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Online Fans Prefer “Original” Over “Clean” Albums

Online Fans Prefer “Original” Over “Clean” Albums

While Metallica have only days before they have to turn in the
mixes of S&M, the live album documenting last April’s
bombastic collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony (due out
Nov. 23), the mood at the Plant recording studio is upbeat.| This
is the same place where every Metallica album since 1993’s
Binge, Shit, & Purge has been recorded, as well as
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours and Stevie Wonder’s Songs in
the Key of Life
. The metallurgists liked the place so much
they invested more than $1.5 million to revamp studio A, before
spending an entire year recording Load and its moody
companion, Reload. This week the former thrash band has
beckoned journalists from the four corners of the globe to this
woodland paradise, tucked into the tiny resort town of Sausalito,
Calif., to listen to a handful of songs that will make their way
onto the album. An unshaven and sleep-deprived Lars Ulrich talks to
RollingStone.com about what it’s like go highbrow, and why
Metallica plan to take a year off.

What has it been like, putting the art project
together?

It was a year and a half from when we first met [conductor] Michael
Kamen until we played the two shows. I can’t speak for the other
guys, but after we did the two shows with the San Francisco
Symphony, I didn’t hear any tapes for almost three months because I
wanted to come back to it fresh without any recollection of what I
felt when I was playing it. For me, the last six to eight weeks
have been the most enriching part of the process because it’s where
I’ve learned the most about us as a band.

What about when you were onstage with 102 new
musicians?

It was very intense and very real. I find when you do something
like that, the reality of the moment becomes really thick and all
encompassing. Nothing else exists. It’s this thing about your body
and your instrument and what goes on around you. You feel so at one
with everything. Other than sex, it’s as focused as your mind or
body ever becomes. Even though I was onstage with the three other
guys in the band, Michael Kamen, the 4,000 people in the hall, the
orchestra, the tape machines, the cameras, they weren’t there for
me. I was mainly concerned with holding up my end and nothing else.
Understanding what was going on around me, at least musically, was
really something that I didn’t fully appreciate until we sat down
to listen to the tapes. The full picture didn’t hit me until eight
weeks ago.

You did seem swept away by the intensity of the whole
thing.

During the performance, I realized the enormity of the thing, and
the need to just f—ing hold down my end of it, and not let anyone
on the team down because I was not focused. Or because you had gone
out and stayed up until eight in the morning the night before.
There was an incredible respect for the situation, and wanting to
excel at it.

When you try this in November in Berlin [the Velodrome, on
Nov. 19] and New York [Madison Square Garden, Nov. 23], will you
play the same set?

Theoretically, we’ll be doing the same set or very close to it, but
by reviewing the tapes we’ve gotten a better sense of what worked,
what was special, what didn’t work, what was adequate, so now maybe
it would be interesting to revisit a few near-misses. We haven’t
spent much time talking about it. Just like how I feel about the
acoustic thing [playing at Neil Young’s Bridge School all-acoustic
benefit in 1997], this is now part of something we can fall back
on. If in 2001, we’re doing twelve dates in Australia, we can
always throw in a one night with the Sydney symphony. It’s one more
layer of things that this band can do, and I think that’s been the
best thing about this experience: feeling good about the dare, and
not being scared about wanting to do this again. And having it in
our arsenal as one of the things we can pull out of our sleeve.

What does scare you? Is there anything you wouldn’t
try?

No, there’s nothing I wouldn’t try. I would say bungee jumping
isn’t high on the list, or joining one of those guys from the
National Weather Center who fly through hurricanes — that’s not
high on the list either. I don’t need to drink anymore
Jaegermeister in my life. But in terms of creativity, writing
musical things, film things, anything that is some kind of creative
challenge on any level is something I could step up to. There’s a
difference between having aspirations and chasing them. I wouldn’t
say I’m chasing things. I’m not the next guy in line to chase movie
parts. Or pushing the script I’ve been working on for five years.
I’m not necessarily chasing that, but if somebody came to me and
said, ‘You’d be perfect for this,’ certainly under the right
circumstances, I’d be game. The bottom line is certainly I’m at a
point in my life where I would welcome almost anything
creatively.

What’s in store for Metallica next, given that premise of
new challenges?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the next record the last couple of
months. I’m starting to get very excited about proving to myself,
proving to the band, and proving to everybody else that we can and
will reinvent it once again and come up with something that will be
unlike anything you’ve heard from us. I think we’ve done the
English-blues-based riffage thing enough in the last three or four
records. We’ve done the slash stuff enough on the first record. But
there are a lot of different things that we can do next time
around, and I think there’s a lot of new things that have come up
that we can draw inspiration from.

Anyone in particular that inspires the band?

I wouldn’t say anyone in particular. I’m just talking about how
hard rock music continues to evolve, and it continues to fuse
different elements. You have a band like Korn who has five
different elements, and one of the five elements might be Metallica
during the And Justice for All period. Maybe by fusing the
five elements that Korn did and they morph and morph and morph,
then one day I hear something in Korn and I take the one thing of
theirs and fuse it with four other things. It becomes like a
mushroom cloud that just continues to morph into all these
different shapes. I think next time I’ll want to make a really
brutal, harsh record. We’ve done the southern rock thing, AC/DC
riffs and all that. I want to do something different from that, and
that’s new for us. I look forward to experimenting with sounds, and
being much more adventurous with sounds and noises, and loops.
That’s not jumping on any bandwagon, that’s continuing to take
advantage of technology and what’s out there, and what you can f—
with and make your own. Whatever happens, I know the next Metallica
album will sound like a total natural Metallica album for the year
2001. But it will be once again, very different. I look forward to
getting on with that sometime next year.

So you’re taking a year off?

I think we’re going to skip a year. When we’re done with our two
weeks of millennium dates on Jan. 9, we are going to chill the f—
out for awhile. And we’re probably going to take our first extended
break since 1994. We’re doing these dates with Kid Rock, which will
be a lot of fun. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the
five-year run that we’ve been through. James [Hetfield,
singer/guitarist] and I were just talking about it last night, that
we’ll be able to sit down for the first time in six years and have
a situation where we don’t have any dates in front of us. I wake up
on Jan. 10 and I don’t have dates staring at me. There’s nothing.
When he feels like it, or I feel like working, we’ll give each
other a call and get on with it. But there will be no date. It is a
luxury, but we’ve worked our asses off for the past six to seven
years, and it’s really time to just chill out. Not just for us, but
I think everybody could use a break from Metallica for a year. Get
the f— out of the way for a while.

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