When Metallica’s self-titled “Black Album” came out in 1991, if you squinted at the cover art, you could see both the band’s label and a leaping coiled snake like the one on the Gadsden flag. The band riffed on that idea on their tour for the album, opening up the area in front of the stage and calling it the “Snake Pit,” an enclosure for an elite group of fans and VIPs. And even after Metallica put out other albums, they continued using the Snake Pit at concerts.
In a new interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, drummer Lars Ulrich reveals that the idea for the intimate gold circle actually originated in the restaurant business.
“One of our managers back in New York in the late Eighties/early Nineties [had] the idea that when you would go to a restaurant that the best seat in the restaurant was actually not in the house — [it] was in the kitchen,” he says, as they walk around an empty stadium in Amsterdam before a concert. “So in crazy, cool restaurants, if you could somehow get into the kitchen and eat in the kitchen, you were in there where all the action was.
“So the idea that came out of that for that Snake Pit on the Black Album tour was basically to be in the middle of the stage,” he continues. “So we had a stage that was shaped like a diamond, and there were 30, 40 spots in the middle of that stage. Radio contest winners, friends, family, a few crazy metalheads from around the audience would end up in that snake pit, and they would be onstage with us. And then it morphed. Basically, for, I guess, 30 years now, the Snake Pit has been an integral part of at least a Metallica indoor show. And then in the stadiums when we’ve been playing outside, it’s been sort of this extension of the stage. You’ve seen it, but they’ve never been, like, crazy big. There’s been room for a couple of hundred here, a couple hundred there, whatever.”
Ulrich tells Lowe that the current iteration holds 900 to 1,200 people depending on the rules of the local fire marshal.
Metallica are currently touring Europe in support of their recent 72 Seasons album. They’ll kick off a North American leg of the tour in August. The band’s full interview with Lowe airs on Apple Music 1 on Thursday at apple.co/_Zane.