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How Master of Puppets changed my life


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3rd March 2016 was a big day for Wilson guitarist Jason Spencer.

Firstly, the date saw the band’s headlining UK tour come to an epic close with a show at Southampton’s Joiners. But it also happened to be the exact day that Metallica’s pioneering and highly influential third album, Master of Puppets, celebrated its thirtieth birthday.

There is some great synergy to the pinnacle of Wilson's live career in the UK taking place on the day the influential, classic thrash masterpiece celebrated 30 years. Spencer reflected on how Metallica changed his life and how is was first introduced to them.

“My best friend from back home, Michael, he introduced me to Metallica when we were in elementary school. It was actually one of the first bigger shows I saw where people were just screaming ‘Die! Die! Die!’ [during ‘Creeping Death’]. And I’m a ten-year-old and I’m loving it!

“Little funny thing about Metallica: back in the day, we worked in this place and we made these surveys. So these drivers would be coming through, signing and delivering these goods and we would slip them this survey asking them if they were excited for the next Metallica album. And we had little ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ checkboxes. We always persuaded them to put yes, with a date and a signature. I was thing about sending them to the band and see what’d happen.

“But that record in general, it’s so preserved in time and it just crafted their metal path even more. Cliff Burton was such a mastermind. Talk about a guy who can go from the bass, turn it into a guitar and then back into a bass again.

“It’s crazy man. We were just reading the Rolling Stone article on the thirtieth anniversary and at the time those guys were so young!

“And you got to imagine, at that time for the band, coming off of Ride the Lightning and touring for that long in that timeframe with that genre of music, what’s going through your veins and your head! And they produced such a badass album from that! It’s just iconic now.”

The 1986 album was Metallica’s final to feature bassist Cliff Burton, who tragically died later that year in a bus crash in Sweden. During their European tour this February, Wilson found opportunity to visit the crash site, which has since been memorialised in honour of Burton.

“A lot of bands we know from back home, they hire a driver or if they’re lucky enough they get the bus. But they never get that full experience of driving through Denmark or Sweden in wintertime. And when you get to that memorial, you realise, at the end of ’86, they’d be going through with no GPS and there’s nothing in that area. Desolation.

“That always blows my mind, thinking about bands touring back then: just using maps, and if you had to make a phone call back home, what are you gonna do? No text, no mobile phones.

“And it influences you in the rough times, like, ‘If this is hard for us now, try to think about a band back then dealing with the same stuff.’ Imagine the emotion of ‘OK, we’re on the side of the road with a flat tyre. I guess we need to find the nearest farm? Or somehow find a gas station?’ And it’s ten degrees Fahrenheit outside in the middle of winter. What do you do? That blows my mind every time.

“And those guys and the path that they went on, it’s fucking awesome. It’s definitely influenced me as a musician on the road.

“I remember reading about the whole situation that happened the night Cliff died: I think they were on tour with Anthrax. Anthrax actually left the night before, right after the show, to get past a storm.

“Metallica left later on, and that couple hour difference was such a big difference! And obviously there’s kind of a conspiracy about what really happened, if their driver was drunk, if they hit black ice.

“I was reading about that, and then we were driving by and I was like ‘Whoa, I wonder if we’re going to be close to it,’ and I looked at it and I was like ‘It’s literally just off of the main highway!’ There’s one main highway through that part of Sweden. So we found the coordinates of the place on the Cliff Burton website, and when we first got there, the coordinates were a little off and I was like: ‘Well. This fucking sucks. We came all the way here, and it’s not here.’ Luckily, it happened to be fifty feet up.

“Man, it is something else. You know, being from Detroit, way bigger Metallica fans than me are like: ‘You saw Cliff fucking Burton’s memorial?!’ It’s not just like a headstone in Los Angeles that everyone can see, or Jim Morrison in Paris. Everybody visits Paris. But you don’t exactly visit the middle of nowhere in Sweden.”

Read Wilson’s review of the UK here.

Read more about Master of Puppets in our “Best rock albums of 1986” list.

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