Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo recalled a tense backstage exchange with frontman James Hetfield, saying the moment was an illustration of how easy it can be to lose composure in a band environment.
The incident took place a few years ago while they were warming up for a concert in Italy. Trujillo had been asked to perform a bass solo, which was already making him feel tense, and he was also under pressure to deliver one of his popular jams with Kirk Hammett, in which the pair cover music usually with a local connection.
Meanwhile, Hetfield had his own concerns. “Poor guy, he got stung by a bee in his face, I think it was,” Trujillo said in a recent episode of The Ex-Man with Doc Coyle. “I don’t think he’s allergic, but there was poison oak [rash] going on. So your face is hurting, your body’s itching.”
Things came to a head while the band ran through “The Memory Remains” in their dressing room before the show. “I had a lot in my head,” Trujillo recalled. “Kirk and I were doing these duets and I’m singing in other languages. And Lars threw, like, ‘Do a bass solo,’ kind of a day before. And I’m just, like… I’m tense. And [Hetfield is] tense too, but we’re tense about different things. And we’re going on stage very soon and things are running late.”
Trujillo admitted he wasn’t giving the rehearsal his “full intensity,” adding: “I’m just kind of ghosting it a little bit. And he’s, like, ‘You know the song?’’And this is a song we’ve played thousands of times. And I was insulted, because this is one of the easiest songs we play, and you’re asking me if I know the song? So I’m just kind of, like, ‘Yeah, I know the fucking…’ I blew a fuse for a second. And then I felt horrible, and he felt horrible. And then we realized, I think, that I’m tripping on the load that I have on my shoulders over here… he’s tripping on this and this.”
Trujillo reported that, as soon as the realization had taken place, the bandmates resolved the issue. “Rather than throwing your instruments down and coming to blows or anything like that, you work it out… Even in our situation things like that can happen. And it’s just the nature of the beast. We’re all individuals and we all have our moments.”
The bassist concluded with a piece of advice to fellow musicians. “Word to the wise: always maintain your composure,” Trujillo declared. “You’re in a band; that’s cool. But it’s about the relationship and being the best you can be – the best human you can be, the best brother, the best comrade. And that’s very important to everything here.”
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