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“We didn’t really have another band to point to and say, well, Sabbath is using it”: Metallica’s guitar tech on their switch to amp modellers 

“I have to hand it to James. He had the foresight to say, ‘Let’s try it. Maybe we’re the people to embrace it.’”

James Hetfield and Robert Trujillo on stage. Both hold on hand to the air and a dark, shadowy crowd is seen below them.

Image: Patricia De Melo Moreira / AFP via Getty

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Metallica’s guitar technician, Chad Zaemisch, has reflected on the band’s early transition to the world of digital. Back in 2013, the metal outfit introduced amp modellers into their setup at their Freeze ‘Em All concert in Antarctica.

Zaemisch has worked with the band for 20 years, and in a new interview he remembers how they were one of the first to make the move over to amp modellers, plus the joys and challenges of doing so.

Before Freeze ‘Em All, Zaemisch noticed issues with the way that their analogue gear was responding to low tunings. And when they were invited to play Carlini Base in Antarctica, they were told their large stacks of heads and cabinets were not permitted on the trip in order to protect the arctic wildlife.

And so, Fractal Audio’s Axe-Fx was introduced. “All of a sudden, these things that the band might only be able to do in the recording studio were now possible outside of the recording studio,” Zaemisch tells Guitar World. “An analogue amp responds differently to something that is tuned down, whereas the Axe-Fx can take whatever that information is and deal with it a lot better. It’s insane.

“Before, I needed two huge racks. I needed a main head and a spare head. Since James relies on two amp sounds, I needed another rack that had the other stuff, the other heads, like the Diezel heads that we used to use. I had another small rack that had the clean sound and the [Roland] JC-120 head. It was so much equipment.”

Following the show, the band were of course met with questions about their digital gear: “We didn’t really have another band to point to and say, well, Sabbath is using it, or the Scorpions are using it. I have to hand it to James. He had the foresight to say, ‘Let’s try it. Maybe we’re the people to embrace it.’ It’s been a cool journey,” says Zaemisch.

Metallica will continue their M72 global tour in support of album 72 Seasons next year. The tour sees the metal group playing “no repeat” weekends in each location, where two different setlists are played across two evenings.

View all of their 2024 live dates via the official Metallica website.

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