metallicawithcliff400 Kory Grow of Rolling Stone spoke with Metallica band members Lars Ulrich (drums) and Kirk Hammett (guitar) and production assistant Flemming Rasmussen about the band’s second album, Ride the Lightning, which is three decades old. Portions of the interview appear below.

RS: Where did the title Ride the Lightning come from?

Kirk Hammett: I was reading The Stand by Stephen King, and there was this one passage where this guy was on death row said he was waiting to “ride the lightning.” I remember thinking, “Wow, what a great song title.” I told James, and it ended up being a song and the album title.

RS: How complete were the songs when you began recording?

Jirk Hammett: Three or four months prior to recording Ride the Lightning, we would do these small, theater shows where we would play were Creeping Death, Ride the Lightning, Fight Fire With Fire and The Call of Ktulu. Those songs were about 90 percent complete, in terms of arrangement and the guitar solos were already written.

Lars Ulrich: We were hovering in New York in December and January of ’83 and ’84, and we wrote quite a bit of Fade to Black in New Jersey in the basement of our friend Metal Joe [Chimienti].

RS: Songs like Fade to Black, For Whom the Bell Tolls and Escape were more melodic and slower than the songs on Kill ‘Em All. Were you trying to do something different, musically?

Lars Ulrich: It was the first time that the four of us wrote together and we got a chance to broaden our horizons. I don’t think it was a conscious effort to break away from anything musically. Obviously, listening to songs like Fight Fire and Trapped Under Ice, we were obviously still into the thrash type of stuff. But we were realizing you had to be careful that it didn’t become too limiting or one-dimensional.

All four of us were so into so many different things. And Kill ‘Em All was primarily written with James and I and Mustaine; so Kirk and Cliff didn’t really contribute to any of the songs on Kill ‘Em All. Ride the Lightning was the first time that both Cliff and Kirk got a chance to add what they were doing. They just came from a different school, especially Cliff, who came from a much more melodic approach.

RS: What was Cliff [Burton] like in the studio?

Flemming Rasmussen: He was a one of a kind. It was the Eighties, and everyone was doing the punk thing with tight pants, but he was still wearing bellbottoms. He didn’t give a shit what people thought about him. He was a good musician, really nice on a personal level and a good poker player. As a bassist, he was more like a soloist than a regular bass player. The first time I recorded him, I tried all sorts of shit to make him feel comfortable, because he was used to the live environment. Eventually, I put his amp in another room, and he’d play in the main room like he was onstage, with the sound blasting from these speakers. It was pretty wild. I liked him a lot. It was a sad day when he died [in a bus accident while on tour in 1986].

RS: Thirty years later, how does the album hold up in your opinion?

Lars Ulrich: Obviously it holds up very well. There’s kind of a youthful energy that runs through the record [laughs]. A good portion of these songs are still staples of our live set. And between For Whom the Bell Tolls, Creeping Death, Fade to Black, and Ride the Lightning, that’s not a bad batting average.

Kirk Hammett: I thought playing it in full at Orion was great. That album holds up really well. I love the sound of that album. It’s very analog. I think it’s our warmest-sounding album. By the time we recorded Master of Puppets, the days of just bashing it out were much fewer than in the Ride the Lightning days. Just bashing it out always led to a more natural sounding performance to me.

Read more at Rolling Stone.


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  • Eric Heaton on

    It def is a great album…its too bad they cant write like that anymore…

  • John Alonzo on

    That was one the greatest album (cassette) in circulation for that time period, I lived it, breathed it every day like Metallica did. What a great time to live in back in those days because all of the British Heavy Metal was being introduced in the states and Metallica made so many things possible that people nowadays don’t have a clue how a lot of bands came into their own because of Metallica. If you don’t know what am talking about then you probly weren’t even born yet.

    • Eric Heaton on

      Megadeth vs. Metallica…who is the better band? Makes for good debate..

    • sar305 on

      There’s no debate…

    • DR on

      No there isn’t…Megadeth it is.

    • Eric Heaton on

      Right now, megadeth is it for me…they had a couple stinkers in the past but not as bad as load and reload….st. anger is terrible and death magnetic is only slightly better…plus, megadeth stayed true their style…

    • Mike on

      Sure, if I wanted to hear the same song and album over and over again, Megadeth it is.

    • metalmania on

      That’s a hard one to really answer for me. I’ll agree that Megadeth has more good albums, but they have so many more albums overall than Metallica anyway, but I’m still not sure I’d take the best Megadeth album over the best Metallica album. I can’t quite say that I think Megadeth stayed “true to their style” either, for that matter what IS Megadeth’s style? There’s the old thrashy stuff, the more melodic stuff, they’ve had evolutions of their sound too. Countdown to Extinction was sort of their “black” album, the speeds slowed down, there was more of an accessible sound to it, and it brought them more commercial success but the “thrash” was absent. That trend continued up until arguably “The World Needs A Hero”, but thankfully except for Risk most Megadeth albums were still better than Load, ReLoad, and St. Anger (which I think had a lot of potential but ended up mostly a misfire). I can’t deny that Megadeth has usually contained top-notch players, regardless of who they are. I’m just not sure I feel a larger collection of good material makes a band “better” than another, if I still prefer the best of the other band. Anyway, I’ve always liked Megadeth a lot and I do think they deserve more credit than they get – they may not have the numbers that Metallica does but they’re probably the 2nd most important American metal band originating from the 80’s.

    • James K. on

      Looking at both bands entire discography, Megadeth has been the most consistent, even though Risk is a real stinker.

    • Mike on

      No debate at all. Megadeth, like most other bands, has had a revolving door for band members. Megadeth is essentially Mustaine, whereas Metallica is actually a band.

      Metallica’s Black 20 year old Black album outsold the last Mustaine record.

      Mustaine can’t help himself about talking smack about past band members, and iconic ones at that. Marty Friedman and Nick Menza, two guys that helped Megadeth (Mustaine) reach their absolute height of popularity and success. What a gentleman.

      I dig the older Megadeth, through the mellower/hookier releases, but haven’t heard anything original come out of Mustaine in over a decade.

  • Max Cady on

    The most overrated band in the history of rock.

    • metalmania on

      No, they aren’t. Guns N’ Roses are the most overrated band in rock history. Metallica’s best years may be way behind them, but up through …And Justice For All they were a major force to be reckoned with. I’m not sure if you’re the same guy that makes that exact same comment in every post here about Metallica, and I can respect your opinion that you don’t like them, but like it or not they are one of the most important and influential bands in metal history. I fully agree that for a long time they lost their way and had a few unremarkable albums, but nothing will change my mind that Death Magnetic came a long way back to what Metallica should sound like (though the production sucked).

  • James K. on

    It was a big progression from Kill ‘Em All as far as song writing and playing goes. I loved Kill ‘Em All so much. It was so raw and mean that I was a little shocked when I first heard Ride The Lightning, especially Fade To Black. But I quickly got into the album big time. It was more mature and had a much better production. They more or less repeated the same album formula for Master Of Puppets and even And Justice For All: acoustic intro to a blistering thrash song, title track, mid tempo anthem, ballad (very dirty word for Metallica back then), and so on. It was the blueprint for what was to come and I still love the album to this day.
    I bought the Ride The Lightning on cassette when it was first released back when I was in the 11th grade! Damn, I’m old!

    • Eric Heaton on

      U may be old but ur lucky…could u imagine being a teen right now.? In 30 years you’d be saying that u remember when Justin Beiber’s album came out and how it “rocked”…yikes!! Lol..

    • James K. on

      That’s so true. These kids nowadays missed out big time and can never comprehend how great the old days were for our generation.

    • metalmania on

      I always kind of find it interesting that people refer to Fade to Black, Sanitarium, and One as “ballads”. They’re slower tempo, up to a point, but then all kick into faster tempos and heavier riffs. To me, their first true ballad was Nothing Else Matters. People need to calm down about the “ballad” stigma, it’s not like it was something that Poison or Skid Row would do.

    • James K. on

      You’re correct, those songs are not really “ballads”. But back then, that’s just what they were referred to by everyone: the fans, the press and even by Metallica themselves. It was probably because people didn’t really know what to make of Fade To Black when everyone heard it. I can tell you from firsthand experience, after hearing the thrash savagery of Kill ‘Em All, when Ride The Lightning was released and I heard Fade To Black for the first time, it was a little shocking to hear them play so melodic and emotional during the opening and slow parts of that song. And I wasn’t the only one who thought that. So it was called Metallica’s first ballad by everyone and because Welcome Home ( Sanitarium) and One were slower, heavy subject songs also, those also got slapped with the ballad tag. And the tag just stuck, even though it was technically inaccurate.
      Something kind of interesting, at least to me: if you can get hold of a copy of the 1986 Dark Angel album Darkness Descends and listen to the title track, I think you may hear short similarities within the first minute-minute and a half of that song to the machine gun drum pattern and a chord voicing or two of One. I think it’s just coincidence or at least I hope it is.

  • jason on

    Ride the lighting from start to finish great album

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