BACK TO THE FRONT

as me­tal­lica pre­pare to bring Hard­wired... to the UK, we headed to canada for an ex­clu­sive, in­ti­mate look in­side the big­gest tour of 2017. Wel­come to the great­est show on earth, babeeeeeeeh

Metal Hammer (UK) - - Metallica - WORDS: CLAY MAR­SHALL • PIC­TURES: ROSS HALFIN

Lars Ul­rich is chomp­ing on a tooth­pick, sip­ping tea and won­der­ing how his band have man­aged to remain so fa­mous. We are sit­ting back­stage at toronto’s rogers cen­tre, where me­tal­lica will later per­form be­fore 52,000 peo­ple on the 18th North amer­i­can date of their on­go­ing WorldWired tour. they first played the city in 1985, at a club show along­side W.a.S.P. and ar­mored Saint, be­fore this sta­dium even ex­isted.

“as you get fur­ther into your run, you al­most get high from the fact that it’s still even fuck­ing hap­pen­ing,” he mar­vels. “I may not be as crit­i­cal as I was 10 years ago, be­cause a big­ger part of my outlook on ev­ery­thing now is, ‘holy fuck – I’m 53 years old. Peo­ple still give a shit!’ that just blows my mind.”

the drum­mer is in good spir­its to­day, wel­com­ing us into me­tal­lica’s “tun­ing room” – a makeshift re­hearsal area dec­o­rated with fan-made flags where the group warm up for 30 min­utes each night – and pep­per­ing his con­ver­sa­tion with phrases like “blow­ing my mind” and “mind-fuck” that are char­ac­ter­is­tic of his speech. the last time Metal Ham­mer spoke to the band was in New York in Septem­ber 2016, two months be­fore the re­lease of their 10th stu­dio al­bum, Hard­wired... To Self-Destruct. at the time, fans had only heard the spunky ti­tle track and were ner­vous about what to ex­pect from the rest of the band’s new ma­te­rial.

Since then, the record has gone plat­inum in the US and dou­ble-plat­inum in canada – they’ll ac­tu­ally re­ceive com­mem­o­ra­tive sales plaques from their cana­dian dis­trib­u­tor tonight

– as the WorldWired tour has rolled through a hand­ful of ma­jor cities in asia, South amer­ica, europe and now North amer­ica. In oc­to­ber, it will fi­nally reach the UK.

It’s clear Lars fo­cuses less on the detail of me­tal­lica’s per­for­mances these days, and more on grat­i­tude for their con­tin­ued suc­cess. “When you start talk­ing about the drum fill in song eight or some­thing,” he says, “does any of that re­ally mat­ter in re­la­tion to the fact that there’s 52,000 peo­ple com­ing tonight, or my shoul­der is still func­tion­ing, or we can all get dressed in the same room or share space?”

Ham­mer landed in toronto just a few hours ago, but me­tal­lica have been here for nearly a week. Long gone are the garage days when they’d get in the van or tour bus and drive from venue to venue to­gether. Now in their 50s, they choose a se­ries of “base camps” from which to op­er­ate – cities that act as tem­po­rary homes while they com­mute to and from shows in sur­round­ing ar­eas (prior to toronto, they were based in New York city, chicago and miami).

this strat­egy keeps them from tir­ing too quickly, men­tally and phys­i­cally, of the life­style and of each other. the 2004 doc­u­men­tary Some Kind Of Mon­ster showed a band with po­ten­tially volatile chem­istry, and while they’ve moved on mas­sively since then, Lars is can­did about the need to still main­tain bound­aries.

“We’re very con­scious of not cross­ing a burnout line,” says Lars. “We set it up so that we have the slight­est to small­est chance of the whole thing de­rail­ing.

We’re aware of the abysses around us,

“Holy fuck, peo­ple

still give a sHit!”

LARS IS GRATE­FUL PEO­PLE CARE ABOUT ME­TAL­LICA IN 2017

and if we can steer that train and keep it on the track – and at the same time hold onto the train, be­cause the train also has a mind of its own – this thing could go on for 200-300 more years. We don’t need to go to din­ner [to­gether] ev­ery night; we don’t need to hang out; we don’t need to wake up and text good morn­ing, and go to sleep and say good­night; but we need to get along and have a nice, civil time.”

Be­fore ar­riv­ing at rogers cen­tre this af­ter­noon, Lars has been spend­ing his free time in toronto with his wife, model Jes­sica miller, while gui­tarist Kirk ham­mett has kept busy by scour­ing lo­cal shops in hopes of adding to his col­lec­tion of vin­tage hor­ror movie posters. there’s cur­rently an ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing 150 of what he calls his “best pieces” on dis­play at the Pe­abody es­sex mu­seum in Salem, mas­sachusetts, where the in­fa­mous witch tri­als took place 325 years ago.

“When you ‘base’, you feel like you have some sort of foun­da­tion,” Kirk says. “You know that when you set some­thing down, you don’t have to pack it up 10 hours later. It’s great, be­cause you can ac­tu­ally feel a lit­tle bit grounded, rather than won­der­ing, ‘What city am I in? What day is it? When you’re mov­ing around like that, it can be very dis­ori­en­tat­ing.”

these days, the group typ­i­cally tour in leisurely paced, two-week in­cre­ments, fol­lowed by two weeks off at home. they also limit them­selves to around 50 shows a year. Still, Kirk says that he doesn’t like to drift away from the stage for too long.

“to be com­pletely hon­est, I’m a men­tal waste-case,” he says. “I have men­tal is­sues, and anger is one of them. What re­ally, re­ally helps me is mu­sic, and play­ing mu­sic, and go­ing out there on­stage. What peo­ple don’t un­der­stand is the anger, the angst, the anx­i­ety, the frus­tra­tion – all those var­i­ous feel­ings and emo­tions that are at­tached to our mu­sic – are feel­ings that live in us, and have been there since the be­gin­ning. Just be­cause you become fa­mous or you have a lit­tle bit of dis­pos­able in­come, that’s not a cure for my in­ner anger. I have to deal with my in­ner anger ev­ery sin­gle fuck­ing day, and mu­sic helps that.”

there was a time when fans won­dered whether this tour would hap­pen at all. In the years fol­low­ing the re­lease of Death Mag­netic in 2008, me­tal­lica bus­ied them­selves with the uni­ver­sally panned Lulu, re­leased the 3D con­cert film (and box of­fice bomb) Through The Never, cu­rated the failed orion mu­sic + more fes­ti­vals and played a bunch of one-off shows, with an oc­ca­sional tour sprin­kled in for good mea­sure. It was a long, eight-year wait for Hard­wired..., and the ques­tion on ev­ery­one’s lips was: can they still cut it? al­most a year later, with crit­i­cal ac­claim and chart suc­cesses un­der their belt, Lars is proud of the al­bum and feels it’s age­ing bet­ter than some of its sib­lings.

“When you make records, there’s a point where you

“i Have aNgeR is­sues ev­eRy siN­gle fuck­iNg Day”

KIRK HAS HAD TO USE MU­SIC AS A WAY TO DEAL WITH HIS MEN­TAL HEALTH IS­SUES

start ask­ing questions – ‘Why did we do that?’ ‘What were we think­ing?’ ‘What frame of mind was I in?’ most of the time when you ask the ‘Why?’ ques­tion, it comes from a crit­i­cal place,” he says. “[With Hard­wired...], there’s none of those questions yet. I re­ally have no is­sues or faults with it. I played along to a few songs in my home stu­dio to warm up be­fore we started on this leg, and I thought the record still sounded in­cred­i­ble, [even though] it’s com­ing up on a year. that’s a long time, and for some of our other records, there were a few of those ‘Why?’ questions that showed up ear­lier than a year.”

ev­ery night on this tour, the band play five new songs as part of a setlist that typ­i­cally com­prises 18 tracks per­formed with sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion – 19, if you in­clude an in­stru­men­tal jam be­tween Kirk and bassist robert tru­jillo. even bet­ter, the Hard­wired... ma­te­rial sits com­fort­ably along­side the clas­sics.

“they fit right in,” Kirk says. “the flow be­tween the new songs and the older songs, which is usu­ally a good barom­e­ter as to how well they’re liked and how well they work live, is pretty seam­less in terms of au­di­ence re­ac­tion. that’s al­ways a great thing, be­cause that means they like what they’re hear­ing.”

“Do you want heavy?” a bat­tle vest-clad James het­field asks a packed rogers cen­tre four hours later. “me­tal­lica gives you heavy, toronto!”

“it’s some peo­ple’s fiRst me­tal­lica sHow toNigHt. tHat’s a miND-fuck!”

LARS CAN’T BE­LIEVE ME­TAL­LICA ARE STILL BRING­ING IN NEW FANS

as the au­di­ence roar in ap­proval, the group launches into Sad But True for what the song statis­tics page of the band’s web­site says is the 1,218th time (it’s the sev­enth most-per­formed song in the group’s catalogue). even though they could surely play the track in their sleep by now, it sounds ab­so­lutely colos­sal tonight – a sneer­ing, pri­mal war stomp that makes 52,000 heads bob re­flex­ively.

It’s far from the only high­light of the band’s 140-minute per­for­mance. With the crowd warmed up by sup­port acts Vol­beat and avenged Seven­fold, me­tal­lica open with a one-two punch of new ma­te­rial via Hard­wired and At­las, Rise!. Just as Kirk says in the tun­ing room, the re­sponse to the new songs is over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive, but when the band sub­se­quently turn back the clock with For Whom The Bell Tolls, the crowd go even more bal­lis­tic.

Up next is Fuel, which is punc­tu­ated by eight gi­ant col­umns of flames that, ac­cord­ing to a fact sheet sup­plied by the band’s pub­li­cist, each emit 10 times more heat than the av­er­age home bar­be­cue grill. No­tably, it’s the only song aired tonight from the of­ten­con­tro­ver­sial years be­tween The Black Al­bum and Hard­wired..., which makes this truly an all-killer, no-filler per­for­mance that, thanks to five, 50-foot video screens sand­wiched be­tween gi­ant in­flat­a­bles of the m and a from the band’s logo, feels larger than life.

af­ter The Un­for­given pro­vides a tem­po­rary breather, me­tal­lica de­liver an­other dou­ble-shot from Hard­wired...: Now That We’re Dead, which fea­tures a mem­o­rable taiko drum cir­cle jam and per­haps the band’s best riff in a quarter-cen­tury, and Moth Into Flame, which sees the stage stalked by what might be best de­scribed as a fiery shark fin. Both prove to be gen­uine high­lights – no small or­der when your com­pe­ti­tion in­cludes cap­i­tal-c clas­sics such as One and Wher­ever I May Roam.

Fol­low­ing a blaz­ing ren­di­tion of Hit The Lights – the first song the band ever wrote – James asks for a show of hands from “the first-timers in the me­tal­lica fam­ily”. af­ter a good third of the au­di­ence raises their arms, he pauses for a mo­ment to take in the sight.

“It’s pretty amaz­ing that there’s still some new peo­ple com­ing in to see me­tal­lica, man,” he says. “Young, old, medium... medium-aged? What is that?”

Back­stage ear­lier in the day, Lars says he’s stunned by the num­ber of young peo­ple he’s seen in the crowd on this tour.

“a lot of peo­ple say that peo­ple love to come back to songs that have shaped their lives – ‘I grew up lis­ten­ing to me­tal­lica when I was 15, so they hold a dear place in my heart at 35 or 45 or 55,’” he says. “that’s a fine the­ory, ex­cept the mind-fuck of mind-fucks is that half the peo­ple in the au­di­ence

[on this tour] are 15, and it’s their first me­tal­lica show. that’s the cra­zi­est thing – the turnover. there still feels like there’s this or­ganic thing hap­pen­ing.”

Later, Papa het calls out a young fan who’s sand­wiched against the bar­ri­cade. “how old are you – 13?”, he asks. “and you’re in the front row? Who are you with – your dad? You and your dad came to me­tal­lica? that’s fuck­ing cool!” Lars then of­fers an­other young fan the ul­ti­mate heavy metal rite of pas­sage by ex­tend­ing an in­vi­ta­tion to come on­stage, sit be­hind his kit and count off the in­tro to Seek & De­stroy.

as they per­form the song, the band ad­mirably man­age to make a sta­dium show feel in­ti­mate. “We’re recre­at­ing the garage. that’s ex­actly how it was in 1883 when we started!” James quips, as the band gather around

“tHe uk sHows aRe go­iNg to be mucH moRe iN­ti­mate ”

KIRK’S LOOK­ING FOR­WARD TO GET­TING UP CLOSE AND PER­SONAL WITH THEIR UK SET

a sec­ond drumkit that’s mag­i­cally risen from be­low the cir­cu­lar cat­walk sur­round­ing the ‘Snake Pit’, where 200-300 fans cho­sen by lottery (and for a few songs tonight, gui­tarist rob caggiano of open­ers Vol­beat) stand shoul­der-to-shoul­der di­rectly in front of cen­tre stage. Dur­ing the song, a ticket stub from the band’s in­au­gu­ral toronto ap­pear­ance is pro­jected on the video screens – a nice per­sonal touch for the home­town crowd.

af­ter En­ter Sand­man – still as po­tent as ever – brings a three-song en­core to a close, an im­pres­sive fire­works dis­play ties a cel­e­bra­tory bow on an epic per­for­mance.

As the smoke clears, the band are whisked away by im­pos­ing, Se­cret Ser­vice-like sport util­ity ve­hi­cles. Soon af­ter, despite Lars’s ear­lier comment about the band not need­ing to dine to­gether, they are driven to an af­ter­party at a lo­cal restau­rant with their tour mates in avenged Seven­fold and Vol­beat (Go­jira will replace Vol­beat for the sec­ond half of the tour). It’s a dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent un­der­card from the band’s last North amer­i­can sta­dium tour 14 years ago, when they were sup­ported by Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and mud­vayne.

“We’ve played a lot of shows with avenged over the years.

We’ve played a lot of shows with Vol­beat. these are peo­ple that we know very well; these are peo­ple that we’ve cham­pi­oned,” says Lars. “Some bands [we’ve toured with] may not have been judged by his­tory with the same kind­ness as oth­ers, but I can look you in the eye and go, ‘there’s no­body that’s played a me­tal­lica stage that we did not at that par­tic­u­lar time en­dorse and sup­port.’ I think as we get older, though, we like to have bands with us that are part of the fam­ily.”

Still, there re­mains a huge gulf be­tween me­tal­lica, the rest of their fam­ily and be­yond. on a global level, only Iron maiden, ac/Dc and Guns N’ roses can con­sis­tently pack sta­di­ums like tonight’s, and of those, the fu­ture of ac/Dc is un­cer­tain, while the jury’s still out on how long of a hon­ey­moon the GN’r re­union will con­tinue to en­joy. It’s a topic that me­tal­lica ended up dis­cussing with Iron maiden last night, when they were hang­ing out af­ter maiden’s gig at a toronto am­phithe­ater.

“one thing that came up a cou­ple of times is that there aren’t many bands left,” Lars says. “Black Sab­bath have sort of po­litely, re­spect­fully ex­ited; you’ve got ac/Dc; you’ve got Iron maiden; you’ve got Ju­das Priest. We ap­pre­ci­ate more than any­body will truly ever un­der­stand the position that we some­how in­ad­ver­tently ended up in. We’re proud; we’re ap­pre­cia­tive; we’re hum­bled; and we’ll be at the lead­ing edge of the cav­alry and charge for­ward with the best in­tent.”

Kirk hopes that me­tal­lica’s tour mates can con­tinue to grow and pros­per, but wor­ries about the state of the genre when the band fi­nally fade to black.

“It’s im­por­tant for me that there are bands like that com­ing up, but I haven’t seen the mo­men­tum,” he says. “Is it the record com­pany? Is it the fans?

Is it the band? I don’t know, but fuck, man – it seems like time’s running out on us. I want some­one to lis­ten to.

I want some­one to rally for. I want some­one to cheer on. Do it, man – up­set the fuckin’ masses. Piss peo­ple off. make some great fuckin’ entertainment, and make some ex­cit­ing mu­sic so that I can tell my kids, ‘See this band, boys? aren’t they fuckin’ great? they’re the band that dad thinks are the right band to take dad’s band’s place.’”

Un­til then, the me­tal­lica train will con­tinue mov­ing full speed ahead. this oc­to­ber, they’ll hit five are­nas around the UK for their first proper tour here in eight years. Un­like tonight’s mega-per­for­mance, it’s go­ing to be in the round, giv­ing us the chance to get up close and per­sonal with the Four horse­men – some­what like be­ing in the tun­ing room, only with a big­ger au­di­ence and a lot more pyro.

“the sum­mer sta­dium tour is out­door, and more like a heavy metal pic­nic,

whereas the arena tour is go­ing to be much more in­ti­mate,” ex­plains Kirk. “When we’re on a smaller stage, it’s closer to real life and how we re­ally play our in­stru­ments to­gether in a room, so of course it’s go­ing to feel more com­fort­able. We’re able to in­ter­act more with each other and the au­di­ence.”

they’ll con­tinue to tour through­out 2018, hit­ting Scan­di­navia and west­ern europe in the first half of the year, and are al­ready think­ing about their plans be­yond this cy­cle. Fans ir­ri­tated with their re­cent diver­sions into films and other ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties will be heart­ened to hear that mu­sic re­mains their present fo­cus.

“the one thing we’ve had a cou­ple con­ver­sa­tions about is the length of time be­tween Death Mag­netic and Hard­wired..., which was eight years,” Lars says. “We’d like to see if we can beat that. ob­vi­ously, that space had a lot to do with the Lou reeds of the world, the 3D movies of the world, the orion fes­ti­vals of the world and all the other aux­il­iary projects – which we love do­ing, and which is a big part of us stay­ing cre­atively ful­filled. But we’ve had a cou­ple con­ver­sa­tions about get­ting back to record­ing and be­ing cre­ative again sooner than later.”

In a can­did ac­knowl­edg­ment few su­per­star acts would make, Kirk says he un­der­stands why many fans were frus­trated by those sec­ondary projects, but he pre­dicts that in time, they’ll come back around.

“I think for as much as peo­ple have is­sues with us, af­ter a while, they say, ‘al­right, they’re not perfect – they don’t make all the best de­ci­sions at all the right times, but they’re only hu­man.’ We’re do­ing the best we can, and do­ing the things we feel are health­i­est for our art, our mu­sic and our cre­ativ­ity,” he says. “When we do some­thing or ex­hibit behaviour that might be con­trary to what peo­ple think we are, they get mad – but whether they’re pissed at us for one day, one week, one month or one year, even­tu­ally they’re go­ing to be driv­ing their car, and Mas­ter Of Pup­pets comes on, and they’re like, ‘Fuck yeah!’. that’s what brings them back.”

hav­ing al­ready played ev­ery con­ti­nent, Kirk says he’d love to some­day per­form aboard the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion. Lars, mean­while, men­tions want­ing to play coachella. In the mean­time, they and their band­mates will en­joy the feel­ing of hav­ing the wind at their backs as they cir­cle the world in sup­port of their best-re­viewed al­bum in years – an­other jewel in the crown of metal’s undis­puted world cham­pi­ons.

“What’s dif­fi­cult some­times to com­pre­hend is why one record con­nects at one level and an­other record con­nects at a dif­fer­ent level,” says Lars. “Lots of crit­ics are say­ing lots of nice things, but I’ve also been in me­tal­lica where lots of peo­ple are not say­ing very nice things, so you try to not get too at­tached to ei­ther out­come.

“I think the main dif­fer­ence now is ap­pre­ci­at­ing that we still have this abil­ity to con­nect when we play mu­sic. It’s that X fac­tor – cer­tain bands, put

’em in a room to­gether and it still fires up. [For us], it still ab­so­lutely fires up. hope­fully it will keep do­ing that for some time, and hope­fully when it doesn’t, we’ll be the first ones to ac­knowl­edge that it’s not, and re­spect­fully walk away.”

Based on what we’ve seen tonight, their flame burns hot­ter than ever. Hard­Wired… To Self-deSTrucT IS OUT NOW VIA BLACKENED RECORD­INGS. ME­TAL­LICA TOUR THE UK IN OC­TO­BER – SEE P.111

“we’Re goNNa RecoRD agaiN sooNeR tHaN lateR”

ME­TAL­LICA WON’T BE TAK­ING AN­OTHER EIGHT YEARS TO MAKE THEIR NEXT AL­BUM

Kirk shreds hor­ror ob­ses­sive

Zom­bie gui­tar on his White

hey Lars! big­ger my one’s

than yours!

thought­fully James

metal tiara a gives rob

the rogers cen­tre is home to the ma­jor League

Base­ball team the toronto Blue Jays

rob catches up with ray Bur­ton, fa­ther of the leg­endary cliff

Just an­other in­ti­mate me­tal­lica show...

Lars hasn’t found fault with Hard­wired... To Self Destruct

Yet an­other ex­plo­sive set for the metal ti­tans

hon­estly, at this stage in their ca­reer, you’d

think they could af­ford chairs by now…

No mon­sters in sight: me­tal­lica are happy in each other’s com­pany these days

even me­tal­lica get to fan­boy out some­times... it’s Steve har­ris!

all that time hang­ing out with maiden has had an ef­fect on the guys…

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