Photography book: Bill Hale
Have you ever wondered what it was like in the early days for METALLICA?
And I don’t mean the “Black” album either folks, I am talking about the EARLY dayz! If so, then you are in for a real treat. Enter young photographer Bill Hale circa 1982, who was right there from the beginning, capturing the band before, during and after their performances. He was at every one of their early Bay Area shows, without the safety of a “modern-day” photo pit, getting crushed among the savage crowd (and lovin’ every minute of it) as they head-banged fearlessly to the music of their local heroes!
As chief photographer of Metal Rendezvous (a groundbreaking heavy rock magazine that was published throughout the ’80s), Bill Hale was given unlimited access to hang out with and photograph this then-fledgling Metal band. His job at the time was to capture the band onstage and offstage at several of their early performances, including shows with the original lineup with Dave Mustaine and Ron McGovney (bass). He even captured Metal history with shots of Cliff Burton’s first METALLICA gig! Also included are rare shots of Kirk Hammett’s METALLICA début and the bands last show with Dave Mustaine.
This is a unique article for Demolish, as this book (and Metallica) certainly fits in with our popular “80′s Metal theme”, however, I also wanted to cover Bill’s history as a great rock photographer and to weave that in with his roots with Metal Rendezvous. Bill has been taking pictures of rock bands since his first concert back in 1979. He has taken photos of Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Aerosmith, MSG, Whitesnake and Black Sabbath (just to name a few). Metal Rendezvous were one of the earliest Metal Fanzine/Magazines out and were causing some serious “metal” waves back in the day.
So sit back and relax as we bring you this special Triple Metal Threat all rolled into one kick ass, in-depth feature!
Part One: The Band
What was your first meeting with METALLICA like?
BILL HALE: “The first in person meeting with Metallica was the first time I photographed them live. This was Sep. 18th, 1982 at The Stone in San Francisco. They were very cool.”
What do you remember about your FIRST photo shoot for METALLICA?
BH: “The band was stoked to be giging outside of LA! As for the photo session, Metallica had the “F*CK’EM IF THEY CAN’T TAKE A JOKE attitude.”
Were the early audiences receptive to METALLICA?
BH: “The bands very first show at The Stone was cool, not too many people showed up. There was another gig that night, forgot who, but they had the draw. The next show at The Old Waldorf (10-18-82) was jam-packed and the crowd was all Metallica’s!”
Did you get to attend any or very many early band rehearsals?
BH: “Yes I did, a few for Ride The Lighting.”
I noticed a lot of black VENOM t-shirts being worn by band members…any comments?
BH: “I’m not too sure but I think James had just picked that Venom t-shirt up at the Record Vault earlier that day. I was not in to Venom, maybe James was.”
Where you surprised when they kicked out Dave Mustaine?
BH: “Yeppa!!! Big time.”
Can you offer any insight as to the inner workings of the band at the time?
BH: “Hmm, good question, Curt. Metallica was Lars’s band at first. James and Ron joined, followed by Mustaine. Dave was the “IN YOUR FACE” member of the group. Dave did most of the talking between songs as well as wrote a ton of riffs and songs! Ron was the “normal” member. Great guy! James was shy off stage but after a few beers was the budding lead singer that we all know and love. This line up was good, most of the early demos came from this line-up. Cliff Burton was the missing piece though -with Cliff in the group, Metallica became the most dangerous band in the world!”
“Cliff Burton was the missing piece though -with Cliff in the group, Metallica became the most dangerous band in the world!” – Bill Hale
When you first heard their original songs, what came to mind and did you ever imagine they had what it would take to become one of the biggest Metal bands of all time?
BH: “I heard “Hit the Lights” as they were writing it! Lars would call the office (Metal Rendezvous Int. Hard Rock – Heavy Metal Magazine -ed)and say “listen to this song”… three + minutes of metal noise later, Lars would come back on the line and say something like: “What do You think?” But the first time live was just too cool. Metallica had the riffs of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (N.W.O.B.H.M.) with an American lead singer. This combo was the secret to their success. Where either US bands had a good singer but the UK bands had the great riffs. Metallica had both. Ya’ just knew that Metallica was going somewhere.”
How do you think your constant backstage presence affect the band?
BH: “If a Rock and Roll photographer is doing his job then the impact is only felt after wards when his photos are published. You need to be that “fly on the wall” and I only “posed” the band when it was time for a group shot. So, I had really no effect on the band back then.”
You seemed to have carte blanche access, was there anything that was considered “off-limits” back then?
BH: “That’s another good question! Metallica at this point trusted me and at that time we were all so quite innocent. Nothing really happened backstage.”
Those guys also seemed to really give you “hell” most of the time, what were the most challenging aspects trying to capture them during this early period?
BH: “It was all in good fun. That was Metallica just trying to act tough and look older. Please keep in mind that Lars was 18 or 19 back then! James and Dave might have been barely 21 as was I. We were all just trying to make a name for ourselves.”
Other than METALLICA, what was happening musically in the area at that time?
BH: “The whole of California -the Bay Area and LA was on FIRE! San Francisco had so many bands (both Metal and Glam) as did LA. Y&T ruled up and down the state. I do believe that almost every band from 1977 up until today has opened for Y&T. Van Halen, Motley Crue, Ratt, Laaz Rockit, Vicious Rumors and I think even Metallica opened for them. There was a ton of stuff going on.”
What’s the craziest thing that happened while backstage and or while shooting their live shows!?
BH: “The craziest incident was, funny enough, backstage at The Stone. Megadeth was opening for King Diamond. This was also that last time I had seen Cliff alive (on page 107 of my book). I was to shoot King Diamond and I had this room backstage where I would shoot group shots. I had the room blocked so no one but the band was in the room. I was talking to the band waiting for King Diamond to show up. My back was to the door, so I knew if anyone would enter. I blinked (really like that fast) and there was King Diamond… out of nowhere!!!”
Part Two: The Book
When did you decide to put the book together and how long did that take?
BH: “Hmm… I, at first, only wanted to put out one book of all my 80′s work. I called it “Power Surge”…
I wrapped up work on it in 2002 and started showing in 2003. I had asked my old buddy Bob Nalbandian (great metal journalist and pod-caster -ed) if he would manage the project and he hit up all the major and minor publishers. NO one could grasp the concept of having SLAYER photos backed with Tom Petty or Neil Young followed by E-Z-O! Power Surge had over 150 bands, well over 700 photos of Rock, Metal, Punk and Glam bands from this time. We put Power Surge on the back burner for a wee bit. In late 2007 (out of the blue) this agent emailed my management company and inquired if we had “placed” Power Surge and if she could work it for us. Early in 2008, Steph (my agent) came back with a publisher, but they wanted a “smaller” version of the book. Which I did some major edits and sent this off. A few days later Steph comes back and says they (the Publisher) wants to know if I would like to show them an all Metallica book! So I did and that was that. Funny thing is that I got an email from Kerrang looking for old Metallica pics. I told Steph and the very next day ECW had a contract for me to sign.”
Was it difficult selecting which pics would make it into the book?
BH: “No, it was not. This was all very natural. The hard part was that I was great pals with all the guys and I really wanted to be fair to the band members. Ron (McGovney -ed) got a lot of flack when the band replaced him and Dave got labeled as a drunk. Too be frank, Dave and Ron’s contribution to early Metallica is monstrous and the band would not be the band that they are now…”
“Too be frank, Dave and Ron’s contribution to early Metallica is monstrous and the band would not be the band that they are now…” - Bill Hale
What are your favorite pictures in the book and why?
BH: “There are so many images in this book that are real cool! All the group shots are a blast. They just scream. But may favorites are on page 90 and 91 (they are of Cliff and Dave), the shots were taken just after Metallica played The Stone (3/19/83), which just happened to be the LAST gig with Mustaine in the Bay Area. The shots where taken a few doors down from The Stone. We were just walking and talking about the gig when the photo bug hit me and I snapped a few shots off.”
How did you go about picking the cover shot and why?
BH: “Metallica’s motto back then was “METAL UP YOUR ASS!!!” so I needed a shot that would show that “war cry”. I think that pic of James works well.”
The extra commentary in the book is great, how did that come about?
“There was so much mis-information around that time. First I wanted to set a tone for the book, to get the readers in a mind-set. Ron Quintana was/is an old friend. I did some work for his Metal Mania Fanzine. But most Metallica fans might know Ron because he came up with the name “Metallica” (yes there was a photo book out in England called The Encyclopedia Metallica but I doubt either of them had seen it). Next was getting my old partner in crime involved on this project. John Strednansky and I started MRV almost right out of High School. Lars had contacted “Stred” even before Lars had Metallica. Lars would call the MRV office and we would hear his band play their big song “Hit The Lights”. So Stred was a must and most Metallica fans would dig his insight with Metallica.” Bill states.
“Finally I needed a musician’s angle. Scott Earl was the Bass player in Culprit. Culprit was a very cool band out of Seattle. They were recording their début album in San Francisco and were asked to play at the 3/18/83 Stone show. So Scott saw Cliff play! Later on, Metallica had called Scott to audition for Cliff’s spot in the band, so Scott had a great perspective on that whole musician’s thing! I really wanted to set a path for the readers to follow, these three guys were there and thankfully they shared their insights.” Bill added.
Do you have other photos of METALLICA leftover, or did you just pick the “cream of the crop” (if-you-will) and use those?
BH: “I kept two out. Due to the fact that they need to be published in a large format. They will both show up in my “Bay Area Thrash” book (hella’ cool, can’t wait -ed)!!”
Did METALLICA have any objections to the book or any of its contents?
BH: “Well no, due to US copyright laws, I did not have to get the band involved.”
Does it have worldwide distribution and where is it the most popular thus far?
BH: “Yes, the book is everywhere. Amazon Japan, UK, Germany, Canada and France all carry the book.
Your readers can Google the books ISBN #: ISBN-10: 1550228765or Metallica The Club Dayz. It’s world-wide!”
*Lars busy signing autographs (for fans not much younger than he is)!
Looking back, now that the book is out – what is your fondest memory?
BH: “Well this is just the first step in getting my 80′s rock vault published. I did all the main work myself -on my Macbook Pro! I picked out, scanned and “photoshopped” all the images. The main layouts are mine and the base text also. It was really a labor of love. It’s great to see the Steve Jobs “Apple/ Macintosh Revolution” work out.”
Are you happy with the way the book turned out and in retrospect, is there anything you would change about the book?
BH: “Yes I’m very happy! The good people over at ECW Press are just great to work with. Cheers to Jack and his staff.”
What impact do you think the book will have and or what are your hopes?
BH: “This is really for the Metallica fans, old and new (as well as Rock and Roll fans in general). For the headbangers who were there, it’s like now they can look back and say… “Hey I was there and I remember that show!” The newer Metallica fan can get a good glance at what it was like when the band first drove the 400 + miles to San Francisco and unto their destiny. Because, really, Metallica came into their own in the Bay Area and my book covers all the great gigs of that time!”
While At METAL RENDEZVOUS Mag.
What do you remember the most about your FIRST photo shoot for MR?
BH: “I was still in High School and I went to shoot Triumph. Nothing came out BUT, it was such a rush. Next gig was July 4th 1979 at Oakland Coliseum. On the bill that day was The Rockets, UFO, Nazareth, J. Geils, Journey and Thin Lizzy (with Gary Moore on guitar) -great gig but still no great shots. A few weeks later I shot AC/DC when Bon Scott was still alive. Finally got some good shots!”
What was your favorite and or most memorable photo shoot during the MR dayz?
BH: “They were all great and there was so many but here was a jam-packed weekend: Flew to LA Friday night, off to the Country Club in Reseda to shoot Racer X. Saturday morning off to shoot White Lion (this was before “Pride” came out). Hopped a cab to Hollywood to photograph Pete Way, Pete’s one of my all time faves! Dinner with Armored Saint and then worked up a cover pic for MRV. Met up with Phantasm (which was Ron McGovney and Katon De Pena’s side band) for more photos. Caught a flight back to Monterey on Sunday to be in the office Monday AM for DEADLINES! But hey, we were doing what we loved.”
I shot some decent pics of bands way back when, what kind of camera and or equipment did you use back then?
BH: “Nikon and I still use Nikons…they are just the best. I used to develop my own Black & White film and print my own prints. This is what set my work apart from the rest. Way more control over the images.”
How did you score the all-access gig to photograph and or follow Metallica – was it through MR perhaps? And what kind of preparation had you done beforehand?
BH: “For Metallica, they needed press. And there was not a lot of mags out that would know what to do with a band like Metallica. Being on staff at a leading Metal Mag gives you a lot of clout!”
Were you ever nervous about photographing anyone or certain band during your time at MR or career in general?
BH: “No, if you do your homework and keep your equipment well maintain then your sessions should go well. I always tried to do research on the bands that I was shooting. This makes for a better shot and ultimately great photos. Nerves can lead to regrets and I never wanted to say maybe I could have done that differently. You really only get one chance and you don’t want to blow it!”
Meet The Man Behind The Lens
You are living in Hawaii now, how did you end up in Cali when you were younger?
BH: “I was born in California, I moved here to Hawaii in 2001.”
How/when did you hook up with Metal Rendezvous Mag.?
BH: “One of my best friends in High School, John Strednansky (nick name St. Red) and I started MRV in Jr. College. We planned it out around 1980 and went into production late 81′. The last issue of MRV was 1989, the mag was up to 100,000 issues world-wide! Metal Hammer today is only 50,000 copies.”
BH: “I worked on MRV for the whole 1980s.. so from 21 to 29 years old. It was a good run, we covered a ton of bands -new, old, Metal and Hard Rock + some punk and some glam!”
Being a photographer you are always BEHIND the lens and not in 99% of the photos, was there ever a time when you wished you were in the photo and or asked someone else to take the pic?
BH: “No! That was, and still is, my gig… I love to photograph, I’m very lucky to cover a subject that I love also.”
Have you ever ran into METALLICA over the years and or also after the book was published/released?
BH: “No, not yet. The book was released in April 09. Kirk lives on the same Island (in Hawaii -ed) as I do but I have not ran into him. I am in contact with Ron, he loves the book. James digs it also. I get feed back from people all the time.”
Do you think of the band differently now than you did back then?
BH: “Yes, they are a totally a different band now. They all grown up now, aren’t they?!”
What are you up to these days? Do you still take pictures and or shoot any bands?
BH: “I’m living in Hawaii, still work with bands and working on getting my 80′s Rock archive published. The next photo book is on Megadeth. I think that there will be 6 books in all. I do a lot of work for Henry Kapono. Kapono just released a very cool album called “The Wild Hawaiian”. It was up for a Grammy. Imagine if Jimi Hendrix grew up Hawaiian!”
What do you think of the “current” Metal “scene”?
BH: “There are a lot of very cool bands out now. Some of my faves are Glyder from Ireland -they really rock! The Starz from France, again -very cool and the MuddPiggs.”
We really appreciate you taking the time to chat with us and allow us to pick your brain! Is there anything else you would like to add for the Demolish Mag. readers and or tell the Metal World in general?
BH: “Yes I would like to thank you, Curt for taking the time and for posting such a cool blog! Cheers. And to your readers: go out and support the music you like. Either by going to the gigs or buying cds, dvds or legally down loading the tunes. You, the fans, make this or any music happen. Go find new bands that rock or support the old ones BUT GO OUT AND ROCK!!! Really, it’s not about the record companies any more, it’s about the fans. You will make the next big band. I still look for out new bands and I go out at least once a week and see live music. IT IS UP TO YOU… so go out and ROCK!”
Thanks to all who have ordered, reviewed, interviewed and promoted Metallica The Club Dayz 1982-1984!
In closing, any self-respected Metal fan should own this piece of Metal history. There are so many more amazing photos in the book -I only wish it was larger and maybe a hardcover coffee table book.
There are lots of rare Dave Mustaine pics throughout, so attention all Megadeth fans -go get it! I hear he is also working on an all Megadeth book as we speak and maybe a Bay Area Thrash Metal book. I will be the first in line for that one. That’s right up my alley. Let’s all support Bill and his lifelong dedication to all things rock/Metal. Great work Bill – mega thanks for opening your photo vault!
Order your copy from Amazon here.
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