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.
You don't all hang out with each other socially the way you did in the early days of the band. Is the stress of being Metallica starting to pull you apart?
HETFIELD: No, we're closer than ever in that we've let ourselves go, and we've discovered that we need each other. Going to bed thinking, "What if Metallica wasn't in my Iife anymore" scares the fuck out of me. It's a freaky feeling. One day it might happen, but right now, this is more than a career to us. This is family. A lot of us grew up without real strong families, so we held onto this, and that was why there was this really strong camaraderie in the beginning. But now that we've started to go off and develop our own families, we've realized how important Metallica really is. And I think it has given us a new view on each other, which is a lot stronger than ever.
HAMMETT: Thank God we're not as close as we used to be socially, because we'd be driving each other crazy, and we'd be at each other's throats. When you go on tour you share the same breathing space, and that in itself can be very claustrophobic. So for us to be able to deal with that, and still be able to talk to each other and joke around on tour is enough of a feat. When we get off tour, the natural thing for us to do is to pursue other things outside of our professional careers. But because we're able to respect each other's privacy we've actually become more honest and closer to each other. It blows me away that my relationship with the other guys in the band has been the most consistent thing in my life. This band has outlived my marriage and various personal relationships.
James, you used to say you were married to Metallica, but now you're actually married, right?
HEIFIELD: Yup. I got married in August. It was time. We had a week off, so I got hitched. I've known her for five years, so it's not gonna change anything hugely. But just evolving in Metallica has made me think about evolving in life also. Now it's time to do other things like create my own family. I love kids, and they'II happen one day. There were kids running around in the studio all the time, and they used to really twist my tits, man. I'd yell, "I'm here to record! Get this shit out of here!" Now it's kind of a welcome sight. It gets me going. Bob's got seven kids, and some of the other crew guys have got young 'uns. And it's pretty inspiring.
What made you decide you needed to discover lives outside of Metallica?
HAMMETT: You have to remember, for the first 10 years or so, we Iived and breathed this band. But there came a point where we realized there are other things in life to explore. So we took the time to be on our own and see what it felt like to walk among society as normal people, and basically live domestic lives. And when we all came back together to record Load, we were all completely different people, but much more for the better. It was a very enlightening experience. I went back to school, and finally had time to spend at home with my family. We have these aspects of our Iives now that we have to be very tender with, and have to guard and protect because it's all very fragile, which means not touring as much and doing more things at home. As much as we love Metallica and all it stands for, we also don't want it to be our demise.
What would it take to break Metallica up?
HAMMETT: Any number of things. Metallica is a very complicated, fragile thing. On the outside, it's all metal, but on the inside it's very delicate. At this point, it wouldn't really take much. It's probably always been like that though. A band is basically an agreement between four people. That's all it is. If you press the right buttons it can just explode at any second.
HETFIELD: I don't know, man. I think it would take a lot to break us up. We've been through deaths, disasters, fans freaking out, all that kind of crap. I think we're necessary for each other. It would definitely take a lot.
James, a lot of people view you as this gruff, working-class guy who is maybe a bit uncultured. Is that image just a stereotype?
HETFIELD: I don't know. I've worn a tie before, but I don't know how to tie it. Someone else did it for me. [laughs] When I looked at some of the Serrano art, Lars would sit there and say, "Wow, there's great movement in this. The color scheme is great," and he'll just go into this art lingo. And I just go, "That looks like a fucking sunset, dude." Dressing up and going to a restaurant, sometimes that's fun. But I think a lot of people judge other people by their clothing, and I hate that shit. You might think someone's important because he's got on nice clothing, but he could be a fucking mass murderer.
What do you do for kicks now?
HETFIELD: I love hunting. I like hot rods, that's my new passion. I think from the outside I look pretty simple, but there's some complex shit inside. But sometimes you forget about simple things that just make you happy. You're never satisfied, but that's life.
What makes you happy?
HETFIELD: Finishing interviews. [laughs] When a song works out the way you want it to work out, that's really satisfying. As a musician, you always feel next time something's gotta be better. But that's just how it is. If you're satisfied, there's something that dies in you.
HAMMETT: Playing guitar makes me happy. It really does. And there's a big difference between playing guitar in Metallica and playing it recreationally. I love to sit around and play blues, jazz and bossa nova stuff. I also hang out with my dog, and Lars calls me on weekends, and we go out and get drunk. I read a lot. I'm still very much into collecting horror stuff like toys and movie stuff. I playa lot of pinball. That's something I've just discovered, and I love it to death. It's much more soulful than video games, and you can beat the shit out of the machine. You don't have 1,500 levels to go through. It's the luck of the rebound, and I find it really clears my head, especially when I've had a shitty day.
Do you still like to play the old Metallica tunes?
HETFIELD: Yeah, absolutely. Live, it's great. You always update it, and you throw some new shit in here and there. You look at each other, and go, "I remember why we wrote this fucking song, and I feel it."
HAMMETT: For me, it depends what part of the tour it is. By the end of the tour I'm thinking, "Aw, 'Seek and Destroy' again?" In general though, I still love playing all that stuff. I still get off on it, and I think that just goes to show how timely our music is to ourselves.
What was your favorite part of the Load tour?
HETFIELD: That whole tour was probably the funnest tour I've been on because of the way the stage was set up with all the different mikes all over the arena, and the way we combined the old and new songs. I just loved the crowds. People weren't sure if they liked us anymore, and there was a little hatred in there, which was kind of fun . The fucking cost of that show was horrendous, though.
You had people dangling from lighting rigs, and you set a guy on fire during the set. Did anything ever backfire?
HAMMETT: A couple times there was pyro that went off when it shouldn't have, like when I was standing right over it. It burned all the hair off my arm once, what little hair I do have there. It was just amazing that no one got seriously injured.
HETFIELD: A crew guy really did explode at a soundcheck. He was checking the pyro, and it blew up in his face. He was all right after a few weeks. His face was al l swollen up and red, and I know exactly how that felt because it happened to me once. Swinging from the truss, a guy actually cracked his head open. The whole element of danger was a lot of fun.
Were audiences duped into thinking that one of your crew members was really on fire?
HAMMETT: Every single night we would get faxes saying," I hope everyone in the band is okay, and I hope that guy isn't badly burned." Or we'd get letters saying, "That wasn't funny. My brother fell off a roof and it brought me back to that point." But what these people don't understand is that it's show business. It's a special effect. It's supposed to move you in that sort of way, and I'm sorry if you just can't survive it mentally. Maybe next time we go on tour we'll do a human sacrifice.
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