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Caught In A Mosh: July 2011

| June 30, 2011

. . . And Justice For All

In Use Your Illusion II‘s “Get In The Ring,” Axl Rose called out a number of rock journalists and editors, but famously referred to Mick Wall as the “punk in the press who wants to start shit by printing lies instead of the things we say.” There was also some stuff about bitches with silicone injections, yeast infections, and rippin’ off the fuckin’ kids.

“Mosh” refers to Wall as the guy who penned an awesome and addictive Metallica biography called Enter Night (St. Martin’s Press). It’s human nature to approach “unauthorized” biographies with skepticism because, honestly, they usually suck. Enter Night does no sucking. Wall (whose journalism resume includes work for Mojo, Kerrang!, and Classic Rock and books include Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, and Ozzy Osbourne bios) knocks it outta the park with Enter Night, and, as he says below, it likely would have suffered by earning Metallica’s official endorsement. That classification would have ultimately given James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich‘s egos final say on allegations like Hetfield’s subtle – and not-so-subtle – racism, the possibility Cliff Burton‘s death saved Ulrich’s job, and the unceremonious way Metallica dumped those who helped build their career.

In an unrelated, related note, Metallica have recorded studio album with Lou Reed. The two played together in 2009 at the 25th Anniversary Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame shows in New York, and apparently are under the assumption it was so magical they should do an entire record together. “Mosh” does not assume this.

Mosh: How and when did you decide to write Enter Night?

Mick Wall: I was looking around for what to do as my next book after my Led Zeppelin biography (When Giants Walked The Earth), looking for a really good story that might equal or at least come close to that of Zep, when I thought of Metallica. It just clicked. Like Zep, there had never been a really literary biography on the band, nothing I would enjoy reading, so it seemed perfect. Lots of highs and lows and weird inbetweens. For me, it’s not really about the music, it’s always about the story, and the story of Metallica is a terrific tale.

M: Do you remember your first official Metallica interview? What were the circumstances surrounding it?

MW: I had met and hung out with Lars long before I formally interviewed or wrote about the band. That was in 1985 when I went to Copenhagen to be in the studio with them while they were making Master Of Puppets. Snow outside, snow inside, if you get me. And a lot of grass needing cutting.

M: You obviously had a boatload of interviews to draw from, but did you approach the band about participating in the book?

MW: Yes. I made it my first job to let them know what I was doing and to invite them to participate if they wished. Lars was up for it, James wasn’t. The main thing, I wasn’t interested in making this in any way official, so they would not have had any say in the outcome or have been allowed to alter the manuscript. They also want to do their own no-holds-barred book one day but weren’t ready for that yet. I look forward to it. Knowing how scrupulous and shrewd they are, I know it will be fascinating.

M: Obviously you are a fan, but you also maintain an unbiased perspective that allows you to be critical of Metallica. Have you received any feedback from the band?

MW: I am not a fan and did not write this book as a fan or even for the fans. I wrote it for people that like to read literary biographies and enjoy rock and roll outlaw stories. I do admire Metallica’s music very much, but as I said, it’s the story I’m primarily interested in. I spoke with Lars on the phone a few weeks ago, and he was very complimentary about the book, which shows you the measure of the man as the book certainly pulls no punches.

M: Dave Mustaine’s influence on Metallica is disputed in heavy-metal circles and a topic brought up in Enter Night. Some say he played a significant role in shaping the band. Others claim he was just a loudmouth too willing to take credit. What’s your take?

MW: He was both. Without him, no them. Without them, no him. The openly sad part is that Dave has never gotten over being kicked out of the band. He should realize it was the making of both him and them. They could not have carried on together and been as successful and Metallica and Megadeth eventually became.

M: What about his ousting? Was it really about drinking, or was it more about egos?

MW: It was about drinks, drugs, fights, and the fact that Dave was so out of control. All of which made him a great guitar player and character onstage but a royal pain-in-the-ass off it.

M: Your book also shines light on how poorly Jason Newsted was treated during his 14-year tenure. How did he last as long as he did?

MW: My guess? Money. Why else put up with such bullshit? That’s not to denigrate him. Most of us do much more degrading work for far less pay. Jason remained honorable throughout his career, and I respect that very much.

M: Was Newsted simply a victim of the circumstances, replacing Cliff Burton, or was there more to Metallica never “accepting” him. Would anyone hired to replace Cliff have been in the same boat?

MW: Jason was an accidental victim. They went from Godhead Cliff to fanboy Jason. They just didn’t have respect for him, and without he had no chance. It wouldn’t have been the same for everyone. If Joey Vera from Armored Saint had taken the job, I’m sure things would have been different.

M: An interesting question you often present is, simplified, What would Cliff have said? So, in your opinion, had Cliff lived, would the history/discography of Metallica be different?

MW: Everything would have been different. How though, no one knows, though as the book shows, Cliff and James were actually talking about replacing Lars as drummer just before Cliff’s death. So the whole story could have been very different. Or maybe they would have stayed together and made more albums like Master Of Puppets, but that’s doubtful, too. Cliff had even broader musical tastes than any of them, from Kate Bush to R.E.M. and Stanley Clarke. It’s the big what if.

M: I’d like to rattle off a couple items in Metallica history and have you provide insight into what – good, bad, or ugly – they meant to the band’s legacy: “Black Album.”

MW: Everyone loves a hit. This is the album they will always be remembered for. Did they sell out in making it? Of course! That’s the whole idea if you want to be the biggest rock stars in the world. But it’s not like they won “American Idol.” They wrote their own story and had the guts and talent to make it happen.

M: Napster.

MW: Big mistake, still living it down, but at least they can now joke about it. What never gets mentioned is how nearly all other bands and the entire music industry were on their side and how right they were to fear the impact of the Net on the old 20th century model of the record business, now officially extinct. No one is ever going to sell 100 million records again like Metallica did.

M: Load and its corresponding image overhaul.

MW: Brave, inspired, self-indulgent, doomed to failure, but one of the reasons Metallica are now bigger and more important than Slayer, Anthrax, etc. Their closest rivals are now U2, AC/DC, The Stones, etc.

M: Some Kind Of Monster documentary.

MW: Another brave move. But also very shrewd. It was made 12 months after “The Osbournes” was such a huge and game-changing hit. Did Lars take that onboard when he agreed for the movie to be “warts-and-all?” You fucking betcha.

M: St. Anger.

MW: Their best album since Load, one of the all-time great truth albums, up there with Berlin by Lou Reed, Tonight’s The Night by Neil Young, and Saved by Bob Dylan. The fact that so many people still get worked up over it, angry, confused, hurt, says a lot. Much better than Death Magnetic.

M: On the spot: Name your favorite and least-favorite Metallica records and explain why.

MW: Favorite – Master because even the band say it’s their best. It is. Least favorite – Reload, [it is] what it is, leftovers from Load.

MOSH-WORTHY: Orange Goblin Box Set (Rise Above); Barn Burner Bangers II: Scum Of The Earth (Metal Blade); Pharaoh Ten Years (Cruz Del Sur); Death Human deluxe edition (Relapse); Soundtrack Afterparty Massacre (Ibex Moon).

— Trevor Fisher

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Category: Caught In A Mosh, Columns, Featured, Monthly

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  1. kane troudore says:

    the author is a douchebag