As the guys from Metallica are currently focused on the tour, the band’s recently released 11th album “72 Seasons” is slowly gaining more attention. The record’s co-producer Greg Fidelman recently spoke to Guitar World, revealing a few interesting details. Standing alongside James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, Fidelman helped the band achieve the guitar tone that’s currently still being discussed online.
When reminded that the album had “more midrange and less gain on the guitars,” Greg was also asked to reveal whether it was British-style amps that Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield used. Although the interviewer’s estimates were true, the producer revealed the special amp that James implemented on “72 Seasons,” explaining:
“James has always had one of the legendary José Arredondo-modded Marshalls, a late-’60s/early-’70s Superlead head. When we did [2016 album] ‘Hardwired… [to Self-Destruct]’ it wasn’t working very well.“
“When we started this album I had a re-invigorated interest in this head. I was talking with Dave Friedman, who is very familiar with those old José mods, and he fixed it. When I got it back, I told James I thought it sounded insane, and he got really excited about it. It ended up on every song. I think that’s what you’re hearing.”
To those who may not know, José Arredondo is a somewhat elusive figure who became known for his Marshall mods. If you happen to find one of the amplifiers that he modded online, it won’t be cheap. As for David Friedman, he’s the man behind legendary Friedman amps that found their way into rigs of many legendary guitar players.
Asked about more amps that were used on this album, he said:
“James has combinations of multiple amps and the balance between them changes from song to song. There’s always a Mesa/Boogie Mark IIC++ that he’s had forever, and then this José Marshall – at least a combination of those two.“
“There’s also usually a Wizard 100-watt head that’s usually got a Klon Centaur pedal on it. He also has a Diezel head. When we need to find a bigger bottom end, especially on the slower songs, we can bring that in. It has huge low-end that the other amps don’t have.”
Asked about Kirk and his amps, Greg replied
“For Kirk, it’s different for solos and for rhythm [guitars]. For rhythms, Kirk had a couple of different Friedmans. Sometimes it was the HBE Deluxe and sometimes it was some early HBE head that Dave Friedman modded. We had a Marshall a 50-watt master volume JMP, I think a ’79, that just sounds amazing.“
“For solos, we had a 100-watt master volume JMP that’s a little more gritty and scoopy, and we would combine that with a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier. Kirk also had an old Kirk Hammett signature Randall head that has a really clear, defined midrange.
“That was always nice to add to the mix so it could be super-overdriven but not blurry and fizzy – you can still hear the notes. We’ve got hundreds of cabinets over there but James almost always ends up on similar – the Mesa/Boogie and Marshalls go into old Marshall cabinets, and the Diezel I think goes through Mesa cabinets. Similar stuff for Kirk: a mixture of older Marshall cabinets with either 30- or 25-watt Celestions.
“For solos, usually we’ve got a cabinet or two with 75-watt Celestions, and there’s a Mesa cabinet labelled Black Shadow. I think they might be Eminence speakers, probably from the mid-’80s, but those also sound really good.”
Elsewhere in the chat, Fidelman was asked about how he directed Kirk to write and record solos. But things weren’t that simple as Kirk just preferred to improvise and see what happens:
“I think it’s well-known that Lars likes to be involved in solos, and they work together in a unique way. I’m sort of a third partner in that. Kirk comes in improvising most of the stuff, but when we’re recording or rehearsing the songs, every now and then something that would go by that someone would say, ‘Hey, could you mark that for later?’“
Greg then added that they allowed Kirk to give his best takes spontaneously and then worked with a more systematic plan on how to make it all work in the final product:
“So when it came time to actually record solos, we always had that stuff ready to go. A lot of the songs had a bunch of things that we thought were cool as a springboard, although they were improvised initially. We would listen back to all these and start being like, ‘Oh that that’s a cool place to go there, that’s a good entrance, that’s a great ending.’ So he improvised to get the feel and ideas, but then we would have a plan.”
This is in line with what Kirk said in a recent interview, revealing that he improvised a bunch of solos and then just gave all of this material to those in charge of the record. He said:
“With this album, I went in intentionally to improvise 20, 30 solos, give them all to Lars [Ulrich] and Greg [Greg Fidelman], and go ‘You guys edit them!’ I know I’m gonna play something completely different live, so I can offer something different every time you see Metallica. When you buy a ticket to a Metallica show, you’re not gonna hear carbon copy versions of the album.“
“At a time when it’s just so accessible to see videos of your favourite band, there needs to be some sort of impetus for people to go out and see live shows that are actually somewhat spontaneous. That’s my thing these days – and if people don’t like it, that’s just tough!”
Photos: Kreepin Deth (James Hetfield live in Amesterdam 29 April 2023), Kreepin Deth (Kirk Hammett in Amsterdam 29 April 2023)