Metallica Fridays (no. 15): Letter To Lars?

So much has happened since the last post: i finally received a vinyl copy of Kirk’s excellent Portals EP, as well as restringing Jerome with some new Hetfield strings. They are some heavy gauged strings (11, 14, 18p, 28, 38 and 50)!!! The average gauges on the lightest strings are 9s or 10s, and the heaviest ones on average tend to be 46s. I did some restringing and a bit of playing before i went to rehab, and they didn’t seem that bad; perhaps it’s because i play a lot of bass? When i play around a bit more, i may be telling a different story… One thing i can say is that they sounded nice and crisp. i love that new string sound. Also being used to lighter strings, when i went to tune Jerome, i found out i ended up initially tuning way too sharp. These strings are hardcore.

But alas, we are here again with another ‘Metallica Fridays’ post. And there is always a song (or two or three) that speak to me enough for me to highlight it.

And as usual, i gotta pay respects to Lars. You can find me talking about him all throughout these posts, so i won’t go too far into it here. i will keep saying though: For anyone to sit and listen… i mean actually sit and listen, and say that Lars is a bad drummer, i will never understand. i am learning these songs in a whole different way as a player, versus the act of passively listening. If this band were to have ever, in any point in time, gotten a more technical drummer, it would be a whole different band. This actually happened in 2004 (at the Download Festival (aka Donnington), when Lars was briefly hospitalized. In his place were Dave Lombardo (one of the greatest drummers of all time), Joey Jordinson (who i was not that familiar with, but the little i saw of him, i saw that he was an excellent drummer), and Lars’ drum tech, Flemming Larsen. It was amazing to hear them play with Metallica at extremely short notice. They knew their stuff- and i love that Lombardo was about to play the bridge (album version) of ‘Battery’! However, the vibe was entirely different. it wasn’t bad… it was just missing… Lars.

i keep thinking about how Lars sees different rhythms in his brain, from whatever riffs Rob, Kirk and James present. People ask how he’s credited with writing songs, despite him not writing the riffs. The dude has a major hand in arranging where those riffs go, so a songwriting credit is absolutely proper. i wonder how many of his fills are experimentation during the recording process, versus actual construction. i always wonder why he chooses to hit the crash at a specific place you would never think to put it.

For example, the opening cymbal hits in ‘Hell And Back’ (from the great Beyond Magnetic). The opening hits seem so counterintuitive in a way. But they work. They totally work.

i absolutely love this song. They only played it 16 times, during May, June and August of 2012. While (again) it’s always stated that Metallica lyrics can be interpreted in various ways (with very clear exceptions), ‘Hell And Back’ to me is a very clear reading of someone experiencing addiction. You understand the negative implications of the addiction (or dependency); however, the familiarity is comforting, and… dependable. Be it food, sex, alcohol, narcotics… the struggle is real.

i will say though, when i first heard the song i thought James was singing “she’s rachet but she comforts me…” as opposed to wretched. i was like, ‘whatchoo know about rachet, Papa Het??!!’

If they pulled this one out at the 40th i would have screamed. Interestingly (and sadly), they did NO songs from Beyond Magnetic at the 40th.

…And we return to the source. The first Metallica song i ever learned/played on the drums.

‘Blackened’. Why would this be the FIRST song to learn… one of the most difficult in terms of timing, for a person who hadn’t regularly played the drums in over 20 years, and never previously played a Metallica song? Because it’s my favorite song of theirs.

This time though, it’s a live version… the infamous ‘Seattle ’89’ version. i would always try to play it and could never get it (because it was so much faster than the album version, and of course there’s no click track so the timing isn’t straight). It’s also a song i haven’t played in a couple of months i think, so i always want to return to it, because it’s ultimately a barometer for how i am doing in terms of my progress. i still mess up in a spot or two, but it’s WAY better than it was even a couple of months ago. So there’s that.

And now…

i will continue to admit i was wrong, when it comes to Some Kind Of Monster, the 2004 documentary charting not only the recording process of St. Anger, but the band’s struggle to just hold it together. i had no idea what to expect when i saw it in the theater back then, but i absolutely hated it. Like many (who loved and/or appreciated the band at the time) i couldn’t understand why a bunch of dudes in a band would sit and film themselves arguing. i was 27 or 28 years old then. Of course, 18 years later (and having lived a much more eventful life) i understood exactly why they did it, and i’ve come to appreciate the film for the brilliance it is. it’s become one of my favorite films of all time.

i was going back, listening to older episodes of Metal Up Your Podcast (the great podcast that extensively discusses Metallica), and they were discussing the root of the experiences had in the film- (bassist) Jason Newsted’s departure. i then felt inspired to recreate one of my favorite scenes in the film. i know that people tend to look at it as a meme; however, i see it as an examination of a mental downward spiral. Music (and being in a band) was such a crutch for these individuals that they seemingly never really built a relationship outside of that.

The film showed how important therapy actually is.

People were saying that Lars was pretending to be upset by Jason’s departure. i saw it as disbelief. He seemed on the verge of tears- which is how i kind played the scene. To me, Lars’ face was saying one thing, but his voice was saying another.

i acted out the scene, sent it to a few people then realized it needed some music. i kept listening to the words, and played drums around that. Then played guitar and bass around the drums. i wanted the music to capture some level of that downward spiral. After that was done i wanted to see what it was like if the words were said in anger, as opposed to shock or disbelief. With that, i ended up filming another scene, then made a side by side video. It’s interesting to see the two emotions together.

Jason was the bird who could not be caged, and he was ultimately right in leaving. i consider him to be a major teacher for the band, because he was a catalyst for them to do some major self-criticism. That said, i really did want to give Lars a hug in that scene. Jason was correct in leaving, but you could see that Lars was truly hurt by it.

i love that they are all on amicable terms now.

(This song is dedicated to Clint and Ethan, the hosts of Metal Up Your Podcast.)

And herein lies my 50th letter of appreciation to Lars. Thanks for so many classic moments, duder.

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