The Story of the Big Four: “Am I Evil?”
Kory Grow | Aug 27, 2011 | Comments 34 | Tags: Anthrax, Big Four, Big Four Weeks, Charlie Benante, Dave Lombardo, Dave Mustaine, David Ellefson, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Kory Grow, Lars Ulrich, Megadeth, Metallica, Robert Trujillo, Scott Ian, Slayer
The Big Four of thrash—Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax—are set to play New York City’s Yankee Stadium on September 14. It will be the second time ever that all four groups have shared a stage in the United States. To mark this occasion, Revolver and Guitar World are celebrating the event with the Big Four Weeks leading up to the event. For the next month or so, leading up to the show, our websites will be giving fans eye-popping exclusives (like the Big Four trading cards from the September/October issue, which we unveiled last week), previously unseen backstage video, and excerpts from our interviews with the bands on a regular basis.
This installment is an excerpt from Revolver’s special issue devoted to the Big Four, which you can buy right here. This section recounts how it came to be that all of the bands perform “Am I Evil?” onstage together at Big Four concerts, beginning at their Sofia, Bulgaria, gig last year. It features interviews with Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and Charlie Benante, Slayer’s Dave Lombardo, and Megadeth’s David Ellefson. So, without further ado, here is the inside story.
REVOLVER Famously, most of you got up onstage and jammed on Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” last year in Sofia, Bulgaria. How did that come together?
LARS ULRICH I think that we felt we should try and see if we can get everyone together. Also, there was the whole worldwide satellite thing. It seemed like an obvious place to share, there was just such a good vibe going on. We wanted to let the fans get a chance all over the world to share in that good vibe.
SCOTT IAN I think I was sitting in a bar with [Slipknot and Stone Sour vocalist] Corey Taylor somewhere a night or two before we actually did it, and I got a text from Kirk [Hammett, Metallica guitarist] saying, “Hey, in Bulgaria we’re thinking about doing ‘Am I Evil?’ with everybody, so let your guys know.” And I wrote him back, “Yeah, of course. We’re in.”
ULRICH The reason we picked “Am I Evil?” is because obviously playing a Metallica song would’ve seemed a little selfish. All of the musicians would certainly share that thread in Diamond Head in terms of influence. It’s probably difficult to find a band that’s more responsible for, or at least indirectly responsible, for thrash metal. And “Am I Evil?” is just a great, anthem-like song that also has the quality of not being super complicated. So it just seemed like the right kind of vibe to share with everybody for five minutes that wasn’t necessarily going to send people back to the rehearsal room for days on end. [Megadeth frontman Dave] Mustaine and a bunch of these guys obviously knew the riff, too, and it just seemed like a logical choice.
CHARLIE BENANTE The first message I got about it was—I think Kirk sent it to me—“You’re gonna play guitar.” That was the first message I got. And it was like, Fucking killer. That would be great. And I think other people thought, How is the drummer gonna be playing guitar when the other drummers are doing nothing? So all of a sudden a snare drum got put in my lap. And I was like, OK, I’m OK with that, too.
DAVE LOMBARDO I love jamming. I do it all the time at home in Hollywood. So I had a blast doing it, I wasn’t going to turn down this opportunity when all my other friends were up there. It was like, All right, let’s go.
What do you remember about rehearsing the song?
DAVID ELLEFSON It was great. As soon as I walked into the rehearsal room, [Metallica bassist] Robert Trujillo was like, “Hey, Junior, glad you’re here.” And he hands me the bass. He was like, “Here, you jam.” And I was like, OK, I guess I’m the bass player in this little endeavor right now. So I played, and that was fun for me to sit there and be that guy. Lars was the drummer of course, and so we were kinda hanging by each other, because he and I have gotten along really well over the years. And I look and I see [Megadeth guitarist Chris] Broderick, [Metallica vocalist-guitarist James] Hetfield, Mustaine, Scott Ian, [Anthrax frontman] Joey Belladonna, and everybody standing there. And it was one of those classic moments. I remember as I kid, I would flip through a guitar magazine and see a classic photo of Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney, and, like, Keith Richards all being in the same room together. To me, that was our moment. It was just these guys who have never all stood in a room together before. And especially with their guitars on, creatively working on something together.
And I gotta say, James Hetfield was a really gracious host. He made it relaxed and fun and it was cool because we were essentially being invited into the Metallica secret chambers. [Laughs] They made it very relaxing and very easy and very fun.
ULRICH I might have been the tardy one. Everyone was kind of standing around, looking at each other. And I was like, “OK, let’s play something.” So we started playing [Judas Priest’s] “Breaking the Law.” We just loosened up and started having fun.
ELLEFSON The funny thing was, everyone had been practicing all day. It’s just one simple riff, and we’ve got everybody backstage at rehearsal set up in our dressing room as well. So Scott and Charlie and Frank and everybody is coming into our tent, and we’re back there jamming and rehearsing and working on stuff as well. It was one of those things where everybody wanted it to be just note perfect. Everybody out of passion was just like, I want this to be the greatest thing ever.
Photos by Andrew Stuart