Metallica's Grammy Performance: Kirk Hammett on Playing With Pianist Lang Lang
Across the Internet, a single reaction greeted the news Metallica will be performing at this Sunday's Grammy Awards alongside Chinese pianist Lang Lang: Huh?
Christopher Victorio Kirk Hammett won't be the only soloist
"We just cannot figure out how 'Metallica' -- which means pummeling, titanic riffs -- and 'classical pianist' -- which means dynamic agility and tonal subtlety -- will go together," we wrote at the time. (For what it's worth, The New York Times agreed.)
But as it happens, we spoke to Kirk Hammett last week and got a bit more insight into what to expect when Metallica adds a well-tempered clavier to its monstrous guitars this weekend. And it's pretty interesting.
Hammett reports that Lang Lang will be joining the band for a rendition of "One." The song has been given a new arrangement, and Metallica will use a novel performance setup to balance the instruments onstage. "We're basically going to do what we did in Antarctica: our guitars are going to be going straight into the amps, but not out to speaker cabinets," Hammett tells SF Weekly. "That's so that we can give enough sonic space to Lang Lang so that he can actually play his piano and hear himself and not get mowed down by James' and my guitar sound, which can be formidable."
Hammett says he was particularly impressed by the way Lang Lang invented parts to go over the existing song -- which at more than 7 minutes, isn't exactly simple:
I listened to the demo that Lang Lang's people sent us, and the arrangement of the song is changed, but none of the heavy parts are taken out, and I love that. Because classical musicians a lot of times are a bit intimidated by these heavy metal guys. They all think we're just loud cavemen. But it sounded like he actually spent time with the song, and came up with a bunch of different parts to it that he's going to be playing on top of our parts.
In the middle there's this huge piano solo over this part that we're playing. I never thought that anyone would be able to solo over that part, but Lang Lang does a great job. Most interesting for me is that there's three guitar solos in that song, and Lang Lang is basically going to be weaving in and out of my guitar solos, playing some of the licks with me, playing some counterpoint stuff, or playing some things that kind of complement my stuff. Even in the fast solo at the end, he's going to be weaving in and out. And for me, that's like totally out of control. I love it. We haven't played with anyone who's been so able to do that so effortlessly and confidently, and I just have to make sure I play exactly what's on that demo.
So how will it sound? We'll find out on Sunday, Jan. 26, during Metallica's first Grammys performance in 23 years. The soundtrack to the band's 2013 concert film, Metallica Through The Never, is nominated for best recording package.