Now that Metallica have released Through the Never, their feature film where they send a roadie on a surrealistic trip to retrieve a bag they really, really want, they're willing to answer one of the movie's burning questions: Just what the hell was in that bag? "The next Metallica album, bro," guitarist Kirk Hammett tells Rolling Stone with a laugh. "Come on, don't you know?"
All joking aside, the guitarist says the band hasn't "really started" working on the follow-up to 2008's Death Magnetic, but they're on the way. "We've jammed on certain bits and pieces of music and figured out this piece of music works, this works, this doesn't," Hammett says. "But we're still going through that process. James [Hetfield] has 800 pieces of music. I have 400 pieces of music. Once we figure out what pieces of music are actually gonna work for us, then we're going to start turning those pieces of music into songs and seeing where that leads us."
"What I can say is, we're one day closer to the next record being released than we were yesterday," drummer Lars Ulrich adds. "Unless there's what's called an 'Act of God,' I would hedge my bets that '201' would be the first three digits in the release year. And I don't know much beyond that. We've been jamming along. We've been putting in some time."
Hammett says he has no idea just how the album will sound like as a whole at this point and that it usually takes Metallica four or five songs to figure out the sonic direction.
The good news for Metallica fans, though, is that the band will be premiering a brand new tune on their upcoming tour, which will kick off a series of shows they've dubbed "Metallica by Request." In South America and Europe, the band has asked its fans to pick 17 songs on their set list and has reserved the 18th spot for the new song, which will premiere in Bogotá, Colombia, on March 16th.
Pressed for a song title, Ulrich scoffs. "Are you kidding me?" he says. "That's six weeks from now. We played two new songs on the 2006 tour, right when we were writing and getting ready to record Death Magnetic. At those gigs, they were very, very eloquently entitled 'New Song 1' and 'New Song 2.' You can't fuck with that."
For Hammett, writing new music isn't the only thing keeping him busy. He's also been working on his first-ever horror convention, Kirk Von Hammett's Fear FestEvil, which he's holding this Friday and Saturday at San Francisco's Regency Ballroom.
He describes the fest as an extension of the "Kirk's Crypt" exhibit at the band's Orion Music and More festivals. For this event, the guitarist has reserved an entire hotel floor to show off his collection of horror memorabilia.
"We want people to experience it, to feel it, to interact with it, to make it like a cool place to hang out for a couple days," he says. "That's how comic-book conventions were when I was a teenager in the late Seventies, early Eighties. They were just total geek affairs."
The FestEvil will feature appearances by notable figures in horror movies like The Walking Dead co-executive producer Greg Nicotero, makeup artist Tom Savini and actors and actresses from the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series. Boris Karloff's daughter Sara will make an appearance, as will Bela Lugosi, Jr. Rockers Slash and Slayer guitarist Kerry King will be making appearances, too. Hammett is also excited about the convention's taxidermy demonstration, on-site tattoo artists and actors who will walk around in costume. And the fest will feature concerts by metal bands Carcass, Orchid, Death Division, Death Angel and Hammett's pre-Metallica group Exodus.
At the convention, Hammett will pick up the guitar to play with the latter two bands. Regarding Death Angel, the guitarist says, "We still have to figure out a song to play, but I would love to play 'Kill as One' with them. It's one of my favorite songs from back then." Hammett recorded the original demo of that song for Death Angel in the mid Eighties.
As for his reunion with his former bandmates – something he did most recently in 2012, when he played the Exodus songs "Whipping Queen" and "Impaler" with the band – he wants to keep the song selections a surprise, though he says it will consist of at least one cover and one track from one of Exodus' first two records. "I love playing with those guys," Hammett says. "I have so much history with those guys. I went to high school with Gary [Holt, guitar] and Tom [Hunting, drums]. For me, one of the big highlights is being able to play with them."