ROBERT TRUJILLO Recalls METALLICA Audition: 'I Was Brain Dead'
January 3, 2016
Robert Trujillo spoke to the "WTF With Marc Maron" podcast about his 2003 audition to replace METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted, as captured in the 2004 band documentary "Some Kind Of Monster". He said (hear audio below): "It was a very surreal day for me. But when you get a gig like that, it's so… strange. Really, strange is the word. Because I remember going up there. I was late. I was always late back then."
He continued: "I'll tell you a quick story about the audition. Basically, it was a two-day audition. The first day of the audition, I was kind of just there to be a fly on the wall. [Producer] Bob Rock's there. The bass [for METALLICA's 'St. Anger' album] had already been recorded; Bob Rock recorded the bass. So I'm just hanging around. And Lars [Ulrich, METALLICA drummer] and James [Hetfield, METALLICA frontman] and Kirk [Hammett, METALLICA guitarist] kind of live in this bubble. They were just, like, 'Yeah, make yourself at home. Just hang out.' And I was just kind of hanging out in this big complex up north [in the Bay Area]. And I'm kind of lost, because no one's really completely communicating with me, and I'm just there. And, okay. So [they tell me], 'Come on in the control room,' and I'm just there. They're cutting tracks. And that's it; hanging around. Eleven o'clock rolls around at night, and Lars... We're in the parking lot. We're the last ones leaving. And Lars says, 'Hey, man, let's go get a drink. Let's go get a nightcap.' So I'm, like, 'All right.' And we go to the first bar, have a couple of cocktails, we go to the second bar, have a few more, go to the third bar. Then we end up at his house for more cocktails. By this time, it's five in the morning. I can't even drive to where I'm staying; it's impossible. And he even says, 'Here, crash out in my guest room.' So, at nine in the morning, four hours later, he's on the treadmill, this guy, and it's like he doesn't know me anymore. He's already sobered up. And he's on the treadmill. And I've got this crazy headache. And then he's, like, 'All right. Let's go. Let's go to the studio.' And I'm driving behind him. I couldn't even keep my eyes open. I get to the studio.
He went on to say: "This is when [the members of METALLICA] were going through this sort of therapy thing, [with] this guy Phil Towle, who was… what do they call it? Kind of a life coach, kind of a motivator, which was, at the time, I guess, good for the band, but I wasn't used to that. Here I am with a pounding headache. James has just gone through this whole thing where, of course, he's sober, and the last person he wants to see anywhere near his band is a drunk Mexican. That would be me. So I'm sitting at the table, and I've got the worst headache, [I'm] completely hung over. And I'm thinking, 'Lars did this to me, 'cause he was checking me out, to see if I could hang with him.' It was [a test]; it had to have been. He's a Viking, really. I'd go into the bathroom. I was throwing water on my face, slapping it, going, 'Oh, man, you've gotta… Hang in there. Hang in there.' 'Cause I really wanted to say, 'I can't do this right now, guys. I don't feel good. I really can't do this.'"
Trujillo added: "I stuck it out. I knew the tech, the bass tech, from back when SUICIDIAL TENDENCIES was touring with METALLICA, which would have been in 1993 on the 'Black Album.' So, Zach Harmon, who is now still my bass tech. I didn't have a bass, so [I went], 'Let's go grab a bass. Let's choose the amp setup.' So I kind of used that as my way to get out of this hangover situation."
Despite the fact that he was in no shape to perform to his usual standards, the audition went remarkably well. "We played 'Battery', and I think it helped me not be nervous," he recalled. "And that's what you see in the film, and everybody seems to think it was pretty slamming. But other than that, I was brain dead. If I could play, I was fine. But in communicating with Hetfield, 'cause he would come over to me and ask me questions, and I would come up with really stupid answers, because, literally, I was not all there."
He added: "When I watch 'Some Kind Of Monster', I see myself wearing this brown Armani t-shirt, which I would never own in my life. You know why? 'Cause it's not mine. It's Lars's. His wife at the time, Skylar, gave me that shirt, because the one I'd been wearing, which was probably pretty funky, was not happening."
Asked about the differences in the way he had to approach the material originally recorded by Newsted compared to the songs that were laid down by METALLICA's late bassist Cliff Burton, Trujillo previously told the "Talk Is Jericho" podcast: "A lot of the stuff that Bob Rock produced was a bit more… Obviously, groove is very, very important on those songs, like 'Black Album' songs. But then just really keeping it fairly simple in that style. With Cliff, we're talking about a little bit more aggro, but tight. So they are different styles. I still play with my fingers, even on the 'Black Album' material. But the great thing about… What I can say I'm pretty proud of being in METALLICA these years is being able to play, like, the 'Black Album' in its entirety — songs that were never played live: 'The Struggle Within'. There was about three songs on that album [that had never been played live]. And even 'Orion'… We play 'Orion' a lot now; it's kind of an active song in the set. And that was a song that hadn't really been played years before. And 'Dyers Eve', off the '…And Justice For All' album, that was a song that had never been played live as well. So the fact that, here we were, age 50, and we're attacking songs that hadn't been attacked… And in a lot of ways, I feel that that challenges us, and it actually makes this unit a better band."