Throughout rock and roll history, no one really reaches the top of the mountain by themselves. Unless you have amazing connections or the perfect opportunity miraculously lands at your doorstep, you’re going to need to do a fair amount of legwork to get people to notice you even if you have good songs.
Once you reach the height of your fame though, you’re going to also need someone to help keep you grounded, and Corrosion of Conformity legend Pepper Keenan managed to play that role with Metallica’s James Hetfield.
“Just being thrown to the lions. We were going from clubs to all of a sudden, we were at a soccer stadium in Warsaw. And going around Europe and the United States…. Playing in Europe in Eastern Bloc countries, where nobody really heard of you – opening for Metallica at that point in their career where they were just giant. It was definitely a learning curve.”
That kind of hectic schedule would have thrown anybody for a loop, but Pepper had talked about James Hetfield being incredibly supportive of CoC, showing them the ropes a lot of the time and taking them under his wing, saying:
“Hetfield was great at guiding us. And it was in the round – we were no longer with amps just behind us. It was circular and it was a whole different ballgame. You just put up or shut up.”
This wasn’t the post-Some Kind of Monster James Hetfield that we had all gotten to know who was willing to open himself up more either.
This was the metal warlord that we all still worshiped, and he was still willing to give the Corrosion of Conformity gang more than a few tips to help them adjust to the massive venues that they were going to have to get used to.
Though the ongoing joke still revolves around headlining bands resenting their opening acts, maybe James just saw something of himself in Pepper that no one else did.