What does that mean? What do those words mean when we use them with respect to someone?
For example, I will tell you that Robert Trujillo is “a great guy,” but what does that mean?
Here’s what it means in his case.
Rob Trujillo has a warm, generous, and very human spirit. He’s unflappably positive (even if he isn’t necessarily in top form on a given day). He’s friendly, and he’s inclusive. He’s one of the most selfless musicians you could wish to meet. He’s a little goofy at times, and he can be a whole heap of fun. He’s a confirmed collaborator in all projects he’s involved with. He answers his texts in a timely fashion (…okay, there are many “great guys” who don’t necessarily do that, but it’s another tick in the plus column).
There. That’s why he’s “a great guy,” among several other elements I’ve not mentioned.
That Rob Trujillo is also such a pure musician’s musician, a man of many talents, a writer of increasing repute, the sort of creative force which is hard to find in all those nuances, adds to the whole Tru-tale.
It should surprise no one reading this that Trujillo was the first to step up and speak about 72 Seasons. It should further surprise no one that Trujillo didn’t settle back into PR-speak. Instead, he offered a detailed breakdown of how he dealt with all matters of world and creativity in a pandemic, and how he saw the journey into 72 Seasons being created.
I’ll let the conversation speak for itself, but allow me one more time to say that Rob Trujillo is a great guy.
Photo Credit: Robert Trujillo
Steffan Chirazi: Let’s begin with the jam room on the WorldWired Tour. I’d like you to start by telling us about the importance of those jams and what gets recorded in them, and your part in that.
Rob Trujillo: Well, our tuning room, or the jam room, is a very special place. It’s always been a place where you can find serenity and a peaceful environment with your instrument, and you can go in that room, and you can work on songs. Maybe there’s some songs you’re going to be playing that week that you haven’t had time to take in, rehearse, and practice on. So you can really, really spend time getting into the track before you actually take it to the stage. Eventually, we all get together about 20-30 minutes before and loosen up. We prepare.
The jam room also serves as a creative environment for new ideas, and seriously, with someone like James… he’s just turning a knob and coming up with a great idea. It had been decided a long time ago that we should have equipment to pick up some of these ideas as they happen spontaneously. The magic of what’s coming into us in the moment is very, very important and valuable because that’s what ultimately becomes great Metallica songs in this era of the band. So that’s part of the reason that we have what we have in the tuning room: all the Pro-Tools and the gear, and obviously, we have a selection of instruments that we’re comfortable with, so we can hopefully jam on some new ideas.
SC: So then let’s move from there to early 2020. Let’s say March 15, which is the day, of course, that the lockdown began. I want to get an idea or a compass of where you were regarding Metallica. You’d already, as a band, had James’ return to rehab. Then there’s the pandemic. What did you feel the mood was within the band? Was there worry? Much concern? Did it feel fragile at that point?
RT: Well, here’s what happened with me. Everybody’s going to have their own story of what they went through, and that’s totally normal, the way it should be. My version is going to be different.
I was just coming back from performing with Kirk on the East Coast in Columbia, South Carolina. We were playing a Wedding Band show. Kirk had an event, and we went out there with Jon Theodore, Doc Coyle, Whit Crane, and Bobby Patterson. We were having a great time playing covers by bands that we enjoy and love, ranging from Black Sabbath to Ohio Players.
We arrived back in California, and literally the next day, everything shut down for a good year. So we did have a festive experience right before lockdown. Not a lot of people got to have that, and I was pretty grateful for at least that.
Given where I live and my mindset, whenever things start to get too crazy, it’s nice to have creative outlets to take you away from the madness. It’s also nice to be able to go on a hike. We live in the mountains, so we’re able to find a bit of therapy [in nature].
So I was in that mode. I was coming from music; we were challenging ourselves with a different level of creativity. Then that whole experience of everything turning into madness. And at that point, trying to find a place where I could get my head together. Maybe climb a mountain or whatever just to figure out what the next step was going to be, because it was just so much uncertainty. That’s what happened with me.
SC: I want to pick away at the uncertainty a bit. It’s interesting because, as you say, everyone will have their own reaction to that uncertainty, but there was doubtless uncertainty. Did you maybe not allow yourself to think so much about the Metallica-specific uncertainty?
RT: I think, at a certain point, if you’re talking specifically about what we were going through at that time…
SC: …both with James and his journey and then this lockdown journey on top of it.
RT: Right. Again, going back to the uncertainty, you look at it from a healthy perspective of where you need to be in your head, how you approach stress, or how you approach the sort of uncertainty that can derail your spirit. Certainly, it could derail your creative flow, all those sorts of things. I tried to think of things in more of a positive light. We were communicating with James at the time, but we were also dealing with the pandemic, so a lot was coming in at once. Praying for James to heal and grow and go on this journey that he needed, but at the same time [praying] for us.
And the uncertainty with the pandemic? You can really let that get to your head. You could! The confusion and all that can take you to a place you don’t want to go. I just turned on the creativity once again.
I picked up the acoustic guitar, I started playing more, writing more, and went that direction. I had a lot of communication with Kirk. A lot of communication with Lars as well. And even then, it was different types of communication because Lars and Kirk are very different individuals. I always believe that your friends need certain types of attention. And if I can, [I want to] be a great friend to that friend and cater to their needs. When I say their needs, I mean from a spiritual place or a motivational place. It’s like, “How can I help?”
At the same time, we’ve all got our families, and we’ve got to make sure they’re okay too. So there’s a lot of things going on there. I can honestly say the Trujillo family is extremely creative, and we take a lot of pride into channeling our positive energy through music and through art. And if we’re going to go out and do something cool and physical, it’s going to be surfing, or it’s going to be hiking, that kind of stuff. You need that when things aren’t stable. You’ve got to find a place to release the frustration and all that energy. One of the first things we did as a family was go on a hike to try and feel like things were going to be okay.
Photo Credit: Chloe Trujillo
SC: When you were having the Zoom meetings early on during the pandemic, how long did it take before someone broached the idea of making new music?
RT: That’s an interesting question. I don’t know how the other guys are going to answer that, but I do remember very specifically that Lars and I had a conversation after we had done the acoustic version of “Blackened.” And just to be clear, James sparked the whole thing when he sent over “Blackened 2020” for us all to throw down on in the first place. That helped our home studios come back to life!
After that, Lars kind of trusted that I would try to come up with an acoustic version of “The Day That Never Comes.” I don’t know if I disappointed him or if I didn’t come through, but basically, that day never came because I threw together an original piece that had nothing to do with an acoustic version of “The Day That Never Comes.” By the way, that original piece is not on the album, so don’t look for it. In fact, I don’t think that original piece was ever intended to be on the album. More than anything, it was intended to make a point, which was, “Fuck it, let’s be creative, let’s concentrate on new ideas, new music, a new record.”
So the most important thing in this was thinking about channeling our energy from what we’d just done with “Blackened 2020” and starting the process. I brought that up to him, and I could tell he was processing it. I think in his mind, he was just happy to make music again, even if it was covers. But here’s a thing… at that time, everybody was jumping on the Zoom bandwagon, and everybody was covering something. You know, some of it was acoustic, some of it was electric, and we had also done it. We had surprised everybody; it was very exciting what we had done with “Blackened 2020,” but were we going to continue to do that? In my opinion, no. Let’s work on new music. And I told them that. I said, “Hey, man, you know, fuck it. Let’s start writing. Let’s just start working on a new album.”
[Lars] did call me back at some point, I don’t know how long after, and said, “You know what? I’m going to take a page from your book. Let’s start working on new music!” He may not say he remembers that, but I remember that clear as day. From that point on, I think the path we chose was to create our own music and start thinking about a new record. That’s definitely how I remember it. That conversation was really between Lars and me at that point. And then there was communication that started to develop with Greg Fidelman, and I think the ball started rolling at that point. Obviously, they took the lead on that, and here we are with a great album.
SC: You’ve spoken eloquently about how you feel it’s important to be a friend in specific directions for different people who need their own unique things. In a sense, you’re a glue-like figure for many people. When you and Lars made this communicative breakthrough on new music – you sent him a statement, and he’s come back to you positively – did you have a “Good, someone’s looking out for me as well” feeling?
RT: The statement that felt good that Lars made to me is that he actually played on the idea that I sent. At first, I think he was caught off guard because it wasn’t “The Day That Never Comes” acoustically; it was the furthest thing from that. I’d started working on “The Day That Never Comes” acoustically, and then I just threw this thing together because it’s what I was feeling at that moment, you know? It may not have been the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it was what I was feeling.
I was in that mode because I was starting to connect with other friends from all over the world. I mean, I had done a jazz collaboration, just a 60-second one, with Hiromi, a jazz pianist. That was super fun. I connected with some other people and started just having fun via Zoom. And I thought to myself, “This is what Metallica needs to do.”
What I want to get at is that Lars played drums on my idea, and he surprised me. I got this call later at night… he’s all sweaty. Greg’s on a split screen. Myles was engineering [for Lars], Tye was engineering for me, we’re making things happen with our families, you know, bringing them on board as engineers. But he played on it, and that made me feel good because that told me that we are going to do something collectively as a band. We were going to start working toward something original.
So really, the statement that was made to me was that he was down, you know, for real down. He wasn’t just talking; he was showing me that he wanted to do this. Again, it’s not important about the song itself. What’s important is the statement that he made to me as a fellow member of the band.
SC: How important, when you look back, was it to have the pandemic time where you’re not sitting physically in front of each other, where there’s less of that in-person electricity and more time to sit and think? Would you have been able to make that creative decision with not doing “The Day That Never Comes” acoustically versus a new jam without this extra time to think about your work, your art, and your creativity?
RT: I think we were all trying to figure it out and find our sanity in our lives, with our families, with our music, with our careers. I just wanted to create with these guys. I was already creating, you know, on my own. I was creating with other friends, but I wanted to create with Metallica. And again, I’m not in Metallica to try to enforce my ideas; that’s just not how it is, and that’s not what this is about.
But I think [about] my head space at the time, I was coming up with some weird shit on acoustic guitar that I listen back to now on my iPhone, and I’m like, “That’s pretty bad.” But that’s not the point. I think the point was that you’re just releasing all this tension through your instruments, whatever your instrument is. I was getting on the piano and coming up with some stuff. Some of it was not great, and some of it was actually damn great, you know what I mean? So the most important thing for me – my therapy, my release, and channeling some of that energy into Metallica – was to hopefully help get the ball rolling.
SC: When you came back together to start floating ideas, did it feel that there was a freshness about coming together to work again? Did it feel a little vulnerable? And was that exciting? Was it exciting to feel a little uncertain about how this was going to work, how it was going to work with James, how it was going to work as a unit because you hadn’t been in the same room together very much, bar a few events?
RT: Yes, I believe that vulnerability is a very powerful weapon. It can help light a fire under your ass to get things going. You don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re feeling like if you let your guard down, this could happen or that could happen… but through music, you don’t really have to worry too much about that. Your mind will go to other places and not concentrate on the negativity. So, I feel that it’s a healing process, too, building and creating music, songs, and art; there’s magic in it, and it’s healing.
Everybody was very into it because I think everybody felt the same way. I think they were motivated to just grab the bull by the horns and start working. James was up for it. He was in a great place. He was very open to suggestions and in a very collaborative spirit as well.
So the process started – of course, Lars definitely started the process, listening to jams or ideas that were created in various cities from previous tours. He even has a notebook with ideas from 15 years ago, you know what I mean? He’s very good at that, he gets to work, and that’s important.
SC: Let’s spin around a little and look at Greg’s role in this record. It seems like he was absolutely the controlling point through which everything fed. Like a project manager, I guess. But blunt question: is it fair to say that he came back from the enforced break a little more determined to be a firmer director of things?
RT: Greg was extremely flexible and supportive, which is great. He had a very friendly demeanor, sort of different than when he wears the producer hat and he’s a bit of an enforcer. He [was] a bit of the dad, wearing a few different hats. He’s got to make sure that we’re on our game and that nobody’s sort of slacking or whatever, you know what I mean? And he’s really good at that.
You know, he’s somebody that is always going to, for the most part, know the songs even better than us, which I think is great. Especially the team itself. It’s not just Greg, Sara [Killion], Jason Gossman, Jim Monti… these people know what they’re doing. They know how to make incredible records, they know how to make things sound amazing, but they also know the songs. Whatever we create, they know every note, every nuance. Sometimes we’ll be like, “Oh, no, I played this,” and they go, “No, you didn’t.” And then they prove it to us.
SC: So they bring a scientific knowledge of the songs to you when perhaps you are lost in the fog of art?
RT: Yeah, they oftentimes make sense of things that don’t make sense at that moment. They point it out, and all of a sudden, it’s like, “Oh, yeah, you’re right!”
Photo Credit: Brett Murray
SC: Early on, as these songs were coming together, did you already have a sense of where this project would end up?
RT: What I always do with Metallica is, I find my place. What do I need to do to help the situation? Am I writing? Am I not writing? Am I there to support the songs with bass only? Am I there to support my brothers away from the music itself? Is there a motivating connection?
During that whole time, Kirk and I spent a lot of time communicating, being excited about music in general. You’ve got to remember, just before that, we were challenging ourselves with international duets. That required a lot of work, energy, time, and commitment. There [were] no days off for Kirk and me when we were on that stadium run in Europe, and it was probably some of the scariest moments in our lives. It’s not easy to go in front of 85,000 people and sing a Johnny Hallyday song in Stade de France, but the reward was amazing.
Anyway, my point is that we had spent a lot of time putting that together and creating. So we were connected. And then, at the same time, as a band, we’re getting back together. We’re doing our Zoom chats, and the creative process is starting. You’ve got the audio team coming back together, and Jason Gossman – who actually also lives in Los Angeles – was able to come by and help me with my studio. We had to basically build home studios so that we could make this happen.
There’s a lot of effort and energy, and it requires the team coming together so that we have the proper equipment and tools to create this music. When there’s things that are involved on that level, you need to step up. You need to find your place in the process, support it, and be the best that you can. And that’s what happened. This is very much a team effort, and I don’t just mean amongst the four musicians. I mean the Greg and Sara and Jason part of the team too.
Again, not to sound like a broken record, it did start with “Blackened 2020,” that was important. James came through with that. I know it surprised me. That was a statement right there. That meant that he wanted to make music; he wanted to record with us. Even though it was a different version of a Metallica song, he still took the time to create it. He let himself into that creative room and decided it was okay. To me, that was a sign for the future.
SC: I have to ask you right there… I think an assumption that people have is that these questions are aired out over Zoom or outside lockdowns over the proverbial coffee. Did you ever have an actual conversation with him about working, or was it all illustrative, just taking it as fact that if he was cool doing this “Blackened 2020,” then you’re going to create?
RT: Not with me. There was never any sort of specific time where I recall him verbalizing that he was all in.
SC: It’s interesting that no one ever said, “Hey, Bud, can I ask how you’re feeling about working on stuff in the future?” Or was everyone thinking, “Just let him do his thing”?
RT: I think it was “let him do his thing.” We didn’t want to apply pressure on him. And him sending us “Blackened 2020” was a sign that said, “Hey, guys, I’m okay. Let’s record this, let’s have some fun. Here’s a little something; I hope you like it. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you will.” He sent it, and we all jumped on board. It forced us to use our recording facilities from home and our “in-house engineers,” whether it was our sons or our daughters. At one point, I had my daughter filming me, and I had my son engineering me. You know, we were working together as a team. It’s the family! Even that helps, bringing some great energy into the project and to our world.
SC: Let’s focus on the connection with James during the creation process. He’s reaching out and wants to ensure collaboration on this record, and you’ve always been super collaborative. You’ve always been the river that connects everyone. So at that point, what was James coming to you and looking for? What was he transmitting to you? What idea were you getting of 72 Seasons at that point? Did you know that it would carry a lot of raw past, but also a lot of really exciting future? Were you aware that he would be spilling his guts, lyrically and vocally?
RT: I think we all had a pretty good idea that he would be sharing a story, an energy. With all of the impactful thoughts and what was going on in his world, it would almost be impossible for that not to happen. That’s also what makes this album great – what he’s gone through and how he’s had to grow. It’s almost like a rebirth in a lot of ways, because you’ve got to reconnect with your inner spirit, who you are, and what you’re about. And now you’re sending it, you’re bringing it, and you’re presenting it to us and eventually to the world, so it’s a very heavy thing for him. So at that point, I know it’s going to be a powerful record. This is going to be one of the more important records, I think, that Metallica’s ever made.
It’s also even in the riffs and where he’s coming from in that place, too. Riffs speak a certain language; they signify a certain level of power, whether it’s in the groove or the heaviness, the edginess. There’s a lot of impact in the riffs in my mind. I always say that a riff can really determine your headspace or where you come from. I mean, some of the best riffs have come from challenging environments or situations, whether it’s Birmingham, England, or South Central Los Angeles, you know what I mean? It’s like, where did Slayer pull Reign in Blood out of? Well, it probably came from the impact of where they grew up and what they experienced. I always say that about these guys like Tony Iommi or James Hetfield or Jeff Hanneman. You create what’s inside of you, what you’ve experienced in your life, and some of that is more powerful than others. That’s what 72 Seasons is. It has a lot of that energy in all of us. Every note we play is a statement that appears on this record. It’s coming from the heart and soul of who we are as individuals and where we were in this whole process, the growth of these songs, and everything. To me, every note that’s played is important on this record, and I believe people are going to feel that.
SC: And as you say, it’s very much the four streams flowing into the one river; everyone’s energy is in this record, all of your frustrations, joys, hopes, fears, insecurities, and delights are flowing around, obviously, James’ lyrics.
RT: I’m saying it’s all of ours because I know, for me personally, every note that I played on this record had a certain importance and impact, and it was coming from the heart. More than any of the other records I’ve made with Metallica, this album really resonated [with] what was going on in my life. And I think that- I mean, I don’t even think… I know people feel on that. That’s the magic of music. That’s why if you listen to old classic songs, those guys are playing from the heart, they’re playing from experience, and every note they’re playing means something, whether it’s Black Sabbath or even Santana. Carlos is pulling it from a place of where he is, and that’s the passion he’s conveying through his instrument. That’s how I feel about this record. I really do believe that we were all playing from our hearts, there’s a collaborative spirit in that alone, and that’s something that is a magic ingredient on 72 Seasons.
Photo Credit: Brett Murray
SC: Do you think that, as a band, you’ve come to have more gratitude for what you all bring to this group and its subsequent chemistry through the recording of 72 Seasons?
RT: Yes, I do feel that there is a certain level of gratitude. We’re all different types of individuals in our daily lives, but together as a band, the ingredients we bring to the music are valuable and important to the overall recipe.
I feel that during this time there’s a certain level of respect and understanding of what each individual does, sort of a reconnection. It’s like you’re learning to understand and appreciate things you may not have completely- like, you always understand certain things, but then there’s things that suddenly pull you into a better [level of] understanding. And that helps obviously make fresh music for the next round.
[Those] two years creating music with Kirk on a different level… I didn’t know he could play like that! And I’d been in the band with this dude for 17 years. I’m learning about my bandmates more and more. I think that’s a very powerful thing to happen almost 20 years in, discovering new kinds of ingredients to my bandmates, what they can bring, and how special they are for us as Metallica.
The other thing, too, is growing in [the sense of] priding ourselves on trying to get better. Trying to get our tempos down, trying to challenge ourselves a bit more musically. I think that’s also important and lends itself to where we’re going in the future. There’s no shortage of ideas with this band. I promise you that. I mean, Kirk’s already sending in 300 ideas, you know?! I’ll be honest with you; I don’t know how many ideas. I had riffs galore, and that’s okay because we had enough riffs. I’m just saying that there is no shortage of musical inspiration.
The fact is that we really do try to challenge ourselves and become better players as a unit live. If you listen to some of the recordings from a few years back and where we’re at now, it’s interesting because I feel like we’ve grown as a band. I was very proud of the 40th anniversary shows because I noticed that [with] some of that stuff, we probably played it better than we’ve ever played it. Considering how long the band’s been together, that’s a pretty cool statement that was made for Metallica moving forward.
SC: Do you think there’s more trust in this band today? You trust each other to understand you’re all different, but it’s okay because when you get together, this happens.
RT: Well, it’s a great question, because there is trust, but there’s also respect. And sometimes – and this happens in any band – you get comfortable with each other. None of us are perfect. We have our moods. Something in your personal life can affect your performance when you’re trying to create or you’re trying to rehearse, and you bring that onto the floor. We’re all guilty of that; each member of Metallica will tell you that. And sometimes, it’s a pain in the ass. But the bottom line is, when that happens, there’s respect. We never lose our cool. There are no fights here anymore. We understand what we need to do as brothers in the family, but also as team members. We know what we need to do for the music. We all know our strengths and our weaknesses.
When I joined Metallica, I’d never sung in my whole life, so the fact that I can now support a backup vocal is pretty cool. For the first time in my life, I get to sing on a Metallica record [“You Must Burn”] and support James. I’m very proud of that. So we’re getting better, we’re learning and still growing in this band right now, and the respect level is much higher. Oftentimes Lars calls me, sometimes he’s checking in or wants my opinion on something – same thing with Kirk. And I love that. I love the idea that there’s trust and respect.
SC: Before we get to a few of the songs, I think a very important thing that happened as this record was coming together was that you got invited by one of your ex-employers, the legendary Ozzy Osbourne, to play on his album Patient Number 9, and write a few songs.
RT: Yes! So cool. I’m grateful for reconnecting with Ozzy. And it was good fun to get in there with Chad Smith, Andrew Watt, Ozzy, and their recording team and to make music centered around jamming. You know, Rest in Peace, Taylor [Hawkins] was a part of that team as well. So to have the opportunity to work with those guys was really, really special. But more than anything, to help Ozzy.
Unfortunately, as you know, we’ve lost one of the greatest guitar players in the whole world in Jeff Beck. Jeff Beck played on “Patient Number 9,” he plays the solos, and his voice speaks throughout the song. To know that the largest chunk of that music came from my heart and soul, and that Jeff’s playing on it, is the ultimate gift for me. I really, really am appreciative of what Ozzy presented to me.
SC: Let’s look at a few of the songs on 72 Seasons that you were intrinsically involved with. I think the one that really sticks out the most, and the one that I certainly picked up on in the first listen, was “You Must Burn!” There’s that midsection riff that’s twisty, windy. Talk about how you brought that to the table, and as I understand it, “Screaming Suicide,” “Chasing Light,” and “Inamorata” all carry your significant involvement.
RT: One of the things that I was excited about in joining Metallica was the idea that I’m going to learn how this band creates and develops songs, taking the seed and [seeing] how that grows into a beautiful composition or a powerful, heavy song. Watching the rhythmic approach to vocals, conceptual vocals, and melodic elements with rhythmic elements. Lars infusing the tribal percussive ingredients that he does on a lot of these songs. Kirk’s feel, he’s got a lot of soul. So for me, it’s just a really, really incredible learning experience, and one that I can be a part of creatively but also just support.
But to address “You Must Burn!” Again, we’re taking an idea that birthed itself in the tuning room, and we start to cultivate it. How do we cultivate it? We jam. It starts to take shape, it kind of builds itself, and then at some point, it finds its way. With this particular middle section that came to be, that was really centered around a jam and was very moody, and there’s a danger to it; I like how the bass is walking. It’s got a feel to it where it’s “walking through a forest,” like a scene from a Tim Burton movie or something. That’s the feel I get. And James and I just started kind of grooving on it. It was just the two of us.
That was a special moment for me because whenever I can find that magic carpet with James, it’s really a lot of fun. You know, we just synch in; it’s like we’re riding this wave together. With “Suicide & Redemption” [from Death Magnetic – ED], it was the same kind of thing. We were in – I want to say it might’ve been South Africa – and I started playing the pulsating bass line. Then he started to hit these power chords, kind of counterpoint and tension chords, stuff like that. So it’s always fun when you find that moment where something starts to work.
SC: Talk a little more about the vocal developments on 72 Seasons.
RT: It’s the first time that James and Greg had probably ever really trusted me with that position on a recording of this stature. I was surprised when I got the call from Greg because I was coming up to play a little bass, but then he said, “I’m going to have you sing on a couple things, too.” And I was like, “Really?” I got a little nervous. At the same time, I was very motivated. Fortunately for me, the part really does suit my comfort zone, so to speak. The vibe and the interesting – I don’t know, I wouldn’t say the “quality” in what I had to offer – but the part lends itself to my personality, to my voice, and it sits and slots in really well with the moment and bass breakdown. So it’s cool that it’s this breakdown that James and I were able to jam on and create, and then I get to sing on it too!
SC: Let’s talk about “Inamorata” for a moment and that bass breakdown, the other bass breakdown. You know, I think it’ll end up being recognized as one of the most important songs that this band has written in its history, period. There is that breakdown, that moment where it sits with you, a little hi-hat behind you, and it’s a vital song bridge. It’s a bit Sabbath-y; it’s got a little of that groove, that swing. It flows.
RT: I believe James had a vision of having this sort of Sabbath-y, “Geezer-esque” moment where the bass is sort of a naked moment, here’s this beautiful yet dark statement coming from the bass guitar. It feels raw, but at the same time, it’s got this dark beauty to it. And what I tried to do was really just close my eyes and channel every note. I say to people that that song reminds me of… it’s a cross between driving on Pacific Coast Highway in the sun in your convertible, a beautiful warm summer day, ocean to your right or your left, depending on what direction you’re going. It has that swagger to it; it’s just very cool. Nothing’s rushed. It’s just a beautiful drive on PCH and the California coast. And when it gets to the breakdown, it’s very strong and powerful, this raw, beautiful moment. So maybe the ocean is speaking, that’s what I see. I see waves, I see the power of the ocean, the sun, the coastline. And when it gets down to that breakdown, it’s just this raw, beautiful moment, and I was closing my eyes, channeling every note. I was trying to be somewhat melodic, but then I was trying to create enough space so that James could slide in there, and we could work together and communicate. It’s one of my favorite moments in Metallica.
You know, I think about the incredible statements that Cliff Burton was able to make with the songs that he was involved with. I feel that [we] obviously had hit a grand slam with “Inamorata.” It’s a cross between a beautiful old film with a really cool painting or something… it resonates “California.” There’s something that’s beautiful about it. It has a certain flavor and feel to me.
SC: Here’s a rookie question for you – I have to ask, and if I don’t, I’ll be doing a disservice to every fan. The fan in me likes to think that when you’ve all heard this, you all get on the phone and are like, “Wow, that was really, just sort of like, AMAZING!” You know, have a little knitting circle chat about it. Does that happen? Do the members of Metallica get together and say, “Great job, everyone!”?
RT: You know, that’s a great question. I can’t remember the last time we’ve had a pat-yourself-on-the-back kind of moment. It’s a combination of hard love and, you know, there’s respect, you feel it, you know your brother’s got your back and all this kind of stuff. And we always let each other know that we care about each other. That happens. And if somebody does something good onstage, sounded great or killed it, it happens more and more now [in those moments], which is very cool.
As far as, “Hey, man, we hit a grand slam on that with this new record,” and all that, we haven’t had that conversation yet. And we’ll see if we have it… but I think in our hearts, we know that we did our best, and we put a lot of energy and emotion into the making of this record, given everything that happened before it and what we’ve all been through. That conversation, I think, is going to happen. It has to happen. I believe you can always go to the next level. Well, in my opinion, we went to the next level on this from where we were on the last album, and if we can continue that journey, I’m the luckiest dude on the planet. This is what you strive for. I believe we can keep making records that will find their place on another level from what we just did. And I have got to say this, and I stand behind this: 72 Seasons is special because of the collaborative spirit of what it is and what we’re bringing.
Photo Credit: Brett Murray
SC: Of the new songs, what do you think will be a live smash?
RT: For me, “Screaming Suicide” is the track that I think will really resonate with people live, because there is a groove element to it, and James has taken in the verse. Maybe it’s a part that he wouldn’t have used or wanted to use in the past, for whatever reason. I don’t know. I’m just calling it “alternative.” It’s great. The verse in that song is different from anything Metallica’s ever done, and it’s surrounded by this fricking groove that is just so infectious, it captures you, kicks you in the ass, and, well, you’ve got to move. I can’t wait to play that song live because I can just hear the crowd already. James was talking about that at the video shoot, saying it was going to be “the one” live. And that’s exciting to me. Those are special moments, when you can imagine what it’s going to be like. That’s the song I most imagine “what it’s going to be like” in terms of the energy and the flow. I’m a groove guy. I love bands that groove. I come from the old-school funk and power groove!
SC: Finally, a dry question to end with, a quick look into the equipment you used on the album, please?
RT: One of the fun things that we do when we’re trying to find a sound, specifically with the bass, is we try eight different instruments. [For me] they range from Fender P basses to Warwicks, and there could be four Fender P basses in that quiver, ranging from old vintage to newer models. We take a lot of time to find the personality of the song, and we find an instrument that has that personality, that’s got the right amount of resonance, it shakes the walls, it’s got a bit of the anger, the type of anger that you need in this music. I always say I like a bass that feels like it’s a punching bag. When you hit it, it just has that presence and that personality, edge, and attitude. I always feel like I grew up with these characters that were special in that they could hold their own in the streets. They could surf the best waves, skate you out of a park, and have your back in a fight. Well, the bass that was used on this album is those characters for me. But I can’t tell you what it is or who it is because it’s my secret…
SC: A silent buddy.
RT: A silent buddy. But the scary thing about this instrument is it’s a newer bass, maybe from the last ten years, which is crazy because I love older, vintage instruments, and I always want them to win. And unfortunately, they didn’t win, this new guy won, and he’s the sound of the bass on this album. I can’t tell you who he is!
P.S. – After much deliberation, many weeks later, Rob decided to tell me who “he” was. Drumroll… a Warwick 5-string that doesn’t leave the studio. See what I mean about Rob being a great guy?!
Aside from being one of the more decent human beings you could meet on this planet, Tony Squindo is something of a Renaissance man. Yes, yes, by now, his wonderful art has become well-known among the Metallica family. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see a man rich with a wide-ranging palette of experiences.
It’s no understatement to say Jason Gossman is the Swiss Army Knife of Metallica’s audio and production team. Gossman has become an indispensable part of many sonic situations, filling multiple roles, from helping run the Tuning Room on tour to organizing sessions with Rob Trujillo when both are in Southern California.
The production team behind 72 Seasons is precisely that: a team. Sara Killion – engineer and gatekeeper of all the raw facts and pathways behind 72 Seasons – has been the quiet, calm studio powerhouse who keeps all areas ticking.