Metal Blade CEO: What Was Metallica Like When James Hetfield Was Just Singing & Not Playing Guitar

"Mustaine was doing all the talking at all those early gigs, Hetfield didn't really say anything."

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Metal Blade CEO: What Was Metallica Like When James Hetfield Was Just Singing & Not Playing Guitar

Metal Blade founder and CEO Brian Slagel - the first man ever to sign Metallica - talked about the very early days of the metal giants, saying on Let There Be Talk (transcribed by UG):

"I missed the very first show they played, but the second show was [with Saxon] - Hetfield was just singing.

"I think they did maybe one more gig after that with him doing that. Then he put on a guitar, and they had dueling guitars.

"The funny thing is, he was insanely shy back then.

"Mustaine was doing all the talking at all those early gigs, Hetfield didn't really say anything.

"He obviously played guitar and wrote all the songs and everything, so it was kinda weird that he did that.

"I can't remember what their reasoning was, but it wasn't long until he was like, 'Give me a guitar while I'm doing this.'

"He only sang because they didn't have a singer. When they did the demo, it's like, Lars played the drums and James did everything else, so he de facto became the singer.

"The famous story is how the only band they kind of jived with in LA was Armoured Saint. They did gigs together and hung out with them.

"And they were always on [singer] John Bush, 'Hey, come on, join our band!' And he was like, 'No, I'm gonna stay with my buddies.'

"It still is crazy to me when you sit and think about it for two seconds.

"Lars and I had a moment at the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame when they got inducted - he looked at me and went, 'How the hell did this whole thing happen?'

"It's so bizarre, because we were friends before, just two 16-18-year-old kids back in the day. Who would have ever thought both of us would have long careers in the music industry?It's pretty mind-boggling when you think about it.

"It didn't really register to me that this was something real until they opened for Ozzy.

"Consistently destroying Ozzy every single night. Like 'Wow, this is something really big now.' That was when I was like, 'This is officially the change of the guard, this band is gonna be massive after that tour.'

"The record was just so good. It's really bizarre. And they did it without radio play, without MTV play, they just did it as being a super heavy band at that point."

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19 comments sorted by best / new / date

    It's crazy to think that the greatest frontman ever used to be such a shy kid.
    Well, from the sounds of it he had a messed up childhood and the touring musician life let him come out of his shell. He still seems somewhat reclusive as an adult. 
    Way Cool JR.
    I think that's just how it works for some artists.  Michael Jackson was always extremely shy and he was one of the greatest live performers ever.  
    Imagine if he'd never played guitar for Metallica. The riffs.. Metallica wouldn't have been nearly what it is today
    I think he still played and wrote the guitar parts though, just not live.
    that demo is really fucking good. should have used that artwork from their first album
    Weybl Himself
    You might be literally the only person who thinks that. I reckon that artwork is just awful. So cheesy it's messing with my lactose intolerance.
    I love all of their early artwork. Especially the old EPs from Japan with the Kill em All demon. Good stuff.
    I still want a Metallica album with Bush on vocals
    You have the 30th anniversary performance where Bush is singing on 4 horsemen.
    Seen it just made me want to hear Enter Sandman, Dyers Eve, Disposable Heroes, 2×4, Spit Out The Bone....he would be amazing in this band....fucking wishlist wtevs