The metal faction at the 2017 Grammys (Feb. 12) comprised a stark mix of elder statesmen and red carpet newbies. Rounding out the former was Megadeth — finally taking home a trophy on their 12th try — Metallica and Korn, which added “Grammy-winning” to its résumé back in 2003. But the other three challengers for Best Metal Performance were all first-time nominees. Baroness, Gojira and Periphery have all been around for at least 10 years but in a way, the bands represent a new guard of metal.
More successful critically than commercially, you’re not likely to hear them on your local rock station, but they’re well known in the metal community — a sign the Recording Academy is starting to look beyond household names. Billboard caught up with members of these three newer groups to hear what the memorable night was like.
“Admittedly, I felt like a tourist at the ceremony,” Baroness frontman John Baizley says. “There were a lot of artists there who had obviously been to many of these and were used to all the pomp, all of the celebrities and media attention. Since I knew going in that it would be a foreign environment, I was able to really enjoy the ride.”
With genre staples Megadeth and Korn up for awards, all three of the bands knew they were underdogs. “From the start, I was ready to not have the Grammy,” Gojira frontman Joe Duplantier says. “I was mostly super-happy to be nominated. Of course if we won a Grammy, it would have been a huge thing, but I was trying not to put pressure on it. I’d never thought of it as a possibility for the band. For the 20 years we’ve been a band, we never even mentioned the word ‘Grammy’ in conversation.”
Both Gojira and Baroness attended the ceremony; Periphery would’ve as well had they not been on tour in Australia. Drummer Matt Halpern said the band tuned in when it could, but was mainly checking Google to see the results. He knew Periphery’s odds of winning were pretty slim. “We were nominated in a category with two bands whose shirts I wore in elementary school and middle school!” he enthuses. “To even be in the same category as the other nominees was an honor.”
Yet with the Academy attempting to make up for some tone deaf choices in previous years (like comedy-rockers Tenacious D winning for a cover of a 31-year old Dio song in 2015), the newer bands thought they’d at least have a shot. Says Baizley, “The category we were nominated in has traditionally been a lifetime achievement award in reality, with the award typically going to the oldest artist in the category. However, I know that the Recording Academy has been making some efforts to make the award a little more relevant recently; and there have been a few exceptions to the age rule in the past few years.”
Baizley continues: “Because winning or losing an award like this makes very little immediate difference for Baroness, we were excited at the prospect of winning, but simultaneously ready to watch one of the other bands win without feeling as though we’d ‘lost.’”
Gojira was actually caught off guard by not only being nominated for Best Metal Performance, but also Best Rock Album. Although Duplantier says that he knew they were a long shot in both categories, he didn’t give up hope. “A lot of people were saying, ‘You’re going to get it for sure. You’re at least going to get one,’ So I started thinking, ‘Yeah, why not?’” he says. “Being nominated, especially for Best Rock Album was the most impressive. We were never called a rock band before, really, and being nominated in that category was really prestigious… Our new record is more rock, and we totally embraced the influences from when we were young, progressive rock and the Beatles. So I guess now we’re a rock band!”
Freed from suspense after losing out to Megadeth, the resident metal bands got some hang time in before the televised ceremony, then got to gawk with the rest of us, albeit from much better seats. “It’s inspiring to be in a room with some of the most talented musicians on the planet,” Duplantier says. “I’ve never been to an event like that. It’s a well-oiled machine, even with the issues like James Hetfield’s microphone and Adele starting her song over again. There were a few f–k-ups, and it was interesting to see that even at that level, that can happen.”
For the opportunity, Halpern acknowledges some fresh thinking at the Academy. “The credit goes to a new wave of voters who have their ears to the ground and who know which bands are doing cool things with music and with their fans…I hope it continues to evolve this way!”
Baizley assures, “[Baroness] had a blast losing.”