In the book, you talk a lot about the sense of community that was going on at that time, how close-knit it was among the scene and how everyone gained friends and all. How do you think that’s changed over the years? Has it eroded at all?
The Bay Area is still the Bay Area. To be honest, I still go to a lot of metal shows locally. There’s a lot of kids and the vibe is still the same. I get the sense that most of the kids going to shows still are there for the music. It’s not like a hipster, indie rock show where I think a lot of people going to see certain bands are just there just to be there. I still get the sense that at most underground metal shows, the kids are there for the music. Then again, I think it’s the nature of the world we live in. Everybody is connected by the internet, so I don’t really know if the scene is that local anymore.
I can only speak from when I was growing up, but you had to leave the house to be a part of the scene. You went to the record store. In San Francisco, there was a store called The Record Vault and that was basically the epicenter for the Bay Area metal scene. It wasn’t just a record store that carried metal records—the owners were fans. They were huge Motörhead fans. They would make bootleg shirts of all the underground European bands we were reading about. It was like a clubhouse more than a record store. Before shows in San Francisco, we’d go to The Record Vault to meet up with our friends since we weren’t old enough to go to bars. That sense of community and just having face time with people at that time, that’s what built that sense of community.
Fast forward to now and this past Sunday we had our first author event for Murder with Harald and I. We had it at this little bookstore in Oakland. It was posted on Facebook and the usual ways you advertise now. We didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be, for one afternoon, just like the old days. All these old friends who we hadn’t seen in a long time came and brought their kids who are into metal now. There were people there who just wanted the book or just liked the book. For one afternoon, that community vibe from the old scene was really alive.
If you go on the Murder In The Front Row Facebook page, there’s a bunch of photos posted from it. I think you can get the sense of the vibe. The sense of community was there. I can only speak for the Bay Area, but I think on a certain level, it is still there. As long as the kids aren’t just sitting in their rooms on chat boards talking about these bands and actually going out and meeting each other and getting that sense of community face-to-face. I think a metal scene can be like that again.
There’s a real sense of history when you read the stories in this book and when you look at these photos. It obviously wasn’t in your thoughts then, but how do you feel when you look at those photos now? Are you able to detach yourself from the whole thing at all?
Personally, I think working on this project really did allow me to step back. A lot of Harald’s photos have been used in places and are somewhat iconic, especially his older Metallica ones, but as far as my photos, they’ve been around my life for so long where there was a good number of years where I really didn’t care about that time in my life. Life moves on, I got into other types of music and the negatives just sat in a shoebox for many years.
When this project started, one of the big things was Bazillion Points rented out a photography facility here in San Francisco and basically spent a week with Ian Christie scanning all of our negatives. Harold brought as many negatives as he had, I brought all of my negatives and a lot of the negatives, I had forgotten about. Most of my shots I’d only seen on 4×6 or 3×5 prints that had been done at Walgreens or whatever. I never had them professionally scanned or printed or anything. We were scanning on a $30,000 professional scanner and then they were pulled up onto a high definition screen, and I have to say it was like seeing a lot of the photos for the first time. There’s photos in the book that I took at Cliff Burton’s [late bassist of Metallica] first rehearsal and Cliff Burton’s first show.
Not that I took them for granted, but I think I told my wife, these always felt like family photos that you’ve seen all your life since you were a kid and you’ve seen them so many times, they’re just familiar—you kind of forget the meaning behind them. It was really cool to see my photos [in that way] for the first time and get that appreciation again. As we started putting the book together and it started to take a form and the narrative sort of took shape, I really was able to look at it. That was one thing, too, during the editing process I tried to look at the book as someone who had never seen this stuff before. I got a whole new appreciation for what is there for sure.
The readers of our website and our magazine are obviously a lot younger and don’t remember this scene at all or maybe don’t know enough about it. Pretend you were talking to them instead of me and explain to them why this scene matters how it paved the way for so many other bands that are around today that they’re probably into and recognize.
The early thrash scene, at least in San Francisco, took a lot of its inspiration from these European bands including Motörhead, Iron Maiden, even Def Leppard at the time before they became the big radio MTV band, they were very much an underground metal band and would be spoken in the same breath as Iron Maiden. That early English/European scene inspired bands like Slayer and Metallica and Megadeth. That’s sort of the period where this book takes place—that first wave of Bay Area American bands. In our case, it was Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, and Exodus. Exodus are kind of one of the unsung heroes of that early scene in that they never really quite got there, but then again they’re still around today. That early scene went from that local scene and later in the mid to late ‘80s it became the thrash metal scene where it got the most popularity and recognition with bands like Anthrax.
Everybody has their opinion, but out of the thrash scene you could say grunge came out of it. As far as Seattle goes, having known some of the original Seattle bands–I know a lot of those guys. Even though punk is always this aesthetic that grunge is compared to, a lot of those guys were metal eads before they became punks. I’m friends with Dale Crover [of Melvins] and he told me how Kurt Cobain saw Metallica on the Ride The Lightning tour in Seattle. Those guys started in metal and punk [and that] turned into thrash, so that was the crossover and out of that probably came grunge. Fast forward and Possessed started in the Bay Area and they were one of the first death metal bands and they became really influential to the Norwegian and Scandinavian bands.
Another band [with whom] I don’t think the connection is really made is Primus came out of the Bay Area thrash scene because Larry LaLonde was in Possessed, Les Claypool was in a band called Blind Illusion who were more proggy, but they played a lot of shows with the thrash bands. They both went on to form Primus and Primus went on to influence many bands in that genre and alternative music and everything.
Out of the thrash scene, I think you can say the influence extends from Metallica to where they are now considered the biggest metal band and then all the way down to Primus and Faith No More. As far as the Bay Area goes, you can trace it back to those early ‘80s days. Then there’s this resurgence of new bands from all over that emulate the old thrash aesthetic now with bands like Warbringer and some of those bands. alt