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Inside Track: Metallica ‘Moth Into Flame’

Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Greg Fidelman
Published March 2017
By Paul Tingen

Greg Fidelman confers with the band at Metallica HQ during the recording of Hardwired... To Self-Destruct. From left: Fidelman, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo.Greg Fidelman confers with the band at Metallica HQ during the recording of Hardwired... To Self-Destruct. From left: Fidelman, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Rob Trujillo.

Recorded, mixed and co-produced by Greg Fidelman, Metallica’s Hardwired... To Self-Destruct has proved an unexpected career high point.

The title of their latest album Hardwired... To Self-Destruct reflects the unlikeliness of the fact that, after 36 often turbulent years, Metallica are still going strong. Their 10th studio album, it reached number one in 57 countries and ended up as the eighth best-selling long player of 2016, despite only being released in November. It has been called Metallica’s “finest record in 25 years” in a reference to the widespread view that the band peaked with their four albums Ride The Lightning (1984), Master Of Puppets (1986), ...And Justice For All (1988) and Metallica (1991) before gradually losing their way. The consensus is that Metallica have managed to recapture a lot of their old glory on Hardwired... To Self-Destruct, which, wrote one critic, “shows audiences a side of Metallica that’s been sorely missing for the last 29 years: fiery, focused, aggressive, disciplined.”

A Change Of Scene

Famously, the band co-produced most of their previous albums with either Flemming Rasmussen or Bob Rock, the main exception being 2008’s Death Magnetic, which was produced by the legendary Rick Rubin. Hardwired... To Self-Destruct, however, was co-produced by Greg Fidelman with Metallica singer/guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich.

Fidelman’s association with the band in fact also goes back to Death Magnetic. Having worked as one of Rubin’s regular engineers and mixers since the late ’90s, Fidelman engineered that album and also mixed part of it. He has since played a crucial role in every Metallica release, engineering, mixing, and/or co-producing a movie project, a live album, several covers, and their collaboration with Lou Reed, Lulu.

Inside TrackAll sessions for Hardwired... To Self-Destruct took place at Metallica’s studio and business headquarters, which is located in San Rafael in the Bay Area and called, well, HQ. In interviews, the band have said that Rubin had taught them, in Ulrich’s words, not to keep “chasing something we didn’t really need to chase”, and that this attitude also filtered through in the new album. “One of the conversations I’ve had with the band was that in the past there was always some reasonably well-defined place they wanted to go with each album,” recalls Fidelman. “For example, with ...And Justice For All they wanted to go in a more progressive rock direction, and with the Metallica album they wanted to get more straightahead, and so on. But the marching order for the new album was that there weren’t going to be any marching orders! It was just: ‘We’re going in and we’re going to make music, we’re going to record some songs, and we’re going to have some fun, and we’re going to make everything as good as we can and we’re not going to kill each other while doing it!’

“In 2011 or so I’d engineered a couple of Metallica sessions in LA with Rick producing, but they didn’t really go anywhere. The band then took a long time to figure out when and how to do this record. Once they did, they wanted to do everything at HQ, and the first time I went up to HQ for this album was at the very end of February 2015. I met James and Lars there, and they played me 20 song ideas that they...

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Published March 2017