Metallica’s previous foray into film — 2004’s "Some Kind of Monster" – served as possibly one of the most un-metal movies about a metal band. That documentary, directed by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, centered largely on members’ personal lives as well as intra-band turmoil, down to group therapy sessions.
So if that was a look at Metallica, the individuals, their new group cinematic effort is once again all about Metallica, the musicians and showmen. "Metallica Through the Never" comes out nationwide this Friday, with a soundtrack out today on the band’s own imprint, Blackened Recordings. And it stands in stark contrast to "Some Kind of Monster" – it’s almost a complete flight of fancy.
The 3-D IMAX creation upends the usual concert film, with director Nimród Antal weaving the band’s live performance together with the journey of a fictional young roadie, Trip. As he sets out on a surreal odyssey to collect a desperately needed mystery item, Metallica roars to life on a custom-designed, 360-degree stage from which musical and technical wizardry spews.
While Trip avoids everything from rioters to a murderous masked horseman, Metallica charges through three decades of fan-favorite songs and stage productions. There are 15-foot Tesla-coil lightning bolts. There are multiple Lady Justice statues. There are, even, 5000 specially bred colored maggots.
The fictional roadie Trip also stars in the movie. Credit: © Metallica Through the Never, Courtesy of Picturehouse
In other words, Metallica has grown up, but not necessarily old. We caught up with bassist Robert Trujillo to chat about staying Metallica fit and creative.
Fusion: This isn’t the first Metallica movie. What keeps drawing you as a band back to the big screen?
Robert Trujillo: One of the things I’ve realized in my time as a band is that we like to challenge ourselves. That could mean taking on a recording project with Lou Reed, or back when I first joined the band, Some Kind of Monster.
Metallica Through the Never to me is an extension of all of that. These guys are crazy. We just jump in the water and swim and we take the chance, and we always hope that we don’t drown. I think that’s what makes Metallica keep on ticking.
The other thing with our performances is that there’s the side of being physical and maintaining ourselves and being fit for a two-hour show. As we get older, we’ve kind of nurtured ourselves. We keep ourselves in the right frame of mind and keep our bodies right so we don’t hurt ourselves.
Credit: © Metallica Through the Never, Courtesy of Picturehouse
So what’s your fitness regime like, then, to get ready for a two-hour show?
In life in general you start going through these transitions with age, and you learn how to adapt. If you don’t learn how to adapt, you can hurt yourself. For a Metallica show, I have a trainer, and we do drills and a lot of cardio-oriented exercises on a football field, believe it or not. There’s a lot of running through cones and using BOSU balls and yoga stretches.
I know Kirk [Hammett, Metallica guitarist] does yoga in the morning, and he does about a half hour of yoga before he goes onstage. Lars [Ulrich, drummer] is an active runner. I used to do cardio kick classes with [frontman] James Hetfield. James also likes to ride his bike and go on long walks.
All that helps, as well as monitoring nutrition. Lars has been on this crazy nutrition plan and that guy’s lost like 25 pounds. I’m worried he’s going to starve himself.
What’s so crazy about it?
I don’t know the technical aspects of it, but it’s a certain amount of carbs, and none of this, none of that. No fruit. It depends.
But the bottom line is, in terms of “rock and roll, party all night,” the way it used to be, as you get older, you have to listen to your body. We’re really trying to maintain that so we can play the best shows possible.
The other thing is we have deep-tissue massage therapists and sports doctors who travel with us on tour, so before and after a show, we’re always getting looked after. It really, really helps.
The other thing is that we schedule our tour cycles around our families. In the States we do one week on, one week off, and internationally, we do two weeks on, one week off. That keeps our head together so we don’t get burned out, and we have fun on the road and then come home to be with our families.
All in all, it’s all about balance and being able to get out there. We change the set list every night, we keep things interesting. For those two hours, we have a good time.
Metallica's James Hetfield. Credit: © Metallica Through the Never, Courtesy of Picturehouse
To connect that back to your last film, do you think that balance is something you’ve found since then? Because Some Kind of Monster famously depicted a band that seemed to be not at all in balance.
That’s true. Some Kind of Monster obviously is a film about relationships. It’s not so much about the music, you know? It’s won a lot of people over since then, for sure. It’s done quite well in its own way.
But at the end of the day, that film wasn’t really about Metallica, the band, writing metal songs. It was about presenting the real Metallica, unfiltered, and the relationships.
Going back to taking chances and jumping off a cliff without a parachute, for Metallica to take a film project like that and be transparent, and then release it to the world, was pretty ballsy. A lot of people don’t want to do that.
Obviously that was my first time joining the band [as depicted in the film]. I came in with cameras all around me. It was a really strange situation. I couldn’t correlate being in Metallica and having this film being made at the same time. But now I look back and think it was pretty noble of Lars, James, and Kirk to allow that to happen.
A lot of bands since then have said, “Hey man, we actually got a therapist to work out our problems so we can still tour together!” It’s a lot of work when you’re with each other that much and you’re creating and you’re traveling and all that stuff.
To bring it back to the new movie, do you in a way see it as a response to all that, in bringing back the focus to music and showmanship?
The idea goes back about 15 years. IMAX Films approached Metallica, where before they were focusing on nature and that kind of stuff. But the technology wasn’t really in the right place. Then, 3-D cameras were as big as pickup trucks.
Then four years ago our management proposed us to it again, and thought it was a good time to do this. But in their mind, they wanted to do a concert film with the biggest indoor stage ever, celebrating the past years of the theatrics of Metallica – Master of Puppets, Ride the Lightning, …And Justice For All, and Death Magnetic.
But we thought, “Okay that’s cool, but we want to add a narrative to it.” And that’s when we started interviewing all these directors. A lot of them were afraid of the challenge of writing as well. And Nimród Antal, who is a fiery, mad Hungarian, was crazy enough to take it on, and we loved his passion for the project.
Nimród wrote the treatment and the story, and he was the guy who was going to have the cinematic eye for what we needed to happen as far as the stage performance as well. We wanted to bring the viewer to the stage.
Hopefully we’ve captured the balance between the narrative and the performance. And the sound is amazing, really. It’s a unique experience.
Arielle Castillo is Fusion's culture editor, reporting on arts, music, culture, and subcultures from the streets on up. She's also a connoisseur of weird Florida, weightlifting, and cats.