Chris Knight remembers the first time he heard the acoustic intro to Metallica’s “Fade to Black” in his teens.
After that, nothing else mattered.
Knight performs the James Hetfield’s vocals/rhythm guitar parts in the Orange County Metallica tribute band Damage Inc. The band plays at We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort’s WKP Sports & Entertainment bar on Saturday, July 31.
Damage Inc. also features bassist/backup vocalist Kevin Knight, lead guitarist Chris Brightwell and Tone DeCorte on drums.
“We pretty much play the whole catalog,” Knight says. “We know the first four albums front to back, with a smattering of the newer stuff.”
The look of performances mirrors the Jason Newsted era.
“I never saw Cliff live,” Knight says about the bassist Cliff Burton, who died in a tour bus crash in 1986. “I grew up on the Jason Newsted era. It was sad to see him go when the whole thing went down.”
He is, however, impressed with the current bassist Rob Trujillo.
“Rob is a cool, kicked-back, laidback kind of guy,” Knight says. “He’s the polar opposite (of Newsted) on stage. Rob looks like he’s going to catch a wave surfing.”
Named after a Metallica song, Damage Inc. is learning the band’s self-titled collection (also known as “The Black Album”) for its 30th anniversary.
“What we’ve done in the past, if there’s an anniversary, we play it front to back at a special engagement,” Knight says. “Our goal for later this year is to play ‘The Black Album’ in its entirety.”
Knight never aspired to play in a band like Damage Inc., which was formed in September 2004. It came about organically.
“My brother, who’s my junior of about four years, joined the Marines in 1994 or 1995,” Knight says. “While he was in the Marines, he saw a promotional video for the Marines that had ‘Hells Bells’ by AC/DC.
“He created a cover band in the Marines with other Marines. When he came to Camp Pendleton, he asked me to join the cover band. We eventually gravitated to the Metallica songs in 2004. That was my strong suit. Being in a cover band, paying tribute to one band, it’s surreal doing it every weekend. None of us have delusions of grandeur. We’re ‘mock stars,’ if you will.”
Knight caught on to Metallica after 1988’s “…And Justice for All.” He, along with his best friend, Jeff Clark, picked up the guitar at age 18. Their sisters received guitars as Christmas gifts. Clark’s left-handed sister was gifted a right-handed guitar. Knight’s sister told him her guitar hurt her fingers and gave it up.
Although Knight has played guitar for 32 years, he finds Hetfield’s parts challenging.
“I taught myself to play guitar,” Knight says. “I never took a lesson, which you can probably tell in my playing. I emulated him as I was learning. I learned some other stuff, too. Modeling my guitar after James was something that came natural to me.”
WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31
WHERE: We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort, 10438 WeKoPa Way, Fort McDowell
COST: $20 to $35
INFO: 480.789.4957, wekopacasinoresort.com