Metallica band members, who will perform in Delhi on Friday, say teaming up with Lou Reed for their new album was thrilling
Musician Lou Reed was leaving Madison Square Garden, along with metal band, Metallica, in October 2009, when Reed came up with an idea. Reed and the band had performed Sweet Jane and White Light/White Heat together at the Rock‘n’Roll Hall of Fame 25th anniversary concert, and Reed thought they should build on that collaboration. “Lou said: ‘Let’s make a record together’,” recalls Lars Ulrich, Metallica’s drummer and co-leader, along with singer-guitarist James Hetfield. “We were down by the garbage and parked cars. I said: ‘OK’, let’s do that’.”
The result is Lulu, recorded over 10 days last summer at Metallica’s studio in northern California. To the backing of Metallica’s formidable, stadium-shaking riffing, Reed supplies a story that touches on all manner of after-dark activities, from penetration to evisceration, flagellation to incest, blood, puke, guts and pets. And that’s just disc one of the 89-minute, two-CD album.
Up in the Manhattan offices of Metallica’s management QPrime, the Reed-Metallica collaboration is closely guarded before release — no advance copies are sent out, and anyone wishing to hear it has to come to QPrime, to be ushered into a office where Lulu is driven at volume through band-approved Genelec speakers. There’s no mistaking Lulu’s substantial recorded impact, or that the Reed-Metallica conjunction allows each to play to their respective strengths. No one is more thrilled at this conjunction than Reed himself.
“This has so much rage, it’s thrilling,” says Reed, adding, “I’ve waited for a long time to have a shot at doing something like this with the right people. I’m energised and jacked up. Sometimes I find it so emotional I have to get up and turn it off.”
“The music is demanding on the listener, no question,” says Hal Willner, the producer of Lulu. “I don't know what to call it but it is not background music. Lou came in with material, Metallica brought the ticket and took the ride. They showed themselves incredibly courageous, open and not pandering.
They always said something if they didn’t want something a certain way and they were totally free to express themselves,” he adds.
“I didn’t expect to be involved in a process of this magnitude,” says Ulrich, who is perceptibly in awe of Reed. “I’m invigorated at how absolutely awesome the record turned out. Lou walked into the studio and about seven seconds later my head was spinning like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. It was so impulsive it’ll take me years to access what happened,” he adds.
Although Reed has inspired a multitude of guitar bands with wraparound shades, Metallica were not among them. But the differences between their respective traditions — east coast art rock, west coast metal didn’t matter. “I’d played with them so I didn’t have to go beyond that,” Reed says. “I didn’t need to ask for their biography. Whatever the thing is, it exists in the playing. Feeling is everything to me in rock — to make it really happening and not degenerate into pop music,” says Reed.
Lulu was initially destined to be a covers album of a dozen or so lesser-known items from Reed’s catalogue, with Metallica on board to provide backup. “I didn't know we were going to be so involved on a creative level,” Ulrich says.
Metallica is set to rock Delhi with their performance on October 28.