By Rya Backer
Metalheads of the world, rejoice! Today is the day that one of the greatest metal bands of all time — and certainly the greatest to arise in the past 25 years — has finally gotten its due. Bay Area legends Metallica are headlining the new class of Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inductees.
The band’s first full-length — Kill ‘Em All, released on then-tiny indie Megaforce Records in 1983 — came out just over 25 years ago, which means they’ve been inducted in the first year of their eligibility. There, they’ll be rubbing shoulders with the likes of such sonic standards as Jimi Hendrix, Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, Madonna and (er) Michael Jackson.
MTV has long kept close tabs on the band, and I just screened a fair amount of their interview footage throughout the ’80s, particularly 1986, when bassist Cliff Burton was killed in a tour-bus accident. In one interview, drummer Lars Ulrich makes fun of bands that wear eyeliner (I wonder if 23-year-old Lars ever thought he’d make a video like the one for “Until It Sleeps”); in another, the band talks about the hazing process for then-new bassist Jason Newsted, which the band discussed ad nauseum in their therapeutic flick, “Some Kind of Monster.” The guys also humbly discussed their newfound success.
We sat down with them around the time they first cracked the Top 30 and earned a gold record in 1986 with their classic Master of Puppets. Reaching such heights on the charts was a coup for the quartet, as they crawled out of the American metal metal underground without a fancy image, major radio support or a music video to play on, er, MTV.
Despite that success, guitarists James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett remained calm while discussing their new status. And Ulrich discussed the future of Metallica during a phone interview with a radio DJ in Babylon, Long Island — in the somehow-perfect setting of a wood-paneled room covered with posters of assorted metal bands. Enjoy!