METALLICA's Former Performance Coach: 'They're In Better Shape To Be Successful Creatively'

Peter Rugg of The Pitch magazine's Wayward Blog recently conducted an interview with METALLICA's former performance coach Phil Towle (who was extensively featured in the band's 2004 documentary "Some Kind of Monster"). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

The Pitch: What's your relationship with the band right now?

Phil Towle: I'm friends with the members of the band. I spoke to Lars [Ulrich, drums] just a couple of days ago, and we keep in close touch. There's no professional contact at this point in time.

The Pitch: When you first started working with METALLICA, you said the results wouldn't be seen until the next album. Now that you're listening to the new album, what are the results?

Phil Towle: I think they're in better shape to be successful creatively. And the music sounds like it to me. I feel their power. I feel their confidence. I don't feel them as tentative. I feel they're strong in their message musically and lyrically. It's all visceral to me. They feel like they're having fun and doing something they enjoy doing with each other. They feel to me like they enjoyed this project and enjoyed playing this music, and they did a great job.

The Pitch: Where is this band psychologically compared to where they were when you met them?

Phil Towle: I feel where we were before was in the process of construction. And there is great pleasure one ought to get out of the reconstruction phase. But it's different, like if you were rebuilding a house and you get to look at the foundation, and as you rebuild in the various different stages you appreciate what's done, and in the end the end product is what they're celebrating more now. They're celebrating what they're capable of doing. Although I'm real curious already to see what they're going to do with the next album.

The Pitch: With the football teams, you can measure success in yards earned and Super Bowl trophies. Since music is more intangible, how do you know whether you helped METALLICA?

Phil Towle: We were measuring success in terms of making sure the band regained itself. Some people say the band was saved because it was headed for destruction. Management was justifiably concerned the band was imploding and would die a death many bands do. And their personal behaviors were self-destructive, and their ways of interacting were self-destructing. Once you're on the other side of that, now you can start measuring objectively as much as you can in the artistry of it all. Albums sold: popularity. Of course, selling albums doesn't necessarily mean they're great. We can argue forever subjectively whether someone's a real talent. Celebrity doesn't mean they're a talent. To me they are now in a position to make a positive impact on our society.

The Pitch: You know, a lot of METALLICA fans, seeing that documentary, thought your work with them was just proof the band was adrift and weak. That it was the least "metal" thing they could do.

Phil Towle: I think people are taking a snapshot. They listen to a cut from "Some Kind of Monster" and they don't like the sounds and compare it to what they've heard before, so that becomes a failure to them. To a performance coach, that's part of a process. The members of METALLICA are better band mates, better human beings, fathers, not because of what I did but what we did on a consistent basis over those months and years. We took time out over the course of those months and years to explore our personalities. So I don't take a snapshot. I look at it as what it was during its time and serving its purpose.

The Pitch: Given your background in psychology, do you think people have a point when they say the ["Death Magnetic"] album cover looks like a vagina?

Phil Towle: Well… I hadn't thought about it that way. I've talked to a few people about the cover. People seem to like it. It looks like a crypt to me. Psychologically, the most important thing is why do we see it the way we see it. Why do I see it as a crypt? Am I influenced by "Death Magnetic"? To me it doesn't look that way but maybe it's because I'm coming up on 70. That's the wonderful thing about art.

Read the entire interview at this location.


Posted in: News


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