The Metallica Pattern Of Bomb Proof Creativity
An insight into the creative processes of a band that sold 100 Million Records
by Silvia Hartmann
It was with great interest that I noticed a movie on TV the other day - an extensive documentary on how the band Metallica took three years to write and produce the album "St Anger".
If you hire this move, entitled "Some kind of monster", at the top level you will see a lot of seeming confusion and weirdness, including the bizarre occurrence of there being a psychotherapist in attendance at $40,000 a month at all times, or so it seemed; but if you look beyond that, you will find the strategy of how this band, or rather, the three main players in Metallica, made this album.
Fascinatingly, it is not a matter of creative inspiration, but rather, the process works by sheer attrition and incredibly hard work.
To begin with, it is true that I was appalled that three human beings who could be said to be experts in the creative industry with massive experience in their chosen field of endeavour could be so utterly hopeless in bringing out anything of any merit in a stream of creativity.
I wanted to jump up and shout at the screen, "For God's sake, people! What are you DOING! This isn't difficult, just relax and let something come to you!"
But as the documentary ground on remorselessly, indefatigably, much like some kind of monster ;-> I began to change my mind and instead, began to admire the three Metallica musketeers for their sheer bloody minded perseverance with this project.
Here, in essence, is what they did.
They would get together and "jam", play some things together, talk amongst themselves, try some lyrics, and all of that would be recorded.
The reason for recording all of that was that in case something EXTRAORDINARY should happen - and that might be a single drum loop that came about by accident, one phrase someone said by accident, or some THING in all of that random madness that had that "extraordinary" quality about it, it could be caught, localised, and identified.
There are two levels at work here.
One is THE STATE from which these things are being generated, the rare occurrences of extraordinary EVENTS that are the result of a momentary state alignment (being in the zone, as the term goes) by one or more of the band.
The Metallica players were trying to find that state, and they employed a range of techniques to get there they had developed amongst themselves over the years. However, this was an extremely hit-and-miss affair, more so still because all the members of the band had various emotional problems and disturbances, and "things on their mind", all of which are state blockers.
The central technique, and what they would come back to again and again, was simply jamming - both with words, and with music, and with a mixture of the two.
Then, they would take time out from "generating events" and go back over what had happened in the jam sessions, and here is the key to the Metallica pattern - they were actively then searching for EVENTS that stood out to them, and that created a kinaesthetic response when they occurred.
In EmoTrance terms, they were looking for real events, a place where the message and the messenger are aligned and have both an energetic reality, as well as a matching carrier in the Hard - a sequence of words, a sequence of sounds, a rhythm, a riff, etc.
These real events have an energetic reality which impacts THE ENERGY BODY and thus causes an emotion, or a kinaesthetic feeling, and thus, one has become TOUCHED by the event. Terminology for this happening includes, "It grabbed me by the throat," "This is making an impact," "I'm getting a right kick out of this," and all such linguistic markers to having experienced an energetic event that has actually and really reached across and "touched the audience".
Once those real events were identified, they were isolated and practiced to lock them down. A riff would be played a number of times, a phrase would be sung repeatedly, a strange and unexpected drum pattern practiced by the drummer.
The next step in the Metallica song creation pattern was to generate a SECOND LEVEL of new material, using the real events as the lead in point, and to put as many real events as close together as possible.
The last part of this events based process, that of putting as many real events together into a single song as possible, relies on MATCHING the energy of the events that have been discovered.
Here now a breakthrough happens.
When enough real events have come together, they create a whole, DEMAND a whole, and have reached an existence of their own.
This is like placing enough jig saw puzzle pieces together and you KNOW the picture is a face, and you can recognise it, even though more than half is still missing. You then also know what the missing pieces have to be, and it is easy to find them and add them in.
The final missing puzzles pieces - baselines, additional lyrics, breaks, intros, second voices, guitar solos and so forth organise themselves by themselves as soon as enough real events have been put together to "create some kind of monster" which is the title of one of the songs on the album.
This pattern is actually very common in creative endeavours. For example, Jim Morrison of The Doors used to fill notebooks upon notebooks with random writing, and then locate the real events, the ones that have the power to "move me", match them up with others of their kind and then put them end to end.
That is the same process as Metallica was using in essence.
So one more time in brief, this is how the Metallica pattern works.
1. Generate as much material as possible.
2. Review the material and localise the real events that have occurred.
3. Isolate and lock down the real events.
4. Use the real events thus discovered as a new 2nd level jump off point for generating further material.
5. Review, localise, isolate and lock down further real events.
6. Group the real events according to their energetic flavour and matching relationships.
7. Use the group of events to understand the finished product, and fill in the blanks accordingly.
There are many easier ways to create energetically cohesive sequences of real events, of course, but what is fascinating about the Metallica pattern is that you could call it a bomb proof, fail safe strategy for creativity.
It doesn't matter how disturbed the systems of the players, it doesn't matter how far away from "the zone" you are, by sheer attrition and hard work it is absolutely possible to create impactful, original and unconsciously generated material that are cohesive and powerful.
To be able to do that, you don't have to be well educated, calm, connected, on drugs, or even particularly talented or original and creative.
There is only one talent, one ability that is needed - and that is to be able to spot the real events. To have a feedback device and to be aware enough to know when something impactful has happened. It's an extraordinary observation that even that basic skill is actually quite rare in the general public, or perhaps it is simply so that most people don't appreciate the power of our own kinaesthic-emotional-energy responses to outside events to guide us in the right direction.
It's a skill we are all born with.
In the case of Metallica, that one skill is at the core of these guys being able to produce music - even if it is a struggle of willpower and perseverance! - that sells 100 MILLION albums, and manages to "touch" so many, and so deeply.
Well done and all kudos to the Metallica guys for their hard work, their determination and congratulations on their success.
PS. This pattern can be used for many things beyond making heavy metal rock albums. It can be used to review Image Streaming material and get to the "real story", for example. You could even review a person's life in therapy and mark out the "real events" to get to the "bigger picture". As such, the Metallica pattern has a great many uses in creativity, and in the end, understanding the nature of our respective realities.
Modelling Metallica © Silvia Hartmann 2006. All Rights Reserved.
Learn about Modern Energy