Totally True Memoirs of a Metal Producer: Metallica’s St. Anger


I agreed to produce St. Anger after Kirk called me in tears. “Mommy and daddy are fighting,” he said. “Don’t worry, kid,” I told him. “I’ll be on the next plane.”

Only when I arrived was I informed that Jason had quit the band in favor of a career in anonymity. I couldn’t think of anyone good enough to replace the guy who was deleted from …And Justice for All, so I announced to the band that I’d be playing bass myself. They were all grateful.

But boy, Kirk wasn’t kidding about mommy and daddy fighting. James and Lars were worse than Liam and Noel Oasis on bath salts. They couldn’t agree on what length the band’s hair should be this record cycle. James argued in favor of growing it long again, like in the old days, but Lars thought long hair was “stock.” Between you, me, and the wall, thirty years of working with Lars will drive a man to drink. So James ended up in rehab and I ended up enjoying my retainer plus expenses despite not having any actual work to do.

James got back and somebody from management said the band should go into therapy because Metallica represented 15% of their annual income. That seemed like a waste of time to me, so I paid the guy from the crafts store down the block a thousand bucks to call himself a “performance coach” and come to the studio to tell everyone that they were special.

It worked. Pretty soon the fellas were compromising again. Lars agreed that James could write about problems he was having around his new house (e.g. clogged toilets, dirty windows, a leaky roof, etc.) if the drums could sound any way Lars wanted them to. James agreed that Lars could start dressing like he was in Drowning Pool if James could keep dressing like Rivers Cuomo. And everyone agreed that Kirk shouldn’t have any guitar solos.

So we made the album and the band begged me to go on tour with them but I’d already taken my next job producing the new Nickelback record. So we had auditions. Lars wanted a cool kid like the guy from Marilyn Manson or the guy from Nine Inch Nails or the guy from Orgy. James wanted an old road dog like the guy from Corrosion of Conformity or the guy from Kyuss or the guy from The Marshall Tucker Band. Kirk suggested someone too but no one was listening and I don’t remember who it was. They finally settled on the guy from Ozzy’s band because Sharon told them he never spoke unless spoken to.

Now the band had to make a music video. They figured out they could get a tax credit by agreeing to participate in a social experiment wherein a bunch of prisoners who have been locked up for years would be told they were finally going to get to have some fun by seeing Metallica play, only to be made to listen to the title track from St. Anger on repeat for several hours. So the band did that.

When the album finally came out everyone hated it, but it still debuted at #1 on the charts and sold six million copies so that tells you how smart the public is.

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