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Interviews   

… And Justice for Beatallica


Sometimes, genius ideas are born without those who birthed them even knowing where they came from. Creating a musical project mixing the work of the pop band par excellence, The Beatles, with that of the ultimate metal artist, Metallica, was precisely one of those ideas. « We still wonder what happened! », frontman Jaymz Lennfield told us the first time we met them, almost five years ago, at the time their first album was released, when we asked him how the hell they came up with this idea.

From then, it was only a matter of recording a few songs on a CD for the fun of it. A certain physics teacher from Milwaukee, who also happened to be a Beatles fan, came up with the name “Beatallica” for this weird band whose songs he’d only just discovered. A good-humored festival (SpoofFest) and a little Internet magic (« Those songs came up on the Internet and we weren’t aware of it ») later, and the buzz was born.

A few personalities showed interest, including Mike Portnoy (which ended up with the band opening for Dream Theater) and Lars Ulrich himself. With two albums, Sgt. Hetfield Motorbreath Pub Band and Masterful Mystery Tour, and a nice reputation as a live band under their belt, Beatallica still haven’t exhausted their concept – and they’re obviously not about to – despite a road paved with legal pitfalls.

Our pleasure at meeting Jaymz Lennfield (a man who knows how to dress with style – see below) and Kliff McBurtney again at this year’s Motocultor Festival (french festival) was genuine. Because, above all else, spending some time with the guys from Beatallica is a fantastic way to make any day that much brighter.

« People own stuff and they hold onto it with a passion. […] There’s a lot of parameters, depending on when the songs were first written, or songs get brought by other people later down the line and they don’t want to have anything messed with… »

Radio Metal : The last time I saw you was about five years ago. What happened since that time and since the release of the Masterful Mystery Tour album?

Kliff McBurtney : We evaporated and then now that we’ve condensed, we came down in the form of Beatallica. I’m just kidding. We were touring around in the States a lot, East Coast and West Coast in the States, which is a significant amount of travel, if you look at a map it’s, uh, [a poster falls down from the wall of the dressing room] knocking posters down, that’s what we’ve been doing, wrecking shit. (laughs)

So, today, how are things going in there for you guys?

Jaymz Lennfield : The big thing now is that we’re recording, so this festival is the only show that we’re doing. We flew over for this show and then we come back home. So two days after we get home, we’re finishing up the drums, we’re doing more finishing on the vocals, we’re probably going to start the mixing the next month, then we send it to mastering. It’ll be done by the end of the year, but we probably won’t release it until February because then we’re planning to go back all over Europe in early Spring.

Does the album have a name already?

Yep.

What it is?

Kliff McBurtney : We can’t share that with you! We could tell you but then we would have to smash your thing here [he points at our recorder]. [laughs]

Jaymz Lennfield : The photo-shoots have already been done and the costuming is ready. We’ve actually worn it for the photo-shoot, but it’s not released until the album comes out.

Are you still on the same label?

Oh yeah. Oglio Records from Los Angeles.

What songs are gonna be on this album? Beatles songs, Metallica songs?

We’re gonna do at least one song tonight that’ll be of the new album. We’re gonna do another song that we wanted to put on the album but got denied. They wouldn’t let us put it on there. [Note: « Please Please Me Or I’ll Beat You » and « While My Guitar Deathly Creeps »]

Because of rights?

Yeah, because of the licensers.

« The Metallica side was cool enough and said: ‘No, we don’t need anything’, so consider that next time people talk about Metallica and other legal stuff or whatever […] they told us: ‘That’s OK man, we don’t want nothing’. »

Last time we met you told me you had difficulties to get the rights for some of the songs… Is it still as difficult?

Kliff McBurtney : Yeah, it’ll never be any easier. People own stuff and they hold onto it with a passion. Sometimes you can have a middle ground and meet them halfway, sometimes they don’t wanna be met.

How do you convince them, actually?

Jaymz Lennfield : We have nothing to do with it. Cliff and I don’t call up Sony and say: “Hey we wanna use this!” There is legal people doing that, so we have nothing to do with it. Our label just says: “Look, write the funniest and the coolest stuff you can, we’ll settle with it” and they’ll do the heavy work. Some people are just more receptive to it than others.

How come there are some songs that are granted and others that are denied?

There’s a lot of parameters, depending on when the songs were first written, or songs get brought by other people later down the line and they don’t want to have anything messed with… All the George Harrison stuff that we wanted to use all got denied, but we think George Harrison had a pretty good sense of humor, and I think he would have thought it would have been fun. Our label people know the people who run the estate of George Harrison, they’re like former colleagues, but they can’t let us use it because the people who actually own it don’t want us to use it.

And do they actually ask a certain amount of money for you to get the rights? Who the royalties go to?

Well, the Sony corporation take a hundred percent of the legal, the licensing, but that’s just one part, you know. The Metallica side was cool enough and said: “No, we don’t need anything”, so consider that next time people talk about Metallica and other legal stuff or whatever or history they’ve had; they told us: “That’s OK man, we don’t want nothing.”

That’s funny because actually Metallica has a bad reputation for that kind of thing, with Lars Ulrich being against Napster and so on…

That’s what I’m saying!

Actually something people may think your concept could have some limits, because it’s Metallica and the Beatles and maybe they think “They could broaden their concept and go with other bands” and so on… Is this something you’ve thought about, doing other bands?

Kliff McBurtney : Well you know, the Beatles have 260 something songs themselves, Metallica have how many records out? I mean there is no shortage of this material yet, and I think this has been such an hassle, I think now I will just wait for anybody to do any other band.

Jaymz Lennfield : Yeah, you have to remember that the Metallica side’s been very open about letting us do this. Not every band is very open to let people do what we’re doing, you know. This is as good as a relationship. It’s not like we sought out that relationship to begin with, we didn’t even thought about making the band. It kinda just fell on us [laughs], you know. But you have to remember too that there are two other people in this band and we all play original music besides Beatallica. When Cliff and I we started writing the Beatallica material, we had decades of writing experience to form these mash-ups, you know what I mean? It’s not just these easy little things, it takes hard work and experience and we wanna do it and all that other stuff, so…

It must be a lot of work actually to do that… Many people look at the band like a joke band, but it’s actually not a joke because when you hear the song there’s real work in it…

You know any other band besides Beatallica who does what we do?

No !

OK? If it were that easy I think other people would be doing it [laughs].

You were talking about the fact that Metallica seemed to be very open to it. Do you think if all the Beatles were alive today they would be open to it as well?

I think Harrison would. I don’t know about Lennon. I think Harrison for sure.

Kliff McBurtney : I think if we would be dealing with them individually, like we do with Metallica, maybe. Maybe we could sit down with a cup of tea and discuss it like rational human beings, but when you get lawyers and business folks involved, everybody wants their cuts now, and things got really airy.

Jaymz Lennfield : Like we were told by our label who deals with Sony, you know, I remember a conversation from last November, he called me up and was like: “You know, Sony told us that if the new president would have been in charge when we were doing the mastering for the Masterful Mystery Tour album, it wouldn’t ever have come out.” They were besides themselves when it actually hit the market. That’s how angry they are [laughs]. We can only deal with the material that we’re getting, you know. Here’s only so much that we can do when people put restrictions on your band. So we just try to make the best stuff that we can.

« If it were that easy I think other people would be doing it [laughs]. »

You were talking about the fact that there is no shortage of material because there is two large bodies of songs, but what happens if you do all the songs you’re allowed to do and they won’t let you use the other anymore?

We don’t know that until we submit the songs. They ask us to come up with ideas and concepts, scratch ideas, and then we submit them. Or they look up who’s the licenser, they contact the licenser… But we were probably working on five other songs for this record that aren’t going to be on it. We’ve got other songs that we’ve done in the past that aren’t gonna be on this record. I’m sure we have enough material for another album after this one, it’s up to labels and everything now.

Eventually, when they started refusing everything that you were…

Kliff McBurtney : Can we do a greatest-hits album? A live, a double live album [laughs].

Jaymz Lennfield : That could take ten years just like it could take ten months, but our label has also said that they will be open to Beatallica putting up a song or two of original material on a record.

What would you think about that?

I’m cool with that. I wouldn’t overdo it because I think you kinda know what you get with Beatallica. You put on like seven original songs with Beatallica and…

Kliff McBurtney : People would be scratching their head like “What’s this?”. Then we would just start with a new band name and we won’t even need the legal shit and all the legal and royalties issues…

About Metallica, have they ever invited you to play as an opening act?

Jaymz Lennfield : No, but we’ve never asked. We’ve hanged out, I actually managed to get a hold on them when I got home, because we just keep in contact when we put out new stuff. They need to be aware of it, and we just go right to them, we go right to Lars, and Lars has folks and stuff, instead of going to their lawyer, because that’s just… [laughs] [rires]

Metallica are very criticized about their latest albums. Do you ever consider doing songs from St Anger or Death Magnetic?

Kliff McBurtney : Yes, as a matter of fact I don’t know if I can see this, uh…

Jaymz Lennfield : No one’s listening anyway! [laughs] What were you going to say?

Kliff McBurtney : About that album with Lou Reed…

Jaymz Lennfield : Oh, Lulu !

Kliff McBurtney : … It’s fair game, I mean there’s Metallica on it, so…

Jaymz Lennfield : On the new record we’re gonna have some stuff that’s from St Anger and some stuff that’s from Death Magnetic, it’s not like we’d say: “We’re gonna use stuff from the first three Metallica album.” I guess we’re not just using the first three Beatles album, so…

Are you going to use the infamous snare sound from St Anger?

Kliff McBurtney : The trashcan with the pipe tin on it? [laughs]

Jaymz Lennfield : No. Ringo will have his own snare sound [laughs].

Interview conducted on August, 19th, 2012 at Motocultor Festival (France).

Beatallica’s official website: www.beatallica.com



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