Metallica Teases New Album, Ponders the Future of Rock at SiriusXM Town Hall Interview

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for SiriusXM
Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo, Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield of Metallica speak during SiriusXM's Town Hall with Metallica to air on The Band's SiriusXM Channel Mandatory Metallica at SiriusXM Studios on Sept. 26, 2016 in New York City.  

The metal legends also reflected on their 2011 Lou Reed collaboration "Lulu" & their fandom of U.K. punks Savages.

Determined to make an event of the band's first studio album since 2008, Metallica is hitting the promotional trail early and often. The quartet was in Midtown Manhattan for an episode of Howard Stern’s Sirius XM radio show and, just after that, taped a town-hall-style Q&A sesh with a handful of contest-winning fans and veteran rock writer David Fricke.

Billboard was on hand for the hour-long town hall, which found James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo fielding questions about Hardwired... to Self-Destruct (due Nov. 18) and whatever else the pre-screened questions had to offer. Most were the usual fanfare (questions about dream collaborators, favorite and least favorite songs to perform, stories about celebrities, etc.) and Metallica was mostly unwilling to get too revealing, about the new songs or otherwise (a question about what other music they listened to during their recent studio sessions yielded exactly zero names of other artists.) However, the fan adoration was undeniable and Fricke was able to finesse questions the band had no doubt heard before into far more interesting territory.

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This happened, unequivocally, when Metallica was talking about things other than the band itself. “Where’s the new generation of arena bands?” Hammett called out at one point, ruffling up a discussion about their adoration of Motorhead. No one -- band or audience -- could muster a response, though this did inspire Trujillo’s endearing impression of a run-in with Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler on a flight from London to California. In a scruffy mock British accent: “Who’s gonna carry the torch? When Metallica’s done and we're done? Who’s gonna carry it?” Trujillo admitted he couldn’t answer the question. Later on, Ulrich pointed out there are perhaps only so many places a genre can be taken, citing jazz purists who believe the genre was tapped after Ornette Coleman's best work. 

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Talks on the demise of the popular, up-and-coming rock band were less dire when Metallica actually coughed up the names of some exciting, newer bands. Hammett shouted out the Newark, New Jersey, metal-minded hip-hop duo HO99O9 and Ulrich gushed about catching Savages at Glastonbury Festival: “These four chicks -- one’s from France, one’s from Germany and two of them are from England. Talk about pissed off. [They’re] amazing, punky, so much energy, super dark, kinda like Siouxsie and the Banshees."

And then there was the idol worship, when Metallica opened up, ever so slightly, about its more recent work. A lengthy chat about Motorhead, who Ulrich followed on tour at their 1981 peak (“We wouldn’t be sitting here without them”), revealed a Hardwired track -- “Murder One” -- is inspired by late frontman Lemmy Kilmister. A question about riff-writing moved to lyric writing, which moved to Lulu, the critically maligned album Metallica crafted alongside Lou Reed in 2011. Fricke cited David Bowie's praise in pointing out the album was actually far greater than most gave it credit for and got Hetfield to detail the “dark and shocking” collaboration with Reed. “I learned the power of the lyric,” he professed. “We were writing music to his poetry. It was all one long story -- no structure, no rhyme scheme.” The frontman's takeaway: “Be a little freer.”

Will that hold true on the new album? Hardwired…To Self-Destruct arrives as a dual-disc release (with a third deluxe disc available), so Metallica certainly had the space to stretch out. The lucky fans at the SiriusXM event learned that Metallica indeed still love being a band and creating together, but as for deeper details, the sesh left plenty of space for speculation. The town hall interview will air Nov. 17 -- the day before the album's release -- on the band’s limited-run SiriusXM channel Mandatory Metallica, which launches a day prior.