I really put a lot of nerd thought into this.
AVC: You live in L.A., right? Morrissey is huge there, too.
SI: He’s massive. I moved to Los Angeles in 1990, and I found out quickly that Morrissey, Depeche Mode, and The Cure—none of which were huge in New York in the ’80s, certainly big but not L.A. big—I moved to L.A. and friends of mine were like, “Do you want to go see Depeche Mode? They’re playing the Rose Bowl.” And I’m like, “They play stadiums?” Because they don’t play stadiums in New York. L.A. was kind of its own satellite for that kind of music because they had KROQ, which still, probably, is its biggest radio station, and that’s the kind of format of music they were playing so those bands were absolutely massive in Los Angeles.
AVC: So you’re doomed to live with Morrissey forever?
SI: It’s not like I have to hear it. I might be out at a club, and someone might play a Smiths song. I don’t have to run out with my fingers in my ears, but I’m certainly not thrilled to be having to listen to it.