Exclusive Interview: Kirk Hammett Talks Metallica’s Orion Festival

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(Photo: William Philbin)

(Photo: William Philbin)

This weekend, Metallica bring their first Orion Festival to Atlantic City, New Jersey. The two-day event will feature over twenty bands, a monster car show, a display of horror film memorabilia, comedians, a film festival and more.

Metallica will headline both nights, and to make the shows unique, they will perform two classic albums in full: on Saturday, they’re playing 1984’s Ride The Lightning and on Sunday, 1991’s Metallica (also known as “The Black Album”).

In an exclusive interview with CBS Local, Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett said, “I know Ride The Lightning forwards and backwards, it’s not like the ‘Black Album,’ where there are three or four songs that we rarely play. Over the course of the years, we’ve played most of Ride The Lightning, except for one song we’ve never done, ‘Escape.’ It was pretty easy. We put way more time into learning the ‘Black Album’ than Ride The Lightning.”

At a press conference Friday afternoon, frontman James Hetfield said that the band has played lots of festivals over the years (including Bonnaroo in 2008, and they headlined the Lollapalooza tour in 1996), and wanted to improve upon the experiences they’ve seen in the past.

“We’ve been thinking about this for a while,” he said. “We’ve been doing festivals for thirty years, and we know what we like and don’t like. We’ve seen what other people have tried to do, and we wanted to do it better. It just seems that most of the time, you’re either doing one style of music, or it’s all kind of crazy different styles. We wanted to get something in the middle.”

When the San Francisco band was asked why they chose Atlantic City for Orion, drummer Lars Ulrich said “It’s easy and accessible. We’ve played festivals in the past that are ten miles down a two-lane dirt road on a farm and we’ve heard the complaints,” a likely reference to Bonnaroo. “So we wanted to try to put something together in a place with a bit of infrastructure, running water and electricity.”

The festival has artists from a number of different genres including country (Eric Church), blues (Gary Clark Jr.), alternative rock (Cage The Elephant), indie rock (Best Coast) and punk (Gaslight Anthem) as well as metal (Sepultura).

When asked what bands he wanted to see during the weekend, bassist Robert Trujilio joked, “Well, if I didn’t say Suicidal Tendencies, I’d get my a** kicked” (he is a former member of that band). Ulrich commented that he wouldn’t miss Georgia metal band Baroness, and Hammett mentioned Gary Clark Jr.
Hetfield said, “There’s quite a few bands on the bill that I’m not a fan of, but I respect the fact that they’re good at what they do. And opening the door for someone who might enjoy that music is part of what we’re doing as well.”

He then added, “All of the bands that are on this bill, we’re proud to have here. A lot of the metal bands need the exposure, we think they’re good, and we’re doing our best to get them out in front of people.”

Besides music, each member of the group is curating a non-music event: Hetfield is overseeing a monster car show, with cars and motorcycles from 1972 and earlier. Drummer Lars Ulrich is hosting a film festival (as he notes, it has the advantage of being air conditioned). Bassist Robert Trujilio is overseeing a surfing competition (Bader Field, which hosts Orion, is right near a beach) and a skateboard demonstration.

Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, a longtime horror film fanatic, is hosting “Kirk’s Crypt,” putting his personal collection of rare horror movie memorabilia, classic comics, monster toys, posters and props on display. Hammett said that the collection on display at the festival inspired a book, which will be out later this year.

“Well, I love my horror movie posters, for me that’s the centerpiece of my collection. Those are the rarest and most historically and culturally significant items. Having said that, I love the vintage monster toys from the ’60s and ’70s. And I love a lot of the artwork that I have. The book is kind of a culmination of my collecting from the last 30 years. I’ve amassed so much stuff, I just thought, ‘Well, I think it’s time for me to share this with the rest of the world.’ I decided to do a book, it’s coming out in October, it’s called Too Much Horror Business.”

Hammett will appear at his “Crypt” on Saturday and Sunday to host panel discussions about Too Much Horror Business (which is due out in the fall). The “Crypt” will also feature a professional film makeup artist transforming fans into zombies, and legendary Exorcist star Linda Blair will host Q&As each day.

Select sets from the festival (including Metallica’s performances both nights, as well as sets from Gaslight Anthem, Best Coast and Eric Church) will stream live at Orion’s website. Some tickets for the festival are still available. CBS Local will have a complete wrap-up of the festival on Monday morning.

– Brian Ives, CBS Local

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