How Metallica Connects To HBO’s ‘Barry’
Barry wrapped its third season on HBO this week (don’t worry, no spoilers here), a season that featured the music of Metallica. And the connection between Bill Hader’s Emmy-winning dark comedy and the band from the Bay Area goes even deeper.
In the series premiere, which aired in March 2018, audiences saw an old-school Metallica poster hanging above the bed belonging to Hader’s Marine-turned-hitman-turned-actor antihero, Barry Berkman. In Season 3, Episode 5, he included a picture of Metallica in a collage he made for his ex, Sally (played by the great Sarah Goldberg), in a misguided attempt to better explain his troubled personality to her.
Barry co-creator Alec Berg accepted an invitation to join Speak N’ Destroy, my Metallica-themed podcast, where he talked about that Metallica poster, the inclusion of Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell” in a pivotal episode, and a very metal Napalm Death plot device in Silicon Valley, where Berg was showrunner alongside Mike Judge.
“Barry is kind of emotionally stunted and so we thought of him living alone in a small apartment,” the writer, director, and executive producer explained. “And having a poster tacked on the wall, as ‘art,’ felt very college dorm room. This is not a guy who is as mature as his years; he’s a little naïve; he hasn’t grown into the world.”
Berg spent a sizable portion of his formative years in Pasadena, where he used to see the guys from Van Halen around and caught early shows from future metal stars.
“I was in a band in sixth grade and our bass player said, ‘There are these local guys from South Pasadena High School called Armored Saint.’ [They were] one of the first live music experiences I had. I saw W.A.S.P., Ratt, Alcatrazz with Yngwie Malmsteen, a bunch of bands before they became massive.”
Metallica first blew Berg’s young mind during their Ride the Lightning era.
“I can [remember] vividly the first time I heard ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ on [radio station] KNAC,” he recalled. “I had a couple of friends who were into Venom and Slayer, but those were slightly too heavy; I wasn’t there yet. ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ was the heaviest song that I ever liked, up to that point. I went out and bought the album immediately. And then when Master of Puppets came out in 1986, I just went that much deeper. Master of Puppets was, to me, a perfect record.”
Heavy music is often cited by men and women of the military as a means of getting through rough times. The Barry production spoke to several Marines, who talked about the role things like weight-lifting and heavy music played in expelling post-firefight adrenaline from their systems. “It’s an outlet,” Berg said. “If you don’t have an outlet for all of that testosterone and rage, it comes out. That’s every pit at every concert. People go, ‘Oh, my God, it’s encouraging violence.’ But in an hour when the band gets off the stage, these guys are not going to [want] to fight. They’re too tired.”
In the free-flowing, extensive conversation, we also spoke about Berg's work on Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Silicon Valley; Mike Judge; Stephen Root; Larry David; Hader; Barry Season 4, and a lot more. Listen to the entire episode here.
Speak N’ Destroy is the first podcast featuring interviews about Metallica. Across more than 100 episodes and counting, previous guests include M. Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold), Robb Flynn (Machine Head), Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Rex Brown (Pantera), Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge), Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), Gary Holt (Exodus), Billy Duffy (The Cult), Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer), and Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth).