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Death Magnetic: the Metallica Interview Pt. 2

2008-09-26 19:30
 
Was Death Magnetic an easy album to make, especially after the difficult birth of St. Anger?
James: Making this record was certainly easier than St. Anger. St. Anger was a purging. It boiled to a point where one of the members couldn’t hang anymore. And the three of us kinda joined together after that. When a fellow brother, soldier, whatever, leaves or falls, the others rally together. It was a great thing finding Rob.

The dynamic of the band is quite different now. Lars and I fight over the steering wheel, and the other two guys are perfectly fine sitting in the back seat – and that is their pretty difficult contribution, at least in my mind. I could never sit back there and be okay with it. It works real good. So the making of this record was really so much more positive and productive, we were all really thinking the same way, we weren't stepping in each other’s way just for the sake of making it known that, 'I'm here!' We were going for the same cause and mission.

Rob: The making of Death Magnetic was very organic. The songs started to blossom about five years ago, that’s when we started to develop ideas. After two years of touring, we had at least 60 hours of ideas. We had to read through that for a year. And the writing process was created through jamming. We built up about 25 songs, narrowed that down to 14, and then to 10 for the album. The pure fact that it was created through jamming was very organic. And Rick also wanted to capture a live feel from the band, so when we were actually recording the songs we were all standing up, like it was a performance. When I was tracking bass or re-tracking something, I would stand up and headbang or get on my knees or whatever, so there’s a lot of that feel.

Is Metallica a stronger band after making St. Anger and the documentary Some Kind Of Monster?
Kirk: They were very cathartic and intense experiences. St. Anger and Some Kind Of Monster forced us to re-evaluate everything, forced us to work on our relationships with each other, our musical relationships and personal relationships: to re-evaluate why we’re even doing this. I think it was really important for us to get that perspective. We could easily have faded off into the Where Are They Now? Files.

But we chose not to do that. And having gone through that whole experience, I like to think that we’ve matured a lot more now. We’re a lot more responsible to each other and to the music. And I really feel that we’ve moved on and got it all out of our system, to a point where we were able to bring in a new band member and make him feel that he wasn’t joining a band full of loonies! That was really important. And now that Rob is in the band, he interjects so much fresh enthusiasm and positivity and energy into the whole experience, it’s just a great thing. It brings us together and makes us feel like a much stronger unit nowadays, much stronger than we had felt in the last ten years.
Lars: After Jason Newsted leaving, and James going through his whole thing, we regrouped. We couldn’t go back to making records the way we’d made them in the ‘90s, because we would just fall right back into the same traps. So St. Anger had to be. And I’m proud of the fact that we saw it through. I understand that it’s a difficult record. It’s not a record that everybody has embraced. And that’s okay. But it had to be, in order for Death Magnetic to be the way it is. Some Kind Of Monster, the movie, is something I’m fiercely proud of and very protective over. I’ve always felt that Metallica has done its best to welcome people in, for our fans and friends to have as much access to Metallica as possible. And obviously that movie is the ultimate in that access, whether you want it or not – here it is, in all its glory and all its ugliness!

And there were a few people that maybe felt there was a little too much access, but if you open the door, open the fucking door and let people in. To me, that just goes back to our punk roots. That’s just about trying to connect with people as much as possible. Obviously things are very, very different in this band in 2008 than they were in 2001 and 2002, when both of those projects were going down, and I've spent an awful lot of time in the last couple of months trying to make sure people understand that it’s not quite like that anymore.

Everybody plays nicely in the sandbox and everybody sort of gets along. It’s all very civil, cordial… pleasant, even! There’s a word: pleasant! The word ‘fun’ comes to mind, goddammit! It’s fun to be in Metallica! It’s been a great couple of years. I think we finally got all the balances figured out between our own needs, the band’s needs, family needs, the whole thing. It’s balanced. And the fact that the Metallica baby factory spits out babies one a year at the moment, it gives everybody in the band – a bunch of guys that don’t have a lot in common to begin with – something more to talk about! It’s all good. St. Anger and Some Kind Of Monster, those are distant memories, really.

James: I turned 45 on August 3, and so far the 40s have been the best decade yet, I’d say. Maybe it’s a little bit wisdom sinking through this thick head. But I’m starting to figure out the dynamic of the band, acknowledging what we have and why it works. Realizing that we need each other. When we go places together, we’re able to achieve great things with the Metallica key. Otherwise we’d be four so-so musicians, I’d say. Except Rob.

Rob: With Some Kind Of Monster, I first heard about the film crew being on hand when I was about 20 minutes from the band headquarters. I’d flown in from Los Angeles and I received a phone call that said, ‘There will be a film crew there documenting, are you OK with that?’ What am I gonna say? It’s going down! And I had spent the previous year running away from the cameras in the world of Ozzy Osbourne. So here I am, and I’m not running away from anybody this time. So I was like, okay, I can handle this.

It was a little bit strange at first. But at the end of the day, when I see the footage from Some Kind Of Monster and I see myself performing the songs for the first time with them, I feel some joy in there, but I also feel some pain, because Lars took me out for a few drinks after the first day. It was more of a fly on the wall day where I was kinda hanging out, but later on that night it was like, ‘Hey, let’s go for a few drinks!’ I think he was testing me. I think the Viking in Lars wanted to see how the new guy can handle himself on a night out with Lars Ulrich from Metallica. Can you handle this? I did a pretty good job – but when I see that footage? Painful.

Death Magnetic is released on all formats: CD, digital, vinyl LP. But there is also a special limited edition Coffin Box containing the CD album, a second CD of demos, DVD of rehearsals, t-shirt and other memorabilia including a coffin-shaped poster. Is this the ultimate package for Metallica fans?
James: Death Magnetic in a coffin: how original! It’s a very nice coffin, I must say. It’s not black, it doesn’t give you splinters – it’s piano-smooth! And the coffin might be big enough for small pets. It’s kinda useful.
Lars: Well, these days you do special things for people who want more, so it was only fitting to take the coffin image from the cover of Death Magnetic and create a box out of that. It’s cool. It’s got all kinds of, as we like to say, stuff you shouldn’t have – the demos and the making of DVD. It’s even got a little voucher you can send somewhere and Kirk Hammett comes over and cleans your rugs and does your dishes!

Finally, a last word on Death Magnetic?
James: We try to concentrate on what we think it right and what’s best for us, and whatever radiates form there we have no control over. We’re not worried too much about the outside pressure. The pressure from within is always the greatest – from us, being perfectionists, wanting to be better, wanting to be the first at things, wanting to shine brighter. The will to be better – that’s what keeps Metallica going.

[PREVIOUS: Death Magnetic Interview pt. 1] [page 2 of 2]

...Metallica continue to chat about their new CD, surviving Some Kind of Monster and more.

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