It took them a long time — 30 years, to be precise — but Metallica's live experience here in the UAE is just a few hours away. The band perform in the Arab world for the very first time Tuesday night at Yas Arena. And judging by the frenzy that has been generating since it was first announced that frontman James Hetfield, along with guitarist Kirk Hammett, drummer Lars Ulrich and bassist Robert Trujillo were to play in Abu Dhabi, this is going to be a night to remember.
From the fan pit selling out, and fans creating online campaigns to meet the band (just search for "Basel Anabtawi MUST Meet Metallica" on Facebook), to metalheads organising pre-show get-togethers, and others actually flying in from other countries — including Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and Bahrain — just to catch the show, this is no ordinary live event. So get ready for one of the best nights of your life.
In an exclusive chat with tabloid!, Trujillo reveals why it took Metallica so long to make it to the Middle East, what fans should expect at the show, as well as plans for their new album.
This is going to be your first show in the Arab world. Are you excited to finally perform over here?
Yes, this is the first time, and we're looking forward to it so much. This is a whole new adventure for us. Within a tour cycle, we usually play for a couple of years, and usually play a lot of the same venues in Europe and the US. This [show] is great, because we have never been to the Emirates, and we've never been to India [where Metallica are heading to after Abu Dhabi].
We know that there are a lot of fans there who have never seen Metallica live before.
Have any of you visited Dubai or Abu Dhabi before?
No, we haven't. This is where it turns into a gig, adventure and holiday — we have been very busy, so for us to go to a place like the UAE, it becomes an adventure. And it makes it all that much more exciting because we get to perform. It's something different, and we love to explore.
We have the best job in the world. We're not clocking in a 9-to-5. We do what we love, and we get to see the world. That's really cool.
You have a huge fan base in the Middle East. What took you so long to come here?
With Metallica, we get into this thing where we tour very hard, but the problem is you cannot cater to all the opportunities that are offered to you. So it was a matter of it being the right time. The door is opening now to play more interesting and different places.
I'll tell you this: the band are on fire. We have been playing a lot in the past few years, plus we have been recording, so we're anxious to get out there and play in front of new fans, play in front of people who have never seen us live before. That right there is exciting to us already.
In terms of the set, what tracks can your fans expect to hear?
We're going to deliver a lot of songs — a lot of the old, and a lot of the middle, and some of the new. But you know, the fans will get a lot of the old stuff.
Metallica fans — especially those who have never seen us live before — tend to like a pot pourri of our music. They want to hear the classics, so we'll deliver the classics, we'll deliver the hits, and we'll deliver a couple of songs from the new record, of course.
It's an exciting set. It's very well-rounded, without getting too obscure.
The album Lulu, with Lou Reed, is finally being released on Monday. How did the collaboration come about?
The Lou Reed project came about when we performed at Madison Square Gardens with Ray Davies, Ozzy Osbourne and Lou Reed, and this was quite an incredible moment for us, because we didn't know how it was going to come out, because Lou Reed is a tough cookie.
Lou initially said that he wanted to collaborate with us, and we were like, "great". But a lot of artists say similar things, but a collaboration never really happens.
Then, two months later, we found out that there had been calls between both of our managements, and Lou said he wanted to make a record with us. He had a body of lyrics — the ideas for these lyrics were based on a play called Lulu — and he thought it would be great to see what Metallica could do with these words.
He basically came out to our studio and we started writing. But the great thing about it is that it was spontaneous; a lot of the music was centred around jamming, and some of it was even recorded in one take. He actually helped us expand out creative horizons, and he really inspired us.
In terms of new music, your last album, Death Magnetic, was out in 2008, and you have been touring heavily with that. Are you currently working on new material?
We've been busy writing and recording. We've got a couple of new songs we have been working on the past couple of weeks. The writing process for the new Metallica album has begun. We've been in the studio with Rick Rubin, working on a couple of things, and we're going to be recording during the most of next year. We've got a lot of work ahead of us. But the great thing is that we have sort of already jumped off the launch pad and we're swimming. It's happening. It's reality. It's a lot of fun, there are a lot of ideas, and we're really excited about the new record.
For me, personally, Death Magnetic was the launch pad for the next record. This is the beginning of something very, very cool.
The band have been going strong for 30 years. What keeps the passion alive?
When we go into the studio and put our guitars on, and Lars gets behind the drums, we feel like teenagers again, hanging out in the garage jamming to [Iron] Maiden or Black Sabbath, and we still do that. And the jokes fly around, and there's really good energy.
There's new riffs and new song ideas. And that's where it is very special, because a band like Metallica have been around for nearly 30 years now, and we haven't lost that spark. Unfortunately, a lot of older bands lose that spark after a while. We're excited to create and we still feel like punk kids.
How do you balance your work life with your family life?
We like to keep things flowing in a positive way, and believe it or not, a lot of what we do revolves around our family. We centre our tours around what is going on in our family life to keep things solid at home as well. In the summertime, we bring the kids out on tour with us.
You can have the best of both worlds. During the course of Death Magnetic, the reason the record took so long for us to finish was because we had five kids born between us. Two from my wife, and Kirk had two children and Lars had a child. It is a large family now, because James already has three older children, and Lars has two older children.
Metallica fans are arguably like no other. What do the fans mean to Metallica?
The fans are very passionate. They embrace the lyrics that James brings to them. There's something wonderful about having them take something that you identify with in your life and have it mean so much to them as well, so it's very soulful.
We really like to meet our fans, so every show we would have a meet and greet with a few fans. Obviously it is impossible to meet 20,000 fans in one setting, but we do take the time to meet about 20 fans per night, shake their hands and sign things for them. And that goes a long way.
Finally, what do you want to celebrate in Abu Dhabi?
I want to celebrate the performance and embrace the power of the audience, and I want to be on stage and look at their faces and see their happiness. And that's the most important thing, because it really moves us — the fans' happiness is the fuel to the show. And then after that, we really want to explore and embrace the culture.
We want to get out and about. We want to see the land and eat the food. We'll get into the cuisine and enjoy the weather, of course.
Metallica perform at Yas Arena Tuesday night. General admission tickets are available for Dh295. Fan pit is sold out.