jameshetfield400 [Ed’s note: I am reporting on this story because Chris Isaak is one of the few non hard rock/heavy metal acts that I love, and have been a huge fan of, for a long time. Isaak is an amazing live performer, and for many years, was one of the only musicians to have fan signings after every show. He made sure to personalize every signing by usually drawing an adorable cartoon along with this signature. Hands down, one of the nicest people in the music business.]

Metallica forntmanJames Hetfield asked how to sing like pop star Chris Isaak before recording the iconic Black Album, producer Bob Rock has recalled.

The frontman had been inspired by Isaak’s trademark hit Wicked Game, and wanted to match the vocal emotion in his own performances.

Rock tells Talk Is Jericho, hosted by WWE star and Fozzy frontman, Chris Jericho, “He said, ‘Bob, I’ve never really sung before – I’ve just kind of yelled.’ He played me a Chris Isaak record and said, ‘On Nothing Else Matters and The Unforgiven, I want to sing. How do you sing like this?’”

The solution was “a great vocal sound” so that Hetfield didn’t have to double-track, the producer explains.

“I said, ‘What you hear in Chris Isaak’s voice is the nuances when he sings. He isn’t doubled, he’s actually performing. You perform.’

“We set it up so he had a great sound and then he sang. Every day he got better and he got comfortable with it. He became a great singer.”

Metallica’s Black Album, launched in 1991, remains their biggest-selling release. They’re currently working on the follow-up to 2008’s Death Magnetic – despite guitarist Kirk Hammett losing 250 riffs for the project.



23 Responses

  1. Great story Dana…we here in Northern California have known about about Isaak’s talent for many years as he was born in Stockton and cut his teeth in the San Francisco music scene. I’m not surprised that Hetfield who has lived here in the bay area for decades would want to emulate Isaak’s unique singing style.

    Isaak is a minimalist in both his vocalization and instrumentation, but the emotion that he can put forth in his voice is incredible. Anybody who doesn’t feel moved by his singing on “Wicked Game” has no soul…it’s probably one of the rawest emotional vocal performances that I have ever heard.

    1. Thanks David,

      I know he is from Stockton and I believe a middle weight boxing champion who lived in Japan for a while.

      Your description of Mr. Isaak is spot on, he is a very interesting man. He also acted in some movies, notably Silence of the Lambs (a guest spot as an agent) and Little Buddha. Plus, his drummer Kenny uses brushes to drum, a lost art, as far as I am concerned. If you have never seen perform live, I encourage you to go.

      D 🙂

  2. Chris Isaak is one of a kind, that is for sure. On a side note, I have always tried to emulate the smooth sounds of Peggy Lee. I am still working on it.

    1. Dana, I think you and Eddie are the same person. You are both strangely active on this site at the same time, and when Eddie don’t tweet no comments are approved lol. Soon as Eddie goes active, things start moving with you.

      Just sayin, mighty suspicious…

    2. Sorry David, but you are completely wrong on this one.

      People have met me, so we are definitely NOT the same person. Besides, Eddie is not a Chris Isaak fan. 🙂

      Dana 🙂

    3. Lol, I was kidding. Eddie isn’t a Chris Isaak fan, but is he still hiding those Barry Manilow records he had when he was a kid???

      I just kid, I just kid….

    4. LOL!!! You always crack me up.

      Yes, Isaak is a great talent all around: wonderful singer/songwriter, adorable cartoonist and a comedian.

      BTW, how is that Peggy Lee imitation working out for you? 😉

      D 🙂

  3. Was this a known thing about Kirk losing 250 riffs for the new album before or after the TMS interview? How did Eddie not ask him about that? Oh, the humanity! Could Schenker and Hammett just put an instrumental jam album out? I coulda listened to that all night long.

  4. I think it sucks that Dana feels the need to write a disclaimer about what he enjoys. Kerry King loves The Beatles and Elton John and has said so numerous times. I listen to Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago, The Dead Kennedys, Manilow, Buddy Holly, as well as hard rock and metal. I listen to a TON of different stuff, sans country and rap. Music is life. But because of the polarizing world of Metal Fandom, Dana is being nice but it’s people that bag on her or others for liking different music are the ones that are missing out.

    1. Joe, I wrote that “disclaimer” not Eddie. I am the HUGE Chris Isaak fan and I am NOT ashamed at all. 🙂

      Dana : )

    2. Although metal is where my heart is and where my heart will always be and Judas Priest is my favorite band of all time, I like a lot of different music other than just straight up heavy metal and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. I love Southern Rock and I like some Alternative stuff from the late 80’s to very early 90’s. I love the Melvins album HOUDINI, I still listen to Masters Of Reality’s self titled album all the time and I like some punk and hardcore stuff, like Cro-Mags and Agnostic Front and early D.R.I.. And great old Classic Rock can’t be beat: The Beatles, James Gang, Steve Miller Band, Kansas and so on. For example, even though it’s not near a metal song, or even hard rock for that matter, I love the song “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills and Nash. I’m not ashamed to admit that.

    3. Amen James! I’m not a country music fan, but I LOVE southern rock! Especially The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, and Molly Hatchet! Molly’s first 2 albums are as good as music gets! Other non-hard rock/metal bands I love, The Cars, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Styx, Heart, Pat Benatar, The Police, INXS, Journey, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Huey Lewis & The News, Bob Marley, (love reggae!) Bob Seger, Grateful Dead, just to name a few! Like you James, even though I’m a rocker/metal head first and foremost, when it comes to MUSIC, I’m all over the map! Cheers Bud. 🙂

    4. Doug, every band you mentioned is great! And it’s very cool you love Southern Rock. Molly Hatchet almost never gets respect. Same goes for the Marshall Tucker Band and The Outlaws. Being from Texas, that’s the ONLY rock music a lot of people I know listen to because everyone down in my area listens to Country. This is not a popular statement to make where I’m from: I HATE COUNTRY MUSIC! I don’t know why because I was raised with my dad playing in Country bands but I can’t stand that crap. But my dad loved AC/DC (his favorite album was LET THERE BE ROCK) so we didn’t listen to Country when we hung out. I’d also like to mention that a big hero of mine is Stevie Ray Vaughan. The TEXAS FLOOD album is the Texas Blues Rock Bible, as far as I’m concerned. And Fender Stratocaster master and my fellow Texan Eric Johnson put out an album around 25 years ago called AH VIA MUSICOM that is staggeringly great.

      Take care my friend! Cheers!.

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