Knowing Metallica as the internationally-renowned best-selling behemoths that they are today, it’s easy to forget that they were once just tiny fishes in heavy metal’s giant pond, battling it out against other bands to garner attention.
Just four years after their formation however, it seems that the up-and-coming Californian thrash metallers were already confident of their impact, dubbing themselves “frontrunners” of the underground scene.
In this archive interview, recorded during Day On the Green Festival in Oakland, California on August 31, 1985, a baby-faced Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield discuss their sound, and at one point, are asked to compare themselves to “other hardcore bands” such as Slayer and Megadeth.
Taking the reins of most of the interview, as ever, is drummer Ulrich, who appears more engaged than Hetfield, who seems to be quietly nursing a hangover.
Looking confused and quietly muttering “er, I don’t know” Hetfield hands the question over to Ulrich, who, after mischievously giggling and taking a bite from his apple, answers: “I think a lot of these bands catch on to the clichés that are going on in heavy metal today. We try and shy away from as many of them as we can. And I think some of the other speed metal bands and underground thrash metal bands are just taking in all these clichés, and it just gets so unexciting and uninteresting.
“Plus, I think also from a musical standpoint we have a bit more to offer, just from the point of view that we try to put as much into the music as we can in terms of the song arranging and song writing and tempo changes. And I think we’re also a lot more serious as musicians than most of these other bands”.
Elsewhere in the interview, the pair are posed with the long-winded question: “As one of the leading bands of the underground hardcore metal movement, how do you think the recent success of over ground heavy metal has affected the fortunes of more brash underground bands like yourself?”.
Ulrich, after bulging his eyes at the complexity of the question, answers: “I think in a way its brought more attention to the whole scene in general, I think that the resurgence in metal that took place about two years ago just brought a lot of the underground stuff sort of into the limelight too and we seem to luckily be the frontrunners of that whole underground thing”.
Then, after being questioned: “Why do you think across the board, the faster, young bands are being overlooked?”
Ulrich explains, “I think because a lot of younger bands don’t have really anything too original or new to offer, they just do and repeat things that have really already been done five years ago by other bands. I think we’re a little different as we try to put as much originality and sort of different things into what we do than most other new bands”.
In the next part of the interview, the band are questioned as to whether their recent line-up changes, referring to guitarist Dave Mustaine’s firing in early 1983 and the recruitment of Kirk Hammett, affected their sound. Ulrich scoffs: “There hasn’t really been any major line-up changes since we recorded the first album. There was a bit of reshuffling going on in the beginning before we actually recorded the first album.
“The overall sound hasn’t really changed that much. I think the only thing that changed a bit was when Kirk [Hammett] and Cliff [Burton] joined the band they contributed to the song writing and things which they two other members didn’t in the early days.”
Other points in the discussion include whether there’s any technical ability behind “playing fast”, why they don’t “dress up” on stage, and their approach to playing live.
Playing alongside Metallica at Day On the Green Festival in 1985 were the Scorpions, Ratt, Y&T, Rising Force and Victory, while Wham! and The Pointer Sisters played the festival’s second night.
Watch the full interview below: