Imagine you’re an adolescent learning guitar; and your hero, thrash-metal god Scott Ian of Anthrax, personally mentors you on perfecting your solos and writing your songs. That’s reality at Paul Green’s Rock Academy, thanks to Green, inspiration for the 2003 Richard Linklater movie School of Rock and 2005’s Rock School documentary.
This Wednesday, Aug. 24, Green unites professional musicians — including Ian, singer Pearl Aday, Metalocalypse creator Brendon Small, Gabbie Rae and Craig Goldy — and their young mentees for a rock show chock-full of AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest at The Canyon, all for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. At press time, Lucky Lehrer — founding drummer of seminal L.A. punk band Circle Jerks and godfather of the hardcore style — was planning to join the show as well.
“This list of musicians who’ve devoted themselves to Paul’s mission is a who’s who that includes Alice Cooper, Ann Wilson, Billy Idol, Eddie Vedder, Slash, Stewart Copeland,” Lehrer said. “Collaborating with musicians of this caliber and giving back to the ‘little drumheads’ are what it’s all about.” Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction), Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) and Jon Anderson (Yes) have also mentored.
Originated by Green in Philadelphia, School of Rock still flourishes, but not with Green. There were 57 branches nationwide when he sold the company in 2005. “I was like a chef who opened up too many restaurants and I never cooked,” Green said. “I really missed teaching kids [upon moving to Woodstock, New York].”
So he launched the Paul Green Rock Academy, a year-round afters-chool music program for students 8 through 18 with 130 students enrolled, plus 50 part-time students attending summer camps, and adult programs.
Small, a writer and voice actor known as the co-creator of the animated series Home Movies and Metalocalypse (he has more recently lent his voice talents to The Venture Brothers) has been teaching at the Woodstock-based school for three years. “Brendon is a musical genius and one of the best guest professors we have ever had,” said Green. “He really brings the most out of the kids.”
Ian got involved through Small. “For someone who has so much success as he has, he is amazingly kind and humble and seems to love teaching the kids as much as they love working with him,” Green said of Ian. “And they both fucking rip at guitar!”
“As a young musician, I wish I had a musician like Paul mentoring me,” said Small, giving mad props to influences Slayer, Yngwie Malmsteen and Joe Satriani. Small’s gateway album: Metallica’s . . . And Justice for All.
Ian’s first Rock Academy session took place in the spring of 2015, when the Anthrax axe man found himself in the unlikely position of instructor: “I never knew I had it in me to teach. It felt really natural to me and it was fulfilling in so many ways.”
Straight outta Metalocalypse, Small and Ian mounted the Dethklok rock opera Doomstar Requiem with the kids. “It was so emotional,” Ian said. “The best possible experience. It was so easy for me to put myself into my own shoes, watching them figure it out for themselves. There were kids who were straight-up beginners and there were incredible players, guys who could play circles around me.”
Teens not merely aping their heroes, but originating material.
“You’re carving out your identity through music,” Small said. “You’re not just following the pack [but] showing you’re an independent thinker.”
Generationally, not much has changed, according to Small and Ian. Anthrax was at the forefront of the fusion of rap and metal after rap kings Run-DMC famously collaborated with Boston rockers Aerosmith on a remake of the latter’s “Walk This Way.” Public Enemy has long associated with Anthrax, giving them a shout-out (“wax is for Anthrax!”) on its 1988 anthem “Bring the Noise” (which the two groups re-recorded for PE’s Apocalypse ’91).
In our postmodern culture, “Metal keeps going,” Small said. “AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, that has stood the test of time.”
Ian now listens to Iron Maiden with his 5-year-old. “He thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world.”
Small, 41, wishes Rock Academy had existed during his youth. His generation was “practicing in our closet with no social skills. A really important part is to work with other musicians.”
Ian didn’t have this kind of encouragement growing up in Queens. “My teachers were records,” Ian said. “I would sit in my room and put [Black Sabbath, AC/DC, KISS] records on vinyl. That’s how I learned how to play guitar in the ’70s. When Anthrax formed in 1981, I learned to really play by writing songs for Anthrax. My style of playing is very niche. It works in the context of my band.”
Ian eventually mastered his instrument but he wonders what could have been in 1977 “if I could be in a camp and sit with Gene Simmons.”
Paul Green’s Rock Academy performs Wednesday, Aug. 24, at The Canyon Club, 28912 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills. For more information, call 888-645-5006 or visit www.rockacademy.com/shows.html.