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The “most ingenious musical parody since the Rutles” hits Fort Wayne
By Jim Fester
Fort Wayne Reader
There are probably a dozen clever ways to describe Beatallica, but the concept sounds so bizarre on paper that I’ll just lay it out for you: Beatallica does Metallicized arrangements of Beatles songs. They basically reinterpret the tunes the way Metallica might, with a heavy dose of humor thrown in.
And it works. With titles like “Leper Madonna” and “Hey, Dude,” it’s obvious what you’re in for: Ice magazine called the band “the most ingenious rock parody since the Rutles.” But to pull something like this off, you really have to know your stuff musically, and that’s where Beatallica stand out. The references to both bands fly fast and furious, the arrangements are tight and clever, and singer “Jaymz Lennfield”’s impression of Metallica’s James Hetfield is so dead-on you’ll do an aural double-take. The overall effect is almost like listening to one of those digitalized musical mash-ups that have come to prominence in the last few years, except Beatallica are playing it all themselves.
There’s been plenty of critical acclaimed heaped on Beatallica since their first CD, A Garage Dayz Night began sneaking out on the internet in 2001; Pitchfork Media, Spin, and Revolver Magazine, among others, have all singled Beatallica out for praise, and even Metallica themselves have given the band the official nod of approval.
About to hit the road in support of their second CD, The Gray Album, Jaymz Lennfield talked to us from the band’s homebase in Milwaukee, Wisconsin about the origins and the influences of Beatallica, and how musical parody isn’t as easy as you think.
Fort Wayne Reader: What did the members of Beatallica do before Beatallica?
Jaymz Leenfield: We’re still all in different projects. I play in, like, four projects. I’m out of town this weekend with another band in Chicago. Between Beatallica and other projects, I’m probably playing and rehearsing five or six nights a week. As far as the guy who plays Krk (Hammettson, guitarist), he does rock theater stuff, and him and our drummer Ringo (Larz) also play in a cyber-metal sort of band together, so they stay active. The guy who plays bass with us (Kliff McBurtney) plays in a number of projects and he also teaches guitar here at the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music.
FWR: I’ll ask the obvious question; how did this all come together?
JL: There’s a festival here in Milwaukee called “Spoof-Fest,” which has been going on for 12 years. It’s a bunch of local bands who get together and emulate, and sometimes desecrate, some of our favorite bands. I was always into metal bands, and one year we decided to do Metallica, me and the guy who plays Krk. We’re both big Beatles fans, too. He was coming to practice one day, and he heard “For No One” by the Beatles, and he said “I don’t know if it’s just me, but this riff totally sounds like it could be this metallized kind of riff.” We just started horsing around with lyrics, came up with our first song, thought nothing of it. But he came back next week and said “that was fun. We should do another one.” So we did “A Garage Dayz Night,” and we did “Seargent Hetfield’s…” For the Spoof-Fest show, we put some songs on CD, and passed it out just for fun. A friend of a friend got a hold of the CD. He does internet radio, he put it on without telling us, and he named the band without telling us, and we found eight months later that it had taken off without us knowing it.
FWR: Any songs that just didn’t fit the formula?
JL: Oh, yeah. We have a bunch of those. When we recorded the Gray Album, we were working with 15 songs, and only eight made the cut. It was a good example of… well, you just can’t take two songs, and just slap them together, and add your own ideas and viola, you have a song. That’s not the way it works, even with digitalized mash-up music.
FWR: Can you give me any specifics?
JL: “Eleanor Rigby” we tried. And then we tried to challenge ourselves with more acoustic songs, like “Blackbird.” And of course, everyone is always saying “What are you going to do with “Revolution #9?” (laughs) There’s even Metallica songs we’ve tried to use that just aren’t right yet. Everyone asks “why haven’t you done anything with ‘Master of Puppets’ yet?” It just hasn’t come out the way that we want yet.
FWR: Have you had any criticism from Beatles and/or Metallica fans?
JL: Oh, totally! Do you think that we wouldn’t? You know, God bless ‘em for being passionate, you know what I mean? It’s good when people are really into something, and they really revere something, but… We had a great e-mail that came in earlier this year. This guy, a Beatles fan, was fully convinced that we were all going to be tried, prosecuted, and put in jail for this, that paroles would be denied, and if it was up to him, he would burn us at the stake. He was really upset. It’s more Beatles fans that are really upset. There are Metallica fans that are upset, but they tend to be fans that got into the band after Cliff Burton (Metallica’s bass player, who died in a tour bus accident in 1986). The old school fans tend to like it more than the newer ones. I don’t know if it’s because we use the name “McBurtney” or… I don’t know what it is. And then you get the people who sort of insinuate what kind of people we are. (laughs) That we beat our dogs and all have four wives and that all we really do is hang out in the parking lot of Taco Bell and smoke blunts. All this stuff gets written about us, and I just think “I’d like to just sit down and have a beer with you and have a talk.”
FWR: What’s the best compliment you’ve received?
JL: I suppose the fact that we have the members of Metallica quoted in our press kit. The first surprisingly great compliment was from Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. He just simply said “This is brilliant. You’ve got a fan in me. Mike Portnoy, Dream Theater.” And now, we have a really good relationship with them. We’ve played together, and we keep in touch.
FWR: Have you heard from the Beatles camp?
JL: Not from Paul McCartney or Ringo Starr or Yoko, or the estates of Harrison or Lennon. We would certainly welcome it.
FWR: How long is Beatallica planning on continuing?
JL: A lot has changed in the last two years. It’s gone from being “let’s go buy a 12-pack and have fun in the basement” to “oh, we’re actually going to record another album. This will be interesting. We should probably pay attention to this a little more.” And now it’s “we have an agent in Europe.” We want to continue on for as long as we can have it continue on. Because we all play in original music projects, we have a lot of people saying, “isn’t it a shame that your original music isn’t making the impact that Beatallica is?” I guess our answer to that is that we are contributing to the music and creating songs, but then also, you’re given this opportunity to do something different in the music industry. Why would you forego that? Why would you not pursue that? It’s almost like you’d be doing it out of spite if you didn’t go after it.
Beatallica plays Pierre’s on December 7th. For tickets, call (260) 486-1979