Metallagher on "one big, insane, racist ball of sh*tty madness"
In the case of Metallagher, there's something a bit more absurd at play than your typical cover band. In short, the band dresses as Metallica and thrashes through 1980s-era tracks. All the while, frontman "Gallagher Hetfield" smashes items and tells bad jokes in between snarling lyrics.
The band is playing a St. Paul gig as they prepare for a run of West Coast dates, and Gimme Noise reached out to frontman Brent Hedke to talk about what's like playing the same songs for going on seven years--and, of course, their 2009 show in which the actual Gallagher opened for them.
Gimme Noise: Just for clarification, can you define the scope of your covers: What Metallica is in "acceptable range" and is there a specific period of Gallagher's work that you try to focus on?
Brent Hedke: I'm honestly not a huge Metallica fan, so I don't know much of their history or the chronology of their goofy records, but I think we only do songs up to and including ...And Justice For All. We tried a black album medley a few years ago that went over about as well as it sounds like it would.
As far as Gallagher's body of work, it's all just one big, insane, racist ball of shitty madness so I don't really focus on any one particular era.
Were you interested in Gallagher before you came up with this concept? What piqued your interest in him as a subject?
A couple of us are kind of comedy nerds, so before we started doing this I only knew him as a punch line. I saw him on TV when I was a kid but I never really equated it with stand up. I just thought it was some goofy burnout losing his mind onstage for an hour. When we made the worst decision of our lives (to start doing this "band"), the whole joke was that the tighter the music was and the more verbatim the jokes were, the funnier it would be because: why in the hell would anyone put that much work into something so absolutely retarded? What has kept me interested in impersonating him is that, over the years, I've just kind of started doing a Tony Clifton-esque drunken lounge act version of Gallagher. Just kind of a psychotic dirtball at the end of his rope. That's funny to me for some reason. I have numerous mental and emotional problems.
What are some of the challenges of playing all covers? How much can you mix up your set/do you get sick of any of the songs?
The challenge for me is remembering all the insane lyrics. I have a pristinely accurate, nearly infallible photographic memory in my everyday life. For some reason, though, my brain absolutely refuses to memorize Metallica lyrics. Honestly, if someone wanted to hide their ATM pin number from me all they would have to do is have Metallica put it in their lyrics and they'd be safe forever. Like I said, I don't really like Metallica at all, so I kind of go into it sick of them. We try and mix it up a lot but it's a cover band and there are certain songs you have to play for people. I doubt if anyone in the band would lose any sleep over never having to play or hear "Creeping Death" again though.
Will Metallagher ever sneak in an original?
I don't think the world is ready for that. It would be like the "Johnny B. Goode" scene from Back to the Future. We occasionally sneak a Pantera song into our set, though, because why the hell not, right?
Have you run out of things to smash?
Good question. My favorite thing I've ever smashed was a hollowed out cabbage patch doll filled with jelly, so I would say that at this point me smashing anything other than a human baby would be anti-progress.
It seems that a majority of your shows are at Station 4. What about the venue is such a good fit for your act?
First off, they actually let us do our insane show there, so that already puts them ahead of roughly 99 percent of every other club on earth. But they were also the first ones who allowed us to try this out and they're super cool about everything and treat us well. Plus it's got high ceilings, a great PA, and they don't seem to have any limit to how many people can be blackout drunk in one room at the same time -- so that helps us out immensely.
How has your set/performance differed when playing to larger crowds (for instance, at SXSW or Fun Fun Fun Fest)?
For whatever reason we always have better shows in front of larger audiences. We are completely aware of how goddamn ridiculous what we do is, but you still don't wanna shit the bed in front of people so we tend to prepare a little bit more for the bigger shows. Basically what I'm saying is: if the gig doesn't sell out, the audience is gonna get a really shitty show.
What's the worst crowd reaction you've received?
Oh Jesus, we've had a number of them. But the worst was probably a show we did for some radio station's end-of-summer-bash thing in La Crosse. The band that played before us was comprised of 10 year-olds playing classic dad-rock hits and they blew the goddamn doors off the joint. The DJs were literally raffling off a motorcycle as we went onstage and about half the crowd was toddlers. They kinda just stared at us the way your cat does when you're masturbating. Not happy, not mad. Just confused and kind of ashamed. The time that I sprayed the crowd with a gallon of fish sauce also seemed to make a lot of people the opposite of happy.
How did the Gallagher show happen? Did somebody reach out to him on your behalf or was it the venue?
I think he was booked to play at Station 4 because his career is going really well and they just got a hold of us and asked if we would do it. We were obviously concerned about destroying the space-time continuum, but we did it anyway. It was a very surreal night. Gallagher is kind of a lunatic. And by kind of, I mean "Holy shit is he a lunatic!"
You've played with the real Gallagher. Have you reached out to Metallica or Gallagher Too?
MTV was interested in us doing some show for them but I heard that Metallica wouldn't license their songs to be used or something, so I know they're aware of our existence. I'm in the process of starting an internet feud with them to try and get one or all of them to our show in San Francisco in a couple weeks. We'll see how that goes.
How many cease-and-desist letters have you received?
Surprisingly none, though we would gladly welcome one. Getting sued would be the best thing that could ever happen to us.
Unless someone decides to sue us for a couple Slim Jims and case of beer, they probably won't be getting much other than their name on an official courtroom document next to the words "Vs. Metallagher"--and that would be just about the goddamn funniest thing I could ever think of.
Metallagher is playing at Station 4 on Saturday March 24 with Reptile Christ.
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