Now that they're planning a world tour for next year, Metallica have come to a startling realization: they really need a bass player.
So the band has invited some established bassists to try out.
"We had one in last week," frontman James Hetfield said in a video interview on the group's Web site. "We're having another one in this week and then the next and the next and we'll see how many weeks it takes."
The group won't name the musicians its playing with, but Hetfield said he hopes one will complement Metallica musically and personally.
"It's very important that our personalities vibe and that this person is going to be around for a long time," he said. "We are excited about jamming with these people and getting a vibe with them. The vibe is the most important. We know the people we have on our list can play, and we don't like the revolving-door syndrome."
The group's last bassist, Jason Newsted, left in January 2001 (see "Bassist Jason Newsted Leaves Metallica"). For much of the past year, Metallica have plugged away in the studio as a three-piece with producer Bob Rock adding basslines to their songs. They completed seven songs that way and originally planned to record an entire album before figuring out what to do about a bassist. Then reality set in.
"We realized," drummer Lars Ulrich said, "if we were going to not start the bass player thing until the record was done, then we might end up with a situation like we usually do where there are three weeks between the end of the record and the beginning of the tour and then you might end up in a really stupid pressure situation where you're trying to get a guy and you don't have a lot of time."
The real impetus for the search, Ulrich ultimately revealed, came when Metallica were going over some T-shirt designs and decided they'd look a lot better if four members were represented.
"One of [the designs] was a tattoo thing with three cars on them with just [the initials] 'L.U.,' 'J.H.' and 'K.H.' [on the sides]," said Ulrich. "And we were like, 'Isn't it silly to have all this merchandise for just the three of us?' Then we started talking about bass players and it opened up this whole big thing."
The next Metallica album will likely be released in June or July, the band's publicist said.