Everyone's favourite heavy metal soap opera in the business of Anger
A note to aspiring members of Metallica: You aren’t joining a band, you’re becoming part of a corporation. You belong to us, bitch.
Metallica’s newest member, bassist Robert Trujillo, offers this advice with tongue planted firmly in cheek, and not without the requisite glee of becoming a part of one of the biggest bands on earth.
"It’s an amazing challenge," Trujillo says from the St. Louis stop on the band’s 34-date, North American leg of its Madly in Anger With the World tour. "The press load, the photos, the meetings, the DVD recordings. It’s like going to the best college of music, business and everything else, all at once."
A veteran of California’s punk scene who got his start with Suicidal Tendencies in the 1980s, Trujillo brings a certain SoCal punk flair to a band once defined by its tight jeans and horrendous, man-I-need-to-get-laid haircuts. He stalks the stage like some proto-simian warrior, his bass less of an instrument than an extension of his aggression. He is comparably less intense offstage, and laughs out loud about the Spinal Tap nature of the band’s revolving bass players.
Metallica’s founding bassist, the mighty Cliff Burton, was killed in a tour bus accident in 1986. Jason Newsted left in 2002 after a less-than-metal bitch fest with singer James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich. The band went without a permanent player while recording 2003′s St. Anger, choosing instead to use producer Bob Rock.
During the time between Newsted’s tumultuous departure and Trujillo’s ascendance to the job, the band continued to fight music file sharing (sorry, Lars – "online piracy"), almost broke up over Hetfield’s near-murderous booze affliction, went to group therapy together, had several books written about them, and had the whole thing filmed by a documentary crew.
"Down the Metallica food chain, you have me, the bassist," Trujillo says. "It took them a while to finally break down and get a bass player."
The most recent book, the Random House-published So What! The Good, the Mad and the Ugly, is only the latest example of the band’s self-indulgence. It documents Metallica’s history through the ages in the kind of detail usually reserved for obsessed Beatles fans. If you want to read two-and-a-half dozen interviews with guitarist Kirk Hammett, or own a photo spread of Lars hamming around with a large trout, by all means spend the $39.95.
As Metallica’s newest member then, Trujillo’s life is with a band that not only recorded one of the more rage-infused albums of last year, but also gets pilloried on shows like South Park, which famously put down drummer Ulrich for being a money-grubbing, tennis-playing moron. ("That was hilarious, I thought," Trujillo says. "I’m not sure he did.")
Of course, he isn’t complaining. After all, the guy gets to go out and play some of his favourite tunes just about every night. "It’s like a huge machine fuelled by the big business aspect. At the same time, there’s this independent thing where we do whatever the hell we want. It’s amazing.
"All this, and great music," Trujillo says, before laughing at that Spinal Tap thing again.
And Godsmack at the Bell Centre, Oct. 4