Gary James' Interview With Laurence Langley Of The
Metallica Tribute Band
They are one of the most respected and popular Metallica tribute acts in the United States. Known as Battery, drummer Laurence Langley talked with us about the group.
Q - Before this group was put together, what were you doing?
A - Well, we had an original band. That's what kind of led to the idea of Battery. Basically we were a Metal band very similar to Metallica, to the Master Puppets era of Metallica. We were in Toronto, Canada, playing and we had all the record companies come see us. Everybody said we were a great band, but we were too heavy for Canada. They said you need to go South, because in Canada they weren't signing heavy bands. All the record companies were honest with me. One of the A&R reps that I knew from college said "Laurence, we're looking for more like a light Bon Jovi and you guys are more like Metallica. You need to go south from Canada." So shortly thereafter we got a call from an American agent interested in knowing if we were a tribute band or not. We said "no, we're an original band called Disaster Area", but we had started playing some Metallica covers. Then the agents were saying "OK, if you start a Metallica tribute, we'll bring you in the States and book you all across the United States." We thought OK, if we do that, what a great vehicle to get our original music across to all the American people. So we would be Battery, with special guests Disaster Area, our original band. We would be two bands in one.
Q - Good idea!
A - Yeah, so we figured it would be a great vehicle. Here we go! Let's go, and that's how kind of we came up with the idea, because we weren't a tribute to Metallica, we were just an original band. As we played more Metallica songs in our set, we got better bookings and we actually started making a little money in Toronto, Canada and got a lot of write-ups. That's why all the record companies came to see us, but we were just too heavy for Canada. So we started Battery as a vehicle. So each night it would be Battery with special guests Disaster Area. We would open up and say "Hey, we're Disaster Area. We're an all original band", and we play 45 minutes, an hour and then we'd change over back-drops, drum heads for the kick drums and then we'd come out all in black and do two hours of Metallica, but it was the same four guys. Then at the end of the night we'd sell our CDs for the original band.
Q - Is Metallica popular in Canada?
A - Huge. Huge.
Q - How long has the tribute band been together?
A - Actually our first show was September 25th of 1993. We played as Battery in the States. Up 'til then we were Disaster Area whenever we played anywhere. But this was actually the first show we played as Battery.
Q - In 1998, you guys actually opened for Metallica?
A - Yes.
Q - As Disaster Area?
A - No. That was Battery. We had been playing so much then, playing in the States, going all over and all through Canada that people then were getting to Metallica and were actually saying to them "Hey! There's this tribute band called Battery and they're a tribute to you guys and they're awesome!" So, everywhere Metallica went in the States they kept hearing about Battery. So in 1998, when they released the CD of all cover songs called "Garage Inc.", they wanted to do a small tour to support that CD, but they wanted to play the cover songs off the CD. They didn't really want to go out and play "Seek And Destroy" and "Bell Tolls" and "Master Puppets". They wanted to do all the songs off the cover CD. So they were having a band discussion, a meeting, and they were trying to decide what they could do to promote the "Garage Inc." CD, what kind of tour they would do. Lars jokingly said "why don't we just get Battery to open up for us and they can play our songs and then that way we can play all our cover songs we want to play." They all started joking around and started laughing and said "That's funny." They stopped and Lars said "You know, that's not a bad idea." So they said "yeah, let's see if that will work." So he talked to Cliff Bernatein from Q-Prime and Cliff and everybody liked the idea. So, then they contacted our agent and then contacted us and said "Here's what's going to happen. We're going to get you guys to open up and you're gonna play all Metallica original songs. Anything that Metallica covered. You cannot play going back as far as "Blitzkrieg" and "Am I Evil". You can't play any of those covers, but you can play any song Metallica wrote, you're welcome to play." So, that's how the idea came up and that's what transpired. We did a five city tour opening for them. We played an hour of Metallica originals and then they came out and did two hours of their favorite cover songs that they had done over the years.
Q - That's a great story!
A - Yeah, very, very cool.
Q - Do you still write original material today?
A - Yeah, we have a bunch of different projects that were in the works. But see, back then when all the same members were in Battery and all the same members were in Disaster Area, we all had a common goal and a common interest. But then, after the Metallica tour, the singer we had left a year or two after. Then after that we got another singer and that started to change the direction because we didn't have that original voice that was in our original music and the guy we had written with. So now we had a singer come in who was only a James Hatfield guy and so Disaster Area kind of faded for awhile and then we were more or less concentrating on Battery, building up the show, on traveling, taking it to a bigger level than just a small club band. And so we got caught up in the Metallica tribute band scene where we get to play. We've been to Alaska, all across the United States and Canada. We've been to the Virgin Islands, all three, Puerto Rico. We were just in Honduras. We get to travel a lot. We get to meet a lot of people. We always have a great time and people are huge Metallica fans wherever we go. Even though we did the original thing, it didn't work out the way we anticipated and the way we wanted the tribute thing worked out to be much bigger than we ever thought it would be. (laughs)
Q - Since you were pretty much on the ground floor at Metallica tribute bands, that goes a long way in helping explain your group's popularity, doesn't it?
A - Correct.
Q - Do you have a lot of competition?
A - There are, but there's none that take it to our level. There's ones that... you know there's one out of Chicago, there's one out of Cleveland, but they're smaller, local bands where the guys all work day jobs and they play a couple of shows a month. It's like a hobby for them. They learn some Metallica. This to us is our life. This is a whole different ball game for us. We take it serious. Right from the start of the show we use "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly" Metallica intro song that they use, "The Ecstasy Of Gold". We have stage crosses and the fog and the strobes and the green spotlights Metallica used from the floor and we try to put on a show just like you would see Metallica. We basically copied a Metallica show, but we bring it to all the small towns. We go everywhere Metallica doesn't go. We go places they go to 'cause most people, especially in the economy, can't afford to spend $80 or $100 for a ticket and parking. But they can come see us in Pittsburgh for $5 or come see us in Cleveland for $6. You're getting four guys, veterans of the music industry who've been doing it for years and have been around for a long time and know what we're doing who put on a professional show. We know we have to live up to, I know in my mind, the biggest Metal band in history. So, it's some big shows we have to step in and try to fill as far as saying we're a Metallica tribute band and then to be Battery, the band that Metallica picked to open, we have even bigger shows to fill. People come and see us and go "Oh, I'm going to see Battery, the band that opened for Metallica. They must be awesome." If we're not, we're gonna suck twice as bad 'cause in the fan's eyes if they're expecting a great tribute band and they come out and see a half-assed one that doesn't put on a great show, we don't do it alright, they're gonna go "They were terrible." So, we know what we have to live up to. So, that's why we are such perfectionists about the show, about having every little item, about lighting, about oh so much of the show. It's just so important to us. I write out all the cues for the lighting guy and go through incredible amounts of time to have special lighting cues on certain parts and fog cues. All kinds of stage ideas that mimic Metallica shows so you come away with "Damn! These guys are almost as good as Metallica. I feel like I just saw Metallica." That's what we want people to leave having that feeling of, that they were just at a Metallica show, but they're not broke afterwards. (laughs)