Metallica in Abu Dhabi

Rock legends prepare for their du Arena gig on Yas Island

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The phrase ‘rock royalty’ is bandied about a lot these days, although it’s fair to say a group that has sold more than 100 million albums deserves a certain amount of respect. But Metallica’s reputation doesn’t matter to the camels of the UAE. On the band’s last visit to Abu Dhabi in 2011, guitarist Kirk Hammett was firmly put in his place by one of our ships of the desert. ‘We went into the desert on camels,’ says bass player Robert Trujillo. ‘Kirk’s [camel] threw him off and he went flying into the sand,’ he adds with a laugh.

Just a year and a half after they last performed at du Arena on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Hammett and Trujillo are back to rock the nation’s capital again on Friday April 19. It’s a gig that Robert tells us the band will relish. ‘The crowd [in 2011] was pretty diverse, with a lot of different types of people,’ he says. ‘To discover a fanbase so passionate was incredible. It’s one of those things when you don’t realise how far the music reaches, and that’s why we’re back.’

The bassist’s visit to Abu Dhabi is a business trip in more ways than one. Not only will he be smashing out hits including ‘Enter Sandman’ and ‘Master Of Puppets’, he’ll be getting involved with fashion. ‘My wife is coming this time,’ he explains. ‘She’s into fashion and design, and she has some meetings set up. I’ll be going on some of those, I bet.’

While there’s no new Metallica material on show during this tour, Trujillo hints the band may play a few old gems they’ve never performed before. ‘We’ve learned more material this time round that has never been played [during a tour],’ he adds.

Those oldies will fill the void since 2008’s Death Magnetic, an album that captured the spirit of the band’s early music, but which they’re in no hurry to trump with a new release. ‘We’ve started to tap into some new ideas during the past couple of months, but we’re a long way away. This process takes a while,’ smiles Trujillo. ‘Our problem is we often have too many ideas – it’s a good problem to have.’

Despite a decade on the road, Trujillo is a relative newcomer to the band. Previously in thrash band Suicidal Tendencies then funk metal outfit Infectious Grooves, he took the place of former bass player Jason Newsted at the start of 2003. His initiation was a unique one: Trujillo became part of a documentary, Some Kind Of Monster, which the band were filming at the time – even his audition was part of the film. The no-holds-barred look at life in one of the biggest rock acts on the planet meant Trujillo quickly realised life in Metallica wasn’t going to be an easy ride. ‘I was told as I was driving to my audition there’d be a film crew there, and was asked whether I minded. I just rolled with it. It was a whirlwind, like being thrown into a washing machine. I had 22 years of back catalogue to learn.

My first gig was at San Quentin [California’s state prison]. There were people with shotguns all round us.

But you just throw yourself in the water. Lars said to me, “Jump on the train – it’s taking off quick.”’

It’s not the first time Trujillo has jumped on the fast train: he also worked with notorious hellraiser Ozzy Osbourne between 2001 and 2002. Working with one of rock’s greatest legends wasn’t always easy. ‘Sometimes he didn’t want to create.

It could be a challenge,’ says the bassist diplomatically. ‘Sometimes he’d not show up for a writing session. He wasn’t in a good way then, although he was good at hiding it.’

Ten years later, Trujillo is now an established member of Metallica, and it looks as though he’s there to stay. ‘I feel blessed. You can never take things for granted. It’s not a walk in the park, you have to put in your time,’ he says, adding that the UAE crowd can expect to see a different band to the one he joined ten years ago. ‘We are much more focused. We’re ten years older now – we need to be physically ready and take care of ourselves.’
Metallica play du Arena, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on Friday April 19, 7pm. Tickets Dhs295-995. www.thinkflash.ae (800 35274).

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