Some of the leading voices in thrash metal recalled their earliest musical influences in an outtake from the documentary Murder in the Front Row.
Metallica’s James Hetfield names Jeff Beck as in inspiration and his bandmate, Robert Trujillo, talks about Stevie Wonder. Anthrax’s Charlie Benante remembers opera in his house growing up, while Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine talks about the British Invasion and Motown. In the three-minute clip, which will accompany the upcoming home-video release of the film, members of Exodus, Slayer, Testament and many other bands all dig deep on their influences.
The film, which was inspired by a book by photographers Brian Lew and Harald Oimoen, will be available via digital streaming outlets and on DVD on April 24th. It’s available for preorder now. The doc traces the origins of the genre and how San Francisco became its de facto spiritual home.
“The Bay Area in Murder in the Front Row gave focus to the rise of thrash metal because the young people there had a unique front-row seat to the development of the musical style,” the film’s director, Adam Dubin, tells Rolling Stone.
Dubin is best known for documentaries like A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica and the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right to Party” clip. “I had witnessed the growth of the hip-hop scene in New York City at the same time as thrash metal, so I understood the power of a scene and that’s something that I wanted to explore,” he adds.
Dubin says he was pleased, early on in the filmmaking process, when he learned just how interconnected everyone in the scene was. He’s also grateful that Lew and Oimoen had been there to document Metallica’s and Slayer’s first concerts in the Bay Area. When he realized that Metallica moved from Los Angeles to San Francisco and drafted Bay Area native Kirk Hammett as their lead guitarist, he saw how deeply woven everything was.
“I think the biggest surprise was the high-energy interview with Kirk Hammett because I realized how central he was to the development of the music,” Dubin says. “Within six months of first playing in San Francisco, Metallica becomes 50 percent a Bay Area band with Cliff [Burton] and Kirk. That’s no coincidence. That’s the musical hand of fate. And Dave Mustaine puts together Megadeth and immediately plays the Bay Area with Kerry King in the band. It was amazing times.”
Overall, Dubin says he hopes music fans — regardless of whether they’re metalheads — can appreciate the documentary as a musicological deep dive. Much in the way that the artists in the clip talk about getting excited about “Rock Around the Clock” before discovering the Tygers of Pan Tang, he hopes his film shows how a style of music comes into being.
“I feel that Murder in the Front Row is a first-hand look at an important music scene on par with the blues explosion in swinging London in the Sixties or New York City punk in the Seventies,” he says. “The film is musical but also historical.” The recent passing of Cliff Burton’s father Ray, who speaks so eloquently in the film, points up the importance of documenting this amazing history which has had such a wide cultural impact.
“One thing that I noticed when I attended screenings of the movie was that parents who had grown up loving metal music brought their kids as a sort of metal history lesson,” he continues. “That’s a great thing. I hope that people will use Murder in the Front Row as a way of connecting with the music and each other. In a way, that’s what the Bay Area scene was all about.”