Guitarist Ian Scott is just a guy trying to make it in the music world and take all the ups and downs that go along with it. Ian moved from NYC and left everything (car included) to move to California and chase the dream that many only think about. I first met Ian when he was touring as a stand in guitarist for Holy Grail and I was struck by his story of trying to make it in this industry as a musician. Ian took the time to talk to me on the eve of his move back to NYC and we discussed the ups and downs of trying to make it, his release from the Holy Grail guitar slot and the mystery behind his name and how it’s NOT a play on Scott Ian of Anthrax’s name. This is an interview that I hope any and every aspiring musician young and old will appreciate.

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Hey Ian, rise and shine brother!

[laughs] Ah, the crack of noon. I can still taste the toothpaste!

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[laughs] So how are things going over there in Cali?

Things are good. Last week I did a video Kahler tremolos and that should be edited and ready to go by end of this week. I’m also trying packed up and ready to make this move back to New York.

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Are you psyched to head back to New York or do you wish you could stay in California?

A little bit of both actually. I definitely want to go back to New York because shits pretty grim here. I have no job, no car, no band so I really have nothing going on here.

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Man, that sounds like a country song. You should take that shit to Nashville!

[laughs] That’s true. Man, fuck shred and metal. I’m in the wrong biz [laughs].

Ok, first off bro let’s talk about your name. Is Ian Scott your REAL name?

[laughs] Ok, yeah it is but here’s the deal with that. This is what Scott Ian (Anthrax guitarist) did. Ian is his middle name ok? My middle name is Scott. His real last name is Rosenfeld and mine is Ortiz-Gross. It’s two names, it’s hyphenated and it’s always a problem explaining it to people especially on the phone [laughs]. I just go by Ian Scott. It’s easy to remember but if people remember it because of the Scott Ian thing, that’s just fine [laughs].

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Ok man, now that we got that sorted out, let’s go way back. When did you know you wanted to be a musician?

I started playing guitar when I was 12 because I asked for a guitar for my birthday. I think at that time I was just starting to listen to bands and getting into music. This was also back when MTV still played music videos so it definitely was something I was interested in. I remember seeing videos of Gavin Rosdale from Bush looking cool and I just thought it would be a cool thing to do [laughs]. I started learning tunes by Metallica and Megadeth and as I progressed I got more into technique. Then I got into the shred guys like Yngwie Malmsteen and that was when I realized that this was what I wanted to do.

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So metal music wasn’t actually what got you into guitar right off the bat?

Everyone around me listened to a lot of hip hop, reggae and whatever else so it wasn’t like I was exposed to metal music a lot. The first time I ever heard metal was when I saw that Eddie Murphy movie “The Golden Child” and they played the Ratt song “Body Talk” playing in the background. I had never heard any kind of hard rock like that and that was the first hard rock band I had ever heard [laughs]. I have Eddie Murphy to thank for my career [laughs].

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So how does a New York City guy end up in California playing guitar for a metal band?

I was in a band called Utopia Banished for a while playing lead guitar and we did a lot of local shows in the tri-state area but New York is a rough town for music. Venues are closing down left and right. On top of that, things are expensive there so you have to have a job and that doesn’t always jive well with the whole “I really want to go for this and start touring” mentality and eventually the band fell apart. You have to take that initial leap of faith and be willing to start touring and not knowing how you’re going to make money at first. I ended up taking a job at a life insurance company. Later, my girlfriend of five years left me and then five days later I lost my job. It was the country song man. I had no girlfriend, no job and no band [laughs]. I ended up going to the NAMM convention and hanging with my friend Sean Maier who was working at the Carvin booth. He told me I should just move to California so after thinking about it I just took the leap of faith and moved out to California.

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You and I first met while on tour with Holy Grail as James LaRue’s replacement. How did you land that gig?

Within 24 hours of me getting to California, my buddy Sean (Maier; guitarist for Blessed by a Broken Heart) called me. It turned out that his band and Holy Grail had a sort of business relationship with a guy named Clay from their record label Prosthetic Records. Holy Grail was looking for a new lead guitarist pretty quickly. Sean couldn’t do it because he was really busy with his band but he thought of me since I had just moved to California. I checked out their tunes and thought it was really great stuff. I learned a few of their songs and made two or three audition videos. I had two or three rehearsals with them and then we were off to Japan to play the Loud Park Festival where we played to 10 or 12,000 people [laughs]. It was the most surreal thing that has ever happened to me.

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So then you hit the road with them and did a pretty lengthy tour with them. Why did the gig not work out for you?

Well after doing two US tours and a tour of Canada we did a 14 date UK tour which was really cool. After that tour they told me that they were going to be using someone else. I had always known that I wasn’t a permanent member so it’s not like I had been locked into the position. Some of the issues I think was just me being really new to the whole touring thing. I also didn’t have a car in California which was a pain in the ass for them to pick me up for practice all the time. I didn’t live anywhere near Pasadena where they are and it was like a 40 minute ride one way. They decided to go with Alex Lee from Bonded By Blood. They’ve known him for a while and toured with Bonded By Blood so they’re more familiar with him and it was a comfortable decision for them to go with him. It’s cool though. You have to do what you need to do to survive as a band. It’s tough out there. I wish them well and I had a crazy time with them and have crazy amounts of ridiculous stories with those guys [laughs]. I hope they make it out there and I hope they continue to make a name for themselves.

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Did you feel that your overall experience in Holy Grail was a positive one?

Oh yeah. I think we got along really good and we have some great stories and memories together. I like them as people and I like the music so I really have nothing bad to say about them. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I wouldn’t have liked to continue to tour with them but it’s ok.

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It’s really cool to hear you say that. Unlike all the drama with bands like White Wizzard, it’s nice to hear both sides being mature and taking the high roads.

I think these days people are way more into the drama. Unfortunately I think that White Wizzard is more known for their drama than their music and that’s a real shame. It’s supposed to be about the music. If you like a band, you like a band. You don’t have to side with ex-members and new members. I just think that’s so stupid and high school type bullshit. It’s pretty ridiculous.

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Since parting ways with Holy Grail, did you find yourself with other options like being in another band or doing other music related projects?

Well, for a while I was looking to join another band. I had a few auditions. One of them was a Megadeth tribute band called “Rust In Peace” who’s shtick is to play “Rust In Peace” in its entirety. I thought it would be pretty fun to do but it just didn’t work out. Funny enough, I also auditioned for Bonded By Blood. They’re cool guys but they’re in writing mode and I just can’t stay here in California. Lately I’ve been releasing a lot of YouTube videos. I just found that people respond to the visual thing much quicker these days so I’ve been doing this thing for Carvin guitars called “Shred of the Day.” I’ve also done a video for Kahler tremelos. I’m also going to be releasing a full length album in the next 3 or 4 months and there may be an east coast tour with two other solo guitarists.

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That sounds awesome Ian. Is it going to be an all instrumental album?

Yeah, that’s just what I do. I love the instrumental guitar stuff. I try to make my music a little different. It’s pretty progressive stuff but I’m trying to really make it interesting because it’s a really over flooded market. I want my music to sound different and I hope that will come through.

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When I was a kid the Shrapnel (instrumental guitar record label) artists were just insane so it’s cool to see it coming back.

Oh man I’m a total Shrapnel head. I ate all those albums up and it’s happening again. Shred is not dead man [laughs]. Jeff Loomis from Nevermore released a solo album recently that did really well and the instrumental band Animals as Leaders are touring and they put out an amazing album. I’m hoping that there will be interest in that instrumental stuff again. Even some of these newer bands like Black Veil Brides are employing competent guitarists who can shred and we’re hearing guitar solos making a come back which is really awesome.

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So you’ve said that being in California has been pretty hard. Just how hard is it to be struggling musician there?

So that was one of the reasons I moved out to California. Honestly, playing music anywhere is tough. I moved out to California because there’s something about that place. People still give a shit about music. All the famous historic venues like the Whiskey, Viper Room and The Cat Club are all still there. There’s opportunities here and if you think you’re a good musician and you put yourself out you may get recognized. There are always bands looking for musicians. It’s important in the beginning to practice your craft and get good and if you come to a place like California there’s a good chance of making something happen. You may not end up touring with a huge band but you can find some cool people to make music and tour with.

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It’s really a struggle and you have to really be willing to starve for it.

Yeah, it’s the musicians burden. It’s a strange balance of pursuing your passion and surviving. That’s where I’ve found a bit of trouble because after Holy Grail, I didn’t have a plan and no transportation. That’s why I’m going back to New York. It’s definitely rough. If you really want to make things happen you have to take that leap of faith where you’re not really sure how you’re going to survive. You are going to spend your resources trying to make it happen whether it’s finding a band to tour with or taking your own band on the road. That’s really what it takes. If you’re an unsigned band these days, you have to have touring dates beneath your belt. They want to see that you’ve got a fan base. If you’re a local band just playing weekend gigs, you’ll need to go that extra mile and just tour for a few months.

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In this day and age where bands aren’t selling records, how important is it to have the backing of a label?

I think for a band it’s still very helpful. It’s definitely useful to have support for touring and to get booking. Booking is really tough now a days especially in places like New York where there aren’t too many small venues where you can go up to the owner and talk to them about playing there. They’re all larger venues now that you need booking agents and representation to play at. In terms of moving units, I don’t think people buy records but it’s depending on the label. Find a label that’s interested in you and being about helping you. That’s a step in the right direction because you have to have this capital machine to drive your band, music and tour. They’ll help you out with distribution, printing and even getting you on different festivals and whatnot.

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Ian, let’s lighten things up and have a lil fun here. If you could guitar in any band, who would it be and why?

[laughs] Man, that’s a tough one. I’ve always fantasized about playing in Symphony X because they’re one of my favorite bands. I’ve always thought it would be cool if they had two guitarists. Whenever I’m listening to their songs I always imagine what it would be like to do harmonies with them. I think it would also be cool to be in one of those classic 80’s bands. I don’t know. Maybe replace George Lynch in Dokken [laughs].

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Man, you can do better than Dokken. I just saw Dokken recently and it was pretty painful. Go for Ratt. I saw them a couple of summers ago and they were great.

[laughs] Yeah, Ratt still kicks ass. They played at Loud Park when I was there with Holy Grail and they were awesome.

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What is your favorite guitar god album?

I really like Jeff Loomis’ latest album “Zero Order Phase” but I think my all time favorite guitar god album would be “Street Lethal” by Racer X. When I heard that album I was like, “Whoa! Holy Crap!” [laughs]

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Who is the most overrated guitarist?

[laughs] Overrated guitarist? Probably that dude Sinister Gates from Avenged Sevenfold. They advertise him as this shred dude or whatever. I’m really not into knocking guitar players and saying that I’m better than anyone but he’s really not a coherent player. He’s put out some instructional videos where he’s trying to show you how to play his licks. He’s having trouble getting through them and he’s kind of sloppy and it’s kind of painful to watch. He throws out a lot of musical terminology that, if you know anything about terminology, is sometimes wrong. Also, from what I hear from others he’s a bit of a douche [laughs]. It kills me that Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater to play with Avenged Sevenfold.

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Who is the most underrated guitarist?

I think this fusion guitarist Greg Howe is pretty underrated. He’s really good and I like his stuff a lot. He played with people like Michael Jackson and Enrique Iglesias. Not a lot of people know about him. I really like his style a lot. There are so many great ones out there. I’m sure I could go on for hours [laughs].

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Ian, share with me a valuable lesson you learned while on this adventure ride.

I’ve learned a lot of stuff and not just music stuff. Like when you’re on tour, especially in another country. When you’re fantasizing about being on tour in another country, there are things you don’t think about . I learned a very valuable lesson while in Glasgow, Scotland. After a gig Eli (Santana; Holy Grail guitarist) went with these girls back to their flat where I passed out. Eli ws pretty drunk and he ended up leaving and I woke up at noon the next day [laughs]. I found myself on the streets of Glasgow with no money, no passport which was back at the hotel and my cell phone didn’t work. I was just wondering the streets and luckily Luna and Tyler found me walking around and we were able to continue the tour [laughs]. The lesson I learned from that was to always stick with your band when you’re on tour. You’ve also got to be really aware of your surroundings and know that you’re not invicible. It’s easy to have this feeling of invincibility that you can do anything but you really can’t [laughs]. I will never forget that lesson, believe me [laughs].

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So at the end of the day, do you have any regrets?

I have no regrets. Maybe things just had to happen this way for me to focus on my own music and maybe that’s just the way it was supposed to happen. I don’t regret any of it. I learned a lot of shit, I had a lot of good times and met a lot of cool people. I got some great opportunities out of it and it’s been a crazy ride!

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What a great attitude and a great outlook on life. Ian, this was a really fun and interesting interview. Thanks so much for taking the time out to talk today and best of luck to you heading back to NYC!

Thanks so much Don for doing this. It’s been cool talking to you again.

The Brainfart & Ian w/ the Holy Grail boys here in Atlanta

About The Author

The Brainfart

Don (aka. The Brainfart) has been a heavy metal fan since hearing it for the first time in 1983. Don is also repsonsible for all of the typos, shitty grammar, and kick ass content on this site. Don likes cheap beer, whiskey, Coca Cola Icees, going to shows, and hanging with his kick ass wife, two cats (Drusilla & Coltrane) and dog (Cassie). He originally wanted to name his dog Shandi but his wife said, "No fucking way."

Ed G says:

He sounds like a fucking awesome, laid-back gtuy

Art says:

He has no job, no girlfriend, and no band in New York, either, and from what he says, it’s harder to even find a place to play there. In California he’s at least got opportunities to demo equipment for these companies and a network of successful musical friends, so why not stay there? Maybe he’ll read this on the Greyhound and can still make a U-turn.

How old do I feel when I read that Bush inspired someone to play guitar? Isn’t Bush a new band? Well, they are to me.

Even though I’ve never heard this guy’s music, this interview has me rooting for him.

thegreatsouthernbrainfart thegreatsouthernbrainfart says:

Yeah, Ian’s a great guy. He was going back to NYC because it’s home. I can only imagine that when the going gets rough and life is getting intense, going home to be with family and your support system is probably a good thing to do. He’ll thrive and he’ll do some cool shit in the future because he’s driven.