"In the summer of 1982 I was working in Los Angeles and was contacted by a British fellow calling himself Tony. He asked me if I would be interested in directing a long-form music video for a heavy metal band he was managing out of San Francisco called Trauma where Cliff Burton was a member before he joined Metallica. These words are from Don Wrege who directed a video for Cliff and his band prior to Metallica called Trauma. Here is a full story.
First, could you please introduce yourself and tell us how and why you met cliff Burton in the early 80s
In 1980 I was trying to get a recording contract myself out in Los Angeles and had been working with a couple of labels through the marketing department (Warner Brothers, Capitol) creating new product presentation videos, etc. So I made one of my own band and MTV picked it up soon after it went on the air in 1981.
Well, it didn't make me famous, but I put an ad in The Music Connection Magazine that said "My Work Seen on MTV - hire me to direct your band's video," or something of the sort. It ran for a few weeks and I got a call from a fellow named Tony Van Lit. He was a British chap who put me through a question/answer session on the phone and then we met at a restaurant to discuss his project. We agreed on terms and he invited me to a rehearsal to meet the guys and to hear the set. They had rented some grundgy blown-out warehouse downtown. The video would have been a lot better really if they would have shot it in that environment, but Trauma had a touch of glam going for it (except for Cliff) and Tony their manager liked the trappings of a dressed-up show.
For how long did you know him. Did his playing grow or change at that time?
Oh I just spent that one rehearsal and then the all-day shoot with him. Not very long at all. He kind of stood off from the other guys and I don't know why I asked him if he'd like to smoke something out in my car but I did, and that's when he came off to me as really ambitious. He said he wasn't long for Trauma, that he was going to be famous fast, and he said they didn't have enough drive.
To their credit, they all had day jobs, and I don't think they could risk them. I got the impression Cliff considered music his day *and* night job.
How was Traumas music compared to Metallica?
As different as Cliff was from the rest of the guys in Trauma. Trauma's music was more "precious" metal than heavy. I mean, they poofed up their hair and wore sparkly clothes and the singer's voice was very high-pitched. Metallica was much heavier stuff. Cliff stood out like this kind of manic rag doll on speed or something. His bass playing was the best part of Trauma I don't think there was any question about it.
How was the Metal scene on the west coast these days? Was the Metal massacre albums a major part of the movement?
Frankly, in 1982 metal was laughed at in Los Angeles. When Tony Van Lit told me that metal was catching on big in England, and that it was going to hit big in the states soon and he was going to ride that wave I had to hide my grin. I didn't believe him, but I wanted to direct the video so I didn't argue. I mean, take a look at the top ten from '82, you've got things like "Mickey," by Toni Basil and "We Got the Beat" by the GoGos and the heaviest thing being accepted at the time was stuff like Journey's "Open Arms." So Metallica at that time was way off in left field as far as the major labels seemed to think. It sure wasn't welcome on MTV yet.
Do you think he changed when he joined Metallica?
I have a firm belief that he became richer and happier, not necessarily in that order.
How did you hear the news about Cliff joining Metallica? What happened to Trauma, did they find a new bassist?
I think I saw his picture associated with their album promotion and recognized him as that guy that who was in my car and who said he was going to be famous. "Right on," I thought. "He did it." I felt good for him. As for Trauma, they ended up with another bass player and had a tune on the Metal Massacre II album (I just bought a copy off of Amazon) but I read they broke up soon after that.
The video you recorded, what was it ment to be used for? Where has it
been the last 20 years and why is it released now? Are there any plans
to release it on DVD?
It was originally meant to sell the band to a major label. Tony was going to make the rounds with it. I've always had a copy because it was part of my contract. I have often wondered where the master ended up. I know Tony and the studio owner were arguing over costs associated with damage to the studio ceiling when Trauma's pyrotechnics blew some holes in it and scorched the shit out of the tiles. The studio owner held onto the master tape for some time as I remember. Further complicating things was the story I was told that manager Tony drove off with a bunch of borrowed amplifers the night of the Troubador show and was never heard of again. I do not know if this is true or not, but I never heard from him again. (The amps can be seen behind the group in the video although they were using their own which were set up underneath.) After about twenty years I figured the tape wasn't going to surface by any other means so I pulled it out of my vault. Right now it's an Internet stream via Windows Media Player 9, but if some production company wants to put it out they can feel free to contact me. I wish Metallica would buy it. I'd gladly sell it to them directly and let them handle it all the legal problems that would be associated with physically mass producing it.
Anything you want to say or tell the Metallica fans?
Just that you can usually tell right off when you meet someone if they're going somewhere in life or not. And that's definitely the feeling I got from Cliff when I met him. It's something he expressed with such conviction that you knew deep down he wasn't bullshitting himself, which is really what it's all about. He put out a vibe of "watch out world, I'm gonna grab you by the balls," and damned if he didn't. See Dons website here
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