Scott Ian's upcoming North American tour will be without his guitar -- or the rest of Anthrax, for that matter.
The thrash metal titan will play 15 Speaking Words shows starting Feb. 20 in Chicago, bringing to the home shores the spoken work presentation he began last year as a one-off in the U.K. and then as a subsequent tour. And though he approached it with a large degree of apprehension, Ian tells Billboard it's become something he "loves doing."
"I just had a great time doing those shows," Ian says. "The show just keeps getting better and better, and it's something I wanted to get to keep doing. So if I have a window I'm gonna take it and go out and do more 'cause I'm still having fun doing it. I'm not looking for more ways to leave home at this point in my life, but it's a really cool thing and I found this window of time and said, 'Hey, I haven't done any shows yet in the States or Canada. Why not see if I can make it happen?' People were interested, which obviously I was excited about."
Ian says storytelling is "a skill set that I'm slowly learning how to do -- it's not just walking on stage and talking." And, he adds, it's certainly different than gigging with Anthrax. "It's all me," Ian explains. "All the responsibility, everything is on my shoulders. It's basically do or die for me, and I kinda like that. IT's so different than the band dynamic because then there's five of us and the focus isn't just on you the whole time. It's not like I need the focus to be on me, but I just enjoy getting to do this. It's a whole new skill set that I'm learning now. This far along in my life and my career, it's great to get to go up and do something completely different and learn how to entertain and tell stories in front of an audience."
It's a learning experience for the crowds, too, Ian says. "Some of these are not just stories; they're epics that take, like, 45 minutes to tell," explains Ian, who's launched a PledgeMusic campaign to fund a DVD from his 2013 show in Glasgow (www.pledgemusic.com/projects/scottian). "You kind of have to stay with me on it. Sometimes I'll see people get up to go pee or grab a beer or something, and they come back and they're like, 'What?! How did the goat get in the swimming pool?' (laughs) You've got to keep up, dude! I think there's just a lot of really great stories. Even if you don't know who the people are or aren't a fan of metal, they're just really entertaining stories."
While Ian is focusing on speaking, he says Anthrax is "deep into writing for the next record, just writing, writing, writing...since October, with no actual schedule at this point, for a deadline" for a follow-up to 2011's "Worship Music." Nevertheless, Ian says the group "would like to have a record out before the end of the year" and says the material so far is "really heavy. It's really fast -- if anything it's got even more thrash elements than 'Worship Music' did. It's coming along really well." Anthrax plans to head to Europe at the end of May to play an assortment of festivals.