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Metallica: Fade to Black Expo

Bill Hale captures the intensity of the Californian scene surrounding the iconic metal band before it went global

Photography is all about being in the right place at the right time. If you lack the ability, or the luck, to capture a moment in its full glory then you’re never going to make it. Bill Hale was there 30 years ago when Metallica, began life in and around the clubs of California. The raw intensity of his images perfectly capture a fledgling scene that was about to go global. Now, to celebrate 30 years of Metallica, Proud Galleries are putting on an exhibition of Hale’s images in their north London site. We caught up with Hale to find out what it was like to have such an intimacy with a band that are now known the world over.

Dazed Digital: What’s the exhibition about?
Bill Hale: Well, it's loosely based around my book, Metallica: The Club Dayz (ECW Press)
and my time photographing the band in the Bay Area during the early 80s. The good people over at Proud Galleries contact us and asked if we would be interested in doing a showing.

DD: Did you have any inkling at the time of how big Metallica would become?
Bill Hale: Actually, I had a gut feeling that this band would be huge... How huge, I wasn't too sure but I new Metallica had what it takes to be great.

DD: What was it like to be inside the bubble?
Bill Hale: Now days the term "insider" or "bubble" would apply but back in the Bay Area it was a scene made up of a lot of different components. Yes, you had the bands and the Bay Area had a ton of them. You had great night clubs and promoters, you had the press willing to give ink to the bands, but most of all the Bay Area had great fans and the fans are the ones that make it all happen - because if no one shows up at your gig...
It was cool to be a part of this time period, everyone felt like they had a part in all this and my part was to document it all on 35mm film...

DD: Wildest moment?
Bill Hale: Catching a ride with James Hetfield (lead vocals, guitar) driving back to the Metali-masion after one of their last gigs at the Stone (night club in San Francisco). Both of us having had too much to drink but somehow we made the journey across the Bay bridge into Metallica's pad in El Cerrito.

DD: Do you think an intimacy of this sort can be replicated again?
Bill Hale: Yes, it can and it has throughout the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The Beatles had Astrid Kirchherr, Syd Barrett had Mick Rock, Iron Maiden had Ross Haflin, the late sixties & early 70s LA scene had Henry Diltz (think The Doors, The Eagles and Crosby Stills Nash & Young) and even Guns n' Roses had Robert John. Rock ‘n’ Roll and photography have always gone hand in hand. With that said, what it really falls onto is: will there be any bands in the future that people are that interested in.

DD: How would you describe your style?
Bill Hale: Never really stopped to think about a style. Way back then was, I just tried my best to get the shot! Being in a magazine setting, working towards either a cover or feature photos. You just want something in focus and somewhat interesting while shooting for something that ROCKS!

DD: I read in an interview that you think they were the most “dangerous band on the planet” in ’83. Why?
Bill Hale: Ha! That quote... Back when Metallica was Lars, James, Cliff Burton and Dave Mustaine they were the most "dangerous band on the planet"! Musically, the guys had the songs and the aptitude to perform them properly. Off stage - I would not want to get in a fight with that bunch either...

DD: Have you ever shot anyone that has come close to the band at that time?
Bill Hale: MEGADETH!!! Megadeth was Metallica's former lead guitarist Dave Mustaine's band. Megadeth's whole vibe was different though, more based on the "thrash guitar riff" than a "Heavy Metal" party... Not saying Metallica was a "party" band but...

Fade to Black opens February 3, Proud Galleries, The Horse Hospital, Chalk Farm Road NW1 8AH