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.
Are you less bitter and angry these days?
HETFIELD: We're just as pissed, but we're using the anger and hatred in a different way. We're not battling it so much, we' re more or less laughing at it. There are things that piss me off every day, but they don't affect me as much in the music. There're better things to think about than that some old son of a bitch is cutting me off in my car or some shit on the news. All that political stuff is shit that you can't change which is not gonna matter in the long run anyway. I think instead of anger, boredom has become more of the theme of the last few albums. Life is about avoiding boredom, really. You gotta seize the day.
HAMMETT: I think that anger and aggression are just part of our personalities. It's deep rooted, and that's why it was there in the first place. It was never put on, so you can't just take it off. Life is much easier for us now than it was 10 years ago, but god damn, there are still things in my past that still piss me off. It's too personal to talk about, but I don't think those initial feelings will ever go away.
What kind of gear did you use on Re-Load?
HAMMETT: The real question is: What gear didn't we use on this record? We have every fucking modern stomp box out there in the studio. We have every brand of amp, so at any given moment, we could be using any combination of things. I've lost track of what we use when and where. Guitar-wise, I've been using my '58 Les Paul, my ESPs, a few old Strats and James' old SG, which I love to death.
HETFIELD: There's a basic rack with the Boogie stuff. The old Mesa/Boogie that we've had forever in the studio. There's an amp called The Wizard, that's become a pretty major part of the main, heavy sound. A Vox AC30 has become a really great, exciting middle sound. The Roland Jazz Chorus has always been part of the clean sound, and there's also an old Magnavox amp that I've played. For guitars, lately I got a '59 Les Paul Sunburst that just sounds awesome. I have the same ESP Explorer with the EMG's that my sound was built around. There's a '63 SG that Bob gave me on the Load sessions that sounds awesome for middle sounds and really, really dirty, heavy stuff. I've also got a couple of $100 guitars that have character, but that you really can't keep in tune.
A few pedals have come into play. The Lovetones are really awesome. We also goofed around with other textures. We used a Mellotron again, which creates a sad, eerie, not right sound. Also, last time people freaked out, saying that Metallica had gone country. They said there was a pedal steel on the record, which there wasn't. But now there really is a pedal steel on the record, so fuck y'all.
James, are you still on a big country kick?
HETFIELD: Country music is kind of bugging me lately. I don't like it that much anymore. There's guys I just love 'cause I've met them. Waylon Jennings is such a fucking cool guy. He's got a character and vibe to him. He's a real meaty guy, and his songs mean a lot. But country pop and Garth Brooks bugs the shit out of me. I can't take it. Watching him do that HBO thing made me ill. It's so planned out. Country shouldn't be planned music. It's the spur of the moment, off-the-cuff thing that I dig.
There was no wah-wah on Load, but on Re-Load it's back in full force. Why?
HAMMETT: A lot of the songs called for it. Some of the solos needed an edge, and the wah lends itself to that. I am a totally dedicated wah-wah freak, and I think I'll die with one underneath my foot. I'll have one thrown in my coffin, and I'll have a wah-wah shaped coffin that will say Crybaby on the side of it.
Are there any records in particular that fueled these songs or influenced where you're at now musically?
HETFIELD: Always the early Zeppelin stuff. Recently, some guitar tones on real lively stuff like the Rocket From the Crypt records. There's a band called Loudmouth that I've been listening to a lot who have some great aggressive sounds.
HAMMETT: My musical tastes change every week. I get stuck on a certain CD and play the shit out of it, driving everyone around me crazy. But the best guitar thing I've heard in a long time is the new Radiohead album. I listen to so much different music. Right now I like Govt. Mule, the Fugees, a lot of bossa nova stuff, a lot of soul. I'm rediscovering King Crimson. I really enjoy the last David Bowie record. I like the new Exodus album, the new Oasis album, Beck. Thelonius Monk. If I could play guitar like he plays piano, that would be the greatest thing in the world.
Why did you decide to record "Unforgiven II?"
HETFIELD: When I first picked up a Telecaster with a B-Bender, I just started unconsciously playing that song. It sounded really good, and I thought it was something new, but then I was like, "Aw, shit, I know that riff, that's 'Unforgiven.' But it sounded new enough . So I thought, ''Fuck. This could be another song. Well, should we hide the fact that it's 'Unforgiven?' No, let's just make it a continuation." It wasn't like, "Wow, it's worked for other bands. Let's make this song again." The original song had a story to it also, so it could continue.
On "Memory" you interrupt a crunchy riff with haunting guitar chimes and an eerie vocal part sung by Marianne FaithfulI. How did that come about?
HETFIELD: The song evolved into a "Sunset Boulevard" theme about the twisted movie star who still thinks she's hot shit. We needed a real been-through-it-all voice, and we were trying to think of someone, and Bob Rock suggested Marianne FaithfulI. So we got a hold of her, and she agreed to do it. We met up with her in Dublin, got her drunk, and put her in the studio. She definitely had the vibe, and she's quite an interesting woman.
HAMMETT: I love my guitar part on that because it sounds like vintage Sabbath. The bit under Marianne is all guitar. I'm basically playing the same melody underneath her vocals, and then there 's the high octave guitar part, which is James.
The song "My Eyes" is probably the least metallic Metallica song ever. It features hurdy-gurdy, violin, practically no distortion and a rhythm reminiscent of Nick Cave. What possessed you to do that?
HETFIELD: I was going for the re l broken-down, homeless sound -- like a song played on some random instruments found in an alley way, with some lyrics that were haggardly thrown in there. That song had originally been recorded as a metal ballad. We've got so many of those fucking things already, so I finally convinced Lars to ditch the snare and play a tambourine or something that sounded like it was just lying around. Tom Waits really inspired that. He's really good at finding music in any little instrument. Anyway, Jim Martin [ex-Faith No More] has a hurdy-gurdy in his house, and I sat and fucked with it for a while, and I thought, "Fuck, this thing sounds awesome. We've got to put that somewhere." So we brought it in and figured out a melody. Then we hired some guy who could actually play the instrument. We wanted to really create a mood while we were recording.
HAMMETT: The weird sound in that song that sounds like a toy piano is actually a guitar played through a Whammy pedal an octave up, and James plays that.
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