Metallica is the most successful hard-rock band of all time, having sold more than one hundred million albums worldwide. Receiving unique, unfettered access, acclaimed filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky followed Metallica over two and a half years as they faced monumental personal and professional challenges that threatened to destroy the band just as they returned to the studio to record their first album in four years.
Berlinger's book about the experience reveals the stories behind the documentary Some Kind of Monster, capturing the energy, uncertainty, and ultimate triumph of both the filming and Metallica's bid for survival. It weaves the on-screen stories together with what happened off-screen, revealing intimate details of the band's struggle amid personnel changes, addiction, and controversy. In part because Berlinger was one of the only witnesses to the intensive group-therapy sessions and numerous band meetings, his account of his experience filming the band is the most honest and deeply probing book about Metallica-or any rock band-ever written.
This is the book both Metallica and film fans have dreamed of-a stark and honest look at one of rock's most important bands through the eyes of one of the most provocative documentary filmmakers working today.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Edition description:||First Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.74(d)|
About the Author
Joe Berlinger is an award-winning filmmaker and journalist. In addition to Some Kind of Monster, his films include Brother's Keeper, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, Revelations: Paradise Lost 2, and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, among many other film and television projects. Metallica: This Monster Lives is his first book.
Greg Milner is a senior contributing writer and columnist for Spin magazine. His work also appears in Slate, Salon, the Village Voice, Wired, and other publications. Metallica: This Monster Lives is his first book.
Read an Excerpt
PITCH 'EM ALL
Like many great stories of rock-and-roll excess, this one begins in a hotel's penthouse suite. Not that you'd guess that anyone here was contemplating anything excessive. No lamps were being hurled onto Fifty-seventh Street, fifty-two stories below. No mattresses were slashed. No room-service trays were overturned. There was nothing to suggest that these guys were thinking about doing something crazier than any stunt any drug-addled rock star had ever pulled in a hotel room (nobody was doing anything strange with shark meat). No hint that their decision to do it would wreak havoc with their lives and risk their livelihoods. And cost them millions of their own dollars.
They were agreeing to let Bruce Sinofsky and me hang out with them.
Or so I hoped. An awkward silence had descended on the opulent suite. Bruce and I weren't exactly getting along very well these days, but we knew each other intimately enough to know that neither of us thought this meeting was off to a very auspicious start. I didn't even know whose suite it was — I guessed the drummer's, since he'd just recently emerged from the bathroom, freshly showered and wearing only silk running shorts.
Bruce and I had just spent an eternity in the Four Seasons lobby waiting to be summoned to this royal court. I was seething. Bruce, always the calmer half of our duo, was doing his best to keep it light, but it wasn't working. I have a "fifteen-minute" rule in life: It's the longest I will wait in line for a movie or a restaurant table — or, I decided then and there, rock stars. Peter Mensch, shaved-headed, no-nonsense, and one of Metallica's two managers, kept coming down to tell us our audience with the kings was imminent. By the time we finally made our way upstairs, I had broken my own rule a record sixteen times over.
I knew the ostensible reason why we were there. Cliff Burnstein, Metallica's other manager, wanted to hire us. Bruce and I had been making documentary films together for almost ten years. We now wanted to make a documentary about Metallica. Cliff also wanted us to do a documentary about Metallica, but not one that we particularly wanted to make.
It was the summer of 1999. Metallica had decided to lay low in 2000 (a little file-sharing program called Napster would put a dent in that plan). To keep them in the public eye, Cliff thought it was a good time to make a Metallica movie. What he wanted was really closer to an infomercial: a clips-driven film about Metallica's storied history The idea was to buy airtime on late-night television, show the film, and flog the band's albums through a toll-free number. It seemed like a good idea. Metallica's back catalog is one of the most lucrative assets in the music business. Even in an off year, when Metallica doesn't tour or release a record, two million Metallica albums find new homes.
Although Bruce and I had several times turned down offers to make historical films for basic cable channels, we were willing to consider this one. We both have healthy second careers making commercials and corporate films to pay the bills, and we figured this would fall in that category But we were also intrigued at the prospect of making a more personal film about Metallica, who we'd come to know by using the band's music in our film Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills and its sequel, Paradise Lost 2: Revelations, which we were in the process of finishing. I didn't know the band members well, but I knew enough to think it would be interesting to make a film about what these guys were like as people, and how they dealt with the baggage that came with being the kings of metal. We had pitched the idea a few times over the previous two years and gotten some tentative interest, mainly from drummer Lars Ulrich. Now Bruce and I had a vague idea that we could take the job they were offering and somehow nudge it in a more personal direction. I threw some numbers together for Cliff and didn't hear back from him. A few months later, Cliff called us to say that the band would be staying in New York en route to Woodstock '99. They wanted us to stop by their hotel. Although I was a little disappointed that they were participating in such a lame event, I was happy for the opportunity to meet with them again.
And so, here we were, on top of the world. Lars, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bassist Jason Newsted were milling around the suite, as were Cliff and Peter — the co-owners of Q Prime Management — and Marc Reiter, a senior employee of Q Prime who is primarily responsible for the day-to-day marketing of Metallica. We made small talk for a while. We thanked them for letting us use their music in Paradise Lost 2. We talked a little about the wrongfully convicted kids in the film, who had now been imprisoned for six years. The topic of how great the view was from up here, introduced by Bruce, came and went. We were running out of things to say to each other. I was playing with my sneakers, mentally preparing my speech about why Metallica should let us stick a camera in its collective face for a year. I wanted them to broach the subject of the film first, and for some reason, they weren't. Cliff thoughtfully stroked his gray beard. As the silence began to get uncomfortable, it hit me that we were waiting for singer and guitarist James Hetfield to show up. I was about to learn a cardinal rule of Metallica, one I would come to know well in the coming years: Nothing Happens Without James. If James isn't around, no action shall be taken, no business discussed. Lars is in many ways Metallica's mouthpiece, but James is the capo.
After a few more minutes of shoe picking, view gazing, and small-talk making, James mercifully showed up, accompanied by his full-time bodyguard, the kind of beefy guy employed to snap the neck of anyone who gets near his charge. I instantly noticed that James has an incredible presence. When he walks into a room, the light seems to pool around him. He truly is a rock star, without really trying. I remember thinking, even then, that he carried that powerful aura like a burden. There was something intimidating about him that made me tongue-tied, careful to measure every word. Bruce has an ease with all types — be they mall rats, trailer-park kids, or James Hetfield — that I greatly admire. He speaks spontaneously which sometimes gets him in trouble but more often works to his advantage by disarming people. I tend to measure my words more carefully Someone like James makes me unbearably self-conscious.
Cliff called the meeting to order. He reminded everyone that a historical documentary about Metallica would be a wise business move. The idea would be for us to delve deep into Lars's huge video archive, which spanned the band's history What we'd come out with would be the definitive filmic history of Metallica. We'd throw in a little concert footage that we'd shoot. The whole thing would be finished in time for Metallica's upcoming sabbatical.
Cliff paused. Everyone nodded — not, apparently in agreement, but more like to show they were sentient. Just another day at the office.
What the hell, I figured. Time to jump into the void. Now or never.
"You know ..." I had completely forgotten my speech. "We don't really do just historical stuff. It's kind of boring. Anyone can do it." Hey — why hire us? Any monkey with an Avid could do it!
Bruce pushed it further. "What Joe and I are really good at is getting involved in our subjects' lives." (Bruce has an amazing knack for taking an idea that would make any sane person recoil — a total stranger invading your life — and somehow making it sound okay — fun, even!)
"Do something more personal," I urged, really exhorting the troops. "Combine the historical stuff with a portrait of who you guys really are. We can do the history, but let's try to make this more than an infomercial." Going in for the kill ... "Let's make it rewarding for people!"
Somewhere in the room an air conditioner whirred. If there were tumble-weeds in hotel penthouses, one would have blown through the room. If there were crickets, they would've chirped.
Lars pulled at his wet hair. "Personal?" he said, treating the word like a dirty sock. "Like what kind of things? Me taking a leak?" Snickers from the others.
"I don't know, man," Kirk said. "When I'm at home, I really like my privacy"
Let the record show that the member of Metallica most enamored of the idea was Jason Newsted. He would let us film him backstage and hanging out with fans after shows. Maybe he'd even let us into his house — he'd have to think about it.
SOME KIND OF NUMBERS
(special thanks to Cheryll Stone, production manager)
Duration of filming: April 2001 to August 2003 (851 days)
Number of shoot days: 180
Number of travel days with no shoots: 41
Breakdown of shoot days:
Ritz-Carlton Hotel: 26
The Presidio: 20
HQ recording studio: 81
European tour: 20
James Hetfield's home: 1
James at other locations: 1
Lars Ulrich's homes: 4
Lars at Christie's auction house in New York: 2
Kirk Hammett's ranch: 1
Kirk at traffic school: 1
Jason Newsted's home: 1
Jason Newsted practicing with Echobrain and Voivod: 2
Office of Metallica's managers: 2
Metallica at Oakland Raiders game: 1
Metallica at San Quentin Prison: 2
Metallica jet skiing on San Francisco Bay: 1
Metallica at various other locations: 14
Total hours of digital videotape shot: 1,602
Miles of digital videotape consumed: 112
Hours of sound recorded on DAT: 2,524
Miles of DAT consumed: 47
Total number of double-A and 9-volt batteries used by crew: 675
Total number of Chinese lanterns used for lighting scenes: 36
Total number of lightbulbs used: 156
Number of signed release forms and accompanying Polaroids: 428
Total number of New York-San Francisco round-trip flights taken by two directors: 98
Total number of colored dots used on tapes and logs: 5,662
Yards of bubble wrap used to wrap and ship tapes: 283 Terabytes of storage used by four editors and three assistants: 3
Total hours worked by four editors and three assistants: 6,000
Total number of half-liter bottles of water consumed by crew: 1,620
Total number of turkey sandwiches consumed by crew: 178
Total number of Diet Cokes consumed by crew: 540
Total number of Excedrin pain-reliever caplets consumed by crew: 300
As for James, well, he didn't say a word. He didn't have to; the look on his face spoke volumes. This is what it told me: "If, for business reasons, we need to make an infomercial to sell a few albums, that's fine. But let there be no confusion: I am James Fucking Hetfield, and you are not shoving a camera in my face — unless it's onstage, in which case, stay the fuck out of my way" Cliff also chose nonverbal communication. His look said: "Nice one, guys. You certainly blew that opportunity." Also: "Don't let the door hit your personal-film-loving asses on the way out."
We all shook hands, never imagining that there would come a day a few years hence, when a therapist would instruct us all to hug one another when saying hello and good-bye. I wasn't even sure we'd ever say hello to Metallica again.
Bruce and I got in the elevator and began the slow descent from the rarified air of the penthouse suite to the sweltering heat below, from rock royalty to the hoi polloi. I turned to Bruce and said, "This ain't gonna happen."
Was he rolling his eyes or just following the numbered floors as they counted down? "No shit," he replied.
Like I said, we weren't getting along.
GIVE ME FUEL, GIVE ME FIRE, GIMME SHELTER
INT. ROOM 627, RITZ-CARLTON HOTEL, SAN FRANCISCO - DAY
JOE BERLINGER: Can I just say–I know I said I wouldn't talk, but can I just ask one question?
JOE: I just want everyone's general thoughts on how this process is going to affect the music you're about to make. This metamorphosis you guys are going through, this evolution ...
LARS: I would say that anytime you feel that there's some stuff that you think you need to cover, something you think we could emphasize more, please always feel free to throw that in.
JOE: Oh, okay, thanks. ... I'd love to ask you the same question six months from now, and then at the end of this process.
LARS: Sure, sure.
KIRK: You know what I think is gonna happen to our music? I think the music is gonna be much more powerful, much more honest and pure, you know?
PHIL: The music is going to be much more of that because of what?
KIRK: Because of all the energy that we're putting into really solidifying our thoughts for each other, and our common goals. We're channeling that huge force into the music, and just making, you know, a beautiful, beautiful thing. I think it's gonna have a huge voice, a bigger voice than ever, because it's gonna be all of us singing, man.
PHIL: Oh, wow!
KIRK: It's gonna be like a huge choir.
JAMES: Got enough mics for that?
Some Kind of Monster begins almost where it ends. Before the opening credits, we see members of the international rock press file into HQ, Metallica's recording studio, in the spring of 2003 to preview their new album, St. Anger, on the eve of its release. We then see a montage of these journalists interviewing the band about the events of the previous two years. The Metallica guys look nervous, perhaps even a little shell-shocked. This was their return to the public eye, after two harrowing years of recording the album. It had been six years — since the release of Reload — since they'd done this sort of press juggernaut. Two hours and twenty minutes later, the film ends just a few weeks after this rock-critic confab, just as St. Anger is coming out, with the band taking the stage for the first leg of their Summer Sanitarium tour in support of the new album. The body of the film, then, is a series of flashbacks to the turbulent two years leading up to the birth of St. Anger.
From a narrative standpoint, this was a bigger decision than it might seem on the surface. Much of the dramatic tension in the film revolves around whether or not the band will get it together to make the album, and whether they'll implode in the process. By opening with Metallica talking about St. Anger, we risked killing much of the suspense by telling the viewer that the band survived to complete the album. We decided to take that risk because we knew that much of the initial audience for Some Kind of Monster would be Metallica fans. These people would all know about St. Anger, and many would even be familiar with the album's backstory including James's rehab stint and the band's lengthy hiatus. Because we had captured so much human drama, we decided it was okay to telegraph the ending. The challenge was creating suspense that wasn't built around what happened, but how it happened and why.
When we made this decision in the spring of 2003, after two years of filming, we still had only a vague idea of how we would structure our material. I had been advocating some sort of flashback approach, but we weren't sure how to pull it off. We talked about using the summer tour as the framing device of the film, flashing back to the events leading up to it. The problem with that idea, however, was that we really did not want to make a concert film. The primary experience of a concert is seeing a live band in the flesh; the primary experience of a film is being immersed in the story. A concert film really is the worst of both worlds. Besides, our material was too intimate, and our access too unusual, to waste time on concert sequences. So we were a little stumped.
As with many aspects of this film, the solution to the structuring problem arose spontaneously. When we heard that rock journalists from around the world would be converging at Metallica's studio to interview the band, we thought we'd film some of these interviews for a scene that would hint at the business machine kicking into gear as St. Anger's release date neared. We envisioned a montage sequence depicting the final weeks of frantic activity, from package design to music videos to touring arrangements. (We did create such a montage but never used it in the finished film.)
As we filmed journalists speaking with members of Metallica about the events of the last two years — Jason Newsted's departure, the group therapy, James's time in rehab — a lightbulb went on in my head: these people were asking about things that we had thoroughly covered in real time. With each question posed by a reporter, I kept saying to myself, "Man, we filmed that!" It immediately occurred to me that this footage of Metallica being interviewed by the rock press could be our framing device. We could open with the interviews, and then flash back to the beginning of the recording and therapy sessions, with more of the journalists' questions interspersed throughout the film. The interviews would be the glue holding the movie together.
Excerpted from "Metallica: This Monster Lives"
Copyright © 2004 Joe Berlinger.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
FOREWORD BY BRUCE SINOFSKY,
INTRODUCTION: THE LIVING MONSTER,
1. PITCH 'EM ALL,
SOME KIND OF NUMBERS,
2. GIVE ME FUEL, GIVE ME FIRE, GIMME SHELTER,
3. WEST MEMPHIS AND BEYOND,
4. THE WITCH'S SPELL,
5. SAFE AND WARM,
PHIL'S FIRST DAY,
6. NO REMORSE,
SOME KIND OF MONSTER,
7. EXIT LIGHT,
8. ENTER NIGHT,
9. THE BOOTS THAT KICK YOU AROUND,
10. SHOOT ME AGAIN,
11. VISIBLE KID,
12. KARMAS BURNING,
13. SEEK AND DEPLOY,
14. WELCOME HOME,
SHOOTING THE MONSTER,
15. MADLY IN ANGER,
THE "FUCK" SCENE,
16. TO LIVE IS TO DIE,
17. SILENCE NO MORE,
THE LARS DOCTRINE,
18. THEIR AIM IS TRUJILLO,
19. THE BELL TOLLS,
EDITING THE MONSTER,
21. MONSTER, INC.,
TOO MANY BEARS,
22. THE END THAT WILL NEVER END,
UNLEASHING THE MONSTER,
23. LIVING THE MONSTER,
APPENDIX: THE OSLO INTERVIEWS,
APPENDIX: SOME KIND OF CREDITS (A PARTIAL LIST),