Metallica at the Linc: Longtime metal band looks backward to move forward
When Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett talks about the initial inspiration for his thrash gods’ most recent album, 2016’s Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, and its stadium tour that hits Lincoln Financial Field Friday, he looks back to the quartet’s first, brain-crushing soul-sucking, magnum opus 1983’s Kill ‘Em All and a discussion the metal quartet (guitarist-singer James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, bassist Robert Trujillo) had about that album in Atlantic City when they commenced their Orion Music + More festival at Bader Field in June 2012.
“There was an actual moment where we discussed Kill ‘Em All, realizing it’s still vital and informative as to how we play now and where we could go moving forward, and that’s when we did that first Orion festival and played the whole album on one of our smaller stages as a surprise to everyone in the audience,” says Hammett in a rush regarding Metallica’s blunt force thrash classic. “We wowed the crowd, ourselves and came offstage thinking ‘that was fun” doing the whole short, sharp song thing. We cycled through a handful of songs – BAM BAM BAM – rather than a few.”
The Orion fest didn’t last (its second iteration was 2013 in Detroit) and lost Metallica money (“it’s in our back pocket as a concept, not trashed, not dead”), but that side stage gig was a cranky, major impetus for Metallica to show what a loose song agenda and a sharper, blunter style could do going into the next album: Hardwired.
Then again, everything Metallica does now seems to test the three decades-plus band’s mettle, blade and soul, whether it’s playing with Lou Reed on their critically-lambasted 2011 Lulu project or playing with Iggy Pop last month in Mexico City. “Guys like Lou and Iggy Pop informed what we did starting out as well as maintaining influence over us now,” he says. (For further inspiration, check the 3 CD version of Hardwired featuring covers of Ronnie James Dio, Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow and more. “Blackmore is too unheralded for words considering the way he rode the grove. I love his raunchy sound”).
Mention additional collaborations with the likes of pop goddess Lady Gaga and classical cellist Lang Lang and the guitarist says such experimentation is part of Metallica becoming comfortable in its skin. “I do think we were guarded about who we’d let into our circle, maybe overly controlling,” says Hammett. “In the last 10 years however, we’ve opened ourselves up, to other things, other people, more open in our thinking.”
What such openness meant for Hammett – in regard to Hardwired – was that he approached his riffs and solos improvisation-ally. “Each of us look for what is unthinkable, a sonic passage that comes to you out of nowhere,” he says. “What that meant for me was embracing the truly unknown, relying on pure true spontaneity and not knowing what I was going to play until I played it.” With the exception of the crash-bang epic “Spit Out the Bone” Hammett avoided the Hetfield-Ulrich-penned tracks. “That was liberating and tricky, walking into a studio without anything prepared. It takes a certain degree of confidence in your musical ability – hahaha – as well as trust in your band mates, and they in me that I would come up with something tasty.”
Without bragging, Hammett states that his phrasing, perspective and approach was different on Hardwired than anything else in the canon of Metallica, an outfit he joined in 1983 after Dave Mustaine (who went on to create Megadeth immediately following his departure). Then again, Hammett – a renowned Trump-hater who spent as much of the post-election on Twitter as the President – also has great love and abiding admiration for his Metal brethren, Hetfield in particular, for investing emotional tumult in each song her writes. “James is a poet, man. Every time an album comes to bear, I’m surprised at his word-smith-ing, his sensitivity toward human nature and the human dialog. You don’t get that when speaking or hanging with him, but he’s way sensitive and very in tune. He’d probably be uncomfortable if he knew I was calling him all this.”
What Metallica does hear – and eschew – after 35 years of thrashing about, is how they don’t quite rock as frenetically as they used to; ridiculous if you’re ear-deep into Hardwired’s power-metal freak-outs.
“I realize when someone says as such that it is more about them, their perspective, their life, that they are projecting,” says Hammett with a laugh. “Maybe they can’t handle having aged 35 years. We do what we want to do – use our own instincts –and if it feels good, we hit it. We’re not worried about someone outside of the room second guessing what we do. Just the four guys inside of that room matter.”
Metallica with Avenged Sevenfold and Volbeat play Friday, May 12 at 6 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field, 1 Lincoln Financial Field Way. $159.50, 139.50, 75.50, 59.50
Published at Tue, 09 May 2017 18:48:18 +0000