Friday, June 25, 2010

On Stands Now!

The July/August issue of Revolver magazine, which came out this week, features an interview I did with Ozzy Osbourne, as well as his new guitarist Gus G. In it, we talk about his new album, Scream (of which I’m a fan), his Black Sabbath days, Randy Rhoads, religion, and a lot more. It’ll be on stands through August 16. I’m pretty proud of this one, so check it out.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


I recently rediscovered this Metallica feature I wrote in 2008 and decided to repost it. Enjoy.

A Matter of Life and Death

by Kory Grow


Metallica’s fans will never know just how close their favorite headbangers came to disbanding. The group’s dark times and therapy sessions may have been aired publicly in the 2004 film Some Kind of Monster, which chronicled the genesis of that year’s exposed nerve of an album, St. Anger. But since the movie runs only two hours, their fans couldn’t see all the work the band did off-screen to heal as friends. “We got very close to experiencing life without Metallica there for a year, and it was pretty nutty,” says Lars Ulrich, the band’s exuberant Danish drummer, now 44. “I think we all realized that we were much better off with Metallica than without. We made the best efforts that we could to try and get beyond that. We put a lot of work into it.”

The work they put into reestablishing their friendships with one another is wholly responsible for the triumph of their latest album, Death Magnetic (Warner Bros.). Balancing the underground thrash metal of Metallica’s early ’80s work with the catchy grooves of ’90s blockbusters like their self-titled “Black Album,” the disc is their most vital work in nearly two decades. With ex–Ozzy Osbourne bassist Robert Trujillo onboard, Metallica’s core—vocalist-guitarist James Hetfield, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and skinsman Ulrich—plays just as aggressively as the myriad young metalheads still trying to ape their style after nearly 30 years. The band sounds hungry again.

To get to this point, Metallica needed to separate themselves from their recent past. The first step was to find a producer other than Bob Rock, still a close friend of the band, who had guided them since the Black Album. They chose Rick Rubin, the bearded Grammy-winning producer who made the careers of the Beastie Boys, Slayer and System of a Down and revitalized those of Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. Rubin’s main objective was to get Metallica back into the mindset they were in when writing Master of Puppets. The question he asked them to ponder was, “What would you have done if it was 1985?”

“You’ve got to understand that for Metallica, for our fans, for everybody—…And Justice for All, Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning—these records have been elevated by everybody to the icon stage,” Ulrich says. “These records are on pedestals and they’re so important. And they’re so ‘all this stuff’ that we even got scared of ’em. [Laughs] We were intimidated by the supposed greatness of these records.

“We spent the better part of the next 15 years running as far away from those records as possible to not do anything that would in any way belittle them or take any of the glory away from these records. Rick made us feel OK about circling back through that ZIP code again and checking out the neighborhood, listening to the records and being OK with adopting some of the same processes, some of the same ways of thinking.”

To make sure they got Death Magnetic right, the band took their time writing the album. They started writing in the spring of 2006 and composed at their leisure. As invitations to tour and headline festivals arose, the band obliged at will. The lack of pressure would later prove instrumental to the album’s success. In October of 2007, the band played an acoustic set for Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit charity concert. In April of the following year, they appeared at the Mountain View location of Rasputin Music, a San Francisco-based independent record store chain as part of Record Store Day, to sign autographs and meet fans. It was their first in-store appearance in nearly a decade.

“It just seemed like it was a good time to remind people of what a great experience just walking into your neighborhood mom-and-pop record store was, instead of walking into a mega building that’s the size of a small country or sitting and tapping on your keypad and getting music that way,” Ulrich says. “Nothing against either of those; I do both of those myself. But it’s like, you’re walking into a place that you feel the love of human beings. You walk around and you can check out some records and some shirts and some paraphernalia. It’s just a vibe.”

By opening themselves up to so many different opportunities and revisiting their past interests, the members of Metallica primed themselves for anything to happen in the recording studio. One of Rubin’s main demands was for them to have the album arranged perfectly before entering the studio. “It was basically just, ‘Learn the fucking songs ’til you can play them in your sleep standing on your head with your fucking eyes closed, while you’re saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards,’ or whatever,” Ulrich says. “That was the marching order.” Rubin was onto something, too: Metallica played Death Magnetic with unabashed hunger. “It’s still raw,” says the drummer. “It’s very in-your-face. It’s very aggressive and it still sounds like a bunch of human beings playing music. That’s probably what I’m most proud of.”

Nearly three decades ago, it was Metallica’s goal to take over the world. They’ve done that, and now their priorities have changed. “It’s really just four dorky big kids in their early 40s still playing the music that gets ’em off,” Ulrich concludes. “I guess Metallica’s mission is to provide the best music that we’re capable of for the people that are interested. It’s to give people a sense of escape. Something that can take them away from five-dollars-a-gallon gas and shit economies and whatever the fuck else it is that’s going on out there in the real world.”

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


For those of you who visit this blog regularly—and I doubt there are very many of you, since my last post here was in December—I just wanted to check in. I’ve been taking a little hiatus, focusing my online energy on I’ve also been writing regularly for Revolver, Guitar World, The Village Voice, and I’ll post some links to things here and there from this point on, beginning with this bit I wrote for on “Advice for Young Writers.” Scroll to the bottom to read mine. I’ll also post photos here from shows I’ve gone to, like the one below from the Quasi concert this past April. Anyway, that’s all for now.