“I don't say it's looking rosy up there in rock band land”: Metallica manager Peter Mensch on the current state of rock music

Peter Mensch
(Image credit: Larry Busacca/WireImage for NARAS)

As a man who has had some of the all-time great rock groups under his charge, Peter Mensch is in a better position than most to survey the state of the rock landscape. The co-founder of prestigious management firm Q Prime has worked with Metallica since the mid-80s and has overseen mega-successful periods with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins, Def Leppard, Muse, AC/DC and many more. His company also manage the dance-y British alt-rock titans Foals and, in an interview related to their 2022 record Life Is Yours, this writer spoke to Mensch and asked if he thought bands could still be as important as ever in the era of streaming and playlists. He wasn’t sure.

“I hope so, I gotta tell you, you ask the question that I ask myself daily and the sad thing is, I don’t know the answer,” the Q Prime supremo said. “Although maybe I do know the answer, I just don’t want to admit it. I don’t know. You’ve got to name me a guitar-based rock band that has broken through to the point of playing the O2, or you have to decide what your aspirational choices are. I look around and I don’t see a lot.”

Mensch said it meant for some important conversations when he starts working with groups at the outset of their career. “It’s why you have to sit there and talk to your bands when they show up when they're 21 or 22, going ‘I think I'm going to need at least 10 years of your life, maybe more, maybe five albums if we get that far, if a record company will finance’ - and that's the other problem, I don't know if any record labels are going to invest the kind of money it costs to make a rock band record and to tour them and stuff like that and then do it again and do it a third time. The answer is I don't say it's looking rosy up there in rock band land.”

Whilst you might not imagine there would be much crossover between Metallica and Foals, Mensch said that he’d given both bands a similar gee-up when he first started working wit them. “I said to Foals, ‘this is going to take a long time, you guys don’t write obvious hit singles, you don’t craft hit singles. All I ever said to them was, ‘whatever message you want to deliver, if you can deliver it in a form that is more palatable to radio or shorter attention spans, great'. It's the same speech we gave to Metallica but that was 20 years earlier in a different time.”

Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis recently launched a side-project unveiling his long-mooted work with late Afrobeat legend Tony Allen, releasing the track Walk Through Fire under the name of Yannis & The Yaw.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.