The closest most metal cover bands get to their heroes is scoring with the occasional groupie who is willing to settle for a wig-wearing imitation of the real thing. But when Metallica/ Beatles cover band Beatallica received a cease-and-desist letter from the Sony Corporation last month ordering them to take down their Web site, they got help from no less a fan than Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich.
"Both of us want this to officially be over," said Beatallica's James Hetfield impersonator, Michael Tierney. "Our legal team, with the help of Lars and his lawyers, have been in contact with the Sony folks and we're in the process of making sure everything's square."
After four years of playfully combining Beatles songs in a Metallica style, the Milwaukee band got the threatening letter from Sony/ATV publishing, which owns the rights to the Beatles catalog, on February 24 (see "Beatles Publisher Tells Metallica Mash-Up Band To Get Back"). The letter claimed "substantial and irreparable injury" and asked the group to pay unspecified damages.
Tierney, 35, an occupational therapist by day, said he was pleasantly surprised when Ulrich called him a few weeks ago. "Metallica have been following what we've been up to for the past year and they've talked about us in a few magazine interviews and I got word three weeks ago that Lars wanted to contact us to talk," said Tierney. "He called me at home and we had several conversations about it and he said what he'd be willing to do for moral support and also as far as being more active in the situation. What really impressed me was that he was calling from his vacation with his family in Colorado. Nobody of his stature needs to take time out from their vacation to do that."
Tierney said he is not sure what conversations went on between Metallica lawyer Peter Paterno and Sony, but he's been told that the band can put its Web site back up in the next week or so. A spokesperson for Sony did not return calls at press time.
"The Internet is a swamp of piracy, so you send out cease-and-desist letters all the time," Paterno said. "Someone at Sony probably saw this site and sent out a letter and once they realized what was on it they decided it was not something worth picking a fight over. They got that this is different from someone selling Beatles CDs and not paying royalties."
Paterno said Ulrich felt bad that his favorite cover band had to shut down its site, so the drummer asked Paterno to get involved and broker a peace between the parties. Tierney said all the band asked was that it be able to put the site back up and not have to worry about fans getting in trouble for downloading Beatallica songs.
The band, which formed in 2001 as a one-off Metallica tribute act, did not believe it was infringing copyrights, but lovingly parodying the Beatles (parody is protected by copyright law). The group built a loyal following by melding Metallica's crunching chords with the Beatles' sweet harmonies on the EP A Garage Dayz Night and on songs such as "Got to Get You Trapped Under Ice" and "Everybody's Got a Ticket to Ride Except for Me and My Lightning." Beatallica's songs were widely distributed on the Internet and Tierney said the first order of business when the site goes back up is posting their latest creation.
"I can't tell you the name of the song," Tierney said, "but we were in the process of putting it together before all this went down." The band solicited translations to the lyrics from their fans all over the globe and Tierney said that when the mystery song is posted, it will be available in 13 different languages simultaneously.