Beatallica is one of Milwaukee's longest-running musical gags. But the thing is, if you've seen the band or heard one of its three CDs, you know that the concept - that of marrying the music and style of the Beatles with the music and style of Metallica - is a winner and that it takes a lot of skill, humor and cojones to make it work.
Despite an early brush with Sony Music, which threatened the band with a cease and desist order (Metallica quickly came to the band's aid), Beatallica -- comprising a number of veteran local musicians (in disguise) -- has not only endured, it has been signed by a national label with international distribution and is about to release a new CD.
"Masterful Mystery Tour" has 12 more slices of Mersey Beat Metal, including "The Battery of Jaymz and Yoko," "I Want to Choke Your Band" and the first single "Hero of the Day Tripper."
As the band prepares for its July 31 CD release show at Liquor Sweets, 3000 S. 13th St., with Chief and Philo Beddoe, we asked frontman Jaymz Lennfield for a State of the Band update.
OnMilwaukee.com: How does it feel in Beatallica these days? Does the concept still flow easily or do you have to work a little harder to work it?
Jaymz Lennfield: Like any songwriting band, some things regarding songwriting get more difficult the longer you are together. You always want to one-up yourself. A band should always be trying to compose the best material possible; make it interesting, but not too self-indulgent. With Beatallica, we really have to be careful to not be lax in what we mash-up. The songs need to sound natural together and seamless when it comes to transitions. It's almost like striving to be Machiavellian; make it seem like the impossible is sort of easy to do ... when in all likelihood, it's really not.
The concepts are plentiful for us as we have good composers in the band. But, eventually, the music is the master. I don't think a song is ever finished. Even some of the older songs on this CD have undergone changes, either lyrically or musically. I'm sure there will be changes in minute details down the road. The listener who is really knowledgeable of both mashed-up sides will get the differences.
OMC: Can you tell us about the new guitarist Grg III?
JL: Grg III and I have known each other since our early crossover thrash days. I'm talking like late ‘80s here when we were both underage and just starting out. We've never played in a project together though ... until now. He's got a great Beatles knowledge, which is key for playing inflections and vocal presence. His down picking and alternate picking is spot on, due to his past. He has touring experience so he's withstood those mental rigors. And most of all, perhaps most importantly, he's fearless. Especially of fine cigars and scotches ... perfect!
OMC: How about the special guest, Diablo Mysterioso?
JL: Diablo Mysterioso is just that: a mysterious devil bastard who somehow snuck his way onto our CD. I guess the devil is in all of us, just a bit. But, unlike an LP, you can't play this CD backwards to uncover any masking. So, you get to hear the devil forwards. Maybe that means he's not the devil at all? I mean, c'mon, it's the devil and it's not played backwards? That's just not metal. So, if he's forwards, maybe he should be in Stryper. I think Mysterioso has a pair of yellow and black spandex, now that I think about it ... or maybe a listener could do some diligent Beatles research and find out just who Diablo Mysterioso is and originally was.
OMC: Is this hard rockin' music a good outlet for you considering most of the other music you make is considerably different?
JL: Any hard rockin' music is a good thing. Well, almost any hard rockin' music, I guess. But yeah, pigeonholing yourself and creativity does just the opposite. It stifles a person. I don't eat the same thing every day, though I would if it was Thai food, so why should anyone play the same thing all the time? Our band experience in other forms of music -- folk, world, Irish, punk -- helps this band grow.
OMC: Do you still have the attention -- good and bad -- of Metallica and Sony Music?
JL: We'll always have the eyes and ears of Sony and Metallica on us. Sony is our label partner in Japan and they are releasing the "Masterful" CD in August, as well. Plus, just with all the crazy licensing, it's a never-ending relationship. We don't aim for that to be a battle. The main struggles are with individual licensors of songs. Some of them can be a bit, uh, volatile. The legal, political and personal jive is something I find fascinating. We've definitely learned a lot about many different topics. I speak with someone in the Metallica camp pretty often, if not a band member himself. Got to hang with them on Beatallica's band birthday, April 1, in Paris; that was great. Good to catch up with those guys in person.
OMC: Where does Beatallica go from here?
JL: Well, we know all the good pubs in Germany and it appears we'll be visiting them again soon. Would love to hit Japan as well and that's being discussed. And then there's always the good ol' USA. We will have a new video out soon for "Hero of the Day Tripper." Expect a party, corniness and helmets with bones on them. Much is planned that I'm sure will come as a surprise to some (and seem) ridiculous to others. But, most of all, fun rock ‘n' roll by four guys who don't mind having alter egos and playing dress up.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.