Australia’s 4Arm Take on Opening Slot With Slayer…and Live to Tell About ItThursday, 7th November 2013
Here’s a good musical fairy tale for ya: One day, you’re a lightning tech in Australia, working as a crew member for several bands you are familiar with. You gain a reputation as a reliable dude, not to mention a solid lead guitarist via your own band. Then, you happen to bump into an ascending Australian thrash outfit in Slovenia, one who has snagged an oh-so-desirable opening spot in North America for Slayer. You learn of the band’s issues with their current lead guitarist, and upon being asked to help out for the Slayer tour, what do you do?
Does such a thing require an answer?
“I was like ‘Let me check my diary; I’m pretty sure I can do it,’” laughs new 4Arm lead guitarist James Munro (also of underrated power/thrash combo Knightmare). “It was a no-brainer, really. I had maybe 12 weeks to learn all the stuff and that was a frantic 12 weeks of learning. My first show with 4Arm was in Las Vegas, which was probably the most scary thing I’ve ever done in my life. We’d been advised that touring with Slayer that you’ll need a wireless to move around because sometimes fans will throw things at you.”
Munro is right – Slayer crowds are notoriously unforgiving, engaging in a sort of pack mentality that has seen them giving many an opener a hard time, but according the guitarist the worst thing to happen to 4Arm (who are touring in support of their 2012 album Submission for Liberty) thus far has been a beer flying onstage, landing squarely on the drum kit. Heck, some drummers would welcome that, but the important item is that the band’s visceral brand of thrash has proven to be on point with the fickle Slayer crowd, careening cans of Budweiser aside.
“They’ve gone really well,” says Munro when asked how the initial run of dates have went down. “The standout show at the moment was San Jose where everything came together and everything went right. We had circle pits going – we had circle pits at every show so far, the crowds have been very responsive and positive towards us, which is good, but I think the San Jose has been the best in terms of our performance and how everything has went.”
While the weeks of preparation have enabled Munro to seamlessly fit into 4Arm’s live presentation, the fact remains that he isn’t in Australia anymore – he’s on tour with Slayer, something just about every aspiring metal musician regardless of locale dreams of doing. Indeed the guitarist has had several “pinch me” moments, and rightfully so.
“I’ve just been so focused on making sure that everything works with the songs so I can get onstage and off the stage and that sort…it’s sinking in when I wander out into the crowd and I get to watch Slayer,” he enthuses. “I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m actually on tour with Slayer!’ Then you’re backstage and the guys are wandering about giving you nods and saying ‘Good show.’
“It’s kind of surreal experience because I did an interview a while ago and someone asked ‘What’s it like playing with Slayer?’ he continues. “With me growing up in Australia, Slayer, Metallica, and Pantera – the bands are halfway across the world, or all the way across the world – you never think you’d be a part of it. It’s just somewhere over there. You talk about the Bay Area, for everybody that lives in the Bay Area, they might have a different opinion, but for most Australians who are into thrash, the Bay Area is where magical thrash metal comes from. Everybody has long hair and plays guitar…I don’t know. [laughs] To come over and here and see it all happening and see how everything is done is surreal and mind-blowing.”
The band’s jaunt with Slayer still has several weeks remaining (we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention French modern metal champs Gojira are in the middle slot), yet Munro and his temporary 4Arm bandmates have quickly discovered the noticeable differences between America and Australia. You know, things like driving really long distances between shows and the voluminous size of the crowds.
“Here, I come out and it’s wall-to-wall people,” Munro concludes. “When I’m onstage and I raise my hand in the air – I thought I was going to get something thrown at me. I didn’t know what was going to happen and the crowd roared, my ears started ringing. The size of the crowd and the number of people is one of the biggest differences.”