With printout signs pointing to all the different production areas and roadies hauling gear every which way, Metallica’s well-greased tour machine fell right back into action last weekend backstage at U.S. Bank Stadium. It looked like a seasoned army platoon being sent on its latest deployment. You never would have known it was actually the metal icons’ first concert in six months until the band members themselves showed up and started giving crew members good-to-see-you-again hugs.
Steered by one of the crew members to a football locker room serving as his dressing room, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich seemed downright elated by the tightly controlled chaos.
“I really haven’t left home since we played Super Bowl weekend six months ago,” the band’s co-founder said in a preshow interview. “It’s fun to be back out in the elements and amongst people, especially under these circumstances.”
Not only did Metallica help christen Minnesota’s new NFL stadium last weekend, but it also kicked off the promotional cycle for its first new album, “Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct,” a double-LP package due out Nov. 18. It’s the quartet’s first new album in eight years, not counting “Lulu,” a 2011 collaboration with Lou Reed, or the soundtrack to the band’s 2013 Imax concert movie “Through the Never.” It will also be the first Metallica album issued via Blackened Recordings, its new in-house record label after three decades with Warner Bros.
Here’s what Ulrich had to say about the new record and his group’s latest stop in the Twin Cities. As you’ll see, it probably won’t be long before they’re back.
On how Minneapolis got the band’s one and only gig of the summer: “It’s really simple: We were invited. I’m not playing that down; it really was a case of six to nine months ago, they called us and said, ‘How’d you like to come play the opening of the stadium?’ We kind of thought of it as a no-brainer, especially since we had such a great history here going back to 1985. I think we’ve played at least 15 times here. We played [three] times at the Metrodome, and First Avenue in ’85, and all the places in between. Those three shows here right after the millennium [Target Center in 2003] were memorable, too. We’ve always had good radio support here and just a good overall response from fans here.”
On the timing of the stadium show with the new album: “We didn’t know at that time it was going to end up coinciding. We literally only decided two weeks ago that we were going to kick off the campaign this week before the show. We were going back and forth between putting it out in November or putting it out after the holidays. We kind of just decided, ‘Why would you hold a record back if it’s done?’ There are certain people who tell you, ‘Oh, you need to hold off and plan this or plan that,’ but it’s 2016. All that stuff doesn’t matter anymore, just put the damn record out. We’re more of an autonomous entity than we’ve ever been, and we just decided, ‘[Screw] it. Let’s put it out.’”
On the long wait between albums and tours: “There’s just been a lot of other stuff going on. Metallica has always been active. Since we started making ‘Death Magnetic’ [their last album], it’s coming up on 10 years of steadily working. The last time we took a break was after San Diego in 2004. We started up songwriting for ‘Death Magnetic’ in 2005, then we toured it for three years. We spent about a year on ‘Lulu,’ about two years on the ‘Through the Never’ movie and soundtrack. We’ve been playing all the great festivals around the world and hitting some really amazing places like China, Malaysia and Indonesia. Really, we haven’t sat still in almost 10 years.”
On describing the new record: “I don’t know if I have enough distance from it yet to really describe or explain it. Greg [Fidelman, producer] is back home mixing it as we speak. We’re mastering it starting on Monday. Here’s what I can tell you: I’m pretty [bleeping] sure it sounds like Metallica. The songs are probably a little leaner and shorter than the last go-around, and slightly less progressive. They’re more one-dimensional, meaning each song really just has one individual mood instead of having many moods within one song. And I can tell you, it feels pretty damn good to have this new music and to be getting it out there.”
On “Lulu,” which perplexed many listeners and then became Lou Reed’s final album upon his death in 2013: “Listen, it’s one of the greatest experiences of my life. I wouldn’t change any of it. We made a great record, and one day Planet Earth will come to appreciate it. We all love it. Lou was just an insanely cool and awesome person to be around. There’s not a single part of it I would change, other than still having Lou around.”
On the next time we’ll see Metallica: “If they invited us to a game here at this stadium, we’d probably come back [laughs]. As nice as this is, next time in the Twin Cities will probably be in an arena. We haven’t played arenas in America in about six or seven years, so it would be nice to get back to that when we start touring with this new record.”