The Story of the Big Four: The Clash of the Titans
Kory Grow | Aug 22, 2011 | Comments 15 | Tags: Anthrax, Big Four, Big Four Weeks, Charlie Benante, James Hetfield, Jeff Hanneman, Kerry King, Kory Grow, Lars Ulrich, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, Tom Araya
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 Metallica burst into superstardom and what continued to unite the four bands after that. The excerpt features interviews with Anthrax’s Charlie Benantie, Slayer’s Kerry King and Tom Araya, and Metallica’s Lars Ulrich. So, without further ado, here is the inside story.
REVOLVER Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax toured together on the Clash of the Titans tour in 1991. Up until last year, that was the closest people got to seeing the Big Four together.
CHARLIE BENANTE Throughout the ’80s, the Big Four title remained with all the bands. And then somewhere in the ’90s, one of the Big Four became huge. There was really no more Big Four. It was like your older brother went to college and became Bill Gates. [Laughs] “Make sure you write sometimes please.” And that was it. No longer was there really the Big Four. Metallica was this thing unto itself. They were this huge entity.
When you have a record like the “Black Album,” when something is like Back in Black or Dark Side of the Moon, that’s it. That’s it, you know, goodbye. You don’t need anything else. You’re set. So while all of us still had success, you know, I guess that time was done.
KERRY KING I think we rose to prominence at the same time. And three of us were on Clash of the Titans—Metallica didn’t need us. They don’t need us now. I think it’s just the cool factor of the four bands going together. It’s real similar to ’91, when we did Clash of the Titans, ’cause I remember the three of us joined together, and I knew Metallica wouldn’t be a part of it ’cause they didn’t need us. They’re on the “Black Record,” man, they were jettisoning themselves to superstardom. And now, they’re still superstars and the three of us can band together like we did on the first U.S. run, but I think the cool factor of all four being together is the enticing thing.
What is it that you feel unifies the bands as the Big Four? Just growing up together at the same time?
LARS ULRICH Growing up together—that’s a lot. [Laughs] That’s a lot to begin with. I think that obviously. Also, it never really dawned upon me, and I think it was Mustaine who said at some point last year that it may just be that these four bands are four of the biggest of the latter-day hard-rock bands coming out of America. In terms of the real hard-rock stuff. I never really thought of it as an American thing, but I think he’s right about that.
KING Yeah, I remember Mustaine saying something like, “We’re the four biggest metal bands from the U.S.” I never even considered that. And I went, Wow, that’s pretty cool. I’d throw Pantera in there, too. But just even to be in that statement, I kind of read it and went, No shit.
We’re pretty unassuming guys, the crew I roll with. We don’t think of our legacy. I only think about stuff like this when journalists and people bring it up. And it’s the same kind of thing, when Dave made that statement. It was like, Wow, I never thought of that. It’s really cool.
TOM ARAYA One thing that unifies us is we’re a lot like our fans. As people, we’re fans of the music as it is. I know I’m in Slayer, but I’m a big fan of the band Slayer. Whenever we work on new material I always have to take a step back and listen to it as a fan and go, like, Wow this is fucking awesome. [Laughs] That’s something that we’ve always done. It would be safe to assume that all four bands do that. That they sit there and they listen, and they think, OK, you know, I’m a fan. You have to like what you do, and if you’re a true fan, you’re always gonna be on the mark ’cause you’re a fan just like all your fans.
ULRICH Obviously, we all come in one way or another from the same musical seeds, the generation before us—the Judas Priests, and the Iron Maidens, and the Motörheads, and the Saxons and so on. They were a group of bands. We were the next round of bands that certainly had one thing in common: that we were all influenced and inspired by the Judas Priests, the Iron Maidens, the Motörheads, the Saxons, the Diamond Heads, the list goes on obviously. So that’s all. And obviously we had a lot of crossover. We were playing shows with Slayer back in ’82 in L.A. Megadeth came out of the whole thing that happened with Metallica in ’83, and Anthrax kind of became our partners in crime and our brothers in arms when we were out in New York. We all came from the same seeds.
To read the rest, get Revolver Presents: The Big Four right here.
Ian, Mustaine, and Araya Pic: Neil Zlozower
Slayer in 1990: M. Temme