Metallica's Kirk Hammett on the Band's Forthcoming Album with Lou Reed
When Metallica announced that they were working on a collaborative record with 69-year-old underground rock icon Lou Reed, titled Lulu (Warner Bros.) and due out November 1, fans of both artists let out a collective “Huh?” Although Reed is responsible for some of proto-metal’s earliest rumblings, on his ’60s group the Velvet Underground’s noisy White Light/White Heat LP, and performed with the thrash-metal legends at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert in 2009, the Metallica-Reed pairing seemed destined to be just a one-night stand. But, according to guitarist Kirk Hammett, once they had broken the ice at the fi rst rehearsal for the show, both parties felt like they could work on something larger together.
“He has a reputation for being a grouchy kind of guy,” Hammett says, adding that it was now-deceased bassist Cliff Burton who turned him on to the Velvet Underground on the Ride the Lightning tour. “Once we started rehearsing [for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert], though, Lou was just like, ‘Oh my God. This is great! This is what I’ve wanted to hear all my life.’ And that’s what led to, ‘Oh, we should make an album.’ And we all kind of unanimously agreed.”
The original concept for their collaboration was for Metallica to accompany Reed on some of the his hits and deep cuts. But then Reed had another idea. He had been working on some songs based on stories written by German playwright Frank Wedekind, about a young dancer with a seemingly bright future who eventually falls into prostitution, and he thought that only a heavy group like Metallica could help him support such heavy subject matter. The band was into it and they ended up writing the album in about a week and a half.
“I think it’s one of the best things we’ve ever done,” Hammett says. “It showed me that we could still be truly spontaneous and in the moment. We haven’t been spontaneous like that for years and years and years, probably since the ’80s.” He laughs.
Although music wasn’t available to hear at press time, the guitarist describes Lulu as “artsy” and says that it sounds nothing like his band’s or Reed’s past works. “We were all out of our comfort zone,” he says, “and because of that, we came up with stuff we normally wouldn’t come up with.” For Hammett, working out of his comfort zone meant playing synth guitar because “Lou Reed doesn’t like guitar solos.” He says that drummer Lars Ulrich was able to explore experimental drumming and that frontman James Hetfi eld immersed himself in the performances because he didn’t have to worry about writing lyrics. They brought in orchestral string sections and just let loose, even writing one song, “Junior Dad,” that’s 19-minutes long. “It’s largely an artistic endeavor for ourselves,” Hammett says. “And we’re just inviting everyone else along for the party.
“This is something that most people won’t be expecting from us,” he continues. “All I have to say is don’t judge it by heavy-metal standards and maybe you’ll understand it better.”