Skip to main content

Scott Ian: the time I got arrested with Cliff Burton

Published in Metal Hammer #300
(Image credit: Cliff Burton: Getty Images)

Metallica and Anthrax share a history that stretches back to the dawn of thrash metal. When Metallica hit New York in 1982 to record their debut album, Kill ’Em All, it was Anthrax and co who took them under their wings. Here, guitarist Scott Ian looks back on his first meeting with late bassist Cliff Burton.

Metal Hammer line break

Scott Ian: “I first met Cliff at the Music Building in Jamaica, Queens in late 1982. We had a rehearsal room there and Metallica were there to record Kill ’Em All. They didn’t know they were also going to be sleeping in this room which was a squat in a shitty old building. My first impression of Cliff was he looked like he should be in Lynyrd Skynyrd, and I think I asked him where he could even get bell-bottom jeans that wide in 1982.

That said, we quickly hit it off. He had a great sense of humour and was absolutely the most original human I had ever met. They were all so different as people but in the context of a band, they were as one. Their souls were on display in every riff.  Cliff was the most musical, he spoke with his ideas. He had an aloof, laconic attitude and style, not antisocial at all, just his own vision of things that was uncompromisable. 

I remember getting arrested together in London in March, 1984, in a Tube station on suspicion of having drugs. We spent the next six hours in cells while they tested the cold medicine they found in Cliff’s jacket. The police took Cliff back to the flat to search it. I sat in my cell in my underwear thinking we were done for, visions of Midnight Express running through my brain because there was weed at the flat. The police didn’t find it, The metal gods were looking out for us that day.”

Published in Metal Hammer #300