Garage Inc. by Metallica - RYM/Sonemic (2022)

Up until the moment he opened the door to the studio, Kirk Hammett's morning had been as close to perfect as it is possible for a member of Metallica's morning to get.

He had oiled his hair with a new product that had been sent to him from L'Oréal. It came with a very complimentary note from Tina at L'Oréal who had been chasing him for some time with a sponsorship deal. He would have liked to accept it as Tina seemed very nice, but his management kept telling him to hold out for more product before agreeing to any money.

Incidentally Kirk had bumped into his manager, Sidney Visconti, earlier that morning when he went to get a coffee. For the first time in as long as he could remember, Sidney hadn't shot a nervous glance at Kirk's retreating hairline. Kirk told Sidney about the new product he had received and Sidney had smiled parentally at him and said, "Soon, soon son," placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Kirk's morning was going well so it was fortunate that he didn't turn around as he left to see Sidney's face contort with extreme doubt as the sun bounced off Kirk's solar panel which he considered out of sight, out of mind.

Kirk was also pleased that this morning his red snakeskin boots finally seemed to have been broken in and were no longer causing him to wince and limp when he walked. He was especially pleased when he used a fashionably pointed toe to flick a piece of litter into a nearby trash can, and even more pleased when a pretty lady sitting on a nearby bench acknowledged that she had witnessed this piece of skill with a subtle nod of the head and arch of her eyebrow.

All this good feeling was shattered, however, when he walked through the studio doors just in time to see Lars leap over the boardroom table and land furiously in the lap of James Hetfield. James grabbed him by the neck as he landed and the two grown men went toppling backwards, expensive chair legs snapping and being picked up by Lars to batter his long time friend around the head with.

Jason Newsted had his feet up in a cosy corner of the studio, one eye on the fracas and one eye on a copy of Metal Hammer magazine. Kirk ran over to the rumble and lifted Lars off James, Lars still kicking and screaming and lashing out.

"Guys, guys!" implored Kirk desperately. "What's with all the commotion??"

Lars wiped his nose with his wrist and looked scornfully at James who lay propped up on his elbows amongst the ruins of what was a perfectly good chair.

"James wants to do a country album," spat Lars with disdain. Kirk looked at James and James just shrugged in acceptance of that statement. Lars went to leap at him again, irritated by his petulance, but Kirk placed a hand on his chest and held him back.

Maybe because he had had a good morning, a better morning than he was accustomed to, or maybe because he was tired of witnessing these little scraps, or maybe because it was his favourite chair that they had broken, Kirk decided that it was time for him to speak up.

Metallica was falling apart, there was no doubt about that. It had been happening slowly for a while now, but nobody was willing to address it. Without the band, of course, lucrative sponsorship deals with Zildjian, Gibson or L'Oréal would fly out of the window. But the band were clearly out of ideas, and for weeks now they had been trying without success to think of a new musical direction to take in order to prove to their growing number of detractors that they were still a relevant artistic force.

Flirtations with free jazz had been laughable and had exposed Lars' skill as a drummer as being rudimental at best. An evening of jamming on synthesizers and using computers to create electro music had made all of them except Jason redundant as none of them had ever bothered with computers nor the internet due to their boycotting of the entire world wide web over the Napster debate.

Now country music was being discussed. Sure, they had had a minor hit with Mama Said a couple of years earlier, but they had lost a lot of fans in the process whilst gaining none from the world of country and western.

Kirk decided to speak his mind.

"Guys, when did this stop being fun?" he asked as forcibly as his high voice would allow. Lars and James looked at the floor and said nothing. Jason put down his magazine and now fixed two eyes on the scene that was unfolding. Kirk took Jason's renewed interest as encouragement.

"Remember back in the old days? In your garage Lars?" Lars raised his eyes and met Kirk's briefly before shooting them back down towards the floor. "And we laughed and drank and played songs we loved? And ripped them off and made millions? Millions! What happened to those good old days, huh?"

James and Lars shrugged a little and shook their heads.

"Why don't we just make an album where we're having fun, and fuck whatever anybody else thinks? Why don't we just do an album of...." he hesitated. It was possible that the next word out of his mouth could be met with violence. He looked at Jason who got to his feet and urged him on with a nod of his head.

"Why don't we just do an album of covers?" asked Kirk, the idea suddenly making total sense to him. His optimism visibly spread, first to Jason, then to James.

"Yeah, let's just do covers," Jason chimed in. "It'd take so much of the stress out of this process. What do you think, James?"

They all looked to James who was fighting to supress a grin. Slowly it worked its way out of his mouth and exploded with a trademark "Yeeaaggggghhhhhhhrrrrr!" James stood up from the collapsed chair. He looked at Lars.

Lars looked thoughtful. He stroked the wispy hairs on his chin with his thumb and forefinger as he contemplated the mathematics inherent in the decision.

"It might cost us more money in royalties than we earn from sales. Also, with the Napster case still ongoing, I am concerned that pinching other people's songs just because we can't think of any new songs might seem a little hypocritical."

The other three visibly deflated a little, the sudden optimism halted momentarily by the little Dutch dude and his business mind. If only he hadn't come from money and hadn't bankrolled the band on numerous occasions then they might be able to behave like other bands and completely disregard the opinions of their drummer. However, Lars wasn't finished.

"But, I have to reluctantly admit, it would be fun and a lot easier. Besides, I don't know if I can sit through another techno-skiffle jam."

He continued to muse for a moment, then pulled a little calculator out of his pocket and punched a few numbers. The other three hung on his next words.

"Okay, I'll do it." he finally conceded. The other breathed out heavily and shouted "YES". There were a few hi-fives from those that were comfortable with them before Lars cleared his throat to signal he was about to speak again.

"But I want to do it properly. I want to over-produce the shit out of this record. I still want to take a few weeks over the drum sound, I want it to shine with studio gloss, I'd like to remove any of the essence of the originals and replace it with Bob Rock's jizzy polish."

"Okay, whatever," said Kirk, still beaming from his small victory.

"Well, in that case," James piped up, "I too have some demandsahh."

Silence fell upon the group like a sponge cake.

"Go on...." Lars urged.

"Iya still want to do a country song." insisted James.

"Fuck your country," snarled Lars.

"If not, the whole thing's offahh," said James petulantly.

"Okay," conceded Lars. "But..... I choose it."

The negotiations went on long into the night, but Kirk managed to keep his spirits high. He had finally stood up to the two men he once called friends but now thought of as merely business associates, his bosses.

The more they negotiated, the more the album they were planning sounded like it would probably suck, but Kirk had managed to crowbar one idea into the fray that might just save the project from being a complete embarrassment. He had suggested that they reissue, as a bonus disc, all of the covers EPs that they had already completed, back when they were happy, back when they enjoyed life, back when he still had an impressive mane atop his bonce.

Because there was no Tina, Kirk could admit that now. There was no endorsement deal on the cards with L'Oréal. He was willing to admit that his hair was receding, falling out, soon to be gone. It would be a slow process but he was willing to go with it without lying to himself, without combing it over or buying a wig. He had stood up to James and Lars, and that was what made him a man. Not his hair, not how much money they let him have, not his snakeskin boots. He was no longer a victim of bullying, he was a man, and he could continue with his life with that knowledge.

"So I found the perfect song for you, James," said Lars with a hint of malice as the night ground on.

"Oh yeaaaaahhhhh?" said James questionably.

"Yeah, it's a Bob Segar song about life on the road. It's totally you on tour, totally depressing to be around."

Kirk smiled. He was a man again. This was his idea and it was a good one. He was pretty sure of it.

He wondered what Tina was doing.

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