The inside story ofMetallica’s first Aus tour
Mon 18th Feb, 2013 in Features
When Metallica finally made to Australia for their first time in 1989 local thrash metal crew Mortal Sin joined them all three dates of the tour. Almost 24 years on from that historic debut Mortal Sin frontman Mat Maurer shares his memories of the tour with TOM MANN.
When James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Jason Newsted arrived in Australia for Metallica’s first tour the band already had four albums to their credit − Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets and ...And Justice for All − and an army of fans desperate to see them live.
One of those was a 15-year-old streetpress writer, who credits seeing Metallica at Sydney’s Hordern Pavillion in May 1989 as a pivotal moment in his career. His name was AJ Maddah.
“I happened to found a pass on the floor and just went backstage and had a bit of a stroll,” Maddah, the current boss of Soundwave, recounted during an interview at Melbourne’s Face The Music conference last year. “Next thing I know I have Lars Ulrich behind me going, ‘Dude, are you gonna hang out with us or are you just gonna eat all our food?’ I couldn’t answer because I had so much sandwich stuffed down my throat. It was really cool, I got to have a conversation with those guys. It was Lars who said ‘Hey, this [promoting] is what you should do man.’”
Metallica were deep into their punishing “Damaged Justice” world tour which would see them play 222 shows across the globe, but their live show in 1989 was a very different beast from the production we’ll see at Soundwave this week. The band came out dressed in sneakers, tracky-dacks, black t-shirts and played for two hours and 40 minutes including three encores. It might not have a featured coffin-shaped lights or even a snakepit but the crowd didn’t care. Metallica was finally here in Australia, and their fans in Sydney even sparked a minor “riot” to prove it.
“I was looking at the euphoria of everybody around me and I was thinking, ‘I’d like to contribute to this,’” Maddah recalled. “It was just a grand adventure. Everyone was outside the Hordern at midday and there was a camaraderie. It was a community even when the riot police came and roughed a few of us up.”
Things have now come full circle for Maddah, who is bringing Metallica out to headline his festival, along with some 70 other bands. But back in 1989 when Metallica visited Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney for the first time Michael Coppel was the tour promoter and there was just one support act: Mortal Sin.
Now, nearly 24 years on, FL tracked down Mortal Sin frontman Mat Maurer to get his first-hand account of that infamous tour. He spoke to us during some downtime from his dayjob booking crew for the Soundwave tour.
In 2013 we regularly have huge tours and festivals like Soundwave. What was the metal scene like in Australia in 1989?
In 1989 it was nothing like it is today. Not one single major [thrash] tour had come to Australia since the genre’s inception. There was meant to be tours by Anthrax in 1987 (I think) and Megadeth in 1988 but neither came to fruition for whatever reason. The scene in Australia had really picked up big time between 1985 and 1989, possibly one reason why Mortal Sin got big quickly, and the fans here were really hanging for someone to make it over to our shores. We had to have thrash. By the time Metallica had announced their tour, people were ready to rumble that’s for sure.
The tour was promoted by triple j – just after they’d become a national station – what was the radio support for Australian metal like in 1989?
Phhhhfffftt! Radio airplay? Are you fucking kidding? I was actually shocked to hear Metallica’s ‘One’ being played on the radio when the tour had started. I was hopeful that it may have been the start of something and that radio stations had finally woken up to what we had already known, that thrash was king. Sure, softer types of metal like Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, and Def Leppard had seen plenty of airtime but thrash never got a thing. I still don’t think any Australian bands have been lucky enough to get some airplay to this day. Thank the unholy one that we now have specialised shows that showcase our music, albeit only a few hours at a time, but we must be grateful for that.
How did you come to be booked for the tour? Mortal Sin often get the credit for being one of the first Australian thrash bands. Was there a lot of competition for the support slot?
I have no idea if there was competition for that support slot, but we were labelmates with Metallica, so had an unfair advantage I guess. It was more or less a given that we would be playing on that tour. I remember having discussions with our label guy Dave Thorne over the phone to England where I was constantly nagging him, “We WILL be playing with Metallica when they come to Australia, WON’T WE?” As far as I was concerned, there was no other option. If we didn’t get that spot, I would have considered it a failure.
Mortal Sin live in 1989:
What were your biggest shows prior to the Metallica tour?
We had pretty much played with all the major Aussie bands up and down the east-coast of Australia and late in 1987 we played the notorious gig at Seven Hills Inn with Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, which was only a small gig at a small venue, but was still an international show nonetheless.
Metallica were already a huge band. Were they still very approachable?
In my eyes Metallica were really big in 1984 when Kill’em All was released here. Each album after that was just more evidence that they would be huge, and it was awesome to watch their rise and rise through the ’90s. During the tour, we were really keen to party with them as we had heard they loved to party, but we hardly saw them at the first shows in Adelaide and Melbourne. It wasn’t until Sydney that we felt we had to do something or we’d never get to meet them. I took a skateboard and a whole bunch of stuff to get signed, so I made sure I caught up with them – if it meant I had to be the total fanboy, then so be it! I never saw Kirk [Hammett] at all the whole tour. I think he spent most of his time with his former wife. I still have a Kill’em All CD cover signed by all of them except Kirk.
Lars Ulrich interview live footage from 1989:
Did you hang out with them away from the shows?
They had a pretty busy media schedule, doing interviews and photo sessions. [ The Ultimate Metallica photographer ] Ross Halfin was here with them documenting the tour, from which a huge story appeared in Hot Metal magazine soon after, but unfortunately we didn’t get to hang with them much until the after tour party, which was pretty cool. We drank Jagermeister all night, and having never drank that stuff before, I got totally smashed.
Mat Maurer and James Hetfield; San Francisco 1990:
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