The Story of the Big Four: Metallica and Slayer, in the Beginning…
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 the early days of Slayer and Metallica, who featured future Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine in their ranks at the time, and features interviews with Mustaine, Metallica’s Lars Ulrich, Slayer’s Tom Araya, Dave Lombardo, and Kerry King. It also features photography of Metallica by Bill Hale, who recently released a book titled Metallica: Club Dayz 1982 – 1984, which has tons of great photos from this time period (for more on the book, scroll to the bottom). So, without further ado, let’s go back to the beginning.
REVOLVER Slayer and Metallica played together early on in Los Angeles, before the guys in Metallica moved to San Francisco. What do you remember about seeing each other?
TOM ARAYA We played with them at a club called the Woodstock in Anaheim in the early ’80s. I thought they were awesome. We had gotten ahold of their “Hit the Lights” tape, which was fucking amazing. When I saw them, it was with Ron [McGovney], and Dave Mustaine was playing. I guess we saw the original lineup.
DAVE LOMBARDO From what I remember of that Metallica show, it was brutal. It was metal, like, darker metal than Judas Priest. It had more edge. That’s the best way to describe it.
KERRY KING Seeing Dave play in Metallica was why I was a Mustaine fan before I even played in Megadeth. When that happened, I was flattered that he wanted me in the band for a kid my age. I was like, Wow, I must be doing all right if this guy wants me in a band with him.
Lars, what did you think of Slayer?
LARS ULRICH I remember that there was a Deep Purple cover in their repertoire. I think it was “Highway Star,” which was pretty cool. It’s 1982, you’re in L.A., and basically everything that’s going on at that time has some form of Mötley Crüe type of vibe.
ARAYA We came up with our brand of music, living in L.A., wanting to be against the metal scene there. ’Cause everyone was looking like girls and we wanted to look like men. [Laughs] We developed a style of music that obviously offended a lot of people in L.A. [Laughs]
ULRICH When we saw the Slayer guys, they were obviously doing something that was even more different than some of the other bands that were left of center. And they just took it faster and harder.
The place we played with them was kind of a local hole in the wall, down there in the Orange County suburbs. Obviously at that time, they weren’t “Angel of Death” Slayer yet, but they were on their way, certainly. And you could definitely feel that this was a musical force to be reckoned with.
Metallica moved to San Francisco in 1982 to join up with bassist Cliff Burton. Did you ever run into each other when Slayer gigged up there?
LOMBARDO They came to our show at the Stone [in San Francisco]. I remember Hetfield had a denim jacket or a leather jacket, and it said “Razorback” on it. It was kinda cool. And Lars, we would go out and have sushi and get beers and check out some bands at local venues where we were at.
ULRICH I’ve got a pretty good memory, but it certainly gets a little spotty. I remember a lot of late nights. There was a lot of just, you know, aggressive fun, drunk energy, and nights out. If Dave remembers eating sushi, then I’ll definitely take that. But that one I don’t recall. I’m sure we had a good time doing it. It was probably more about the [Japanese alcoholic beverage] sake than the sushi, if you know what I mean.
Dave, what do you remember about writing music with Metallica at the time?
DAVE MUSTAINE I had always called us, as a group, the “Four Horsemen.” Before I was in Metallica, I really loved this band called Montrose, and their guitarist was Ronnie Montrose. He went on to form a band called Gamma. One of their records [1980’s Gamma 2] had a shark fin cutting through the grass, which I thought was so awesome. Anyway, he had a song on there called “Four Horsemen” that I did with my band Panic, which I was with before Metallica.
So when I joined Metallica, I had the song “Mechanix,” which I wrote, and “Four Horsemen” was a suggestion of mine to do ’cause we were doing cover songs. So that had planted the seed with James. And one day when we were coming to rehearsal, Lars had just said something about slowing down my song, “Mechanix.” I had just gotten to the studio with Cliff, and we had been listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I was being a jerk, so I played “Sweet Home Alabama” instead of “Mechanix,” and that’s basically the middle part of what would become Metallica’s “Four Horsemen.”
To read the rest, get Revolver Presents: The Big Four right here.
Metallica photos by Bill Hale. For more info on his book, which you can buy here, visit his blog and Facebook group. Also, check out the blog for Hale's forthcoming Megadeth book, Megadeth: Another Time, A Different Place.