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Beatallica (They’re So Heavy)

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Not many people have realized the headbanging possibilities in The Beatles catalog, but a few clever fellas from Milwaukee did.

Formed as a one-off joke in 2001, Beatallica soon became an international sensation with their quirky Metallica-ization of Beatles tunes. Though things took off quickly, they ground to a halt when Sony/ATV Music Publishing (who own most of The Beatles catalog) hit the band (vocalist/ guitarist Jaymz Lennfield, guitarist Grg Hammettson, bassist Kliff McBurtney, and drummer Ringo Larz) with a cease-and-desist order insisting they remove their free MP3 downloads from www.beatallica.com. But now, legal troubles in the past (thanks in large part to Lars Ulrich himself), Beatallica are legit. I chatted with Lennfield a few weeks before Sgt. Hetfield’s Motorbreath Pub Band (Oglio), the band’s first true album, was released July 10th.

Mosh: Most boring question first: How did you think of this whole thing?

Jaymz Lennfield: Really, like a lot of ideas that happen, it was kind of an accident. [laughs] God, when you rewind the tape, at the time when this stuff first started coming out, I wasn’t even in a heavy metal or hard rock project – I was doing acoustic music, and traditional stuff. We just happened to be doing this festival, called Spoof Fest, where bands emulate their heroes or whatever, it’s done for fun [in Milwaukee] on April Fools’ Day. Some of it is schlock, but the musicianship is actually quite good. One year we did Metallica and we said “What would Metallica do to have fun on April Fools’ Day?” because those guys have had a sense of humor over the years.

M: What’s the company line on what Beatallica do? Taking Beatles songs – melodies, structures, etc. – and injecting Metallica?

JL: I think it depends on the song. I know there is that term “mash-up” which was really brought to light with the whole digital thing. But the thing is with Beatallica, it’s a live entity. It’s not just an Internet thing. We kind of affectionately refer to it as a “bash-up,” not just a mash-up, because of what we’re doing to some of these songs.

M: How long did it take you to develop the James Hetfield impersonation? It’s spotless.

JL: It is spotless? Yikes.

M: Do you just do good imitations?

JL: I think I do pretty good imitations, yeah. I do a pretty good Scooby actually. As far as the James voice, you have to realize everyone changes, physically over time. Now you’re talking, the first time I started doing this was six years ago now. Voices change, especially if you don’t take care of ‘em. But I had to work at everything just like every other impressionist, or whatever you want to say, has to work at his own impressions.

M: What was Lars Ulrich’s involvement and how did you guys come to his attention?

JL: Their webmaster contacted ours and said “Lars has been following the project.” We knew that they were aware of us. So he called me at home. We never asked for it. You can never depend on, I don’t know, I don’t know if you can always count on the goodness of people to come to your aid. You have to be willing and able to do it on your own like most bands and people do. So when someone like that calls you and flat out says “You tell me what you want me to do,” [laughs] that’s a pretty significant statement from someone of his stature.

M: Which of the two bands has been more important to you as a musician?

JL: Metallica. Not that The Beatles haven’t, but when I was a little kid, it’s not like I was really introduced to music through my parents or anything. They weren’t super-big music followers. I grew up listening to metal and hard rock and doing things a lot of other 12, 13, 14-year-old kids did: getting together with your friends and going to shows and probably getting into things they shouldn’t have gotten into.

M: Any ideas for another metal/pop act bash up?

JL: Barry Manowar.

M: You’ve obviously already given this some thought.

JL: Can you imagine Barry Manilow with a big honkin’ sphere and a loin cloth? But Beatallica is Beatallica. It’s not like if the catalogs run dry, then we would move onto something else. Then you’re kind of, it kind of cheapens the original.

HAR HAR: If you like Beatallica and some occasional ha ha to your heavy metal Cealed Kasket are highly recommended. Vulgar and crude, the jokes (“Sex Stained Lady,” “Cigarettes For Kids,” “Backstage Sluttin’”) on Penetration (released last month) are hardly subtle, but consistently goddamn hilarious . . . People are giggling at Bang Camaro because they have something like 20 lead singers (seriously) and play ironic ’80s pop metal on their self-titled debut (Black Sword). Maybe these Bostonites are serious about ripping off Def Leppard, or maybe they’re doing it because ’80s metal is so cool among hipster assholes nowadays. Doesn’t matter. Either way, Bang Camaro are lame.

OUT NOW: 1994′s Wolverine Blues is widely considered Entombed‘s best record. I haven’t heard everything the Swedish “death & roll” band have done since then, so I’ll skip calling Serpent Saints (Candlelight; July 31st) “the best Entombed album since Wolverine Blues.” I do know Wolverine is a classic, though, and Serpent Saints might be even better. I don’t think I’ve ever made that statement when comparing a band’s new record to their “classic,” but Saints is that good. “Mosh” gets flooded with the “newest and best” Swedish death metal bands that usually end up sounding like mere At The Gates or In Flames clones, but Entombed still sound way ahead of the pack. Death metal is the core, but songs like “When In Sodom” and “Ministry” effortlessly mix hardcore and rock ‘n’ roll. Lars Göran Petrov is the best frontman in death metal – a growl as intimidating as any but with amazing clarity. Why haven’t other vocalists in the genre picked up on this concept? . . . Fellow Swedish metal icons Candlemass also made a triumphant return last month. Too many lineup changes and sudden stylistic departures have sidetracked Candlemass through the years, but when the “classic” roster (bassist Leif Edling, guitarists Lars Johansson and Mats Björkman, drummer Jan Lindh, and vocalist Messiah Marcolin) were intact, CM were one of the most vital post Trouble/Saint Vitus doom acts around. Marcolin has left the band yet again, but truthfully, they don’t need him on King Of The Grey Islands (Nuclear Blast). Solitude Aeturnus singer Rob Lowe fits perfectly. His vocal style, while still clean, isn’t as over-the-top as Marcolin’s, making Candlemass’ ominous material even darker.

BACK IN THE DAY: Remember ’80s South Side thrashers Quick Change (still together in some form)? If so, you recall Circus Of Death, their 1988 Roadrunner effort. It was the group’s only album for the label, but according to QC’s manager, Circus gained enough of a cult fanbase to convince MVD to reissue (remastered with two bonus tracks) it September 4th.

Learn it; love it; live it: mosh@illinoisentertainer.com

– Trevor Fisher

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