"The most surreal moment of my life was when Neil Young pied me": Robert Trujillo on a year in the life of Metallica

Robert Trujillo headshot
(Image credit: Adam Gasson/Total Guitar Magazine)

2023 was a triumphant year for Metallica, who returned with an epic, ambitious new record in 72 Seasons and embarked on a tour to match – the concept behind the M72 World Tour being that the metal titans play two shows in each city with no repeats in the setlist. 

Ahead of a gig in Missouri, we spoke to bassist Robert Trujillo as he looked back over the year, explained how everything about their show is about making sure it connects in the biggest way possible with their diehards, and recounts the time he got pied in the face by Neil Young.


Hello, Robert. How would you sum up 2023 for you and Metallica? 

It’s been great, because we’ve found our stride with this tour and this stage and what works and what doesn’t work and navigated the terrain, so to speak. Even last night at rehearsal, it feels like we’re really pretty tight right now. We’ve tried different things and experimented with the setlist and we’re having a lot of fun. We’re even doing it now where Kirk and I go up and do a duet song that we’ve prepared literally a day or two before. 

Tell us about the thinking behind that, it’s a great left-field addition to the set. 

We had a meeting, and the meeting was catered and geared towards “How can we make this show as entertaining as possible and really make that connection?” It’s one thing to have a big production and a lot of times when you have too big of a production, it feels like you’re a bit separated from your people, your tribe. 

One of the things that we found the last time we were doing this sort of thing in Europe was we had a duet moment where we played cover songs from each country. That worked well in Europe but in the States, it’s a little different, because you got a lot of people coming in from neighbouring states. It wasn’t really working as well so we decided to try something different. 

We went for the jam, like 72 Seasons, what’s that all about? Well, if you think back to our early years, what did we do when we were teenagers? We jammed, we wrote songs that were fresh and new and we were very excited about. That’s basically what Kirk and I have done. It’s a challenge, but at the same time it’s exciting for us, it becomes custom to the fan to hear a song that has been prepared for them specifically. It’s almost like we’re street musicians, like, ‘Here we are in the raw, put your coins in the hat.’

Were there any celebrations in the band for the 40th anniversary of Kill ’Em All? 

Through the course of the year, we celebrated various moments by playing some of the deeper cuts from the Kill ’Em All album, but also opening with songs like Whiplash – that’s been a staple for us lately. That seems to be a song that just works, it gets the crowd going. It’s the tip of the hat to the old school. Last summer we were playing songs like Metal Militia and that was really a lot of fun, that was a good time. 

I love playing those songs. One of my goals when I joined Metallica was to get Lars, James and Kirk to want to play some of the old classics from Kill ’Em All, but also the deep cuts. At a certain point, when I first joined the band, maybe a year or two later, we got into songs like Dyers Eve and that’s when we started to introduce Orion into the mix, and some of these cuts that had never been played live. 

That brings us on to the year’s other big anniversary – 20 years since you joined Metallica. Did you get a cake? 

You know, man, more just a couple of big hugs. You know what, we always get cake! I get lost in the cake… you get caked on the face, a celebration could be you getting pied. The most surreal moment of my life was when Neil Young pied me. It was my birthday and we were playing the Bridge School Benefit concert in San Francisco. I didn’t think I was gonna get pied that night and towards the end of the set, we’re doing a song with Neil, and who pies me first? Neil does. It was the last note of the set and that’s how it ended. I’m looking at him and it’s almost in slow motion, I just see a pie hit me in the grill!

Was there anything on your to-do list for 2023 that you didn’t get round to? 

Yeah. I’ve got these storage lockers in LA that are just out of control. There’s years and years of stuff in there that I had planned on going in there and organising everything and I haven’t had a chance to officially do that. 

I also want to improve my Spanish. I started studying French and Spanish during the pandemic and I got to a certain place with my French, and then we basically got really busy with the band and I had to take a break on it. I feel like I need to bring language back into my life. That’s another goal, I want to get my French and my Spanish up to par. 

Did you practise while touring? 

Yeah, especially with Spanish. I was actually recently in Mexico City. My son [Tye] plays in Suicidal Tendencies but he also has a band called OTTTO and he had two shows booked on the same day. I was talking to [ST frontman] Mike Muir and we’re trying to figure out how to dial in the two shows. I said, ‘I’ll sub for him – I’ll take over for the show, I know the songs!’ 

So I went to Mexico City for two days with Suicidal. It was totally fun. I had a blast and I got to try to speak Spanish to my people. It was cool, I got a lot out of it – including the language!

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.