On September 14th, metalheads from across the East Coast will be converging on the Bronx as Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax – The Big 4 of thrash metal – play their second ever US date together. This historical show will be at the new Yankee Stadium, only the third concert to be held there after last year’s Eminem/Jay Z show and June’s Paul McCartney two night stand. The Hard Rock Examiner is speaking with a member of each of the four bands, as we here in New York anticipate the heavy metal show of the decade. Read parts 1 & 2 with Charlie Benante and Chris Broderick, and be sure to return for full coverage of the concert itself.
Examiner: Hi Tom, thanks for speaking with me today. How have you been this summer?
Tom: Hot! It’s been like 109, 110 for the past 40, 50 days or so. Other than that, it’s been good!
Examiner: How’s your neck?
Tom: It’s good. It was a successful operation, so the results were really, really good.
Examiner: I know you can’t headbang while playing live anymore, but has it affected your playing in any other way?
Tom: No, it hasn’t affected my playing at all. Actually if anything I’m playing, performing better. They fused three of my vertebrae together, so yeah, no headbanging.
Examiner: So we’re less than a month away from the Big 4 at Yankee Stadium here in New York City. Are these Big 4 shows, whether the ones here in the US or the European ones, any different from any other Slayer concert from your perspective? Do you have to prepare or play any differently?
Tom: Well, we’re talking about four groups that have been around for 30 years, to some extent, and it’s a gathering of four tribes, you know what I mean? To me it’s pretty special and it says a lot about the music that the four bands created and we’re a part of, that we’ve lasted this long and to some extend are still going strong.
Examiner: Are the shows themselves, the setlists, the production, any different from a regular Slayer show?
Tom: Well you know what it is? It’s a competitive edge, everyone wants to outdo the other band. And so the result is you get four bands playing really, really good trying to outdo each other. To me it’s more of a friendly competitiveness… Whether they want to admit it or not, we all want to go out there and beat the other bands. But I think it is special, because as a fan of this music, I’ve always wanted to see these four bands play together. We tried to do this in ‘90 with Clash of the Titans, so it’s a very special thing.
Examiner: Which has been your favorite Big 4 show so far?
Tom: I guess the special one would be the first one, the very first show we did as Big 4, which ended up being very massive. It was in Poland. It surpassed the promoter’s expectations, you’re talking about over 80,000, 90,000 people. It surpassed everybody’s expectations, even the bands. It just blew our minds, like wow. And then every show since has been awesome. The crowd response has been really, really good everywhere we’ve gone. We did a tour in South America, and everybody in South America wanted to know if it was coming to their country. It surpassed all expectations, I know if it were to continue and they decided okay, let’s do a couple of shows here in South America or let’s do a couple of shows elsewhere, like Australia is asking. When we were in Australia they were asking if the Big 4 are going to come here. Everybody wants to see it, everybody wants to be a part of it. Everybody wants to experience it, so that has made me aware that it is such a special thing.
Examiner: What do you think of the venue itself? A lot of people are surprised that they picked a mostly seated venue, as opposed to the west coast show which was all general admission.
Tom: Do you want to know my impression of Yankee Stadium? The same way I felt about playing at Madison Square Garden. In 1990, when we did the Clash of the Titans, we played at Madison Square Garden. And it has a history. I was very familiar with Madison Square Garden, everybody played the Garden. Or everyone big has done it. So that really meant a lot to me. Yankee Stadium is the same way to me. We’re going to play Yankee Stadium. How many people can say that? Not many. So we’re a part of that Yankee Stadium club, only a few members.
Examiner: In the new Yankee Stadium, so far it’s only been Eminem, Jay-Z, and Paul McCartney. How do you feel about being in that company.
Tom: Really, really good.
Examiner: Are you a baseball fan at all?
Tom: No, I’m not a fan of baseball. But it’s huge, it’s just massive. The fact that we’re going to be able to play in such a massive place, and we’re doing it with Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax. That says a lot about metal, it says a lot of what we’ve done as a genre of music.
Examiner: I know Kerry is coming in to New York a couple of days before the show to do a clinic, will you be coming in early as well? (For more on the free Big 4 clinic, click here)
Tom: No, I’ll probably come in, depending on schedules, the day before the show. Or if not, two days prior to the show. But no, I’m just going to come in and do the show, I don’t have any special plans or appearances to make.
Examiner: When you play a city, do you look forward to hanging or sightseeing, or do you just get in and out?
Tom: Whenever we’re doing a show in the city, I prefer to just come in and out, because when you’re out and everybody knows you’re in town, everybody’s looking for you. I guess I’m somewhat of a private person, and I like it when no one knows I’m there. I would prefer to walk the streets without a million – it’s not a million, but to me it feels like a million people. There might be ten people that recognize me in a given day, but for me that’s too many. I would prefer to be a private guy, whenever I go into town I would prefer that Slayer wasn’t doing a show and no one would be looking for me. I always wonder if my life was like Michael Jackson’s, where everywhere I go people are always hounding me, I understand how people end being reclusive. I think I would end up being that way, I wouldn’t want to go out because I wouldn’t have to deal with that. And it’s not that I hate the fans, it’s just that I don’t need that, you know what I mean? Some people need that, but I don’t, I need my privacy, I would like it if I could go somewhere and be invisible. It’s bad enough my life consists of living in a fish bowl when I’m out on tour, I don’t want to be in that fishbowl when I’m living my life.
Examiner: Take me through the evolution of the Big 4 tour. When did you first realize there was something involving Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica and Anthrax in the works?
Tom: I don’t know when that was, exactly. But it was something that I always thought would be a great package, I’m a big fan of the music and what we do. Like I said, we tried doing it for the Clash of the Titans in 1990, so it’s always been something in the back of my head, and when our manager called to say “Hey, Metallica is thinking of doing a one-off,” that ended up being more than just a one-off. I think we did seven shows the first time we did this. I was excited, this is like a dream. Like they have a football dream team, a basketball dream team, this was like every metalhead’s dream concert, in my opinion. A lot of people wanted to see this, a lot of people still do. When I got wind of this, I thought “About f*cking time!” That was my only response. “Damn, it took so long!”
Examiner: Do you agree that these are the main founding bands of thrash metal, or do you think there are any other bands that should be included?
Tom: I think there are other bands that probably are a part of this, but these are the four that stood out in the very beginning. There’s the first generation, which would be us, I guess, and another, then a third. There are other bands, in my opinion, that would have a big part in this, but we’re the first generation and that’s the way I would look at it.
Examiner: Slayer is kind of the standout band in this group – you guys have never tried to do radio songs, or soften your sound like the other bands. Do you feel you bring something unique to these Big 4 shows?
Tom: Yeah, like you said, we’re the only ones out of the four that never really had a radio hit. We became a part of radio because radio added a metal hour, and that’s how we were able to make it on the radio. I think out of all the bands, we hit the radio waves because of Metal Shop, or Metal Shop Hour, and that was the reason why we made it on the radio. Not because of our hit songs, or our love songs, or our slow melodic songs. The one hour a week, for that one hour a month.
Examiner: Can you name your favorite Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax songs?
Tom: Meh. I like the first three Metallica albums, Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets.
Examiner: Do you have a favorite song off of those though?
Tom: I guess Battery would be one of them. Anthrax, I’m familiar with some of them but I don’t really have a favorite tune. Anthrax is more on a personal level, they’re all great guys and I get along with them on a personal, human level, and they got great songs, but they’re more on a personal level they’re good guys. As for the Megadeth dudes, I’ve gotten to know the new drummer and guitar player (watch my recent interview with Megadeth lead guitarist Chris Broderick by clicking here), they’re really nice guys. I’ve had a going relationship with David Ellefson, who is also a really nice guy, and I’ve gotten to know him. And, Mustaine… well. (laughter). So I guess Peace Sells is my favorite song. And the Metallica guys, I’ve kind of gotten to know them, Robert is an old friend from Suicidal Tendencies, who hasn’t changed at all, and he’s a really sweet guy. The opportunity to play, and to get to know them, is really good and I’m just glad it finally happened.
Examiner: Everyone loves these group jams at the end of the Big 4 shows, I know Slayer has missed some of them, with scheduling issues or rehearsal issues. Is there any song you’d really want to play on the group jam?
Tom: They sent us a list of songs, but I don’t know. I’m not really into that. If they were to do The Four Horsemen, I’d be on it. It’s very representative of the four bands, in my opinion.
Examiner: Are there any cover songs you’d be more interested in?
Tom: Um, no. There’s four or five they sent us, they’re great songs, but to me they don’t really represent the four bands put together.
Examiner: I always loved the Slayer cover of In A Gadda Da Vida.
Tom: No, I don’t think so. No, no. But they do Am I Evil, it’s an okay song. A song called So What, Overkill by Motorhead…
Examiner: I read that James doesn’t like to do So What anymore, because there’s a lot of cursing and his kids are at the shows. I don’t know if that’s true or not.
Tom: There might be some truth to that, but that was one of the songs they have. There were five on the list, four or five songs that they sent out, with lyric sheets so we would all have them. But to me, Four Horsemen is very representative of the four bands themselves, we’re the four bands of the apocalypse.
Examiner: So this whole Big 4 has been rumored and hyped for like 3 years now, as the biggest thing in metal. Do you think there’s anything any metal bands can do to top this in the future?
Tom: Oh yeah, I think there will be. I think that it’s a part of the genre we created, like… when we did the Coachella show here in California, the weekend before was a weekend of radio type bands and music. And the weekend after was a country music weekend. And I think it goes to show you can hold a three day event, like they do in Europe, a three day metal festival. You can probably do it in America. And they have a tremendous reaction, a draw for people to come out and enjoy themselves. I just think it speaks loudly to promoters, to agents, that metal can do what everything else does, which is draw people for a weekend event. Like three, four days.
Examiner: Any bands in particular?
Tom: Sure! You can include Slipknot, In Flames. Meshuggah. Machinehad, Cannibal Corpse, Sepultura. Bands from other countries that have made a name for themselves, all over the globe. Standout bands, there’s really a lot of them, that have stuck to their guns and been around for the past 20, 25 years. Testament’s another one. They’ve dealt with the hardships that come with being in a band, and they’ve stuck them out. It would make for a massive show. Older bands, like Maiden and Judas Priest. People would go see that. I’m sure there’s a lot of people who say “Oh they’re history.” No they’re not, they made history. They’re a part of history.
The Big 4 show is now only two weeks away and tickets are still available! As always, stay in the loop with the Hard Rock Examiner for further information on tickets on-sales and all local rock and heavy metal news by subscribing at the top of this page, or follow me at twitter.com/NYROCKEXAMINER.