METALLICA bassist Robert Trujillo recently spoke to Gemma Tarlach of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about what it's been like playing with the biggest heavy metal band in the world and whether or not he has been accepted by the group's die-hard fans. Several excerpts from the interview follow:
Q. What do you bring to METALLICA?
Robert Trujillo: "As a performer, physically, technically, I play the way I feel. Of course, when I'm out there (on stage), I go hard. I give it everything I can. I feed off the music and the fans feed off that. No disrespect, but I'm playing because I'm feeling it, not because I think I have to please that fan over there, or that fan there.
Journal Sentinel: METALLICA fans aren't shy about voicing their opinions. How have they been treating you?
Robert Trujillo: "I ignored the media and even the fans. I just told myself, I'm going to be Robert. . . . I'm going to give 100 percent as me. The fans have picked up on that.
"My history with the other groups has helped. SUICIDAL TENDENCIES toured with METALLICA, like, 10 years ago, more than 10 years, and a lot of the hard-core fans respect that. If I was coming right off the street, it would be a lot rougher for me."
Journal Sentinel: You've known METALLICA for a long time from the outside. What was the biggest eye-opener for you when you joined the band?
Robert Trujillo: "Obviously the whole performance coach thing. That was my first encounter with the guys in years, with the exception of going surfing with Kirk a couple times. . . . They invited me into the studio and I got to hear the 'St. Anger' tracks in their prenatal stage. I would have thought the old, guarded METALLICA wouldn't have allowed that.
"They welcomed me into their world, and I wasn't even part of it at the time. There's this whole mystique about what they're like, you know, the evil METALLICA. I didn't see that. Actually, at first, not seeing that evil METALLICA kind of made me uncomfortable."
Journal Sentinel: How does your style square with James' exacting expectations?
Robert Trujillo: "It's a combination. I think he's mellowed out. If he feels something's not right, maybe in the past he'd attack it more aggressively. Now, when we're playing, I can sense if something's not working. He'll look at me, look at the fretboard, look at me, then eventually he'll say something like 'Uh, I think it goes this way' . . .
"But when I got the job, I said to myself, leave no room for error. They were finishing the album ('St. Anger', on which producer Bob Rock played bass), there was a lot of media. With that kind of workload on their shoulders — and they have families, too — I wanted to not bother them too much worrying about what I was doing, so I mapped out as much (of the music) as I could."
Journal Sentinel: How is a METALLICA live performance different than that of your other bands?
Robert Trujillo: "METALLICA for me is actually the most physically demanding. The shows are a lot longer than I'm used to, the music is pretty demanding, it's fast, and with a fair amount of movement (around the fretboard). Also the amount of songs, the catalog they have to work with, we never play the same set night after night.
"Combine that with a stage the size of an aircraft carrier, and it's like a workout on a treadmill. It's kind of freaky for the new guy. When they asked me to join, Lars said, 'We're like a freight train. When we take off, we go hard and fast and don't stop.'"
Journal Sentinel: Tell the truth: Before you joined, how funky was METALLICA?
Robert Trujillo: "I grew up listening to metal but also to JAMES BROWN, THE PARLIAMENT. I know when a guy is funky. And James Hetfield is funky. I mean that. In the context of, like, LYNYRD SKYNYRD. There's something really soulful in him. He also plays the drums, so his approach to rhythm guitar is very funky.
"I always thought there was a lot of groove in METALLICA. That's METALLICA's secret ingredient that they have over other bands. The groove factor that James has is the heartbeat of the band."
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