From the Archive: Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett Discuss Their 1996 Album, 'Load'
Metallica's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett discuss the making of 1996's Load.
Are there specific things on the "Black Album" that you wanted to improve on Load?
HAMMETT: The one thing that strikes me about the "Black Album" when I go back and listen to it is that there isn't enough variation in my tone. I kind of stuck with the same sound, and the only variation was a wah pedal here and a wah pedal there, or the minimal tonal variation that you get from tuning down.
But you can't really look back. If you do, you end up constantly comparing yourself to the past, and that has a way of holding you back. You end up with a whole catalog of albums that sound like one particular album that was successful. The idea should be to move forward and try and develop a new vision.
You did, however, keep one important part of the "Black Album" formula intact when you decided to work with Bob Rock again. How has your relationship with him developed?
HETFIELD: When we started working on the "Black Album," Bob was much more passive than he is now. He was afraid to take control. Now our relationship goes through phases, depending on what needs to be done. At different times, Bob tries to exert a little more authority over us. We laugh at him and move on. [laughs]
HAMMETT: The thing with Bob is that he can read us pretty well at this point -- he definitely knows what we're capable of. I know that on this album I came in and did a really great job at what I had to do, and a lot of that was the result of him zoning on a particular idea that I had and him telling me to build on it. Then there have been times where I've been a bit hungover and not happening, and he's flown off the handle and yelled, "Get your shit together!"
But you know what -- and I probably shouldn't say this -- there have been times when I've come in hungover and been able to play really well. And I think that in a few of those situations, being hung over has added a certain edge to my playing.
HETFIELD: [laughs] Oh no!
HAMMETT: I'm not advocating drinking, and this is a highly personal point of view, but there has been the occasional session where I've come in a little hungover -- not super hungover -- and it's made me think more and feel a little more sensitive...
HAMMETT: ...to the needs of the track.
HETFIELD: Kids, don't try this at home.
HAMMETT: But getting back to Bob, I think that he's really good at coaching us through things.
HETFIELD: That's his gig. He's not here to tell us what to do. He's trying to get the best shit he can out of us all the time. He's also a really solid guitar player with a good knowledge of theory, which can be really helpful in a bind. I'll be trying to work out a harmony, and he 'II come in and say, "Well A is the relative minor of blah blah blah," and since I don't know any of that shit, it's nice to have the instruction booklet right next to me.
HAMMETT: He's always pulling out the relative minor. It's his favorite thing.
Load has much more of an in-your-face mix than Metallica, which had considerable amounts of ambiance in the mix.
HETFIELD: I wanted the guitars back in your face again. I like the way Kill 'Em All [Elektra, 1983] just had fucking guitars up your ass and the drums were not the leader of the group. I think that on the "Black Album," everyone wanted to be up front. But something has to be back there, and it ended up being the guitars, which were given a wider, thinner sound and pushed back. I think that on this album, the drums drive the rhythm instead of leading the band, and there are these two guitars playing different things right up front.
I had one big fear when we went to the two guitar-player thing: "Is the fucking riff still going to be heard?" That's always been really important in this group. But I think we found a nice balance between them, and their level in the mix was crucial.
Were you asked to play Lollapalooza? Or did you do the asking?
HETFIELD: We invented it.
HAMMETT: We bought it.
HETFIELD: They asked us. We thought about it and said, "All right, why the fuck not?" All it is is a European-style rock festival. We've done festivals all over the world.
HAMMETT: It's like the Reading Festival [an annual British festival] -- except that it moves from place to place. We're used to being on different bills with different people. I mean, we played one festival in Belgium where we shared the bill with Neil Young, Lenny Kravitz, Sugar, Sonic Youth, the Levelers and the Black Crowes. That would never happen in America because those bands mean something completely different over here than they do in Europe.
The whole impetus behind Lollapalooza was to do something different and challenging. And I think that the bill with us on it is different and challenging -- more recently, they were stuck in a rut where they had to have alternative bands and indie bands.
Is it true that you played an important role in selecting the bands for this year's lineup?
HAMMETT: We did and we didn't. A lot of it had to do with availability. A lot of bands that we wanted were touring on their own. I mean, I would have liked to have AI Green or the Cocteau Twins.
HETFIELD: We're not picking Lollapalooza. We're not coming in to take it over. We're just gonna play. We don't really want to have anything to do with Lollapalooza except play it.
Are you looking forward to seeing any of the bands that will be on the bill with you?
HAMMETT: I like the vibe of Lollapalooza. I've been to every single one; I've actually jammed at a few, too. When Ministry was out I played with them a few times, and I did the same with Primus. I've fucking loved Soundgarden since 1985 or '86. And everyone loves the Ramones. I was talking to Johnny Ramone the other day and he was saying, "Goddamn it, Kirk, I'd already be retired and playing golf in L.A. if it weren't for you guys calling us up and asking us to do this summer tour." And I said, "Well, Johnny, there isn't any better way to go."
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