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Metallica's Robert Trujillo talks thrashy comeback, going 'Up North,' Apple River beers

Robert Trujillo of Grammy-award winning American metal band Metallica performs during the "Big Four" concert at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sept. 14, 2011. In alphabetical order, Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer -- who all played in a thorough and memorable seven-hour concert on Wednesday night -- were the most popular bands of mid-1980s thrash-metal. (Chad Batka/The New York Times)

Robert Trujillo of Grammy-award winning American metal band Metallica performs during the "Big Four" concert at Yankee Stadium in New York, Sept. 14, 2011. In alphabetical order, Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer -- who all played in a thorough and memorable seven-hour concert on Wednesday night -- were the most popular bands of mid-1980s thrash-metal. (Chad Batka/The New York Times) ASSOCIATED PRESS - NYT

In case you live under a rock at the bottom of Lake Superior with industrial-grade earplugs, you probably heard Metallica helped debut U.S. Bank Stadium last weekend.

The extremely loud, extremely sold-out show was one of the most anticipated Twin Cities concerts in recent memory.

Days before the show, the metal gods unleashed a throttling new single and announced their first solo studio album, Hardwired...to Self-Destruct, in eight years. We sat down with Metallica bassist and Suicidal Tendencies alum Robert Trujillo hours ahead of the gig to discuss the new record, hanging in Minnesota, and not being recognized on airplanes.

City Pages: When did you guys get in?

Robert Trujillo: Last night.

CP So, have you been holing up here sound-checking?

RT: No, because there was a show here last night so we didn't. Usually we would. But today, [we're] basically just gonna jump up there and wing it. We're just excited. With the new song out there and the album being close to finished, it feels like the machine has been reactivated. Today feels like the official start of that.

CP: Your new single “Hardwired” is a really thrashy tune. Is that indicative of the new album's direction?

RT: I think so. “Hardwired” is the perfect statement to lead into this body of music. I think this album sounds crushing. Sound-wise, it's got a lot of firepower. I'm excited about the songs, but I'm also excited about the sound quality of the record. Greg Fidelman did a great job with the production.

It's really fun music, but it's also challenging. It can be a bit complex, but there's strong melodies. I feel we've matured in the right way as a band. We've had a lot of creative challenges over the years and as we've gotten older, we've been going for it, you know?

CP: When Death Magnetic came out, a lot of people praised it as a return to Metallica's roots.

RT: Definitely.

CP: The new single seems to follow that theme. Is that conscious?

RT: With [producer] Rick Rubin it was great that he seemed to bring the awareness that [drummer] Lars [Ulrich] and [frontman] James [Hetfield] should reconnect with the thrash roots. It was important for Rick to get Metallica back into that style and energy.

You pull from that and do something fresh with it. I feel it brought this band back, on a creative level, to a very special place. Now you get into this new body of music, we've grown from all the shows we've done, but also learning the Black Album top to bottom. Master of Puppets we did the same thing. We celebrated the 20-year anniversary, played the album in its entirety. Doing that rather than stepping away from the past, but embracing the past, and digging into it is something that helped us get to where we are now. Death Magnetic was a launchpad for what's happening.

I'm excited about this, but I'm also excited about the future. We have a lot more riffs to share with the world. Hopefully it doesn't take eight years [laughs].

CP: You mentioned earlier there's still some finishing work with the album?

RT: At this stage in the game you're still tightening things up. The other day our producer Greg and I wanted to try something different with a bass track. But everyone thought we were finished. So we sneak in the studio, Lars walks in sees me with the bass, Greg at the controls and is like, “Are you effing kidding me!” I just smiled. But that for me was the official “OK, it's finished. Let's celebrate.” I had a glass of wine on my flight back into Burbank. Some guy offered me his [drink] ticket.

So, I'm getting on the plane, “Hardwired” had just been featured all over the nation. I walk to the back and sit down next to this guy, who offered me the free drink coupon. I had a Metallica jacket on and he said “Oh, I heard they released their new album today.” I said “No, I think it was just one song.” He goes “Really? Did you hear it?” I'm like “Yeah, it's good.”

I look down, he's got his headset on watching on his iPhone, the video. He doesn't know I'm in the band. He's just going “Oh man, this is really good!” I go “Yeah, it is huh?” That was a classic moment.

CP: How did the process with the new record compare to Death Magnetic?

RT: It's been a similar process. You have an arsenal of riffs and we jam on them. Hundreds and hundreds of riffs over years. I'm always there to support Lars and James, whether it's my ideas or not.

CP: With the new stadium, a lot of people are wondering how it's going to be as a concert venue. I know you haven't had a chance to sound-check or anything…

RT: No. We'll see. It's a mystery. I don't know that we're thinking too much what are the acoustics are going to be like. We're just happy that 50,000 people are showing up to support us and heavy music in general.

Minneapolis has always been a great city for music. We were reminiscing about being back here in the early days. Lars was saying the first gig we played in Minneapolis was at First Avenue. The first gig I played in Minneapolis was at First Avenue as well. I have a lot of memories with that particular venue.

CP: Any specific ones that stick out?

RT: There was always a party and I adopted the local people. I had some really good friends here for a while who I went snowboarding with back in the Suicidal days. I went up to Spirit Mountain, to Giants Ridge and up north around the Duluth area, so I spent a little bit of time here.

I also remember doing a show with Ozzy [Osbourne], we combined Ozzfest with the Warped Tour [at Somerset Amphitheater]. There's good memories floating down the [Apple] River with beers.

CP: From stadium to stadium, do you notice much difference in sound quality?

RT: Yeah. Some stadiums – like the Pontiac Dome in Detroit – horrible, horrible sound. We just played AT&T Park where the San Francisco Giants play and it sounded killer. So, you never know what you're going to get. I know that I dig the Vikings, though. There's a lot of history between the Vikings and the L.A. Rams, the team that I grew up with.

And you have two linebackers from my school, UCLA, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. So, go Vikings!