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The Surprising Connection Between Metallica And Billions

You might not think Showtime's hit finance industry drama "Billions" and the pioneering metal band Metallica have much in common. One's a TV show about rich guys who hate each other, and the other is a band of rich guys who hate each other (via the YouTube trailer for "Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster"). Okay, so maybe they do have a lot in common. But still, you don't think of hedge fund managers and federal attorneys as people who would listen to Metallica. Which makes the connection between Metallica and "Billions" even more surprising.

Even if you're a committed "Billions" fan, you may have forgotten that Metallica made a cameo appearance in one of the show's earliest episodes. In the Season 1 episode "Short Squeeze," hedge fund titan Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis) and a few of his old friends take a trip to Quebec to see Metallica's only North American concert of the year. Bobby is friends with the band's singer and guitarist James Hetfield and talks to him about his problems. Hetfield asks him if he's all right, and Bobby talks about his real feelings, how he's unable to unplug from his business for even a moment, and he wants to feel free. Bobby asks Hetfield how he does it, and he says he just plays (via YouTube). 

Then the band gives a private backstage performance of the "...And Justice for All" song "Harvester of Sorrow," which Vulture's Brian Tallerico thinks was chosen as a commentary on Bobby, who is himself a harvester of sorrow in the way his short positions profit off other people's misfortunes and that his need to dominate his opponents hurts people. You could say that for Axe, nothing else matters.

Enter Axeman

In an interview with Billboard, "Billions" co-creator Brian Koppelman – who worked as Metallica's A&R guy in the late '80s – explained that Metallica represents where Bobby Axelrod's blue-collar upbringing meets his current ultra-wealth. "We had heard stories about hedge funders taking their old friends on private planes to see their favorite band and it felt like Metallica just represented something great for guys of this age because it's a band that appeals to blue-collar listeners, but the band also appeals to the smartest, most highly educated people," he said. "It's a great cross-section and they're authentic, so it makes sense Axe would love them."

Co-creator David Levien added that the band was very generous with the time and access they gave the show and the scene where they play "Harvester of Sorrow" really was filmed in their backstage warm-up space about 40 minutes before they went on stage.

Metallica was all over the first season of "Billions." In the second episode, Axe wears a t-shirt printed with the "Master of Puppets" album cover to an important business meeting. If Metallica ever makes another appearance, it would be fun to have drummer and noted art collector Lars Ulrich (via The Independent) compete with Bobby at an art auction.