The saying goes: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” If that is indeed the case, then Slipknot’s Joey Jordison and Slayer’s Dave Lombardo must have been feasting on salads made out of four-leaf clovers when the drummers temporarily sat on Lars Ulrich’s throne during an important Metallica set.
Metallica was set to headline the Download Festival in Leicestershire, England on June 6th, 2004. On the way there, Lars Ulrich experienced a sudden medical issue and was taken to the hospital in Germany while his bandmates arrived at the fest. As word spread through the crowd of the drummer’s absence, people began to speculate about not just his health but his overall status in the band.
Unwilling to let their fans down, the three remaining members of Metallica attempted the ultimate Hail Mary play: Finding a drummer to sit in for the gig at the eleventh hour. Fortunately for them, both Slayer and Slipknot were in attendance and something magical was about to happen.
Reflecting on the events of the day, Dave Lombardo told Metal Hammer: “Slayer had played in the tent earlier in the evening, and I was somewhere backstage when I was approached by management. They said, ‘Lars can’t make it, and Metallica was wondering if you’d be able to sit in?’ It was a bit of a shock. My first thought was, ‘Is Lars OK?’ But they said, ‘He’s OK, he’s at the doctors, he’s just having a bit of a moment.’ So I said I’d do whatever I could to help.
I knew a few of their songs well enough to play them, but I just didn’t know all the detail of some of the other songs. So we agreed that I’d do the first two, “Battery” and “The Four Horsemen”, then Joey [Jordison] would jump in, ’cos he’d been in a Metallica covers band and he knew all those songs inside out.”
Asked if he watched Jordison’s part of the set, Lombardo responded: “Yeah, he was awesome. He knew the songs front to back, and he nailed it. I thought I was gonna jump in and play one of the songs during Joey’s section, but they decided to keep him for the rest of the set, which was totally cool with me. It took the stress off of me, like, ‘I know this song, but I really don’t know it as well as Joey does.’”
In a conversation with Knotfest.com, Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor reminisced about Jordison’s experience with Metallica at Download, saying (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH): “We were back there with [Joey], watching it… It was so surreal to watch Joey playing with [METALLICA], because we all grew up listening to them. And Joey was shitting bricks. I mean, he [had] his mask on, but every time he’d come back and he would pull his mask off, he would just be, like, ‘How am I doing? How am I doing?’ I’m, like, ‘You’re fucking killing it.’ Me, Paul [Gray, then-SLIPKNOTbassist], Clown [SLIPKNOT percussionist], we were all standing there fucking cheering him on. And they ended up throwing different songs at him that they hadn’t rehearsed. They threw all the MISFITS shit at him, and he fucking knew it. They would have probably kept him up there all night if they could have. He played the majority of the set.”
The event bordered on the religious. In an interview with Download (and transcribed by Ultimate Guitar), Slipknot’s Shawn “Clown” Crahan recalled listening to Jordison and Metallica rehearse earlier in the day. “I can remember just listening to Joey play all these Metallica songs, and at least three quarters of them he didn’t play onstage. So it was like all those guys being kids and just jamming in this basement, so to speak, and they were seeing which ones they were vibing.”
According to Kerrang, Jordison said of the experience: “As cool as it was playing that show, what was cooler was playing in Metallica’s practice room. It was just me and those three guys, just warming up. What a dream come true, man. I’ll have dreams about it every once in a while. It was one of the best gigs of my life.”
As for Ulrich, it turns out that he had suffered an anxiety attack as a result of Metallica’s relentless touring schedule and personal family stress. He told Metal Hammer: “We’d had a heavy touring schedule in Japan, Europe, America and Australia. In the midst of that there were things that had come unravelled in my personal life — my family and my marriage and stuff. I’d had a lot of late nights and early mornings.
“So I woke up in Copenhagen (Denmark) on the Sunday morning, had brunch with 14 in-laws and cousins and then I got on the plane. I was exhausted.
“We took off, and about halfway over to Midlands Airport (in England)… I don’t know what the fuck happened, but all of a sudden I just fucking lost it.
“It was pretty fucking scary to be in a little fucking metal tube at 41,000 feet. I’ve never had anxiety attacks of any kind of stress attacks ever.
“So we landed in Hamburg (Germany) and went to the hospital. They took some blood tests and everything was normal physically — it was just everything caught up with me mentally.”
“It was the first ever METALLICA gig I’d ever missed.
“You wanna try laying in a hospital in Germany while Dave Lombardo — the greatest drummer on the planet — is playing with your band. That’s not easy. Joey Jordison, too.
“I have a bit of an odd relationship with it — I still haven’t looked at the press or the pictures.”