"We had a wicked circle-pit with Jason Momoa, Dave Grohl and Mike Clark": Rob Trujillo talks 72 Seasons, celebrity mosh pits and what comes next for Metallica

Metallica Rob Trujillo
(Image credit: Getty Images/Scott Legato)

Metallica’s 72 Seasons was the most anticipated album of the year, finally arriving in April, seven years after its predecessor, Hardwired… To Self-Destruct. Full-speed-or-nothing single Lux Æterna may have called back to the band’s early days, but 72 Seasons itself was an epic trawl through singer James Hetfield’s psyche, recorded against the backdrop of the pandemic. 

Then the band embarked on the equally ambitious M72 World Tour, which saw them playing two shows in each destination, with a different setlist each night. It also found the quartet bringing their in-the-round stage to stadiums for the first time, complete with Snake Pit in the centre. And it’s not done yet – the run extends towards the end of 2024. 

“It’s all go, man,” says bassist Rob Trujillo, speaking to Hammer from Mexico City, where he’s watching his son, Tye, play with his own former band, Suicidal Tendencies. “Sometimes you’ve just gotta roll up your sleeves and move forward.”

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How has 2023 been for Metallica? 

“2023 has been great. The release of 72 Seasons was obviously a big deal for us, especially considering we couldn’t be in the same room together most of the time we were writing it [due to the pandemic]. We started working via Zoom, which was strange, but it helped us dig deep and really turn this into a passion-driven batch of songs and ideas. 

You can hear the energy that came forth when we finally did get together. Some songs had first-take moments – we might have played Inamorata like 20 times, but the first take was the one we used.” 

In an interview on Metallica’s official site, you say the first creative thing you did for 72 Seasons came from an acoustic version of The Day That Never Comes. Will we ever get to hear that version?

“That’s a good point! There were a lot of ideas that weren’t included in the final batch of songs for 72 Seasons. In the back of our minds I’m sure there was an idea we should have a slower song or ballad, but we were ready to go. So far as The Day That Never Comes goes, it has a lot of potential as an acoustic song, so I think it’s something we’ll do at some point, maybe as part of All Within My Hands [Metallica’s non-profit foundation]. 

I was more interested in the metal, though, which is basically what we’ve pursued as a team. But at some point there will be a ballad. I’m ready to start writing the next album with these guys already but we’re only halfway through the tour currently so that’s a way off yet."

If you could take just one song from 72 Seasons to a desert island, which would you choose? 

Inamorata is an amazing song and we all feel it has classic potential, but I’m gonna have to go with You Must Burn!. That’s the first official semi-solo vocal moment for me in Metallica. Greg [Fidelman, producer] and James gave me the freedom to present my vocal moment, where I was just trying to channel Ozzy – you may or may not hear that! 

I do really like that middle section, it feels like a very complete song and has the right power groove. That’s my desert island jam.” 

Do you think you’ll sing more in future? 

“I’m always there for what the band need! I was expecting to just do gang vocal-type things, adding a bit of texture and presence to the recording, but I didn’t realise I’d get a semi-solo moment! I always do my best whatever I’m asked to do though man, and these are the moments you can cherish.”

The M72 Tour was ambitious even by Metallica’s standards. Has it set the bar ridiculously high for future tours? 

“Taking that record out on the road with this enormous stage and basically docking in each city was really challenging, but I think we found our stride with it. You need to figure out how to work out different terrains, especially given how big the stage is and how huge the Snake Pit is. It was like, ‘How do we connect with our fans the way we want to?’ Thankfully we still did. 

Kirk and I would have these moments where we’d write a song for each city – an instrumental – and oftentimes that would be just me and him rehearsing in a vehicle on the way to a venue, coming up with a two-minute song that we put together. It could be punk-influenced, funk, speed metal… there’s a lot of cool little gems that’ve contributed to this live show.” 

What was it like walking out onto that stage, under those huge towers, for the very first time? 

“Surreal! Every single show had its own customised adventure. You learn each show a little more on how to get things running the right way – and it wasn’t always easy. The first couple shows we were opening with instrumentals, which we thought was really cool, coming on to like The Call Of Ktulu or Orion. But we got the feel from the fans that they liked the instrumentals, but they need us to come out with like Creeping Death that’s gonna be more direct and in-your face. 

Then we can mess with the dynamics. It was all about working out that production, the setlist, even the way we move onstage; there’s a real worry you can fall off if you’re not careful or trip over a snare. But you know, it keeps you on your toes.” 

There’s definitely a lot of opportunity for Spinal Tap moments. 

“Ha! Oh man, yeah there were times where a drum-riser wouldn’t come up or whatever. James literally said that a few times: ‘Spinal Tap!’” 

Do you argue over the setlists?

“Definitely one of the biggest challenges for this tour has been figuring out what that setlist is gonna look like. You want a sense of throttle, but also to have plenty of highlight moments – like, when are we gonna do the ball drop? Where are we gonna have the moment for Kirk and I to jam? It’s all about pacing and it’s not something you can figure out on the first show, it takes time. Especially when certain songs might not resonate in Europe as well as they do back home. 

At the same time, we will be going back into these territories next year, so we want to give ourselves room to mix it up too, especially with the new songs where someone might go, ‘Yeah we’ve seen Too Far Gone?, what do you have for us now?’ But Lars is always thinking ahead too, making suggestions like, ‘We need to do this, pull this one out of the back catalogue’ or whatever, so we’ll see! Plus, some fans come to multiple shows and don’t really want repetition, so you’ve gotta cater as best you can. It’s balance.”

You played two headlining sets at Download, which was the first time any band had done that. How was that for you? 

“Download, at that point, was my favourite show of the tour. It was massive! There must have been at least 80,000 people there, but there was just a magic that even with it being so massive, it felt personal. It was surreal in a Mad Max way, looking out and seeing these towers protruding from the crowd. There were a lot of good times there and we watched some great bands. I loved seeing Benji [Webbe] of Skindred [and Rob’s bandmate in side-project Mass Mental], because we don’t see each other all the time now.”

Jason Momoa and John Travolta turned up to see you in Los Angeles. How did that come about? 

“Well, Jason Momoa lives in my neighbourhood, actually. So to see Momoa in the Snake Pit was like, ‘Wait, what?!’ That was pretty scary! Ha ha ha! He’s a big dude! We did have a pretty wicked circle-pit with Momoa, Dave Grohl and even some of my old Suicidal Tendencies bandmates in there, like Mike Clark. It was like, ‘What the hell is going on?!’” 

Metallica 2023

(Image credit: Tim Saccenti/Jonathan Weiner)

You also played the Power Trip festival in Indio, California. What’s your favourite memory of that? 

“Just being able to stand there watching those bands so up close and personal was incredible; I stood 15 feet away from AC/DC! Even though I’m friends with people like [Iron Maiden’s] Adrian Smith, watching him onstage, doing what he does, it’s like ‘Oh, that’s right! He’s the guy that’s influenced us all!’ 

I was interviewed by the LA Times and they also got Justin [Chancellor, Tool bassist] to answer the same question: Which band do you feel you could play with? And we were both like, ‘Iron Maiden!’ We grew up listening to Steve Harris, so he’s our path through all this music, so seeing that band onstage just took us back to our youth.

 Then you get to Sunday, and it’s like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve got to play now!’ I commend the crew and audience, it was literally triple-digit temperatures with all this dust, so people who endured that and still made it a great gig, it’s truly commendable.” 

What was it like backstage? 

“Well, I know a lot of those guys anyway, but I’ve gotta say I’m always starstruck whenever I run into Rob Halford. I didn’t get a chance to meet Angus, but hopefully someday because he seems so super-cool! But it was cool just hanging out with guys like Duff and Slash, they were just so nice. 

It’s always incredible reconnecting with musicians after so many years, and finding them still so humble and grounded. A lot of those bands were just there for a one-off. Iron Maiden were going on a long break afterwards, and Judas Priest had only had a few rehearsals before the show. We were all in different mindsets, but you get on that stage and it becomes this huge celebration of what we do.” 

This year’s marked the 20th anniversary of St. Anger. Have people’s opinions of that record changed over time? 

“Most people that I talk to have found a place in their heart for St. Anger. What’s cool is pulling out Dirty Window in the set. The way we play it now, I’ve found my place in the songs we play and found a groove for those songs from St. Anger, almost like we’ve given it a facelift.” 

There’s a new documentary in the works about Metallica superfans. How’s that all coming along? 

“Well, we’ve got some of the best fans in the world, so I think it’s great to be able to celebrate them and who they are. It goes back to this idea of helping people in general having a better life, so we want to show what it all means to them.” 

What does 2024 hold for Metallica? 

“We’ll be coming back to hit Europe, the States, and territories we haven’t hit on this run. We’ll be looking to mix up the set a little more, which is fun and challenging. There’s definitely some curveballs there that I like. Creatively, I’ll definitely be jamming and writing, especially because I’ve got so many great neighbours to have fun with. Who knows what that’ll end up being. Maybe the world will hear it, maybe they won’t!” 

Have Metallica been approached to play the Sphere in Las Vegas? 

“You’d have to ask Lars that question! He’s always the guy with his finger on the pulse, so we’re happy to let him go ahead with all this cutting-edge stuff, exploring possibilities. So if we do end up playing the Sphere, I’d say that seed is being planted about now… We just want to get into 2024 and see where that takes us, but I’m pretty sure we have shows going right up to 2025 at this point.”

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.