Rock musician

Unleash the Vulcan within.

By Andy Serwer, Fortune managing editor

(FORTUNE Magazine) -- ROBERT TRUJILLO, bassist, Metallica

Locking up an insanely great new bass player is no small thing. For Metallica, it meant searching far and wide for the perfect guy to fill the hole left when Jason Newsted departed. The band tapped Robert Trujillo - widely considered to be one of the finest bassists in all of rock - and promptly handed him a million-dollar advance.

While the lead guitar may get all the glory, the bass player, along with the drummer, is the foundation of a band, providing the backbone and the pulse of the music. By definition, a virtuoso bass player isn't supposed to stand out. Where would Eric Clapton, back in the days of Cream, have been without the deep, bouncing sound produced by Jack Bruce? Or Pete Townshend of the Who without the aggressive punctuation of John Entwistle? As a listener, you may be tapping your foot or nodding along with the music and not even realize that it's the expertly timed thump of the bass that has you so seduced. "If a guitar player makes a mistake, it's okay" says Trujillo. "Look at Keith Richards, he's always noodling around. Bass players are on the spot. If we make a mistake, everyone hears it."

The bass is also the connective tissue between the beat and the melody line. It's really the engine of any band, in a best-case scenario purring along so perfectly you don't even notice. But you couldn't move without it.

Like so many of his ilk, Trujillo didn't begin life pining to play bass. "I wanted a set of drums, but we lived in an apartment and drums were too loud," he says. "Then I wanted keyboards. Finally a friend of my father had an old Harmony hollow-body bass with strings an inch off the fretboard."

Befitting a musician who has played in all kinds of bands, from hard-core punk (Suicidal Tendencies) to old-school metal (Ozzy Osbourne) to more progressive metal (Metallica), Trujillo listened to "almost everything" growing up. But he says he finds inspiration by watching masters in disciplines far removed from the music world. "Muhammad Ali, for the way he had to use his smarts and the way he moved. I love Kelly Slater, the surfer who's the Michael Jordan of the sport, and author H.P. Lovecraft, who had an amazing creative influence on so many. All of them fuel me when I am playing. I feel the magic of those and others when I am performing. It's an injection - a mixture of all those that move me."  Top of page