Today marks the 3D/IMAX premiere of Metallica Through the Never – the first theatrical feature starring the legendary metal giants, combining specially-shot live performances with a dark, apocalyptic fantasy storyline. It's also been about a year since Metallica's lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, a lifelong “Monster Kid,” released the acclaimed book Too Much Horror Business (check out our review here), which showcases his museum-quality collection of vintage horror memorabilia. To mark the event, I got to chat with Kirk about the movie and the book, and how his passion for horror inspires his music.
FEARnet: Now that you've seen the final cut of the film, what was it like to see yourself on a thirty-foot-high screen in 3D for the first time?
KIRK HAMMETT: You know, I really do not like watching myself on screen, so it was actually pretty laborious for me. It's no problem for the other guys, but watching myself, all I could think was “Oh man, what a big dork I am... a big dork in 3D IMAX!”
I really don't think the audience is going to think that. They'll definitely see the band in a new way, though. Was there special blocking or choreography that made the 3D shoot more challenging?
It wasn't so much the 3D camera setup as the stage itself, which had to function very specifically for the movie. There were sections that were really dangerous, shooting flames and smoke everywhere, and we had to know exactly where the “safe zones” were, so we didn't get torched or electrocuted, or have a thousand-pound rig fall on our heads. It was pretty crazy.
What inspired the whole concept of a narrative-style feature, instead of a traditional concert film?
Well, when you look at concert movies over the last thirty-or-so years, they all kind of look the same, you know? They combine the concert with interviews with the band, footage backstage, maybe a little history of the band or whatnot... and we didn't want to go down that same old road, especially when you have 3D and IMAX to play with. So we all decided that it had to have a story to really make it as memorable and unique as possible.
Since horror is your passion, I was curious how much input you had on the horror elements of the story – the apocalyptic wasteland, the masked horseman, and so on.
Much of that originated with Nimrod [Antal]'s screenplay. But as he described the concept to us, and talked about bringing in all these horror aspects, I was really cheering him on, and encouraged him to make it as horrific as we could get... without getting too extreme, though.
It's like an intense, dark dream, and it really fits the music.
Yeah, it does... and it's interesting that when we were first searching for directors and concepts, most of them were more along the lines of science fiction, and that whole idea just didn't jive with us; it just didn't feel right for the band. But when Nimrod's story came along, it totally fit Metallica.
Too Much Horror Business has been out for about a year now, and it's been quite a success.
Yeah, it's been just amazing! Reviewers, horror fans, music fans, collectors... everybody has just loved it.
I was wondering, has the book been a “gateway” to horror for some Metallica fans who weren't necessarily into it before?
A lot of Metallica fans actually had no idea I was so into it! They just thought I liked all this stuff because it looked cool, and didn't know until they read the book that the love ran a lot deeper... into obsession, really. I'm just happy that the book was an education for a lot of people – even people who were already into horror, but didn't know the history of certain films, or collectors who didn't know that certain toys even existed until they saw them in the book, you know? It's just been super-cool, and I'm already planning on putting out another one.
You just answered my next question!
Right on, bro! Yeah, I'm going to start working on that next year.
The book reminds me a lot of Forrest Ackerman's collection, and the way he archived so many key moments of horror history. Forry had some special pieces of memorabilia that he cherished above all the rest, like Lugosi's Dracula ring. Do you have any items that you cherish in the same way?
Oh, totally... that would be the outfit that Boris Karloff wore in The Black Cat. For one, that's my favorite movie, and two, when I found out that piece was coming up for auction, I was blown away by the fact that it had survived after eighty-odd years, and that it was still intact. That was amazing to me. The moment I received it, I put that damn outfit on, bro... and it fit me perfectly!
I know, it was just so amazing!
Since your love of horror runs so deep, and has been such a huge part of your life, does it inspire you as a musician as well?
Absolutely! I'll describe what's in my main poster room: my favorite movie posters, a couch, a guitar, and an amp... and that's it. There's just such a cool vibe in there: I just stare at my posters, surrounded by those old, cool and amazing graphics, and pretty soon I'm writing something dark and moody. The movies inspire me, the artwork inspires me, the mood they create and the stories behind them... everything. I just love it.
Like you said – a natural fit for Metallica.
Yeah, and even just heavy metal itself; it needs that dark vibe. The sound relies on the movement called a flatted fifth, which gives it that extra evil-sounding edge. It just fits, bro... it all goes hand-in-hand.
After opening today at select IMAX theaters, Metallica Through the Never will then expand to a nationwide theatrical release on October 4th. The soundtrack album is also in stores now. Visit the official site for more info about the movie, including behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with the band and director Nimrod Antal, and clips like this one: