Even when Metallica’s quiet, they manage to make noise.
On a mid-January morning, in the middle of the longest respite from touring and recording the band had ever taken, Metallica issued a terse but emotional press release, in which bassist Jason Newsted announced his departure from the group because of “private and personal reasons and the physical damage I have done to myself over the years.” A few hours later, a source close to Metallica told Playboy that Newsted’s decision had capped a nine-and-a-half-hour band meeting the day before at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in San Francisco, the sequel to a similar marathon caucus a week earlier. Newsted’s resignation, the source said, had been “very well discussed” by the band.
In some ways, it was just the usual tumult for Metallica, who spent much of last year waging an assault—or, they might say, a counteroffensive—against Napster. The website drew an estimated 38 million users in its first 18 months by allowing fans to trade sound files without paying any tariff; in short, by providing free music. Metallica sued for alleged copyright infringement and racketeering, and on July 11, drummer Lars Ulrich—whose press campaign against Napster was full of typical bravado—testified against the website before the U.S. Senate.
Between politicking and press conferences, Metallica played music, too. I Disappear, a new song on the Mission Impossible: 2 soundtrack, was nominated for five MTV Video Music Awards. The band released S&M, a two-disc concert album recorded with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. They toured during the summer with Kid Rock, who handled some lead vocals when singer James Hetfield missed three shows because of a Jet Ski accident. Even VH1 embraced these one-time scourges, profiling the band in a particularly bloody Behind the Music. The year 2000, says bassist Jason Newsted, “was possibly the highest-profile year for Metallica ever.”
Of the thousands of bands that have crawled out of rehearsal garages into recording studios, only seven have sold more albums in the U.S. than Metallica has. Of those, two are long-gone legends (the Beatles and Led Zeppelin), and the others—Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones and Van Halen—are nostalgia acts, grandpas past their expiration dates or culturally inconsequential. Among rock’s most epic groups, only one—Metallica—is still touring, still vital and still not in need of Rogaine.
When Hetfield and Ulrich met in Los Angeles in the spring of 1981, united by an ad in a local rock magazine, they had little in common except a shared fanaticism for the most extreme mutations of rock. Lars’ father, Torben Ulrich, was a great Danish tennis player, a bohemian and a jazz fan; Lars’ godfather was jazz great Dexter Gordon. Lars had had a privileged, expansive childhood, full of travel and freedom. Hetfield, a product of a broken home headed by a father who followed the restrictive Christian Science religion, was working dead-end day jobs and had seen little outside of suburban LA. Ulrich and Hetfield relocated an early version of the band to San Francisco to secure the services of bass overlord Cliff Burton, and added guitarist Kirk Hammett, a Bay Area native who, like Hetfield, embraced loud rock as a refuge from teen misery.
The bands that inspired Metallica are pretty obscure, unless you know European thrash pioneers like Diamond Head and Blitzkrieg. But Metallica spread pure metal to the mainstream. They did it by touring with an almost demented determination, earning the nickname Alcohollica as they floated from town to town like marauding vodka Vikings. They did it by avoiding metal clichés (after discarding their spandex tights, that is) such as singing about chicks and sex, instead giving voice to raging, almost biblical parables about warfare and brutality. And they did it, beginning with 1991’s Metallica (also known as the Black Album, for its unadorned cover), by working with Bon Jovi producer Bob Rock to add experimentation and melodic appeal. Where he once vowed “volume higher than anything today” (on the band’s ear-blasting Kill ‘Em All debut), Hetfield began to expose the vulnerability that always lies under anger. On Enter Sandman, he sang about a child’s nighttime terrors, an allusion to his own convulsive youth. “Now I see the sun,” he sang hopefully on Unforgiven II. And Nothing Else Matters, a ballad, brought Metallica into territory they’d never explored: love and satisfaction.
We sent freelance writer Rob Tannenbaum to interview the last of the big rock bands. He found that although the band members were out of touch with one another during the hiatus, they were not out of one another’s minds. His report:
“I wasn’t surprised that Jason Newsted quit Metallica. Just two months earlier, I’d spent a day with each of the four, and I’ve never seen a band so quarrelsome and fractious. Most of the barbs were cloaked in humor—Newsted mocked Hetfield’s singing, Hetfield mocked Ulrich’s drumming, and Ulrich, whom I interviewed last, responded to several of Hetfield’s quotes with scorn.
“But genuine tension was evident in these interviews—the last ever to be conducted with this Metallica lineup—because they shared one trait: Each talked about his need for solitude. Paradoxically, this is a band of loners, and the conflict between unity and individuality was pretty clear. Because they weren’t speaking, I became a conduit of information. ‘How were Jason’s spirits?’ Kirk Hammett, 38, asked anxiously when we met at his home in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco, an haute Gothic mansion full of dark wood and crucifixes, with a stuffed two-headed sheep in the parlor. ‘And how was James?’
“Hetfield, 37, invited me to his house, behind a secured gate in a town less than an hour north of San Francisco. It seemed odd that he lived in notoriously mellow Marin County, but Hetfield set me straight about the neighborhood. ‘This is more a kind of Losertown,’ he said with a deep chuckle. ‘I’m more up for that vibe.’ The den where we talked felt like a rural lodge—above a fireplace, the walls were decorated with the heads of nine animals he’d killed, including a boar, an antelope and a 1,600-pound buffalo he took with four shots of a rifle. Hetfield, who earned the nickname Dr. No for his control of the band, often talks in animal metaphors, which shape his decidedly Darwinian perspective. ‘It’s a pretty difficult time for us right now,’ Hetfield said in a rare somber moment. But when his wife, Francesca, and three-year-old daughter, Cali, came into the room, the author of ‘Seek and Destroy’ jumped up and yelled, ‘Big hug!’
“When I met Lars Ulrich, 37, he was separated from his wife Skylar and their child, and was living in a downtown New York hotel suite while mixing an album by Systematic for his label, TMC. Ulrich is the band’s bustling businessman—as he ranted and scoffed, his cell phone rang constantly—as well as its emissary to nonmetal worlds: He’s friends with Matt Damon and Courtney Love and plays tennis with John McEnroe. Affectionately referred to as ‘The Danish Midget’ by some in the band’s circle, Ulrich somehow manages to be friendly and disputative at the same time, as though arguing were just another way of saying hello.
“The most unhappy Metallican was Newsted, 38, whom I met at a Marin County recording studio. Newsted, who joined the band after Cliff Burton died in a bus accident while the band toured Sweden in September 1986, was straining at Hetfield’s restrictions which kept him from releasing a solo album. He jokingly dismissed Hetfield’s singing, saying, ‘At least we call him a singer now, instead of a screamer or a shouter. Five or six years ago, they would have called him a shouter.’ Newsted gradually admitted that he felt ‘almost stifled’ in Metallica. But when I asked if he was unhappy enough to quit the band, he turned grave: ‘I would not leave Metallica for another band. If I ever happened to choose that path, I would do it to live my life, not depart to play in another band.’
“A source within the Metallica camp told me Newsted is ‘not 100 percent healthy, and has been playing in pain’—the bassist also told Playboy he would quit ‘when the day comes that I cannot perform’ with his accustomed ferocity. According to the source, Newsted (who declined further comment) said he might move to Montana and not touch a bass for two years, though it’s hard to imagine such inactivity from a guy who suffers anxiety attacks ‘if I even try to go six days without playing music with somebody.’ Newsted may have retired purely for health reasons, though the source admits that the bassist’s clash with Hetfield was ‘a precipitating factor.’
“Soon, Metallica will end their hiatus and return to the studio as a trio to record a new album. Metal bands aren’t supposed to evolve: AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Motorhead sounded basically the same on their first record as on their latest. But Metallica is motivated by ‘a fear of repetition,’ Ulrich told me, so it’ll be interesting to hear their next move. Then they’ll hire a new bassist and go back on the road, as loud as ever.”
Interview by Rob Tannenbaum
Playboy: You spent much of last year fighting Napster. Now it’s gone into business with BMG and is changing from a free service to a pay service. Is the threat over? Or will a similar site pop up?
Ulrich: There are all sorts of mini-Napsters out there. But Napster is successful because it’s Computer 101—with some of the other companies, the software becomes really complicated. And they’re not going to get out of the gate in the same way Napster did. Now everybody has their guard up. With every new technology some 19-year-old kid can come up with, somebody five minutes behind him can come up with a way of blocking it. It’s never going to go away. But I think it can get to a point where it becomes sort of a nuisance, comparable to, say, bootlegging and piracy.
Playboy: What did you accomplish by going after Napster?
Ulrich: What we’ve accomplished most is to bring an awareness to the American public. It turned into the first big issue of the 21st century. People seemed to be more passionate about it than the presidential thing. Obviously, this has been the fucking wake-up call of the millennium to everybody who has anything to do with intellectual property. There’s this whole circle of older ladies who create sewing patterns. All of a sudden, these sewing patterns are being stolen and traded on the Internet. And these little old ladies aren’t getting their royalties.
Playboy: So now Metallica is allied with a bunch of old ladies.
Ulrich: [Rolls his eyes] There’s your sound bite.
Playboy: Some of your fans took Napster’s side, instead of Metallica’s.
Hetfield: [Grins] Because they’re lazy bastards and they want everything for free. I think Napster won the press war. It hurt the fans’ perception of us—they see Metallica as some big bad guys who wanted to take their free stuff away. I like playing music because it’s a good living and I get satisfaction from it. But I can’t feed my family with satisfaction.
Playboy: So Napster damaged Metallica?
Hetfield: I don’t want it to read “Napster has damaged Metallica.” It’s pretty difficult to hurt us. They did damage to how Metallica fans perceive us.
Ulrich: I don’t agree. We’ve taken hits from day one: between haircuts and using Motley Crue–Bon Jovi producer Bob Rock, to headlining Lollapalooza to writing ballads to making records with a symphony orchestra. That’s part of being an instigator and a forerunner.
Playboy: Aside from his natural garrulousness, why did Lars become the band’s spokesman against Napster?
Hetfield: My wife and I were giving birth to a second child [son Castor, born May 2000]. And family is number one. So Lars had to run with the torch, and there were a few bad moves. You know, Lars can get really mouthy and be a snotty-nosed kid at times. I cringed at certain interviews: “Oh dude, don’t say that.”
Ulrich: I said some things that were borderline silly. When Limp Bizkit embraced Napster and took $2 million to play this “free tour”—it is possible to play free shows without taking sponsorship money, because we do that—I said it was total bullshit. I know a lot of people hate Fred Durst, but I think he’s really fucking talented. Me and Fred kissed and made up. When I open my mouth, most of the time something somewhat eloquent comes out, and once in a while I talk a bunch of fucking bullshit. I’m aware of that.
Playboy: What sort of things did the fans say to your face?
Hetfield: Some fans said, “Leave Napster alone, dude” —if they were suicidal [laughs]. But that was after “Metallica rocks, dude.” So you would turn your “thanks” into a “fuck you.” I’ve gotten into plenty of arguments with fans who just wanted to “discuss” it. This poor girl in Atlanta, I made her cry. She felt money was evil. Why don’t you go live in Canada or some socialist country?
Ulrich: If you’d stop being a Metallica fan because I won’t give you my music for free, then fuck you. I don’t want you to be a Metallica fan.
Hammett: I’m still shocked at the reaction people have. I thought it was so obvious: People are taking our music when they’re not supposed to, and we want to stop them. Computers make it seem like you’re not stealing, because all you’re doing is pressing a button. The bottom line is, stealing is not right.
Playboy: You guys pissed off a lot of people. On the Metallica Usenet group, there’s an ongoing thread called “Kirk and Lars are gay.”
Hammett: That just shows a total lack of creative juices. That’s like calling someone “fatso.”
Playboy: Maybe you were right on the merits. But it’s hard for people to sympathize with the rich.
Ulrich: Yeah, it is. So it becomes about “these greedy rock stars.” But understand, 80 million records later, I don’t know what the fuck to do with all the money I have. So now can we talk about what the real issue is? The real issue, for me, is choice. I want to choose what happens to my music. It’s pretty clear that the future is selling your music online. But common sense will tell you that you cannot do that if the guy next door is giving it away for free.
Playboy: When you started the campaign against Napster, did you know it would drag on so long?
Ulrich: Didn’t have the foggiest fucking idea, no. This whole Lars Ulrich–poster-boy-for-intellectual-property isn’t something I sought out.
Playboy: Were you surprised when you got booed onstage last September at the MTV Video Music Awards?
Ulrich: I was unaware of it while I was up there. I got offstage, and people were like, “Wow, you handled the booing really well.” I was like, “What booing?”
Playboy: That’s surprising, because you looked really uncomfortable.
Ulrich: I was kind of drunk. It was the worst awards show, hands down, that I’ve ever been to. I left, I went out to dinner with some friends and had some cocktails.
Playboy: When Napster creator Shawn Fanning came out in a Metallica T-shirt, they cut to you in the audience, and you looked aghast.
Ulrich: You have to understand, the whole thing was planned. They asked me to present an award to Shawn Fanning. The day before the show, Napster’s lawyers pulled him out of it. They thought I would do something rude or obnoxious to him. MTV asked, “Do you have any problem with him walking out in a Metallica T-shirt?” I was like, “Go for it.” I knew about all that—I was just pretending to be sleeping. I had my hand over my face, nodding off. It was sort of contrived.
Playboy: What would it take for you to drop your suit against Napster?
Ulrich: They have been inquisitive about trying to settle. The only thing we were after was getting our lawyers’ fees paid. And we believe they have the ability to block access to whatever band wants it blocked.
Hammett: Criticism is something we’ve always dealt with, since day one. When Kill ’Em All came out, there was nothing like it. When the second album came out, we had slow songs, for God’s sake! Even our fans fucking criticize us. We have bulletproof vests on when it comes to criticism. To tell the truth, we feed off of it.
Hetfield: Metallica loves to be hated.
Hammett: Love to be hated, absolutely. Even before we were in the band, we were outsiders—so that mentality sits really fine with us.
Playboy: Now that you’re superstars—not only on MTV but also on VH1—it’s easy to forget how unpopular you were at first.
Hetfield: When Lars and I hooked up, we liked a kind of music that was not accepted, especially in Los Angeles. We were fast and heavy. Everything about LA was short, catchy songs: Motley Crue, Ratt, Van Halen. And you had to have the look. The only look we had was ugly.
Playboy: Hey, but you were not immune to dressing LA style.
Hetfield: We had our battles with spandex, that’s for sure. You could show off your package. “Wear spandex, dude. It gets you chicks!” On the first tour through America, my spandex—— I fucking hate saying, “my spandex.” It’s a pretty evil phrase. They were wet from the night before, and I was drying them by the heater. A big hole melted right in the crotch. It was like, “They’re not real pants, are they? They’re like pantyhose.” I just opted to keep my jeans on, and that was the best thing that ever happened. Lars wore spandex up through the Black Album tour, though he might tell you different.
Ulrich: We were very much the outcasts in Los Angeles. The first year or so, it was pretty lonely.
Hetfield: We did some shows where if our girlfriends weren’t there, there’d be no one in the audience besides the bartender. Then a few diehard fans would follow us around, and they became crew members. “Maybe that guy wants to lug some gear around so I don’t have to.”
Playboy: Where did the medieval, Dungeons-and-Dragons theme on the early records come from?
Hetfield: Judas Priest was a band we all dug. “Oh, he writes about that. OK, then. That’s what you do to be metal.” Then it got into more, “Let’s write about what we do”: Whiplash, Hit the Lights and Seek and Destroy, which was just about smashing shit up. We worked at day jobs. After that, we’d throw parties, take the furniture out of the house and smash the joint. We smashed dressing rooms just because you were supposed to. Then you’d get the bill and go, “Whoa! I didn’t know Pete Townshend paid for his lamp!” Come back off the tour and you hadn’t made any money. You bought furniture for a bunch of promoters.
Hammett: We would drink day in and day out and hardly come up for air. People would be dropping like flies all around us, but we had the tolerance built up. Our reputation started to precede us. I can’t remember the Kill ’Em All for One tour—we used to start drinking at three or four in the afternoon.
Hetfield: Smashing dressing rooms was all booze related. The worst was A Day on the Green. A buddy and I, completely ripped on Jägermeister, got it into our heads that the deli tray and the fruit had to go through a little vent. “The vent is not big enough. Let’s make a hole!” The trailer was ruined. Bill Graham—R.I.P.—was the promoter. I was summoned to his office. Like, “I have to go see the principal now.” He said, “This attitude you have, I’ve had the same conversation with Sid Vicious and Keith Moon.” It was like, “Cool! Oh, wait—they’re dead. Not so cool. Maybe I should get my shit together.” I realized at that point there was more to being in a band than pissing people off and smashing shit up.
Playboy: James, what did you think of Lars after that first jam session?
Hetfield: Lars had a pretty crappy drum kit, with one cymbal. It kept falling over, and we’d have to stop, and he’d pick the fucking thing up. He really was not a good drummer. To this day, he is not Drummer of the Year. We all know that. When we were done jamming, it was, “What the fuck was that?” We stiffed him on the bill for the studio, too [laughs]. There were so many different things about him. His mannerisms, his looks, his accent, his attitude, his smell. He smelled—he smelled like Denmark, I guess. They have a different view on bathing. We use soap in America.
Ulrich: American kids, there was this sort of compulsive thing about four showers a day.
Playboy: Well, did you wash?
Ulrich: Often enough for me. OK?
Hetfield: We ate McDonald’s—he ate herring. He was from a different world. His father was famous. He was very well off. A rich, only child. Spoiled—that’s why he’s got his mouth. He knows what he wants, he goes for it and he’s gotten it his whole life.
Ulrich: I’m an only child. I come from about as liberal an upbringing as you can imagine. I traveled all over the world with my father. So, yes, James Hetfield and I come from incredibly different backgrounds. And as we grow older, we probably become more different.
Hetfield: He introduced me to a lot of different music. I spent a lot of my time at his house, listening to stuff. I couldn’t believe the size of his record collection—I could afford maybe one record a week, and he would come back from the store with 20. He bought Styx and REO Speedwagon, bands he’d heard of in Denmark. I would go, “What the fuck? Why did you buy Styx?”
Ulrich: I have an obsessive personality. When I become interested in something, I have to learn everything about it, whether it’s Danish chairs from the great modern era between 1950 and 1956, or Jean-Michel Basquiat, or Oasis. When I was nine years old, it was all about Deep Purple. I would spend all my time sitting outside their hotel in Copenhagen, waiting for Ritchie Blackmore to come out so I could follow him down the street.
Playboy: Since you love Denmark so much, why were you in LA?
Ulrich: I finished school in Denmark and moved to America to pursue a tennis career. We ended up in Newport Beach, which is like the snottiest fucking area of LA apart from Beverly Hills. There’s all these kids in their fucking pink Lacoste shirts, and I’m in my Iron Maiden T-shirts. I guess there was a hatred for all that, a bit of an alienation. James Hetfield was the king of alienation. So there was a bit of a brotherly thing that brought us together.
Playboy: How alienated was James when you met him?
Ulrich: I’d never met anybody that shy. He was really withdrawn, almost afraid of social contact. He also had a bad acne problem.
Hetfield: There wasn’t much to say, I guess. When I met Lars, my mother had just passed away. Everyone was the enemy back then. I wasn’t the best at talking—that came just from growing up in the environment I was in, kind of alienated. I was tired of explaining my religious situation. Once the band formed, I thought, I don’t have to talk anymore. Lars can say it all. Then no one really understood what the hell the songs were about [laughs].
Playboy: So, what was your religious situation?
Hetfield: I was raised as a Christian Scientist, which is a strange religion. The main rule is, God will fix everything. Your body is just a shell, you don’t need doctors. It was alienating and hard to understand. I couldn’t get a physical to play football. It was weird having to leave health class during school, and all the kids saying, “Why do you have to leave? Are you some kind of freak?” As a kid, you want to be part of the team. They’re always whispering about you and thinking you’re weird. That was very upsetting. My dad taught Sunday school—he was into it. It was pretty much forced upon me. We had these little testimonials, and there was a girl that had her arm broken. She stood up and said, “I broke my arm but now, look, it’s all better.” But it was just, like, mangled. Now that I think about it, it was pretty disturbing.
Playboy: Did you ever run away from home?
Hetfield: Once, me and my sister split. Our parents caught us about four blocks away. They spanked the shit out of us, pretty much.
Playboy: So do you believe in spanking your kids?
Hetfield: Spanking my friends, and their wives. Yeah, as a last resort. But with the spanking comes a huge explanation why.
Playboy: What was your parents’ relationship like?
Hetfield: It was my mom’s second marriage—I have two older half brothers. I didn’t really see any turmoil. They didn’t argue in front of the kids. Then Dad went on a “business trip”—for more than a few years, you know? I was beginning junior high. It was hidden, that he was gone. Finally, my mom said, “Dad is not coming back.” And that was pretty difficult. There were some bad times—my mom needed to be home when we kids were home, or I’d have killed my sister. We beat the living hell out of each other. I remember burning her with hot oil, and that was, “Wow, it went too far.” My mom worried a lot, and that made her sick. She hid it from us. All of a sudden, she’s in the hospital. Then all of a sudden, she’s gone. Cancer got her. We went and lived with my stepbrother Dave, who’s 10 years older. My sister was being unruly, and she got thrown out of the house. I finished high school, then, “See ya, everybody.”
Hammett: James comes from a broken home, and I come from a broken home, and when I joined the band, we kind of bonded over that. I was abused as a child. My dad drank a lot. He beat the shit out of me and my mom quite a bit. I got ahold of a guitar, and from the time I was 15, I rarely left my room. I remember having to pull my dad off my mom when he attacked her one time, during my 16th birthday—he turned on me and started slapping me around. Then my dad just left one day. My mom was struggling to support me and my sister. I’ve definitely channeled a lot of anger into the music.
I was also abused by my neighbor when I was like nine or 10. The guy was a sick fuck. He had sex with my dog, Tippy. I can laugh about it now—hell, I was laughing about it then.
Playboy: It does seem that heavy metal attracts a disproportionate number of people who’ve been abused.
Hammett: I think heavy metal is therapeutic—it’s music that blows the tension away. I think that’s why people who have had really bad childhoods are attracted to heavy metal. It allows people to release aggression and tension in a nonviolent way. Also, heavy metal has a community feeling—it brings outsiders together. Heavy metal seems to attract all sorts of scruffy, lost animals, strays no one wants.
Ulrich: I’ve always had issues with that, because I don’t feel I had major psychological damage in my life. Why is that limited to metal? If you go to an Elton John concert, people have the same emotional baggage. If you lined 10 Metallica fans up against the wall, you would get 10 different stories.
Playboy: And three of them would piss on the wall.
Ulrich: And one of them would knock his head against the wall, yeah. I’m not so comfortable embracing those types of clichés.
Playboy: At the beginning, did you consider any names other than Metallica?
Ulrich: We had a list of 20 possible names: Nixon, Helldriver, Blitzer. I was really keen on Thunderfuck.
Playboy: When did you start to draw female fans?
Hammett: Girls were always at the shows. It’s just that they didn’t look much different from the guys.
Ulrich: Girls would come on the bus and just blow the whole bus. Like, “OK, here’s two girls, everybody get in line.” People would say, “Eww, she just blew that other guy.…” So? You don’t have to put your tongue down her throat.
Hetfield: They enjoyed what they did. And, heh-heh, they were good at it. Back then, we all shared stuff. “I did her. Dude, here! Have my chick.” Lars would charm them, talk his way into their pants. Kirk had a baby face that was appealing to the girls. And Cliff—he had a big dick. Word got around about that, I guess.
Ulrich: We used to have this thing called tough tarts—it was fucking great. We’d come offstage and there’d be like 10 naked girls in the showers.
Hammett: I couldn’t figure out why all of a sudden I was handsome. Did I wake up looking different? A fat bank account will make you look handsome. No one had ever treated me like that before in my life.
Playboy: Who was the biggest slut in the band?
Ulrich: We all had some pretty slutty moments. I don’t think there’s anybody in this band who hasn’t had crabs a couple of times, or the occasional drip-dick.
Playboy: What do you remember about the night Cliff Burton died?
Hetfield: I remember getting awakened with shit flying all over the place. I busted out the emergency window in my underwear, 20 degrees, and Cliff was missing. I remember seeing his legs sticking out from under the bus. He had the whitest, skinniest legs. I knew he was gone then. The bus was right on him. We were all in the hospital, and our tour manager said, “Let’s get the band together and go.” When he said the word band—it wasn’t the right word. “Shit, we’re not a band anymore.” We went to the bottle and started drinking.
Hammett: Cliff was a very smart guy, a reader, very eloquent. I just don’t understand why he went, and not one of us.
Newsted: Cliff Burton was my god. He was the guru. I mean, no one before him and no one since him has played like that. People have copied him, but nobody ever had his feel or his prowess.
Playboy: So you were a big fan back in Arizona?
Newsted: Metallica was the hugest influence for my band, Flotsam and Jetsam. We played mostly around Arizona, at clubs and for desert parties.
Playboy: What is a desert party?
Newsted: You borrow from your parents, put together 80 or 120 bucks, and rent a generator for the day. Get some tables from the high school to make a stage, and you rent a fog machine. You get some dudes to buy a keg, and you say, “Once people come, you’re going to give us 40 bucks.” You get the U-Haul stuck in the ditch, pull out some of the tables, put them under the tires and smash ‘em up to get the truck out. The dudes that are buying the keg are already drinking. It’s one o’clock in the afternoon. They’ve got .44 magnums on their sides. In Arizona, if you have your gun showing, you can wear what you want. Drunk as fuck already, and you find out that they robbed a Safeway last night. “Oh yeah, we’re going to get money out of these guys.” Then set up and play for an hour or two and the Scottsdale cops come out and bust everything up and that’s the end of it. I didn’t make any money playing until I joined Metallica. The most I remember making—for what we thought was a huge gig—was $26 between five of us.
Playboy: Do you ever miss that?
Newsted: I miss being grimy. I miss the hunger. I miss the excitement of taking off work early to set up the gear at the club. And seven people show up but you still play like there are 700. There was a Burger King right across from the main club we played—we took down a mountain of 29-cent burgers. Happy about it! “I’m going to get a Coke.” “No, man, that’s two more burgers! Fuck that! We’ll steal beer from a back room, dude.” Because otherwise it’d be boiled potatoes with ketchup stolen from Burger King.
Playboy: Had you seen Metallica while Cliff was alive?
Newsted: Yes. In Phoenix, with Wasp, before Master of Puppets came out. Front row. Right in front of Cliff Burton, worshiping. Drooling. Banging madly. Fourteen bucks for a shirt, which was all the money in the world at that time. We only went to see Metallica. As soon as Metallica was done, we walked out. They just crushed it, and we knew everything they did by heart.
Playboy: How did you hear he’d died?
Newsted: A friend woke me up at six in the morning. He said, “You’ve got to get the paper, dude.” I remember tears hitting the paper and watching them soak into the print. We wore black armbands when we played our next gigs.
Playboy: After you heard Cliff was dead, how long before you started to think, Hmm, Metallica is going to need a new bass player?
Newsted: I daydreamed that day. Just like, What if, what if, what if?
Playboy: They brought you to San Francisco for an audition. Were you nervous?
Newsted: That whole week, I didn’t sleep. I might have lain down a couple of times. For five days I stayed up and played as long as I could. Blisters on blisters broke. When I could feel the nerve inside as I played the string, I stopped for a little while. A couple of my friends got together some money to pay for a $140 plane ticket to go do my audition.
Playboy: Pretty cheap that they didn’t pay your airfare. Were they tough on the people who were auditioning?
Newsted: One guy comes in, he’s got his bass signed by the guy from Quiet Riot or something. And James just goes, “Next!” Like that, before the guy even got to plug in. Guys were, like, crushed.
Playboy: Tell me about the first year with them.
Newsted: Hazing. And a lot of emotional tests.
Hetfield: We were mourning through anger. “You’re here instead of Cliff, so here’s what you get.” It was therapy for us.
Newsted: One time, it’s four in the morning, they’re hammered and knocking on my hotel door when we were in New York. “Get up, fucker! It’s time to drink! Pussy!” You know? “You’re in Metallica now! You better open that fucking door!” They kept pounding. Kaboom! The door frame shreds, and the door comes flying in. And they go, “You should have answered the door, bitch!” They grab the mattress and flip it over with me on it. They put the chairs, the desk, the TV stand—everything in the room—on top of the mattress. They threw my clothes, my cassette tapes, my shoes out the window. Shaving cream all over the mirrors, toothpaste everywhere. Just devastation. They go running out the door, “Welcome to the band, dude!”
Playboy: Did you know they were telling people you were gay?
Newsted: No. I mean, dude, there was so much, that’s like a minor detail.
Playboy: Why did they do that and why did you put up with it?
Newsted: Because it was Metallica, it was my dream come true, man. I was definitely frustrated, fed up and kind of feeling unliked. They did it to see if I could handle it. If you’re going to fill the shoes of Cliff Burton, you have to be resilient.
Playboy: OK, guys, who was the biggest drinker in Alcohollica?
Hammett: James. He would drink half a bottle of Jägermeister by himself, as well as drinking vodka.
Ulrich: James Hetfield. If me and James started drinking at the same time, six hours of hard liquor later, I would be passed out. For quite a while, he was embracing alcohol at a different level from the rest of us.
Hetfield: I was. I had to have a bottle of vodka just to have fun. I’m surprised I’m still alive.
Newsted: That’s a tough call. Fist for fist, I think Lars. He can take it to a different place, because he’s Danish. They get conditioned real early.
Ulrich: [Laughs] I had much more of the binge mentality; I’d go every night for three days, then I wouldn’t touch a drop for the next four.
Newsted: James is the only one that ever drank so much he couldn’t show up for a rehearsal or for photos. He is the only one who ever actually poisoned himself.
Hammett: Jason’s not so much of a drinker as the rest of us are. He likes to smoke pot.
Playboy: People who like fast music usually like fast drugs. Did the band get into speed?
Hammett: Speed is a bad word in our camp. But speed freaks love us.
Ulrich: James is the only one who never really engaged in any kind of drug abuse. Me, Jason, Kirk and Cliff were always experimenting with different things to a higher degree.
Hammett: Cocaine has definitely been in our lives. You hang out with other musicians, and next thing you know, you have five guys crammed into a bathroom stall. I had a bad coke problem on the And Justice for All tour, but I pulled out of that, because it makes me depressed, basically. I tried smack once. I was so thankful that I hated it.
Ulrich: I tried acid once; I was shit-fucking scared. The only drug I’ve ever really engaged in is cocaine. It gave me another couple of hours of drinking. A lot of people use it as a way to get closer to you, and you fall for that. I go through cycles where I say, “OK, I’m going to pull away for a while.” And then I take six months away.
Playboy: Jason, as time went on, did the band stop hazing you?
Newsted: They actually got tougher as time went on. The second and third years were the most brutal. Instead of fraternity pranks, there were things that cut deep and were based on disrespect.
Playboy: What did they do that was disrespectful?
Newsted: Turning the bass down on And Justice for All. Not listening to my ideas, musically.
Playboy: Is Jason even on And Justice for All?
Hetfield: His picture is on it [big laugh]. Someone sent me a joke CD, with a sticker on the outside that says, “And Justice for All—now with bass!”
Ulrich: It’s the only record of ours that I’m not entirely comfortable with. It became about ability and almost athletics, rather than music.
Playboy: Bands are usually like families, and it sounds like this family fights a whole lot.
Hammett: There are a lot of soap operas and petty dramas that come with being in this band. I find myself playing referee. I’ve been the buffer between James and Lars, I’ve been the buffer between Lars and Jason.
Hetfield: Lars’ name keeps getting brought up, doesn’t it? [laughs] He’s usually the instigator, with his mouth. He can be a real ass at times, and pull attitudes. I punched him onstage once—probably our third gig ever. We agreed we were going to play Let It Loose for our encore, and he went up there and started a different song, Killing Time, because it started with drums. I turned back: “You motherfucker!” I couldn’t remember the lyrics, it was a complete failure.
Ulrich: I started the song I wanted to play. I don’t remember why—maybe I felt it was a more suitable encore. And then he punched me.
Hetfield: I remember throwing him into his drum kit a couple of times, throwing some cymbals, cutting his head open.
Ulrich: I’ve gotten into a couple of fights with Jason.
Hammett: I’ve never hit anyone in the band. I practice a lot of yoga now, and read a lot of Eastern philosophy. I’m a huge believer in karma: no meat, no beef, no swine, no fowl.
Hetfield: I’m definitely not the smartest guy in the band, so winning an intellectual argument is not going to happen. Resorting to violence used to work. And intimidation.
Hammett: When James comes at you screaming, he can be intimidating.
Playboy: A lot of bad things have happened to Metallica. Does that mean the band has bad karma?
Hammett: Quite possibly. Goddamn it, we’ve been through a lot of things. It has to be karma. I don’t know if it’s the energy our songs release. People channel the energy of our music—90 percent of the time it’s good, but maybe 10 percent of the time it’s bad. I’ve heard stories of skinheads listening to our music and fucking tattooing song titles on their arms with big swastikas underneath. Maybe it’s just personal karma. Maybe the reason James has had so many accidents is because of his own personal karma, and it affects the band.
Playboy: How would you describe the change that came after And Justice for All, starting with the Black Album?
Ulrich: The earlier records were about brute force, stuff like that. As James became more comfortable, elements of vulnerability and confusion came across, with less banging-on-the-chest type of stuff. Instead of “It’s fucked up and I’m going to kill everything in my wake,” it was more like, “It’s fucked up and I’m really suffering from it.”
Hetfield: On the Black Album, when I went to write lyrics, I didn’t know what the fuck to write about. I was trying to write lyrics that the band could stand behind—but we are four completely different individuals. So the only way to go was in.
Playboy: Of all the stuff you wrote, James, what was the song you most hesitated over recording?
Hetfield: Nothing Else Matters. That was a huge turning point. It was sensitive.
Playboy: In theme, Nothing Else Matters is kind of like the Styx song Babe.
Hetfield: Fuck you. Fuck you very much [smiles]. I didn’t think the band would like it. But they were really supportive about it.
Hammett: All I could think of at the time was, James wrote a fucking love song to his girlfriend? That’s just weird.
Newsted: At first, it didn’t sound very much like Metallica to me. I like the fast, heavy stuff. I don’t think Metallica should do country. We came pretty close to it on Mama Said (from Load). I don’t think that tasted very good to me.
Hammett: James always wants to be perceived as this guy who is very confident and strong. And for him to write lyrics like that—showing a sensitive side—took a lot of balls.
Lars, Jason and I were going through divorces. I was an emotional wreck. I was trying to take those feelings of guilt and failure and channel them into the music, to get something positive out of it. Jason and Lars were too, and I think that has a lot to do with why the Black Album sounds the way it does.
Playboy: Before, you had been one of the more popular heavy metal bands. But with the Black Album, you became mainstream.
Newsted: Once we hit MTV, better-looking girls started coming to the shows. Just overnight.
Hammett: It sounds like a cliché but girls like melody, they like soft, pretty songs. And if that’s what it took to bring them into our little trap, more power to it.
Playboy: Do you think——
Hetfield: No. I like to not think.
Playboy: Only a few albums have sold more than 10 million copies. Do you think the Black Album is the band’s best record?
Hetfield: There are some songs on there I don’t like. Through the Never was a little wacky. Don’t Tread on Me, probably not one of my favorite songs musically. Holier Than Thou was one of the sillier songs, more the old style of writing.
Playboy: When Load came out next, you guys had short hair and were wearing makeup and trendy clothes. It was quite a change from the denim and mullets.
Hammett: It was just a phase. It was the zeitgeist of the moment. Who knows? We might do something even more extreme in the future.
Playboy: Like Hetfield in a dress?
Hammett: I think that would be extreme [laughs].
Hetfield: I let Lars and Kirk take over a little on the image front. I really don’t like looking at it now. Our fans go, “What happened to Metallica, the rebel, longhair, greasy-biker, fuck-you band?” Now it was U2 or Stone Temple Pilots, or some band relying on an image. What the fuck did we need that for? That was just stupid. Jason and I were really not into it—Kirk and Lars were gung ho. You either laugh about it or you get wound up. I’m doing both, actually.
Playboy: You guys were kind of handsome without the mullets.
Hetfield: Come on! Mullets rule. Dude, I wanted to have long hair and short hair at the same time.
Hammett: I never had a mullet, OK?
Newsted: I’m not going to fess to the mullet for more than like three months in 1987.
Ulrich: It was probably only James who had a mullet.
Playboy: Well, it sure looks like a mullet you’re wearing on the inner sleeve of Garage Inc., Lars. What if James grew back his mullet?
Hammett: If he does, I’m going to dye my hair pink. “You can have a funny haircut? So can I!”
Playboy: James, you’re progun and pro-environment. Did you vote for Al Gore?
Hetfield: No. I’m afraid of someone taking my guns away.
Playboy: Then did you vote for Bush?
Hetfield: No. You have to go into the city to vote. So I’m not going to vote.
Playboy: You describe drinking and performing as therapeutic. Have you ever been in real therapy?
Hetfield: [Nods] Around the time of Load, I felt I wanted to stop drinking. “Maybe I’m missing out on something. Everyone else seems so happy all the time. I want to get happy.” I’d plan my life around a hangover: “The Misfits are playing in town Friday night, so Saturday is hangover day.” I lost a lot of days in my life. Going to therapy for a year, I learned a lot about myself. There’s a lot of things that scar you when you’re growing up, you don’t know why. The song Bleeding Me (on Load) is about that: I was trying to bleed out all the bad, get the evil out. While I was going through therapy, I discovered some ugly stuff in there. A dark spot.
Playboy: So did the biggest drinker in Alcohollica stop drinking?
Hetfield: I took more than a year off from drinking—and the skies didn’t part. It was just life, but less fun. The evil didn’t come out. I wasn’t laughing, wasn’t having a good time. I realized, drinking is a part of me. Now I know how far to go. You can’t be hungover when you got kids, man. “Dad, get the fuck off the couch!” Well, they don’t say that—yet.
Playboy: Did you ever go to AA?
Hetfield: I wouldn’t say I’m an alcoholic—but then, you know, alcoholics say they’re not alcoholics.
Playboy: By then, you were spending more time with your father. How did that go?
Hetfield: It started off really bad. Very mad at him for making the family the way it was. It was never a real father-son kind of thing again.
Hammett: James used to be a raging, out-of-control drunk, always fighting, always getting into trouble. He’s a lot more patient now. I think a lot of that had to do with the passing of his father [in 1996, during the Load tour]. After that, he was just a lot more appreciative, thoughtful and compassionate.
Playboy: James strikes us as kind of an enlightened redneck.
Hammett: I’ll agree with that 100 percent. He lives a certain lifestyle that’s easy to poke fun at: He lives out in the country, drinks a lot of beer, has a bunch of guns, goes hunting.
Hetfield: I eat vegetables, too, man. They’re just too easy to kill. Carrots don’t get a chance to run. I think animals are there for us. We’re on top of the food chain.
Playboy: Maybe you should have a hunting trip with one of those bands that supports PETA, like the Indigo Girls.
Hetfield: Which one should I kill first? Oh, them hunting with me?
Playboy: Are you uncomfortable with the degree of homophobia in metal?
Ulrich: Totally. Ultimately, why do me and Kirk stick our tongues down each other’s throats once in a while in front of the camera? The metal world needs to be fucked with as much as possible. When the band started, everybody would sit around proving their heterosexuality by gay-bashing and stuff like that. Like, “Oh, fucking faggot.” Does that elevate you to some greater he-man status? I never understood that.
Playboy: We’ve heard James use the word fag jokingly. Does that mean he’s homophobic?
Hammett: Um, probably. James hasn’t had a lot of experience with gay people, and that’s a large reason for being homophobic. He needs to be enlightened in that area.
Ulrich: I know he’s homophobic. Let there be no question about that. I think homophobia is questioning your sexuality and not being comfortable with it.
Playboy: For the first time in years, there are a lot of metal bands on top of the charts. Most of them are pretty bad, aren’t they?
Hammett: There’s a lot of fucking crap. A lot of regurgitated stuff, too. That Papa Roach song (Last Resort), the main riff is from a fucking Iron Maiden song called Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Hetfield: Limp Bizkit seems a little cartoony to me. I don’t like some guy just yelling. Like Rage Against the Machine—it wasn’t singing, it was just some guy kind of pissed off, telling you his opinion.
Hammett: To me, Limp Bizkit sounds like a second-rate Korn. Korn has a much better vocalist who is somewhat intelligent. A lot of these bands get the right ingredients, the right formula, and—voilá—they have a metal band. A band like Godsmack is just a cross between Metallica and Alice in Chains, with a bit of Korn thrown in.
Hetfield: Queens of the Stone Age is unique. This band Rocket From the Crypt makes me feel good.
Playboy: Three of you are married, two of you have kids. What has changed?
Newsted: Five years ago, the band took priority over all other things. Now, families come first. I understand that. A family is more important. I’m the only one who’s not married, and music still plays the biggest part in my life. I mean, Black Sabbath is my number one band of all time, but Metallica has done more for metal. Metallica is the biggest heavy metal band there has ever been. I want to keep that strong. But Metallica is only one part of my musical life, OK? Those guys will be happy taking six months away from the music. They have other things on their minds. If I even try to go six days without playing with somebody, I have anxiety-type things happen.
Playboy: It sounds like this sabbatical is frustrating to you.
Newsted: Yes. James and Lars started this thing together. They came through all of the hardships. And they have serious, written-in-stone feelings about the band, about how it needs to be run. That’s very, very hard to swallow sometimes. I guess our understanding is that we don’t want to be like other bands, where people go off and do side projects. I have made some incredibly wonderful music with other musicians. It would just floor people—it has floored people. But I just can’t release it.
Playboy: James and Lars won’t let you?
Newsted: It’s not Lars.
Hetfield: We just disagree about side projects. Fans have always viewed Metallica as something they can rely on: We’re always there, always strong, and that’s a band. We’ve been the same guys since day one, essentially. The only way you can get out of this band is if you die. When you say Metallica, you know who that is: Lars, James, Kirk and—uh, what’s that guy? Jason [laughs]. When someone does a side project, it takes away from the strength of Metallica. So there is a little ugliness lately. And it shouldn’t be discussed in the press.
Newsted: James Hetfield is the heart and soul and pride of Metallica, the protector of the name. I’m not out to disrespect him.
Playboy: But he could respect you by letting you release the album?
Newsted: We’re getting really close to some things we shouldn’t be talking about. I would like him to see that this music is truly a part of me, like his child is a part of him.
Playboy: What did James say when you told him that you wanted to release the album?
Newsted: I won’t go there. We have to change the subject.
Hetfield: Where would it end? Does he start touring with it? Does he sell shirts? Is it his band? That’s the part I don’t like. It’s like cheating on your wife in a way. We’re all married to Metallica. Married to each other.
Playboy: So what is Jason supposed to do during the hiatus?
Hetfield: I don’t fucking know. I’m not his travel agent.
Hammett: I just hope we can survive this in one piece without tearing each other’s fucking throats out.
Playboy: Lars, do you think that Jason should be able to release his album?
Ulrich: I wouldn’t be able to look him in the eye and go, “You can’t put that record out.” That’s not who I am as a person. That’s pretty much all I have to say. I just can’t get caught up in these meltdowns. I’ve got some issues in my family life, with my wife, that are a little more weighty than, like, whatever James Hetfield and Jason Newsted are bickering over.
Playboy: What if Jason were to put it out anyway?
Hetfield: I don’t know. It would disappoint me a lot.
Playboy: How is the record?
Hammett: It’s a great album.
Ulrich: It’s a nice record, very bluesy, like a poppier version of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s stuff.
Hetfield: It’s respectable.
Hammett: I’ve spoken with Jason for hours on end. I’m upset for him. James demands loyalty and unity, and I respect that, but I don’t think he realizes the sequence of events he’s putting into play. Jason eats, sleeps and breathes music. I think it’s morally wrong to keep someone away from what keeps him happy. That album will always be available in some format—whether it’s on Napster or in stores, people are going to hear it.
Playboy: Wouldn’t it be funny if Jason released his album on Napster?
Hammett: It would be fucking ironic as shit.
Hetfield: I don’t mind being looked at as the asshole in the band. Well, within the band. As long as the fans think Lars is the asshole, that’s fine [laughs].
Newsted: James is on quite a few records: In the South Park movie, when Kenny goes to hell, James is singing, and he’s on just about every Corrosion of Conformity album. That’s a shot at him, but I’m going to keep it. I can’t play my shit, but he can go play with other people.
Hetfield: My name isn’t on those records. And I’m not out trying to sell them.
Playboy: You want loyalty and unity in the band, but if you’re too much of a dictator, you can end up losing band members. We’ve got three words for you: Guns n’ Roses.
Hetfield: Those are three ugly words [laughs]. They were a prime example of egos out of hand. We’re definitely not in a Guns n’ Roses situation. It would never get like that. I’d kill us all before that happened.
Playboy: It’s three against one here: You’re the only one against letting Jason release his record. Can this conflict be worked out?
Hetfield: Some of us are just going to have to bend a little.
Playboy: Or bend over.
Hetfield: My back hurts, so it won’t be me.
Playboy: Do all these conflicts actually help the band?
Ulrich: You’ve used the word conflict a lot in the last 15 minutes. Ultimately, we have a love and respect for each other that supersedes the bickering. The key thing is, we’re fucking still here. And we’re the only ones that are still here. For whatever conflicts you keep talking about, we still find a way to exist as a working unit, and pretty much at the drop of a dime go onstage and kick everybody else’s ass.
Playboy: Is this just the usual tension within Metallica, or is it worse now?
Ulrich: That’s a great question. It’s an interesting time to interview the four of us separately. You’re hearing people get things off their chest—almost using you as the middleman. Like, James and Jason won’t call each other, so they’re having a conversation through you.
Playboy: You and James haven’t talked, either.
Ulrich: I haven’t spoken to him for a while, that’s true.
Hetfield: He hasn’t called me. I’m sure he’ll say I haven’t called him.
Ulrich: It’s a little bit of the rock star stubbornness. Like, “He’s not calling me, so I’m not going to call him. Fuck him.”
Hetfield: We both need time away; me and that fucking guy have been together for 20 years, man. It’s an extreme love-hate thing, you know?
Ulrich: We’ve been in this scenario a hundred times before. On the road sometimes, we don’t speak to each other for a week. Me and James Hetfield are the two most opposite people on this planet.
Playboy: Your wife, Skylar, used to date Matt Damon, and he made her the model for the female lead in Good Will Hunting. A few years ago, Matt described you as “a fucking rock star who’s got $80 million and his own jet—a bad rock star, too.”
Ulrich: He said that before we met. And he’s apologized about a hundred times. The first five times I saw him, he would spend 10 minutes apologizing profusely. He really is a sweetheart.
Playboy: And you’re an art collector, which is an unusual hobby for a metal drummer. What schools do you collect?
Ulrich: Abstract expressionism, the Cobra movement, art brut. I own a lot of Basquiat, a lot of Dubuffet, a lot of de Kooning. I have the best collection of Asger Jorn on this planet. I have what is universally considered as one of the two greatest Basquiat paintings; I spent a year and a half chasing it down. Hanging out backstage with Kid Rock is an amazing turn-on, no less so than sitting and staring at my Dubuffet for an hour with a fucking gin and tonic.
Playboy: Tell us about the summer 1992 tour with Guns n’ Roses, when a pyrotechnic explosion set you on fire during a show in Montreal. How bad were the burns?
Hetfield: It was down to the bone. My hand looked like hamburger. No matter how much water you poured on it, the pain came back instantly. The most painful part was the physical therapy—they would scrape off the skin with a tongue depressor. It was brutal. I was on pills, too, and it still hurt like a motherfucker.
Playboy: Speaking of pain, do you ever get headaches?
Hetfield: Are you saying it’s too loud? It’s got to be loud. You’re supposed to feel it all over.
Playboy: Metallica toured a lot less than usual last year.
Newsted: We did maybe 30 or 40 shows, and that’s probably the least we have ever done. Metallica usually does from 150 to 250 shows in a year.
Hammett: I have no qualms about not doing yearlong tours anymore.
Ulrich: Ten years ago, we wanted to play as many gigs as possible and have as much debaucherous fun as possible. Now, playing 200 shows in North Dakota is not as stimulating as it used to be. Sometimes it’s great being onstage, and other times the shows themselves become totally mediocre and you’re just sort of floating through them. The older we get, and the shorter we tour, the better we are.
Playboy: How much longer can the band go on, given how physical the music is?
Newsted: It’s limited. People won’t ever see me weak, won’t ever see me just standing there onstage. When the day comes that I cannot perform, I will bow out. That’s it.
Hetfield: A gray mullet would look all right.
Playboy: Are there any tricks to writing a Metallica song?
Newsted: About 90 percent of Metallica songs are in E minor, because James’ vocal range is limited—although he’s developed by leaps and bounds.
Playboy: Any chance Metallica will follow the rap-metal direction?
Newsted: No. No rap in Metallica.
Ulrich: The chances of James Hetfield going in a rap direction are probably between zero and minus one.
Playboy: From your perspective as a Metallica fan, Jason, it must be interesting to see James continue to evolve since Nothing Else Matters.
Newsted: Where there was darkness before, now there’s a lot of light, since James’ children entered the picture. The darkness will always be there, because of the damage done, but there’s a big bright spot now.
Hammett: We can’t sing about flowers and happy shiny days, you know?
Playboy: So, James, will the next batch of songs be happy?
Hetfield: Yeah, I’ll start writing about my house and family and dog. Look, there’s always got to be some turmoil to write, and now, within the band, there might be some pretty good fuel.
Playboy: On the next record, we can expect a song called——
Hetfield: Side Project [laughs]. There’s always something that’s going to piss you off. Something you’d like to change. Something that confuses you. All I have to do is go to San Francisco for one day—I get pissed off enough for a week.
Playboy: You’re happily married, the father of two, you’ve been to therapy. You even wrote a love song. Can you still find the dark spot?
Hetfield: I know it’s there, and how it got there. I can visit it and leave again. It’s a dark spot you can’t wash off.
Playboy, April 2001