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Turns out James Hetfield wasn't the first choice for Metallica's lead singer

James Hetfield of Metallica
(Image credit: David Tan/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

James Hetfield has revealed that he wasn't Metallica's first choice when it came to picking a lead singer. 

In a chat on their limited-engagement SiriusXM channel, Mandatory Metallica (opens in new tab), Hetfield shared a behind the scenes story about life on the road at the beginning of their career in the early 80s. Noting it as a time of "chaos, joy and debauchery" that was "all in the name of fun and local ass-kicking", the frontman delves into his admiration for "fellow LA band" Armored Saint, who Metallica toured with on numerous occasions. 

Within the segment, Hetfield discloses that Metallica had actually wanted to pinch Armored Saint's vocalist, John Bush, to become the new voice of Metallica.

"A lot of those earlier memories were celebrated with a band called Armored Saint, who were a fellow LA band back in the early 80s when we were getting started" begins Hetfield. "Obviously John Bush was a singer we got to know really well and really really tried to get in him into the band as a singer.

"[It] didn't work out, he was dedicated and very in love with what he was doing with his brothers in Armored Saint, and we absolutely respect that but we got to hear them and love them every single night."

After making a name for himself as the leader of Armored Saint, John Bush went on to become Anthrax's singer in 1992 up until 2005 – although he did briefly reunite with the band for a short stint between 2009 and 2010. 

Last year, Bush made an appearance on Speak N' Destroy (opens in new tab), a podcast hosted by Metallica, where he spoke about rejecting their invitation to join the band. "That was definitely not my destiny, to be the singer of Metallica," Bush explained. "I mean, I would've literally changed heavy metal, because I was not meant to be that person.

"It was meant to be James [Hetfield] with his voice doing that. Sure, it could've been some form of success, it probably would've been because they were destined for something, but it would've been different.

"To what degree, who knows? I never really thought about it, I just have to laugh. 'Here we go again, let's talk about it.' But it kind of seems to fit well with just my life in some weird way."

Although Metallica may have failed on recruiting Bush, they did manage to steal a crew member from Armored Saint, known as Zack Harman. Speaking of the fun that unfolded during those early days, Hetfield continues "But I'll tell ya the Armored Saint guys were always there to have some fun, they were up for anything all the time. You know we would make fun of them a little bit because of their outfits and you know they had to have little wardrobe malfunctions on stages.

"Actually Zack, the guy that we lifted from them, was one of the guys, that would come out onto the stage and fight John Bush the singer in an actual Armored Saint duel, I guess you would say. Basically two guys in armour with swords going at it, so a little bit of medieval trickery there for the crowd, a lot of fun. So we toured with these guys for years and years, they're sweet guys, and really have a great place in our heart."

Listen to the Mandatory Metallica segment below:

Liz Scarlett
Liz Scarlett

Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music. '10 bands that rip off Black Sabbath but get away with it' is her favourite article she's written with Louder so far. When not writing, Liz enjoys various creative endeavours such as graphic design, as well as reading about rock’n’roll history, art and magic.