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Friday, October 4, 2013

Metallica's Through The Never: We Interview the Band's Real-Life Roadie To See How the Film Compares

Posted By on Fri, Oct 4, 2013 at 8:12 AM

In Through the Never, a Metallica roadie played by Dane DeHaan endures all sorts of mayhem while running an errand for the band. Turns out real life isn't that different.
  • In Through the Never, a Metallica roadie played by Dane DeHaan endures all sorts of mayhem while running an errand for the band. Turns out real life isn't that different.

Metallica: Through the Never can be experienced on a few different levels. It's an extravagant salute to the band's staying power via (what else?) extravagant performances of its greatest hits, a somehow self-indulgent mash note to metal fans, an audio-visual parade of rather expensive-looking destruction. Sharing the spotlight with the music, however, is a mostly-mute roadie by the name of Trip (Dane DeHaan) who, after being sent on an urgent errand to recover a mysterious bag for the band members during a show, finds himself facing an apocalyptic urban landscape of fire, hammer-wielding horsemen, and other nightmarish obstacles.

In honor of the movie's nationwide release today, we checked in with an actual professional runner of errands for Metallica, singer-songwriter Avi Vinocur (he doubles as the frontman for San Francisco's Goodnight, Texas) to hear about the job and what he thought of Roadie Trip's, um, trip.

What's your official job title?

According to the credits in the movie, I'm a band tech. I assist the backline guys, who are the people who deal with the guitars and drums on stage while the band's playing -- they tune everything, get the amps to work, troubleshoot all the equipment.

When the band's home, it's a lot of running errands, doing arbitrary jobs: Everything from getting lunch to tuning guitars when they rehearse. I take guitars to get repaired -- a lot of trips to Guitar Center, and to this guy Gary Brawer who's in the city and does great work. I also do paperwork for when their gear travels, customs carnets. Basically you have to give customs a list of all the equipment that you're bringing into a country, which is just pages upon pages long. I do any number of things that need doing.

How many guitars do you think they have in total?

If I had to guess, around 500. It's a lot of guitars. It's impressive at the studio, because there are literally just entire walls of guitars on racks. But they're collectors, really; it's a passion. There are some historic ones. I've gone through and photographed a lot of them for insurance. They maintain them pretty well considering how many they have.

How did you get into this line of work? How long have you been doing this?

Almost six years. I had an internship at a recording studio when I was in college, and one of the engineers essentially took me over to [Metallica's] studio in Marin one day and introduced me to their crew, and the band's head equipment manager, Zach Harmon, and I kind of hit it off. To me, he's the ultimate roadie -- the hours that he works, and the things that he invents and makes work and fixes on a daily basis are unbelievable. I've learned a ton from him.

What was your involvement like with this movie? Did you know the side plot was about someone running errands for the band?

I was around for some of the shooting, and I briefly met Dane DeHaan, who plays the roadie, so I knew there was a roadie character. But I had no idea that he was the main character, or that the whole plot is about an errand he's trying to run.

In terms of the stage show, I went with them to Mexico City last summer for an eight-night stand they did to get warmed up on the stage. Then they filmed the shows in Edmonton and Vancouver, and the show in Vancouver was literally the biggest indoor stage show of all time, the biggest stage ever constructed. It took up an entire hockey rink.

What does a show that big look like up close?

It's really complex, and you need to know where you're supposed to be at all times. Explosions, LED lights, 3-D stuff on stage, torches coming out of the ground. There's a part in the movie where the [roadie] gets distracted from what he's doing because he's watching the show, and that's definitely happened to me, even though I've seen it a hundred times. It's a spectacle. There was one of these 10-foot-high pyro things going off three feet from where I had to be during the show, and there's a part where I have to run onstage, which is a little nerve-wracking when there's fire. But the pyro guys are really on it, especially after James Hetfield got injured in 1992 -- in Canada, now that I think about it -- and burned the hell out of his arm.

James still has the guitar he was playing when that happened; he showed me that once. I was setting up his stuff at the studio, and he pulls it out and it's just completely charred, but then there's this one white handprint on the back. Which is insane to think about, having been near those pyro things and then thinking about them coming at you. It was hot enough three feet away.

You don't tend to encounter fire and apocalyptic horsemen who want to kill you and such in your day-to-day errands, though?

As of yet, there has not been a fiery world of doom in my way while I am running a guitar to get repaired.

You were just in New York while they were doing promo work for the movie. What did that entail?

They played at the Apollo Theatre, and we were at Yankee Stadium for them to play "Enter Sandman" for Mariano Rivera's last home game. Then they played on Howard Stern, and the Colbert Report.

When we went to the Colbert Report, I helped set up and then I was sticking around to help pack up afterward, but the area where they shoot is so tiny the place I wound up standing was with all these show interns, who are basically people who look like me. So over the course of the show, Jon Stewart -- who just happened to be there that day -- came over and shook my hand and said "Congrats on the Emmy." And then after the show Colbert came over and also clearly thought I was an intern and shook my hand and said "Thanks for you all your work." So that was fun.

At least we know they're gracious with their interns. What's the weirdest errand you've been asked to run?

(Pause). There are some things I definitely shouldn't talk about. Things that are okay to print? One time one of the band members had his young kid there at the studio and he was bored, so we got water guns and I basically got paid to have a water gun fight for two hours.

You mentioned you get lunch a lot. Anybody have really specific dietary restrictions or eating habits?

Everyone eats really healthy, actually. There are a lot of organic bananas around. Between the crew and the band, the number-one favorite lunch spot is a place called Sol Food in San Rafael. If anyone asks what's in the bag that Trip has to go get [in the movie], the answer is sauce from Sol Food.

Ordering lunch for that many people, though -- especially last year when Lou Reed was at the studio, there were just tons of people around -- it's kind of a huge endeavor. But yeah, in general, they're just healthy. Lars runs religiously; he's in amazing shape. I think you have to be to perform at the energy level he does.

So are you basically on call at a moment's notice?

When I'm in town, kind of. One of the things I love about this job is that when I want to go on the road with my band for a month, they're super understanding and supportive. And then when I get back, I'll get a text that's, "Are you around? Can you be up here at 9 a.m. tomorrow?" Or sometimes it's in an hour. But I'm usually happy to drop what I'm doing, though, because I love the job. They're good people, I get to work with guitars. And I get a firsthand view of what it's like to be in a band that's at the top of their game, how hard it is. All of that keeps me working here. Even the days when there are headless horsemen chasing you with hammers of fire, it's kind of fun.

-- @emmaruthless

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About The Author

Emma Silvers

Emma Silvers is SF Weekly's former Music Editor.


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