It’s 8am on a Saturday and sleep is drifting into reality. The phone at the side of my bed rings.
“Answer the phone,” someone yells from the other side of the house. I sleepily reach over and mumble a greeting.
A warm voice responds: “Hello. Is this Therese?”
Gulp. “Yes, it is.”
“Hi, this is Kirk, Kirk Hammett from Metallica. How are you?”
My first thought was that I was still dreaming. Why would the Kirk Hammett be phoning me? Why would that sexy, gorgeous piece of guitar-playing genius phone me on a Saturday morning? Don’t wake up. Don’t wake up. Don’t… oh bollocks, I am awake and it is Kirk Hammett and, no, he isn’t phoning me to tell me he hasn’t stopped thinking about me since the last time I interviewed him in a hotel room in Sandton.
Big Concerts had organised an interview with Guitar God of the Known Universe for a Saturday morning and Guitar God of the Known Universe had phoned just a tad earlier.
The purpose of the call is to discuss what South African fans can expect from the band when they play our country for the second time.
The first time they were here was for the first Cokefest, which they naturally headlined. It was the same festival where The Parlotones agreed to play after Metallica. Dorks.
The story goes that Big Concerts needed a filler band to complete the line-up because Metallica were playing a two-hour set, but they were playing earlier than expected. Apparently, the organisers then approached Seether to play after them and they wisely refused. The Parlotones were still on the rise in South Africa and jumped at the opportunity.
But here’s the thing. No one in the history of the world can play after Metallica. Not The Rolling Stones, not Bruce Springsteen, not even U2 and their giant lemons and claws could play after Metallica. Metallica are louder, faster, harder than anyone on planet Earth. Poor old Parlotones. It took a while for Kahn and the boys to get over that one.
But back to louder, harder, faster and 30 years of Metallica and my interview with Guitar God of the Known Universe. He joined Metallica on April 1, 1983. Their first album, Kill ’Em All, was released in late 1983. Did he have an inkling that Metallica would become, well, Metallica for 30 years?
“Yeah, its been 30-odd years and we never thought we would get that big. It’s truly gone beyond our wildest dreams. I remember sitting around a table in 1983 when Lars (Ulrich) was saying that we have a chance to play Europe. I was so excited. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I might be going outside my country to play.’ That was the extent that we talked about it initially.”
One hundred million album sales worldwide later, Metallica are on tour in Australia and living life on their terms.
“Yeah, I’ve just finished surfing here in Brisbane. And after speaking to you we’re heading to the stadium to perform for two hours. Um, I think we’re playing to, um, wait just hold, Therese. Hey, how many people are we expecting tonight? No, how many tickets have we sold. Okay, thanks. Hi, we’ve sold 50 000 tickets.”
I go into teenage groupie mode in my head. OMG, they’re playing to 50 000 people in a stadium half way across the planet and he’s taking time out to speak to me!
Focus! Um, yeah, 30 years and my interview time is only 15 minutes as he’s got a gig to play.
Metal was really big in the early 1990s, when the commercial side of music embraced grunge and anything that was vaguely alternative with distorted guitar.
“I think there will always be an audience for heavy metal. It always goes through cycles, being popular and then underground. The core of heavy metal are loyal and faithful. Sometimes it takes a simple thing like hearing a Motorhead song and recognising who they are to get the people back into the sound. A metal lifestyle stays with you. Once it is in your blood it stays in your blood.
“Metallica has been my lifestyle. It’s been an art form that has been an exciting and reliable source of musical inspiration. It’s amazing that I have James (Hetfield), Lars and Rob (Trujillo) and that Rob has James, Lars and me and, well, you get the drift. It’s amazing we found each other and created such positive music. The greatest payoff is that it moves people in a positive way.”
Hammett loves his job. He constantly smiles on stage and plays with ferocity and then such gentleness. And, did I mention that the man is all sexy rock ’n’ roll with his black cut off Tees and tight black pants and those gorgeous eyes?
“I am very happy on stage unless the guitar sound is bad. But I normally have a lot of fun.”
So what can we expect from Metallica this time around?
“You can expect two hours of compilation songs that span 30 years and some surprises. And, no, I can’t tell you about them because then it wouldn’t be a surprise.
“South Africa was great. We surfed a few places, ate some great food and visited some game farms. It was much more of an experience than we were expecting. So we’re amped to play again. We generally return quicker if we enjoyed the experience than if we didn’t.”
Alas, the 15 minutes have passed and I can almost here the fans shout “Me-tal-li-ca!” with their hands raised in the metal sign. Can’t wait for the same experience here.
Thank goodness I still have my Docs and lots of black eyeliner.
Metallica play Cape Town Stadium on April 24 and Soweto’s FNB Stadium on April 27 .
In the words of Barney Simon: see ya in the moshpit!