By Sarah Bennett
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By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
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By Nick Keppler
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By Alex Distefano
Puppets of Masters: Damage Inc ride Metallica's lightning
How does one start a tribute band?
My little brother went into the Marines and met a couple people and started a band. When he got back, he got me into the band. We did hard-rock covers—Megadeth, System of a Down, Godsmack, some Metallica. We wound up adding a lead guitarist and thought the Metallica stuff we did sounded the best, so it was just kind of a natural transition. We could play some bigger shows and some better venues by being a tribute to one band instead of covering a variety of bands.
So the tribute band route leads to bigger shows than covering a lot of bands?
Definitely. It's almost kind of its own culture with the tribute bands. My fiancée is in an all female AC/DC tribute, ThundHerStruck. Our new lead guitarist came from an Ozzy tribute band. I think there's a good market out there because there are a lot of bands not touring anymore and it gives people a chance to hear the music while they're unable to hear the actual band.
Some bands go to greater lengths than others trying to visually mimic the band they cover, or recreating the stage show. How far do you guys go?
It's more in the music. Metallica has always dressed down. They're not the spandex, hair-metal type of band. It's easy to get dressed up in a pair of jeans and a black T-shirt and wail away. We try and bring the live Metallica show when we play. I've seen a lot of Metallica videos and been to a lot of concerts. I try and give the fans what I want to see at a Metallica concert. We take a lot of the banter and even the style of songs. We're currently working on an …And Justice for All medley similar to what Metallica did on their Black Albumtour. That's what we pride ourselves on—bringing a live Metallica feel. Instead of going to a show and everything is played note-for-note like you're listening to the album, we bring that and take it to the next level of giving the live experience with the banter between songs and giving a different feel to the songs like Metallica would at a live show.
Do you play earlier stuff, later stuff, or anything from their catalog?
Pretty much everything is fair game. The majority of our songs are pre-Black Album, or what someone might call "old-school Metallica," or "classic Metallica." The only thing we haven't touched yet is St. Anger, but judging by the cold reception it got, I don't think anyone is banging down any doors to hear those songs. We all have day jobs, so for us it's about the fun of playing. If we're all on the same page on a song, we'll bring it in.
Do you usually play all-tribute-band shows?
All tribute billing tends to be a little bit bigger draw, but we've played shows with original bands, as well. You want to try and pair up the right style of music whether it be tribute or original bands. You don't want a Beatles tribute followed up by Metallica, or a Slayer tribute, then a Tom Petty tribute.
Metallica seems like a band that inspires a lot of creative tributes like Harptallica—Metallica songs played by harps.
We actually played with Harptallica at the Metallibash in Long Beach. It's a convention for Metallica fan club members to get together, enjoy the band, hear stories, and enjoy a night of Metallica tribute. I've heard bands like Apocalytica—four cellos; Beatallica—Beatles music sung in the style of Metallica. The music was really well-written. It inspires people.
Do you still listen to Metallica? It would seem by playing their songs, you'd have them permanently etched in your brain.
Sometimes I do. It depends on my mood. My mood often coincides with what's in my CD player. If I need to work on a part to a song, I'll listen to it. But once in a while I'll throw a CD on if I haven't heard it in a while. Yeah, generally you get a little burned out on playing it and listening all the time, so I try and mix it up a bit.
Why not play original music instead?
The time involved writing the songs and rehearsing—with all of us working day jobs, it doesn't allow the time to do an original project. This is all for fun. I dreamed about playing Metallica in front of crowds when I was growing up, so I'm living a dream.