When Metallica announced its Hit the Stage contest, giving a band the chance to open up for them on their WorldWired tour, musicians across the country chomped at the bit to get a chance to play stadiums with the metal titans. At the end of the day, Chicago’s alternative rock duo Local H beat out the competition, which had been whittled down to eight other acts for the final vote.

Their win, narrowly beating out Dallas-based Mothership, was not without controversy. Local H had a small degree of success in the late ‘90s with the song “Bound for the Floor,” were signed to a major label and had opened for the likes of Stone Temple Pilots.

Local H frontman and guitarist Scott Lucas took the time to talk about the contest, the debate surrounding it, and most importantly, what this opportunity means to him.

When this all started, did you think Local H had a chance to land the spot?
Mmmm…no, because it was honestly kind of a mess when it started. I didn’t really know what it was. I was in New York with my girlfriend and I woke up and there was, like, a ton of texts and it was like, “What? What the f---?” So then it was, “Yeah, sure, we’ll open up for Metallica!” Then I was kinda like, “Is this a contest? What’s going on?” And then it just got to this point where it was like, thank you, it was nice that the people at the radio station thought we deserved this thing and tried to make it happen for us. So it wasn’t until much, much later that I actually thought it was gonna happen or that we had a shot – and that had everything to do with people that were supporting us. That kind of enthusiasm really made my head turn around.

At what point where you like, “This could happen?”
At first it was just us and a bunch of other local bands. I didn’t want to really compete with anybody; I didn’t want to get into mudslinging or anything like that. Then when it got down to the final eight, these other bands were beating us. These are bands that have records on Victory Records, they’ve got record deals, they’re going out on the Warped Tour, some of these bands have been to Europe more than we have – these weren’t bands that were just 15 year-olds. They weren’t bands that had just started yesterday and this was going to be their big break. Then I was a lot more comfortable with it.

Where were you when you found out you received the most votes?
We were just outside of D.C. and had played this place called Jammin’ Java and we went back the next night because Juliana Hatfield was playing and we decided to say hi. We got pretty drunk and smoked a lot of pot so we wouldn’t be nervous about the results. And we found out the next day.

Had you been a fan of Metallica? What’s your background with that?
Yeah! My background is putting those records on and hearing “Fight Fire with Fire” and going, “What the f--- is this?” Master of Puppets is one of my top five favorite records, and it’s one of those records that meant the most to me in the ‘80s and just the sound of James [Hetfield]’s voice and the guitars and the subject matter, the lyrics. This was a metal band that wasn’t singing s---ty songs about girls and misogyny, you know? These were songs about anti-war and songs about religion - there was s--- that was going on in these songs and it was a really big deal to me. So to even be here talking about this is f---ing crazy, because every time I talk about it I think of my little cassette copies of their records.

Have you ever met them before or shared the bill on festivals?
No, no, no…I’d seen them play a few times in high school and I saw them a few years ago [when Metallica played the Chicago-based Lollapalooza festival].

Was it a head trip for you when you heard Lars Ulrich make the announcement on the radio and he said he had been aware of Local H and had seen the video where you read the mean comments?
Yeah, that was nice. We were setting up for the show we were playing that night and listening to it on my phone. It was tough not to giggle, but yeah, it was pretty cool. To say they’re on a “different level” is so completely stupid to say, it’s such an understatement.

It’s legit like opening up for Led Zeppelin in the late ‘70s or something.
It really is. I mean, it really f---ing is. And that’s the thing I think about it and it’s the real thing – there’s no…we’re not peers in any universe. I was thinking about it the other day that this is like Zeppelin or something.

You addressed the detractors brilliantly in the video where you read the mean comments people were making, but what do you say to those who are legitimately like, “This band already had their chance, a charting single, let an up-and-coming act have their chance.”
I would say to that what I said earlier; it’s like, who did you have in mind? I guess you could say that the bands we beat out right away could be up-and-coming, but like I said, [the final eight] seem to have a lot going on. This whole idea of, “Get out of the way, grandpa” smacks of ageism to me, and I’m not saying we deserve it more than those other bands, but we don’t not deserve it. We’ve worked just as hard as any of those bands if not longer. We didn’t get this because of a song from the ‘90s -- that’s not what happened. We got this for everything we’ve done after that and our refusal to quit. I think if it were going to a bunch of 15 year-olds, that would’ve been a great story -- but that story wasn’t gonna happen.

Of course, there’s the flipside where your trajectory was screwed up by label upheaval, and you’ve been killing it ever since so this is a just reward.
I can’t tell you how many times people come up to me and say, “How come you don’t play Lollapalooza?” I’m like, “Look, if you know somebody, by all means pull some strings for us.” Bands that started three months ago have played Riot Fest and we still haven’t. I’ve got plenty of times where I’ve thought, “What about me?” and this is one of those times where somebody said, “Hey – you.” And I’m grateful for it.

Then of course there’s the people who say, “Local H isn’t even metal,” ignoring the fact that Metallica has taken Candlebox, the Cult, Days of the New ... Iggy Pop just opened for them in Mexico and he’s badass as all hell but not metal. Is that pretty much your answer to them?
Here’s the other thing; when Metallica came out on the scene, what was metal was absolute bulls---. I remember seeing them play right next to Dokken, and I think they were below them on the bill, and just blowing them the f--- out. To me they were almost punk rock; they were showing up with jeans on and concert t-shirts – they looked exactly like me and my friends. So if they were metal, then I’m metal. This whole idea of what metal is and what metal isn’t? Just come to the show and listen to my guitar tone and listen my vocals and listen to [Ryan Harding] beat the s--- out of the drums.

Local H has always had an incredibly dedicated fanbase; with them there is a line of thought where they want you to succeed and get well-deserved recognition, so for them there’s got to be some major validation.
That would be an interesting article to see what they had to say. For me, it’s hard to admit you deserve something like that. There’s this thing where you like a band and are like, “It’s like this band gets me,” they hear a song and thing that. Sometimes I look at the fans comments and I see what they say and I’m kinda like, “These guys get me.”

The shows themselves, what are you most looking forward to?
Trying to convince Metallica to play “Escape.”

You know James hates that song.
Does he?

I think he just think it’s too poppy or too mainstream.
Well that’s probably why I like it, because I’m a p---- alt-rocker.

At the end of the day, what do you hope to get out of the experience?
I’ve already gotten it. You can doubt it, but this feeling, a validation that doesn’t come from anything commercial; you almost feel like it doesn’t even come from the music; just something you put out there that people responded to, and they responded to it in a way that you don’t normally see. Just the reaction from people is something that I couldn’t even imagine. The main thing I got out of this is how much people cared – and it really affected me. I felt like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life…all these people showed up with these envelopes of cash and they totally bailed me out.

Metallica Worldwired Tour Dates with Local H

05/19 – Foxborough, MA – Gillette Stadium (also with Volbeat)
06/04 – St. Louis, MO – Busch Stadium (also with Volbeat)
06/14 – San Antonio, TX – Alamodome (also with Avenged Sevenfold)
06/16 – Dallas, TX – AT&T Stadium (also with Avenged Sevenfold)
06/18 – Chicago, IL – Soldier Field (also with Avenged Sevenfold)

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