From the Archive: James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett of Metallica Discuss Their 1997 Album, 'Re-Load'
Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett discuss the making of 1997's Re-Load.
The Serrano motif will probably disappear on Re-Reload, huh?
HETFIELD: Re-Reload. I like that. We could call it Wee-Wee-Load and use a photo of piss and something [raises his right buttock and farts]. Did you get that on tape? I heard this radio show the other day that was playing this interview with Elton 'John, and right in the middle of talking, he just farts. They kept playing it over and over. It was really fucking funny.
How did you decide what songs went onto Load and what went onto Re-Load?
HETFIELD: Re-Load has all of the crappy ones. [laughs] That's the obvious thing to think for the non-thinkers out there. But really, these aren't the rejects, they're just all the songs that weren't finished when we released Load. I think there's a little more extremeness on this one, but there are some big-time, epic heavy riffs, too. They're not pop singles, that's for sure.
You describe Re-Load as a continuation of Load, but it also seems like a musical progression . It's definitely more diverse and experimental.
HETFIELD: Living with these songs for two years, the four of us came back with very different ideas of what they should evolve into. The good news was that we still liked them, and we wanted to put them out. But we wanted to come up with some newer sounds. We had recorded guitar tracks for a lot of these songs already, but they sounded a little dull; so we re-did them . We really stretched the limits of what a guitar and amp can do, which was fun.
HAMMETT: We've grown as musicians since the release of Load, and technology has brought us new things to try in the studio. Also, we've just come off a great tour, so our chops are up.
Your backs are up against the wall at deadline time yet again. Why can't you guys ever turn in your homework on time?
HAMMETT: This happens every time. We spend 60 or 70 percent of our time on the first 20 percent of the album, and then the last 30 percent on the last 80 percent of the album. It just felt a bit more like a crunch this time because we didn't have a lot of time to begin with. We started recording in July, and we had to get it out by November. The songs were already written and the drums were already recorded, and on paper it sounds like a total cake walk, but in true Metallica fashion, it didn't work like that.
HETFIELD: We had to do a lot of editing. We've got Pro Tools [a hard disk recording, editing and mastering system] in there twisting songs around as well, which I don't entirely agree with. It's no secret that there are some drum fix-ups that happen on the computer, and that takes lots of time. Personally, I think the problems could be solved quicker by just playing better. There are some cool loop things and strange sounds you can create through the computer, and you can sit and fuck with that shit all day, but we're not gonna have some fucking computer sitting with us on stage, that's for sure.
How did you put together the riffs for Re-load?
HETFIELD: Kirk had a little more freedom on this one. His only instruction was to not play what I played. We wanted a point-counterpoint kind of vibe. And we're really splitting the guitars now to get some real different things going on. Some of the songs evolved through different sounds. You sit with a different guitar and a different amp for a while, and it makes you play differently. You start writing a different kind of song, which is really exciting.
In the past, Metallica was basically a musical dictatorship run by James. That changed a bit on Load. Did you write a lot of the material on Re-Load, as well, Kirk?
HAMMETT: Yeah. I started writing a lot more after the "Black Album" tour. That tour was so fucking long, and after every show I'd sit in my hotel room and play guitar, and occasionally come up with a bit of music and throw it on tape. At the end of the tour, I had eight hours full of music. The best ideas ended up on Load and Re-Load. I just started writing stuff more suited to what the band was doing now. I always try to contribute music as much as I can.
Is choosing guitar parts a very competitive, stressful process?
HETFIELD: Sometimes. There's always a main riff that the song is built around, but the counterpoint guitar is totally up in the air. Whatever could happen, happens. I'm not there when Kirk is doing his stuff. I think it's easier for him to let loose without me looking over his shoulder. It's a little too intimidating when I'm there. A lot of times it's still hard to let go. You think, "I want to be there every day. This is my song." But you gotta let go sometime.
Is there anything that didn't work on Load that you tried to avoid on Re-Load?
HETFIELD: No, not at all. There wasn't anything that we didn't dig on Load. Maybe some of the mid-tempo songs like "King Nothing" are difficult for me to make exciting vocally. I really grab ahold of the more extreme stuff -- the faster stuff, the heavier, the more broken-down, mellow stuff. The middle of the road stuff is not too inspiring.
There's no real right-hand speed metal riffing on Re-Load. Is there a reason why you've strayed away from that technique?
HETFIELD: It's not exciting to us anymore. If I wrote it, then we'd use it. No one's writing that stuff, and when you write, that's really telling your story on how you feel. On "Fuel" there's some pretty quick down-picking, just kind of moving around with root-notes, but that about it. It's a little more exciting for us now to figure out more fucked-up chords, things that grind, dissonant bits.
HAMMETT: I still like playing that speed metal stuff live, but we've already proven to the world that we can do that, and we have nothing to prove in that department anymore. I would like to think we save precious CD space for things that we've not done yet.
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