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1992.07.30 - The Boston Globe - Testing Their Metal (Slash, Hammett)

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1992.07.30 - The Boston Globe - Testing Their Metal (Slash, Hammett)

Post by Blackstar on Sun Jan 27, 2019 10:29 am

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Guns N’ Roses and Metallica
TESTING THEIR METAL

By Jim Sullivan

It’s Godzilla vs. Mothra, the Sharks vs. the Jets, the Penguin vs. Batman, Randy (Macho Man) Savage vs. Ric Flair. Or, maybe it isn’t. Maybe, it’s just the rock ’n’ roll steamroller of the summer.

What it is is this: Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, on tour as coheadlining headbangers, two megawatt bands coursing through the football stadiums of America, making mighty big noises and raising hell entertaining hundreds of thousands of folks who like their hard-rock-and-heavy-metal stew spiked with cathartic rage. The whole shebang, with Faith No More opening, settles into Foxboro Stadium tomorrow evening.

But is it a clash of the Titans, a battle of the superbands?

Not to the players involved.

“We get along,” says Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. “I mean, there’s no rivalry. Any sort of competition would be friendly. It’s been a long time since we’ve toured with another band, so, you know, this just sort of gives us a big kick to have another act out there on the same stage. And we have to squeeze 150 percent out just to make sure that we leave the right impression on people. We’re going to be playing in front of their fans and they’re going to be playing in front of our fans.”

“I haven't actually watched all of Metallica’s set,” says Guns N’ Roses’ lead guitarist Slash, “because I don’t want to get to a point where there’s any competition at all. Nothing against Metallica — and we’ve seen ’em a million times — but the reason we’re playing together is because they’re a great band. The integrity level is really high and the camaraderie between us is so down to earth that it really keeps you from losing your head over the whole production.”

And lest you think superstar status has rendered Guns N’ Roses blase, consider Slash’s assessment of the tour’s opening night in Washington. “Going into this thing, none of us really knew what it was going to be like,” he says. “We just sort of went in blind. But there’s a certain kind of feeling when you’re walking down the hallway from outside the venue and then the whole stadium opens up to you as you get farther down the hall. The actual doorway opens to this huge stadium and there’s this stage that’s set up — I mean the scaffolding alone is amazing — and it’s a little overwhelming because a hundred some-odd people are putting this together and all of a sudden you feel really humbled by the size of the event. As an individual, as a band member, you feel really puny. It’s hard to see that you’re that significant and this amount of work should be going on in your honor.”

“There’s a certain sort of vibe that goes with playing in front of that many people,” adds Hammett. “The energy level is just incredible, having that many people out there.”

Both Metallica and Guns Ν’ Roses are accustomed to packing 15,000-capacity arenas on their own. What sort of adjustments are required for a joint show in a stadium?

“On our end, it’s very down to basics,” says Slash. “Trying to remember songs you haven’t played in a while. You have to be aware of the size of the audience and the size of the stage. You have to be able to utilize all of it. You have to watch not falling off the stage; you have to pay attention to where the other members are. ’Cause I swear to God, I’m on one side of the really long ramp and I’ll be running down it and I’ll be looking ahead of me trying to figure out which band member it is. That’s how far apart we are. So the whole thing is, like, overwhelming and trippy.”

Neither Guns Ν’ Roses nor Metallica has ever tried to portray themselves as particularly clean and sober bands. The music is rough and hard; ditto the lifestyles. Metallica once coined the nickname Alcoholica for itself. Guns N’ Roses, of course, has been rather public about its various members’ battles with liquor and drugs. But both Hammett and Slash talk about their bands’ tempering excesses as they take on more responsibilities.

“I used to get real crazy,” says Hammett. “On the last tour I was drinking a lot. On this tour, we don’t drink as much in general. I mean, it’s almost to the point where I’m a little, you know, boring. But there’s a certain amount of responsibility you have toward the band. Audiences these days are a lot more demanding. The truth of the matter is you have to deliver every time you walk out on stage. And you want to do your best in any sort of situation. You have to be in shape because you’re jumping around for two hours with a 20-pound guitar. You have to jump around and concentrate and do all of these maneuvers at once.”

“I’d say we’re a little more professional,” says Slash, comparing Guns Ν’ Roses’ present incarnation to its early days. Three core members of the band, singer Axl Rose, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan remain, but guitarist-songwriter Izzy Stradlin exited and was replaced by Gilby Clarke, and drummer Steven Adler was booted out and replaced by Matt Sorum. Dizzy Reed and Ted Andreadis augment the band on keyboards. (On tour, Guns N’ Roses is joined by Lisa Maxwell on horns and vocals, CeCe Worrall on horns and vocals, Anne King on horns and vocals and vocalists Diane Jones and Roberta Freeman.)

“We don’t have as much going on outside of performing right now,” says Slash, “in light of the fact that some of the guys got married and there’s not this huge drug thing going on — we’ve seen this movie so many times. It’s just gotten to the point where we really are just concentrating on the shows. We might go out and have a drink and do whatever [after the show] but the focus is not going out to get laid and [messed] up all the time. There were theater tours where we cared about the gigs, but we were on a [expletive] tightwire.

Staying in shape “is not even a professional responsibility. It’s more a responsibility to yourself: that you want to feel like you’ve given the optimum performance you can give. I take my playing seriously and I know everybody else in the band is the same way. I wouldn’t mind being up there with guitar players like Jimmy Page, so it’s not gonna help if I’m irresponsible to that goal.”

No one ever questioned Metallica’s status as a serious, heavy band. From its mid-’80s inception, the San Francisco-based quartet, fronted by singer-guitarist James Hetfield, brought speed, ferocity and an angry intelligence to the metal genre. LA’s Guns N’ Roses — while regarded as a potent distillation of Aerosmith-styled hard rock and Sex Pistols-like punk, and a band whose debut “Appetite For Destruction” was the best-selling debut ever — has often been perceived as a bunch of miscreants who write gripping, confrontational songs but are lucky to find the stage. Slash begs to differ.

“The band was seen as cartoon characters from day one,” he says, “and it was just one of those flukes because of the way we lived our lives and the way we played — a no holds barred, anti-authority thing that we had going. The business was so stodgy and safe when we came out, we were just this huge contrast and that’s where the hype came from in the beginning. We were all over the tabloids and local papers in LA. I could never understand what the huge buzz was. I didn’t really pay any attention as far as being a rock star was concerned.

“Personally, still having to deal with the logistics of getting on from one day to the next, I feel very normal. The way the public sees me, when I go out, it blows my mind.... If I blow their minds when I come out of a bar, I don’t feel that way personally. I’m trying to find a cab.

“We’re lucky right now ’cause we’re working and doing really well, but we worked hard to get here and there was a lot of stress and loss of band members and physical damage. As soon as we stop caring about the actual art of what we’re doing, as soon as that becomes redundant, all we do is believe our own hype, we’re dead. I don’t wanna even get near that frame of mind. The only time I’m having fun, really, what makes it all worthwhile, is that 2 1/2 hours we’re on stage.”

Jim Sullivan is a member of the Globe staff.

***

FYI

Why does Metallica always play before Guns?

‘Um, we don’t want to end up going on stage at, like, 3 o’clock in the morning,’ says Hammett, referring to Guns N’ Roses notorious reputation for late starts. ‘You never know when those guys are gonna go out on stage.’

Will Guns Ν’ Roses make it to the stage on time?

Slash says yes. ‘We are trying to be a little more considerate about that. For a while we were going on late because it takes us so long to get mentally and physically prepared, as opposed to just walking out there and going through the motions. We had to get to the point where we were comfortable. We hang out, have a few drinks, see some friends and then go out and kick ass. ’Course it’d be midnight by then. Now, we try to get on as soon as we can.’

Will a riot be involved?

Probably not. Reports of early  concerts of the tour suggest  Metallica does its no-nonsense  thing and the volatile Axl Rose is keeping his head about him. He's got four counts of misdemeanor assault and one count  of property damage pending against him in St Louis, stemming from a melee there last year. Rose goes on trial in October, following this tour.
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