Les Claypool Says Metallica Would Have Fired Him After a Month
Primus leader Les Claypool said Metallica would have fired him after a few weeks if he’d been hired by the band in 1986.
A school friend of guitarist Kirk Hammett, Claypool tried out as Cliff Burton’s replacement after the tour-bus tragedy that killed the bassist. But in a recent interview with Kerrang!, Claypool admitted he didn't realize what he was getting into until he arrived for the audition.
“However it would have sounded, I would have only lasted for a month or two before they kicked me out,” he said. “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.”
Asked if he seriously wanted to join Metallica, Claypool replied: “To be honest, I wasn’t really into metal at the time. I just knew that it was my buddy Kirk’s band and that they were doing really well. 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.”
Claypool recalled how he and Hammett used to talk about forming a band during algebra classes. “He would show me pictures of what he hoped would be his future guitar, which was a Fender Telecaster," he noted. "He was always talking about how he was gonna have this band and that he wanted me to sing for them. …The reason he wanted me to sing was because I was always rattling off tunes, but I was actually too embarrassed to sing in a real band.”
It’s been reported that, immediately after the audition, James Hetfield told Claypool he was “much too talented” for Metallica and that he should follow his own “weird” career path. “He definitely did not say that,” Claypool clarified. “[Hetfield] 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] was particularly kind – and of course I knew Kirk 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.”