Every artist must have a to-be-covered list, and on mine there has always been a song by Metallica. When the band that I was a part of, Second Person, was playing a residency at Pizza on the Park (very fancy), we sometimes used to play a bit of ‘My Friend of Misery’ as an outro to one of our songs; years later, I mixed ‘Welcome Home (Sanitarium)’ with my song ‘Lila’ for a performance at the Troubadour. But I had never recorded a Metallica cover. Until now. Heavy metal in general is very important to my character Ben; Metallica specifically. They are his favourite band. And one of mine too (along with The Cure, Soundgarden and Morphine).
Choosing a song was surprisingly difficult: I needed something that I could do justice to, and that would fit with my piano and vocal style. In ‘The Otherlife’ quite a few Metallica songs are mentioned: ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’, ‘Of Wolf and Man’, ‘One’, ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ and ‘Dyer’s Eve’, among others. But none of these seemed right for my cover. Scrolling through playlists and playing around with ideas, I finally found the perfect song. Always one of my favourites, and from one of my favourite albums (‘Metallica’, or ‘The Black Album as it’s also known), ‘Wherever I May Roam’ is both lyrically intriguing and musically compelling.
I first heard it while on a family holiday in Australia when I was fourteen and the song seemed to perfectly capture the spirit of travelling and adventure. With its different instrumentation – a sitar-like instrument and a gong both feature – and unusual chord changes (I love the progression from Em to Bb), it stands out from its stablemates without seeming in any way incongruous. Arrangement-wise, I wanted to keep my version very simple; I made no changes to the chords, but shortened the solo section and the outro. Help was clearly needed in order to do any recording justice, so I asked my friend Gronk – a very talented singer-songwriter and eloquent commentator on all things musical – to produce. As well as ensuring that the quality of the recording was as high as it could be, Gronk added some deliciously organic synths and a smattering of beats. No MIDI – just the way I like it.
So here’s Wherever I May Roam, copyright, of course, Hetfield and Ulrich. Hope you enjoy.