I shook hands with a guy from Metallica


an editor of a music website wrote to me at one point last year asking me to write a tour diary, saying “you guys should DEFINITELY be documenting all the insanity you’re currently going through, for your own future vague memories” // he was probably right. i didn’t take enough photos either.

and so here we go. before we get on to anything else, let me get this out of my system.

I shook hands with a guy from Metallica. I used a toilet cubicle at a Paris TV studio and it was still warm from lana del rey’s butt. was it her manager or a bodyguard or a personal assistant, who was the guy that stood guard outside the restroom door as i approached, only to see her scuttle out soon after, instantly recognisable, completely normal girl, surreal weird star? I looked into the cold dead eyes of David Letterman and survived. I mean, I grew up watching this guy, not quite a father figure but definitely an important man in my life when things got dark, as they do sometimes when you are 19 and an idiot. but he was dead inside, it wasn’t even despair i saw inside him, just emptiness. it shook me. Steve Martin mumbled in an elevator like an old man – I could have sworn he didn’t know how to operate a lift, and i imagined that someone just pointed him towards the set and he wandered on and snapped into the sharpest man in the building. Backstage, his bluegrass band were real old men with real bluegrassy instruments. they were ‘bona fide.’ During sound check Paul Shaffer looked at my keyboards and literally actually said “Hey man, You’ve got a cool setup” in that tremendous Shaffer drawl and then i was so completely stunned by his sudden appearance (and the utter unlikeliness of being in this situation) that I didn’t realise that he actually expected me to respond to him, in a manner resembling normal conversation. he disappeared in a puff of fabulous smoke, me punished for not being ready for this moment (this happened a lot to me, not being ready for these moments. I met Eric Wareheim but was too overcome by his sheer height and width, and the fact that some waif glamour woman hung off him like a hipster spider web caught in the wind stuck on a massive boulder, I couldn’t even articulate my enthusiasm for his comedy let alone attempt to speak to him like we were just two normal human beings.) I rode reindeer sleds with some hippie Sami shamans and then retreated to a tee pee with them where we cooked reindeer (not the same reindeer but it felt like it). I enjoyed lingonberries but failed to see the fabled Northern Lights. I karaoked with a Michael Bolton impersonator in Osaka – it was Wally that taught us that the key to nailing Bolton is to sing through clenched teeth. “How can we be lovers if we can’t be friends”. The captions for Peter Gabriel’s “Big Time” (of course we sang that) read “Big Time Success.” it seemed appropriate. On the SNL set I hugged and told Fred Armisen “I love you” as he struggled to extricate himself from my embrace. Every time I watch Portlandia now I feel like he’s still judging me. I’m sorry I hugged you Fred Armisen but it was one of your castmates who came up to me during the dress rehearsal and said “just hug everyone and smile! just pretend we’re your best friends!” they did seem friendly though, for the most part. although it got awkward when we stood next to tina fey in a corridor, she got her phone out and pretended to check her email, but i think we all knew that she just wanted to send a signal for us to not harass her. Soon after that we took a photo with Questlove but my mate cropped me out of the photo. “by accident.” Questlove himself was aloof. he had a camera crew following him so we all signed waivers so our images could be used for whatever it was being filmed. I looked it up later – we didn’t make the edit. Over the two years I befriended or was befriended by an impressive array of talented foreigners, many of whom I am now proud to call (Facebook) friends. I got to share a stage with a lot of my favourite bands, if by ‘sharing a stage’ you mean ‘played on a stage that they were on at another time earlier in the same evening’. But we laughed and played table tennis. I tweeted a lot. We had a juicer so I made cucumber juice. with bisongrass vodka. I made music, in hotel rooms and backstage areas mostly, none of it got finished, all of it was completely solitary despite the fact that i kept finding myself surrounded with the most adept and creative of musical colleagues. no collabs. i did end up in a recording studio in nashville with some new friends, and then we took a tour of Ben Folds’ studio which was across the hall. There were heaps of pianos. And I kept thinking “William Shatner has been here, William Shatner was here, and now I am here.” I went to Korea and Taiwan? Lisbon? Mexico City? Edmonton? I played the most famous xylophone part in the history of pop music a couple million times, and absolutely loved it every time. just an utter once in a lifetime rush, but every night. i even enjoyed that one time when I played it alongside Tina Arena and Tex Perkins, but don’t look it up on youtube because you’ll be scarred for life. I got better at table tennis but still never beat Lachlan, not once. I uncomfortably endured a surreal visit to Dubai. Its an uncomfortable place to be. I preferred Vegas because people’s suffering seemed less obvious. Elsewhere, in Japan, Cornelius gave me his business card and I almost died because he is basically my alltime ichiban hero. I still have his business card in my wallet and I probably will have it in there until I am dead. I do not even have a picture of my wife in my wallet. But I have Cornelius’ business card. At this point also, Tenniscoats asked me how Guy Blackman was doing – I said “good” but i didn’t really know. I assumed. People I have never met drew sketches of me and uploaded them to tumblrs. Chad Miller, the “mad chiller”, came on to the tour as our keyboard tech so ended up handling a lot of my stuff. he said that my stage fan (installed to keep me from overheating, a serious issue for me) was OK but it had nothing on what he had rigged up for Bey on a previous tour, it was all MIDI controlled or something. a fan blowing on Bey is an Event that needs to be intensely managed. I later learnt that Bey is short for Beyonce. Pat and I shared a secret moment that we will never ever ever speak of again. That same night, in Canada, some dancers (I hesitate to call them strippers because I don’t think its the accurate term) came into our band room from across the hall and asked if they could have our sushi plate and we said yes because boobs. Erlend Oye told me I “seemed Scandinavian,” in the back of a van in Singapore. I became increasingly skilled at Tiger Woods PGA Golf on the xbox. I watched Duran Duran’s tour manager play backgammon on the bus, and then he gave me property advice. He was one of the few men I’ve seen look completely at home – some would say smashing – in a white suit jacket. I got drunk. My brother and sister were there for a bit. I pressed buttons, a lot, a lot of buttons, buttons buttons buttons, in a lot of cities, in front of thousands of bemused onlookers. Always the buttons. I stayed in a Rajasthani palace in India, a hotel made entirely of ice in Sweden, an idyllic tequila-drenched resort in Mexico, and also Adelaide. We went on a Journey, and also, I almost forgot, this one time I ate a delicious fish pudding in Norway, the best fish pudding of my whole damn life. i wish i had that recipe, it was a bar called Pingvinen in Bergen, its probably not even that amazing a fish pudding but i think about it often. if you know someone who works at Pingvinen, hook a brother up. (that brother is me)

and now its 1am precisely, i’m home, i’ve put the girl to bed (strange new proto-human i just created, lives in my house, eats only milk), i start this blog to scratch an itch.

4 thoughts on “I shook hands with a guy from Metallica

  1. musoman says:

    Very entertaining Mr Shiel!! I read and understood almost every stoccatoic sentence. :) Keep these coming, and good luck with the little person.

  2. […] And his Midi-matser-man Tim Shiel tells us a story about touring with the Gotye crew and the ensuing shenanigans! […]

  3. Frank De Backer says:

    That was the longest paragraph I’ve read without the need for a second breath. Live on Deatherman section pure poetry.

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