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THE FAB FOUR HORSEMAN: An Exclusive Interview with Jaymz Lennfield of BEATALLICA

By Charlie Steffens, aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Saturday, April 20, 2013 @ 9:42 AM


"... for that initial listener, that's a skeptic, you have to at least try it. Just try it. And if you don't like it, that's okay. But you don't know until you do."

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Think of the term mash-up and it might conjure up a vision of Glee-ful young men and women breaking into song while in the middle of a crowded subway. Then you have four guys from Milwaukee known as BEATALLICA, a moniker that salutes two of the most revered bands in rock and roll history. To put together a musical concoction of the BEATLES lyrics and METALLICA music, or sometimes the converse, might seem loony for the uninitiated. Frankly, it's outright ballsy. BEATALLICA can take a sad song and make it brutal.

The mashed album titles begin in 2001 with A Garage Dayz Nite. The band's self-titled 2004 release Beatallica, commonly known as the Grey Album, gets its shade mixing the White Album from the BEATLES and METALLICA's Black Album. BEATALLICA's debut on Oglio Records, Sgt. Hetfield's Motorbreath Pub Band (2007), started to gain some notice, especially in Europe. Songs such as "Blackened the U.S.S.R.", "Helvester of Skelter", and "Leper Madonna", delivered the punch and razor-sharp musicianship of METALLICA while cleverly hooking in to the BEATLES lyrically. All You Need is Blood, released in 2008, remains an ongoing endeavor according to the band. The song, "All You Need is Blood", appears on the album once in English, and then in 14 other languages.

From its inception to now, BEATALLICA has traveled an arduous road in getting certain songs on their records.

"Maybe this is on behalf of our label's people," singer/rhythm guitarist Jaymz Lennfield explains, "and by that I mean their legal team as well. Whenever BEATALLICA starts formulating their initial ideas and songs that we want to work with, they're like, 'We'll handle it.' You know, the red tape work, the permissions and the licensing and seeing what we can get. So we've never had a face-to-face or a talk or a heart-to-heart." When asked if the band has ever had direct approval from the two surviving BEATALLICA, Lennfield says that hasn't happened yet. "To be honest, I don't think that Paul McCartney would have a problem with anything that we do. I think it comes down to certain licensers that have control over the BEATLES material. And we've seen that. We still have songs that get denied on every BEATALLICA record, including Abbey Load."

Abbey Load, complete with cover art displaying Jaymz Lennfield, Grg Hammetson III, Kliff McBurtney, and Ringo Larz in the archetypal crosswalk, is the band's latest album.

The follow up to 2009's Masterful Mystery Tour, BEATALLICA's new record has as many songs from the BEATLES' Abbey Road that the suits would allow, along with five earlier-era songs. "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun", two prodigious BEATLES songs that didn't make the album. All the song titles are actual BEATLES songs without the play on METALLICA (i.e.,"The Thing That Should Not Let it Be" from Masterful Mystery Tour).

"People ask, 'What's the formula for BEATALLICA?' and considering all the other players involved--and by players I don't mean musicians--what is the formula because it's always changing on us (laughs). On every album it's like something different. You can do this. You can't do this. We don't want you to do this. Why don't you try this or temper off that? I'm in the band but it's definitely a band that's not dictated initially by the players in the band. So that's what we did with Abbey Load. We were given the, what you call, formula 'this is what you can do'. Okay. Let's go on and make a fun record."

The songs covered by BEATALLICA on Abbey Load stay about the same lyrically, and a little bit of musical surgery gives them METALLICA brutality.

Showing a rare side of BEATALLICA, "Blackbird" is performed as an instrumental and creates a lull. "We put it in that spot, specifically, to break it up before the medleys. That was a very strategic spot for it. Initially, I think that song wasn't going to make the record, but we had a surplus of tunes and we're like, 'Okay, what's going to make it, what's going to break it?' We actually formulated a few album lists before we even started compiling the record and "Blackbird" was one of the last ones on there. It ended up making the big dance."

"Her Majesty" is guaranteed to make both BEATLES and METALLICA fans laugh. Out of the feedback and fuzz there's spoofing on "The View" from Lulu, the LOU REED and METALLICA collaboration. 'I am a table. I am a chair. You are a chair. Davenport. Table...'. According to Lennfield: "That's Ringo Waters' vocal debut on that. That's Ringo Waters doing the reciting. That's not me. We made Ringo do it. We said 'you have to do this'."

Jaymz Lennfield is arguably the greatest James Hetfield caricaturist of all time. Yet Lennfield isn't a one-trick horseman. He stays involved in musical projects outside of BEATALLICA, including a Celtic Rock band called REILLY. "We just got nominated for Celtic Band of the year. I get to wear a kilt," Lennfield says proudly. "There has to be a balance. If we were just jagging off all this time then we never would have gotten this far. If we were just a bunch of clowns all the time, then we wouldn't be going anywhere. Sometimes we like to say: 'Just because we play "A Garage Day's Night" doesn't mean that we're a garage band.' There's got to be some semblance of intelligence and forward thinking and planning, just like any other band that tours and plays and writes records. We all do other serious things. I mean, Grg, the guitar player, he's about to do some roadwork with the revamped VIOLENT FEMMES, because they're from Milwaukee. So he's their touring guitar, banjo guy. He's doing some of that. Kliff [McBurtney] does his projects. He does a lot of orchestral and composition music and things like that. I do the Irish rocking thing. It's all good and fun."

"Humans are so instant-sensory-oriented. They hear something for five seconds, and because it's such an instant society, they make a decision on something within five seconds. Sometimes people make that decision with BEATALLICA. They hear something about it, or they hear the way it's described, and they don't listen to it. Or, like in this case, with the whole lyric thing. They may hear a rumor about something and they have an opinion about it, and they don't listen to it. What makes you tick as a listener, because we're very curious about it."

When BEATALLICA was on Eddie Trunk's live radio show, promoting their Masterful Mystery Tour album, a woman called in to the show explaining that she had been duped by the band, thinking they were the real METALLICA.

"She was convinced we were METALLICA," Lennfield recalls. "And she started yelling at us, saying, 'Why are you guys hiding behind this? Everybody knows who you are. Why don't you guys just come clean with this?' And we're like, 'No. No, really. We're not METALLICA.' And she's just like, 'Guys, people love you. You don't need to lie.' She was really beside herself. Eddie's going, 'Oh my God. She doesn't get it. She really thinks you are.' So I start talking in the voice which makes her more incensed because now she really thinks it is. So one of these days she going to really find out, 'You know what? That's not METALLICA, and she's gonna be, 'Man, those guys suck.' (laughs).

"I think you always work on it. I didn't wake up one day and do it. I think that my voice on the MP3s--the old school MP3s, before we got signed--doesn't sound that good. That may partially be because when we were writing those MP3s we were just hosin' off in the basement, writing songs that were a little bit too high out of my natural singing range as well. You got to take that into account, too. But your voice changes as you age. Ask Peter Brady (laughs). He found that out too. You don't just wake up and do it, because your voice changes. James Hetfield's voice has changed. You listen to Kill 'Em All compared to ten years later, doing the Black Album and those sorts of stylings. But now, can I turn it on and turn it off? Well sure, but I can also turn on and turn off my Scooby Doo voice. Or Hank Hill. I do all sorts of voices. But it's because I've been doing them for so long (laughs), now it's just like I can wake up and do it."

"The estate of George Harrison denied two songs ("Something" and "Here Comes the Sun") that we wanted to put on from Abbey Load. So we were bummed. We had a kickass arrangement of us working with the song "Something". It was awesome. It probably would have been a better studio tune than live tune. We worked on it and first it was no, and then it was yes, and then it was no, then it was yes, and then it was no. Grg, the way he puts it, he's like, 'Look, as things change and opinions change, the best thing that we can do is: A: not record it and blow our wad on it. We still have that rule; once we use a song we can't go back and use it. And then, B: You never know how people's opinions and graciousness may change. You know, maybe five years from now, ten years from now--if we're still around--we get a permission to do it. Okay. Cool. It would have been nice if it was on Abbey Load for the cohesiveness of it all. But it would have been nice if we would have known this long ago and would have saved "I Want You/She's So Heavy" for this album, too. But they ended up being on the first album. You never really know what's going to happen, two, three, four years from now. Dealing with all of the people we've dealt with and all of the opinions and some strife, or whatever, if you want to call it--we know you can never plan on the next two, three, or four years, because things change. They just do. Especially with this band."

"Did you ever see Piranha 3 in 3D? It's the most ridiculous movie, ever, and I love it. I love Piranha 3. It's so funny. I remember the first time I saw it I said, 'You know what, man? That's what BEATALLICA is. BEATALLICA is Piranha 3, because what you need to do, is you need to just sit back on the couch, crack open a beer, and say, 'You know what, I'm going to watch this Piranha 3. I know this is never gonna happen. It's never gonna happen in some lake or whatever like that, but I'm going to suspend my belief for 75 minutes, and for 75 minutes, those damn fish are going to be the most awesomely brutal thing on the planet. And you just have to enjoy it. I don't think that there's any over-thinking when it comes to the roots of BEATALLICA. If you really enjoy it and you want to start really digging into it, and listen to all of those little idiosyncrasies that we do--that you might not figure out until maybe eight listens, that's great too. But for that initial listener, that's a skeptic, you have to at least try it. Just try it. And if you don't like it, that's okay. But you don't know until you do."

http://www.beatallica.org/
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