PRIMUS bassist/frontman Les Claypool recently sat down with the good folks over at Kerrang! magazine about that time he auditioned for METALLICA after the September 1986 death of bassist, Cliff Burton.
When Les was asked about the validity of METALLICA frontman James Hetfield saying to Claypool that he was “much too talented” and to “go do something wonderfully weird on your own,” the bassist responded: “He definitely did not say that. He said that later on in an interview, which was very kind of him. I think they thought I was a freak. They were very nice — Lars [Ulrich, drums] was particularly kind — and, of course, I knew Kirk [Hammett, guitar] from high school. But I think that James thought I was some sort of thug. Put it this way, I definitely didn’t look the part.”
According to Les, he “wasn’t really into metal at the time” of his METALLICA audition. “I just knew that it was my buddy Kirk’s band and that they were doing really well,” he said. “It wasn’t until the audition that I got a sense of what was really going on. It was a bit of a heavy thing, the audition, and I didn’t realize until I got there that it was kind of a big deal. Afterwards I fantasized about quitting my carpentry job and touring Japan with them, but I didn’t get the gig.”
Les was also asked what he thought METALLICA would have sounded like with him as the band’s bassist, to which he replied: “Well, however it would have sounded, I would have only lasted for a month or two before they kicked me out. They’ve got enough chefs in the kitchen in that band — they don’t need a guy like me. And the guy they have right now is unbelievable. Robert Trujillo is one of the nicest and sweetest guys I’ve ever met in the industry, and his playing is unbelievable.”
On the METALLICA VH1 “Behind The Music”, Hetfield said Les was not given the gig as the band’s bassist because “he was too good” and that Claypool “should do his own thing.”
Claypool later commented to Citypages about Hetfield’s comments, saying: “I’d say, that’s an untrue story. I mean, James said on VH1 ‘Behind The Music’ that I was just too good, but ah, he and I were hanging out quite a bit during that time when they did the VH1 interview. And I said, ‘What the hell are you guys talking about? You didn’t want me. You thought I was a freak!’ And he just laughed. Ya know, I showed up with a bleach blonde mohawk and wearing baggy skater pants, and two different colored tennis shoes. They were all in black with tight pants and the whole bit… But they have a great guy now; they’ve got Robert Trujillo, who’s one of the nicest guys in the business.”
As for the gig – as most of us know – that job would be awarded to FLOTSAM & JETSAM bassist Jason Newsted, who remained in the band until 2001. Robert Trujillo, who joined in 2003, remains the band’s current bass player.