In a phone interview last month before a show in Oslo, Norway, Hetfield talked about his hopes for Orion, why the ancillary attractions include a custom car show ("I like working with metal," he deadpanned) and whether the band regretted exposing itself so openly in the 2004 rock documentary Some Kind of Monster.
Question: Why'd you want to do your own festival?
Answer: First of all, because we can. Why wouldn't you? We're just trying to bring a little more of a mix to what is going on. . . . I think the Europeans are able to look at a festival more as an event than 'my favorite band is playing.' We're not necessarily trying to reproduce that in the States, but we'd like to bring a little taste of that here.
Q: What's going on at Orion that's good?
A: There's the crazy chick [Grace Perry] in Land Mine Marathon, or Baroness, or Jim Breuer doing his comedy. Then, there are a lot of metal bands that we've played with or other stuff we enjoy. Suicidal (Tendencies), Sepultura, the Sword. I'm going through this phase listening to this band called Ghost. There's Torch, Red Fang, Kyng . . . .
Q: You've got this great New Orleans brass band, the Soul Rebels.
A: We did this TV show in England with them called Later With Jools Holland. They did "Sweet Dreams," the Eurythmics song. I said to Lars, 'We've got to get these guys to play with us.' They supported us at our 30th anniversary shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco last year.
Q: You're doing two, Ride the Lightning and the Black Album, in their entirety. What was the significance of those two records?
A:Ride the Lightning started to splinter us off from your Slayers and other thrash bands. A song called "Fade to Black" was an instant thorn in the side of the metal community. It was the first veering off the studded path.
Q: And the Black Album?
A: It became the album, I guess, that people needed to have. It's a gateway for people to get into Metallica.
Q: You're performing it in reverse order, with your signature song "Enter Sandman" coming last.
A: That was Lars' idea. "Enter Sandman" has been towards the end of our set for a while. But it actually does work very well swapped around as a live set.
Q: Metallica spoke out vocally against Napster when the file-sharing revolution began in the late '90s, and you were vilified for it. How do you view that now?
A: I think everyone did it wrong, from the people inventing the technology to the record companies to the artists. I think the record companies should have embraced the technology rather than turning their back on it, thinking they were untouchable, which obviously set a little more fire under these younger computer geniuses who were inventing this amazing technology. I mean, they did go to them, and the record companies snubbed them. So the artist actually ended up getting, in my opinion, [messed up] because of that confrontation. . . .
I think we did the right thing at the moment. I still think stealing is wrong. It's one of the 10 Commandments: Thou shalt not steal.
Though it's not as simple as that, it will always go back to that.
Lars took the shots. We would have lot of artists coming up and saying. 'Thank God, you're standing up,' and 'Go get 'em.' But as soon as we called them out for some support, they were hiding in the shadows, and we were out their on our own.
Q: Did you ever regret how much access you gave the filmmakers in Some Kind of Monster, which was made when you were in rehab?
A: No. We thought we might as well put it out there in a form that's something we can trust. It was just unfolding. We didn't know what we were doing. I was like a piece of raw meat walking around. I didn't know what had just happened to me in my life. I'm grateful that it was captured.
Q: When's the next Metallica record?
A: You tell me. I don't know. We're writing here and there, touring, doing the festival thing. I'm looking forward to making the next record. But I don't know when.
Q: How do you see Orion going forward?
A: I would love it to be an annual thing and become an established festival that people can come to and know it's going to be good, no matter what. It'll be a fun place to be and hang and see some of the other things that are going to be happening, whether it's a car show or the movie tent that Lars is doing or Kirk's haunted mansion. . . . If it ends up staying in Atlantic City, who knows, it could move. It could end up being three days, it could just be one. It really depends on how it goes this time.
Q: So next year, you'd like to do it again, with Metallica playing and a whole different set of cool bands?
A: That would be the dream.
The music in store at Orion festival
There's a whole lot going on besides Metallica at the Orion Music + More festival in Atlantic City.
That would include a Custom Car show featuring James Hetfield's 1937 Lincoln Zephyr, a Lars Ulrich selection of movies including Derek Cianfrance's 2010 Blue Valentine, a tent with Kirk Hammett's collection of horror movie and comics memorabilia, and a skateboard ramp and surfing competition that's the brainchild of bassist Robert Trujillo. Get more information at www.orionmusicandmore.com.
But never mind the more. Let's focus on the music-makers, such as the Arctic Monkeys and the others.
There will be plenty of head-banging going on at Orion - which takes its name from a Metallica instrumental on 1986's Master of Puppets.
Here are five notable picks from the four-stage bill.
Baroness. The Savannah, Ga., hard rock band's highly ambitious double album Yellow & Green is due July 17. On Saturday afternoon at 1, the quartet founded by singer (and painter!) John Baizley leads off an impressive lineup on the main Orion stage. It includes Memphis roots-rockers Lucero, Jersey Springsteen acolytes Gaslight Anthem, Pacific Northwest alt-rock heroes Modest Mouse, and Metallica, doing a two-hour set that will include Ride the Lightning, performed in its entirety for the first time. Saturday at 1 p.m. on the Orion stage.
Roky Erickson. With his band the 13th Floor Elevators in the mid-1960s, Roger Kynard "Roky" Erickson established himself as a psychedelic rock pioneer with wailing cuts such as "You're Gonna Miss Me," before later suffering the effects of excessive drug use, being diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and being treated with electroshock therapy. His mental decline and subsequent recovery - he released the return-to-form True Love Cast Out All Evil in 2010 - is one of the most heartening stories in rock. Saturday at 2:45 p.m. on the Frantic stage.
Gary Clark Jr. There hasn't been as much to-do about an Austin, Texas, blues guitar slinger since Stevie Ray Vaughn. And for good reason: Gary Clark Jr. is a blazing player who is about substance as well as style, and he can growl gruffly or move into a feathery Al Green-ish upper register. He's got at least a handful of instantly memorable songs such as "Bright Lights" to boot. Sunday at 3 p.m. on the Fuel stage.
Damage Inc. stage. If you're really only interested in metal - or if you're not interested in it at all, and want to know what stage to stay away from - Orion's Damage Inc. stage is the place to be, or not to be. Saturday's lineup includes Red Fang, Black Tusk, and hardcore punk stalwarts Suicidal Tendencies; Sunday's schedule features Arizona death-metal quintet Landmine Marathon, the Black Dahlia Murder, and Brazilian metal behemoths Sepultura.
Best Coast / Eric Church / Titus Andronicus. Orion's range is well-represented by this Sunday troika, with the California fuzz-pop of Bethany Cosentino's Best Coast followed by Eric Church, a country tough guy who pays attention to songcraft on the Orion stage, leading into Patrick Stickles' fiercely rocking history-obsessed New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus, whose set will lead into Metallica's backward Black Album finale. Sunday at 4 and 6 p.m. on the Orion stage, and Sunday at 7 p.m. on the Frantic stage.
- Dan DeLuca
Orion Music + More is noon-11 p.m. Saturday and noon-10 p.m. Sunday at Bader Field, 501 N. Atlantic Ave., Atlantic City. Tickets: $90 per day or $150 for a two-day pass. For the complete schedule and information, call 1-888-512-7469 or go to www.orionmusicandmore.com.
Contact Dan DeLuca at 215-854-5628 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @delucadan. Read his blog, "In the Mix," at www.philly.com/inthemix.